Monday, October 7, 2013

The Writer as Spy

On the way to spin class on Saturday, I listened to a great story on NPR's Weekend Edition.  Scott Simon interviewed William Boyd, who has written a new James Bond novel.  He's full of fascinating insights about  James Bond, about writing, about the difference between the James Bond of the movies and the James Bond of the books.

I loved what he had to say about the similarities between spies and writers.  I hadn't thought of these things in the James Bond context; I'm really more of a Harriet the Spy kind of girl (must reread that book soon).  But I thought he made a great point. 

Here, for your inspiration is what he said:

"Having written three spy novels now ... I began to see, there's a certain overlap between the world of the spy or the double agent and the world of the novelist. And I think that overlap occurs not in any kind of intrepid way — because most writers are abject cowards — but in the way they look at the world. And I think spies and novelists look at the world with the same intent, curious gaze. I mean, spies are looking at it to, as it were, cover their back.

But novelists look at the world in the same way — you walk down the street and your eye is roving, you're looking for interesting things, you're interpreting and analyzing almost unreflectingly — what a curious way to smoke a cigarette, or look at that hairstyle, or what kind of clothes are those? You're constantly allowing the phenomena, the cinema of every day life to flow by you as you take note, and I think that's what spies do. ... And, of course, the other thing is, spies and novelists are both very accomplished liars."

To hear the whole interview, go here.

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