Bond is obviously not Prince Hamlet, and doesn't have an incredibly rich inner life, but he does have one--a point Parker, who considers Bond barely human, refuses to consider. That makes him, in my eyes, either incredibly stupid (which I doubt) or dishonest and lazy. (I'll add condescending as well.) I'm going to leave a comment at The Atlantic, and here's the rough draft:
Judging from this piece and his article on Le Carre, Mr. Parker clearly does not think much of Fleming’s 007. But this does not give him the liberty to misrepresent and distort the books.
Parker claims Bond is barely human, with no inner life—he is “almost without psychology: a bleak circuit of appetites, sensations, and prejudices, driven by a mechanical imperative called ‘duty.’”
He seems to have forgotten all the times when Bond questioned or second-guessed that duty--how Bond deliberately disobeys his orders in “The Living Daylights” and refuses to kill a female assassin, telling his minder that he doesn’t care if he gets fired and would even be grateful for it. In “The Quantum of Solace” Bond sympathizes with Castro’s rebels and realizes how silly his adventures seem after hearing the prosaic story of an unhappy husband and wife, while Goldfinger starts with Bond drinking heavily to forget his revulsion at having to murder people for a living.
In “For Your Eyes Only” Bond worriedly questions whether he committing a private execution for M’s benefit. In From Russia With Love he disgustedly refers to himself as “pimping for England” and wonders what his teenaged self would think were he to meet the corrupted adult Bond. Most flagrantly, Parker seems to have ignored the chapter-length section of Casino Royale where Bond decides to resign while debating the nature of evil with his friend Mathis, dismissing his obligation to fight communism by saying Britain’s present government would have been called communist only a few decades ago. It’s not the last time Bond threatens to resign either, as demonstrated in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Parker discounts Bond’s depression at the start of Thunderball as “an immediate and physical ennui…He’ll be all right in a minute.” More than a minute of course, since the first third of Thunderball is set at a health clinic where Bond is sent to dry out (and, in a marvelous bit of comedy, becomes an enthusiastic convert to a healthy lifestyle until Spectre intervenes). But if this is not enough for Parker, what about Bond’s depression in You Only Live Twice, when he falls to pieces after the death of his wife (which he blames himself for) and fatalistically looks forward to being fired? What about the long period of doubt and reflection Bond endures in Casino Royale after he’s beaten LeChiffre? What about Bond’s morose spell at the very start of Goldfinger, where he’s plunged into guilt for killing a man he acknowledges to have been no more than a thug? What about the end of Moonraker, where a melancholy Bond tries to deal with rejection by reminding himself that he is “a man who is only a silhouette”? For a man with no inner life, Bond spends a surprising amount of time in doubt or depression.
And for a man with a no inner life, Bond also spends a surprising amount of time in love—he genuinely falls for Vesper Lynd, Tiffany Case, Domino Vitali, Tracy di Vicenzo, and Kissy Suzuki. Diamonds Are Forever devotes many pages to a long discussion on marriage between Tiffany Case and Bond, whose interest in Tiffany is not only romantic but also protective—he even tells himself that must also act as a therapist for her. Being a more chivalrous and courtly character than the macho, predatpory Bond of the movies, he is just as gentle as solicitous to the psychologically damaged and volatile Tracy (who kicks him out of bed and says he’s a lousy lover). Far from being damsels in distress, it’s Tiffany, Tracy, and Kissy who rescue Bond from death or the from the villains.
Parker’s ruminates on M, but ignores how the relationship between M and Bond sours midway through the series: Bond feels an unprecedented flash of hatred for his boss in Dr.No, and by the time of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Bond is drafting his resignation letter and later has to drag a belleigerent M into his plan to catch Blofeld . In TMWTGG, M is prepared to throw a barely healed 007 to Scaramanga, --for which M’s chief of staff calls him a “cold-blooded bastard.”
All that said, readers should not presume that Bond is Hamlet, or anywhere near as close in terms of characterization. Kingsley Amis, who Parker admires for everything except his advocacy of Fleming (which Parker fails to rebut), made a point that is evidently beyond Parker, which is that Fleming filled in enough of Bond to make him exist on the page, but refrained from filling him in to the point of breaking the reader's capacity of identifying with the character. Bond can swim miles without tiring, but only if he practices beforehand. He will occasionally quote Emerson or read a Chandler novel, but he's not a know-it-all (unlike Roger Moore’s Bond). He is fastidious about what he drinks, but he is not a wine snob. And while material goods in Bond’s world are certainly prized with great detail, courtesy of Fleming's pen, they are the rewards Bond gives himself for enduring a good deal of hardship, violence, and torture while doing his job.
“Bond will not be altered” expounds Parker, who ignores how Bond’s character changes noticeably throughout the series. The hard, cold, humorless, and ruthless assassin introduced Casino Royale is a far cry from the battered, wisecracking, and more reflective character found toward the end of the series in You Only Live Twice or in the next book, where despite being a double-0 Bond cannot bring himself to murder Scaramanga in cold blood—something the Bond of Casino Royale had no problem with.
Parker can get away with his lazy loose-reading and misrepresentations because he knows that for people Fleming’s Bond is overshadowed by his shallower movie counterpart, and because lots of folks (who should know better but haven't actually read much Fleming) still buy the cliché that Le Carre represents the “real” side of espionage, while Bond is just a dumb hedonistic fantasy. But readers looking for something that is actual criticism of Fleming and his books should turn to John Lanchester’s London Review of Books article “Bond in Torment” (http://www.lrb.co.uk...bond-in-torment), It makes Parker’s article look twice as shoddy.
Edited by Revelator, 20 September 2013 - 08:29 PM.