Something I was reading recently made me ponder how we become acquainted with culture, particularly pop culture. I can really only speak for myself, but I know television had a lot to do with it. We were a family of humble means and with three young boys to entertain, television often came to the rescue. There were the usual Friday night Brady Bunch and Partridge Family lineup and Sunday’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and perhaps Wonderful World of Disney duo. Lots of other stuff got mixed in there, too, I’m sure. I watched Dark Shadows after school and the original series of Star Trek. Gilligan’s Island was a big influence, as was Get Smart. All of these have come back to me as an adult, and in some ways define my outlook. It’s kind of scary, actually, the power television has.
Specifically, however, I had recently read something mentioning James Bond. How did I find James Bond? It must’ve been on commercial television broadcasts of the Sean Connery movies, but I knew enough to pick up these titles at Goodwill when we went there on a Saturday, clothes shopping. Always more interested in books than other things, I remember running my eyes over the spines in the book bins. I quickly learned to recognize, and snap up, the Dark Shadows books. I also somehow learned the canon of Ian Fleming James Bond novels. Perhaps there were lists inside the cover of the paperbacks I bought. Little boys and spies require no explanation, but how did I learn there were twelve Fleming novels?
Since the first film, Doctor No, came out the year I was born, I was a bit late to the party. Still, as a child I recall being scandalized, and confused, by the sex scenes in the books. I was after the spy action, not the “mushy stuff.” Reading TV Guide like Holy Writ, I tried to make sure I could see the movies when they happened along. In my mind there was one corresponding movie to a book. Whoever got there first cast it in bronze. I was offended on seeing Casino Royale for the first time. It was a comedy. And what was David Niven doing as 007? And was that Peter Sellers in there too? The Fundamentalist brain, it seems, understands only one way of doing things. Growing up I spent entirely too much time watching television. I shouldn’t be too harsh about it, however. It’s likely how I came to know anything about popular culture, even if it was seen through the humble lens of the working poor.