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    Saturday, January 04, 2003
    What am I Reading...

    If you care, that is...

    I picked up some light reading for the holidays. At the library, I thought I'd give Ian Fleming a try - spurred on, no doubt, by the recent James Bond Marathon on TNN. (My father had the TV on constantly all Christmas week and I think I will associate Sean Connery with Christmas Day for the rest of my life.)

    I had never read any of the Bond books and was pleasantly surprised: these books are good! Fleming was quite a writer. He had a gift for description - there's a chapter in Goldfinger that describes Bond on a quiet stint of night duty at headquarters that I particularly liked. It's not essential to the plot, but it really makes you feel like you're there. Dr. No wonderfully evokes colonial Jamaica, a world that no longer exists, as it was coming to an end. The books are also more noir than the films by a long shot; Bond is a bastard. But a cool one. I think Ian Fleming is the British writer who most closely approximates Raymond Chandler.

    I also picked up The New Gilded Age: the New Yorker Looks At the Culture of Affluence, a collection of profiles and essays published in the New Yorker during the mid- to late-nineties. I've only just started it, but it has an essay about Martha Stewart that was quite good. Overwhelmingly, I feel from reading it that it's another world, another century - and it was only a few years ago. September 11 seems to be a curtain separating those events from us.

    When I was in college, there was a modern American History course in which the professor was famous for always posing a certain question on the final exam: "When were the Sixties?" In other words, what were the events that defined the Sixties and when did they take place? It wasn't unusual to have the answers go from 1963 to 1974 or thereabouts. I think that generations to come will say that the twenty-first century began September 11, 2001.



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