* When I was concluding my undergraduate Lit degree, I had a prof whose method of inquiry into the work under observation was usually to start with, “Why write like this? After all, she could write like Stephen King — if she wanted to. So why doesn't she?”
Why, indeed? Even though I was a dewy-eyed acolyte in the po-mo-giddy halls of academia, and hardly King's biggest fan, I wondered if these people actually did have the capacity to write like King. There was no denying their attempt to write differently, but I couldn't shake the feeling that some of the more contemporary among them might have done better if they'd nailed down “conventional” before committing themselves to the hairier forms of artistic endeavor.
This little flashback comes to me courtesy of today's unveiling of the new James Bond novel, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, “writing as Ian Fleming.” I haven't read any of Faulks' more pedigreed work, but this short profile gives me the impression he probably took the right approach to his world-famous subject. Favorite quote: “I tried to go inside Bond's head, to create an inner life for him, and I realised he didn't have one.” Bullseye! I shall join the queue of would-be readers, and if this book “works” I may just reach for something else by Faulks. By the way, which cover do you like better: the British or the American?
* Publishing's Tipping Point, as chronicled by Robert McCrum, The Observer's departing literary editor (h/t MBlowhard). Another flashback: two years ago I pompously asserted that our taste in reading material was undergoing a sea-change. Does the theory still hold? As of this morning, non-fiction has the lead over fiction by a ratio of 14:11.
* “Dad, when you were a kid, did you have Pokemon cards?” My younger daughter wanted to know, because she and her sister still find occasion to drop five dollars on a package every now and again.* I thought about it. We had hockey cards, really, but my collections were exceedingly modest. I'd get caught up in the collection frenzy of the fall, only to lose spirit by late November when I saw the hundreds of cards my friends carried with them in their Crown Royal bags. On the other hand, “We had Wacky Packs,” I said. “And I collected those.”
With a passion, I might add. The happiest day of my nine-year-old life was the day I finally completed my Kong-Fu puzzle. The stickers were all lovingly placed on the surface of my bedroom garbage can. Of course, as was the way with such things, the garbage can eventually became a piece of garbage itself, and that was the end of that — until now. Topps and Harry N. Abrams have published a retrospective (foreword by Art Spiegelman), featuring some brilliant book design by Neil Egan. Looks like it's time to make room on the coffee-table (h/t Drawn!).
*It's a curious thing, really. They don't watch the show — are actually resistant to it — but they do play a “game” of sorts with the cards. They use the characters, which come with a list of traits, strengths and weaknesses, to create narratives of their own. Quite a decent exercise for writers of fiction, I would think.