Letter From Home: “Book Guilt” 12/14/22

I have never watched any of the Jason Bourne films from Hollywood. I felt a need to first read the books, knowing that in most cases a film version of printed works is always weak and unsatisfying.  Outside of Gone With The Wind and The Godfather I have regretted how filmmakers have adapted gems of reads into tinsel town fluff. I simply adored Angela’s Ashes, the must-read memoir from Frank McCourt. I found the film version limp and not inspiring. I literally had to get up and leave a coffee shop when reading John Berendt’s Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil as I was unable to stop heartily laughing at page after page of perfectly-styled humor. Is it no wonder the book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for four years? The film, however, totally dismissed the magic of the printed pages.

While I have read some of the work by Robert Ludlum and enjoyed it, I have found it impossible to get past the 6th chapter of The Bourne Identity. I can say that even after the second try. Several years ago, I picked the digital copy from my local library and found yet another fistfight and action-packed set of pages just not rewarding. Following the recent midterm elections, I was ready for escapism and while roaming the Libby site decided to give it the old college push and make my way through the book.  I should have been more mindful that when I download the book it opened at the place I had previously stopped reading. Heedless of that glaring red sign I started, like anyone with a touch of OCD, at the beginning. Let’s just say I never made it to the 6th chapter a second time.

I have noticed over the years that while my love of reading has not lessened my desire to have more intricate plots and far less bang-bang and fisticuffs is much more pronounced. That goes for my movie-watching, too.  I love James Bond since the day as a kid he first entered my world via a book. Under the large oak tree on the front lawn, I had experienced Bond as Ian Fleming wished him to be known. This fall we watched one of the last Bond movies to be made and while it was pure adrenaline the smoothness and dapper qualities of the icon were totally missing.  I well understand Bond has ‘evolved’ for contemporary audiences.  But it seems sad to think that most young people will not know the ‘real’ Bond that comes to life in Moonraker.

The tree at the Hancock family home under which, as a boy, I first read Ian Fleming as James Bond came to ‘life’.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth and The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy is perhaps the epitomes of what I consider perfectly crafted tense international dramas. Forsyth is one of my favorite fictional authors, having read each of his works. But I have found over the years the nuanced and evolving plots often missing from mainstream authors, and instead, we are given shootings and then a beat-down and then….

It is difficult for me to not complete a book once I start it, and since I have a strong sense of what I like in a book it is rare that one is discarded.  The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson looked like a good read, but the author had an anti-Muslim bent that soon was demonstrated and the book was tossed. I probably have such let-downs only once every other year. I now find that ability to move away from a bad read more easily done in my life than when I was younger and encountered a less-than-fulfilling book.

My parents did not have a finish everything on your plate policy, but I never recall anyone at our family table ever not finishing a meal. My mom was a really good cook. The grandkids, however, grew up under different roofs and mom gave great allowances for what need not be eaten once on the plate.  As I returned the Bourne digital book back to the library I thought of the words mom would use to let a young one know that eating all the green beans was not necessary to have a slice of pie.

With that, I turned to my bookshelves upstairs and pulled out a volume by David Liss, an author who has never let me down.  A Spectacle of Corruption with my favorite 18th-century Londoner, Benjamin Weaver. Book writing the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

And so it goes.

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