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I REALIZE THIS TITLE might be about whisky, but in fact I’m thinking of Bond, James Bond. I confess I haven’t kept up with the Bond franchise, thus my inclusion of the word “vintage.”
Gee, if mine had its dust cover, it would be worth three digits. As is, it’s a fine reading copy. And read it I did; at least twice now, figuring that I must have enjoyed it when I first bought it in a secondhand shop. Here are tidbits on Kingsley Amis’s analyses of 007.
Preface. “This essay,” Amis wrote, “started life in my mind as a modest article of about 5000 words. As you can see, it grew in the writing. For every point I made I discovered two fresh ones that needed making, so that at times I wondered if I was ever going to get to the finish.”
From the beginning, Amis sensed the Bond adventures “were more than simply cloak-and-dagger stories with a bit of fashionable affluence and sex thrown in. I suspected that, on the contrary, I would find them to be just as complex and to have just as much in them as more ambitious kinds of fiction. I was right.”
Abilities Acquired, Not Innate. Amis observed, “Bond’s constant cold showers, apart from reminding us of the ritualistic, self-dedicatory element in the secret agent’s life, also suggest to us that his abilities are acquired, not innate. If we took that trouble to keep fit, if we started the day with twenty press-ups and enough straight leg-lifts to make our stomach muscles scream, then perhaps we could vanquish an octopus and drive off a barracuda should the occasion arise. We couldn’t, of course, but we like not having our noses rubbed in the fact.”
Sadism. “All the talk about a sexual component in Bond’s sufferings,” Amis claimed, “mistakes the author’s intention and misrepresents the reader’s response. When Le Chiffre goes to work on Bond’s testicles with a carpet beater, to take the most conspicuous case, a very well-established and basic element of the thriller story is at work.”
Amis explained, “The incident has two closely related effects. It makes us feel admiration and sympathy for the hero and fear and hatred for the villain. All these feelings are heightened by the particularly dreadful and cruel method of torture used by Le Chiffre. To have pulled Bond’s hair and given him a lot of lip would have been ineffective, upon both Bond and the reader.”
Immature Wish Fulfillment? Amis wrote, “The notion has grown up that wish fulfillment is somehow immature and therefore suspect. I can’t see this myself…. I find self-advertised maturity, pride in maturity, at least equally suspect. No adult ought to feel adult all the time.”
The Bond Women. “I said earlier,” Amis noted, “that Bond couldn’t be held responsible for the uniformly stunning beauty of the girls he’s made to encounter. All that is Mr. Fleming’s doing…. After reading a couple of Bonds we know that at some stage in any one of them, as ally or as confederate of the enemy (but never as public librarian or best-friend-in-the-Navy’s-little-sister—always as novel and as isolated a figure as possible), wandering about on a Caribbean island or heralded on the road by the sexy boom of twin exhausts.”
Beautiful Firm Breasts. Amis takes issue with those objecting to Bond girls’ physical attributes: “Her most frequently mention feature is her fine, firm, flawless, splendid, etc., breasts.”
“And” Amis continued, “I should like to point out that as regards the written word it takes two to make an obsession—someone who sees it there as well as someone who supposedly puts it there. And if there must be obsessions, this seems to me an honorable and useful one. What would be a better focus? A girl’s feet, perhaps? Her shoes?”
Other Bondiana. (It’s a better word than “Bondage,” eh?) The book includes Damnably Clear Gray Eyes (an assessment of Bond’s relationship with his boss M), Warm Dry Handshakes (pal Felix Leiter et al.), and Y**b**mat! (errors in Russian slang and other things). There’s also a four-page Reference Guide to 17 Bond adventures, Casino Royale, 1953, to The Man With The Golden Gun, 1965 (the year of Amis’s book). The Guide has listings of Place, Girl, Villain, Villain’s Project, Villain’s Employer, Minor Villains, Bond’s Friends, Highlights, and Remarks.
All in good 007 fun. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022