Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Veggie Books: Live and Let Die

I'm reading the James Bond books and enjoying them very much.

When I write - bear with me, because this might not make a lot of sense - I try to create a square. That is, I want the plot, the characters, the detail and the imagery to all receive about the same amount of attention, to have the same length to them in my mind's eye, to create a rounded effect. A square to make a circle, if you see what I mean.

Ian Fleming creates a weird shape. It's a bit like a rhombus. There's a lot of plot, moving very quickly. There's a tremendous amount of exact detail in some areas. But the character line of the shape is barely there at all. It's all about the physical description - Bond has thick black hair that falls as a comma over his forehead. He has a long scar on his face that gives him a piratical look. But we find out more about the baddies' backgrounds than we do about Bond's. And the weird thing is it really works. The mystery of Bond works because of the glamour of his life. The glamour only works because the detail of his lifestyle - the cars, food, drink, locations - is so precise that we believe it. The lifestyle only works because only the mystery that is James Bond could live that way. It makes a very strange shape, but all the sides do add up.

Here's Bond's breakfast in Jamaica in Live and Let Die:

Paw-paw with a slice of green lime, a dish piled with red bananas, purple star-apples and tangerines, scrambled eggs and bacon. Blue Mountain coffee - the most delicious in the world - Jamaican marmalade, almost black, and guava jelly.



Tim Stretton said...

I'd much rather have this void about the character's background and motivations than everything spelled out in tedious detail.

Bond, like Parker, is defined by his actions. Some things work better for not being explained. I mean, Thomas Harris wouldn't write a book about Hannibal Lecter's early life, would he? He'd only spoil the mystery. What do you mean, he did?

Neil said...

Parker? The one from Thunderbirds?

Tim Stretton said...

Well, we are not told much about his inner life, I suppose (entirely appropriate for a puppet...) but I was thinking of the Richard Stark anti-hero...