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James Bond and the Insufficiency of the World


On her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, in spite of the fact that he gets married at the end, which is genre-sacrilege, kind of like having Sherlock Holmes not solve the mystery. Fortunately, Mrs. Bond dies at the end, or the remaining novels wouldn’t have been as cool. This is also the novel where we learn that Bond, by ancestry, isn’t an Englishman at all; his father was a Scot, and his mother was Swiss. (Curiously, the actors chosen to play Bond have largely respected this fact, with only Roger Moore and Daniel Craig being actual Englishmen.) Ian Fleming seems to have let us in on Bond’s life in this novel in a way he did only in Moonraker, which (unlike the movie of the same name, the latter part of which sends Roger Moore into outer space) gives us a lot of information on Bond’s daily life in London.

The best tidbit you get about Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is his personal motto: “The World is Not Enough.” Years later, in 1999, this would become the title of a Pierce Brosnan Bond movie.

On a side note, I would like to heap execration on all the actors who have played James Bond between Sean Connery and the current one, Daniel Craig. The original and the current one are great Bonds. The others—George Lazenby (whose sole role was in the movie version of OHMSS), Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan—are shits in suits as far as I’m concerned.

Now about that wonderful motto. I tend to impose overblown significances on thrillers (see my KRO essay, The Ludlum Identity, which is absolutely in earnest). Bond’s motto is no exception, which is why, if I ever am granted a coat of arms (how does one come by one of those?), I’m totally having that motto go on the squiggly banner across the bottom. A Lion Rampant on a Field Gules with Crossed Walther PPKs: And there at the bottom, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. The double meaning is exquisite. Not only is acquiring the best in the worldly sphere insufficient, the Bentley and Bondgirl, the connoisseur’s enjoyment of Body: The world itself is not enough, that is, the physical or material world cannot satisfy Mind. The planets are caviar, but no meal is complete without spirits, the vodka martini shaken not stirred, the bottle of Soma Perignon, the metaphysical disinhibition that lets a man live life to the fullest and render in his verses service to the Majestic Secret.