Read the text carefully and answer the questions that follow it. Use your own words throughout as far as possible.

The first pseudo-Bond novel1 appeared four years after Ian Fleming’s death: here, thirteen years later, is the second. At first this suggests, hearteningly, that James Bond has joined that small but select club2 of characters who have been brought back to life after the death of their creators simply because their readers want more of them. But thirteen years is a long time, and during it there has been ample reason to fear that Bond had floated (literally at times)3 out of the world of fiction into that of cinematic fantasy, which is not quite the same thing. As everyone knows, the Bond novels were an adroit blend4 of realism and extravagance, and both were necessary: the one helped us to swallow the other. Because Sir Hugo Drax had red hair, one ear larger than the other through plastic surgery, and wore a plain gold Patek Phillipe watch with a black leather strap, we accepted that his Moonraker rocket could blow London to bits. The Bond films, on the other hand, dispensed with the realism and concentrated on the extravagance, becoming exercises in camped-up absurdity7. In this way there became two Bonds, book-Bond and film-Bond8, each with his separate public. And a certain hostility arose between them: for the readers, the films were ludicrous and childish travesties; the viewers, if they had ever heard of the books, saw them simply as material to be guyed, perhaps deservedly…

Looking at the original canon after some twenty years confirms their almost mesmeric readability… How bad, and at the same time compellingly readable (his) thrillers are! The pattern of all four that I have read is identical. Bond does not attract me, and that man with brains on ice and pitiless eye who organises the secret service in London seems to be a monument of ineptitude12. Everything about Bond and his plans is known long before he arrives anywhere. But I cannot help reading on and there are rich satisfactions…

(adapted from Philip Larkin’s ‘Batman from Blades’)


1 What does the writer mean by ‘the first pseudo-Bond novel’?

2 What is the ‘club’ that it is suggested James Bond has joined?

3 Why does the writer insert the bracketed phrase ‘(literally at times)’?

4 Explain the meaning of the phrase ‘adroit blend’.

5 Why does the writer consider that the realism and extravagance in the Bond novels are both necessary?

6 What device in the Bond novels influences our acceptance of the evil intention of Sir Hugo Drax?

7 What do you understand by the expression ‘camped-up absurdity’?

8 What is the difference between ‘book-Bond and film Bond’?

9 What are the reasons for the hostility between readers and viewers of the Bond stories?

10 Which phrase best describes the hypnotic attraction of the Bond novels?

11 What is the writer’s opinion of the literary style of the Bond novels?

12 Why is the secret service organiser referred to as ‘a monument of ineptitude’?

13 In a paragraph of 70–100 words, summarise the writer’s views on the Bond novels and his enjoyment of them.

Sample Answers

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