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Revelator

Member Since 19 Sep 2003
Offline Last Active Apr 14 2014 06:50 PM
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In Topic: Sky's four-part serial Fleming

07 April 2014 - 09:57 PM

Nicholas Rankin, author of the book Ian Fleming's Commandos, wrote a three-part blog post on Fleming for the Oxford University Press Blog. He has good fun dismantling the series' delusions of historicity. Start here and continue here and end here.


In Topic: Anthony Burgess Picks Goldfinger--The 99 Best Novels since 1939

28 March 2014 - 12:01 AM

Burgess's language also stresses that what he values about Goldfinger is its extravagance. Goldfinger is described as "the most extravagant of" Fleming's "impossible villains, enemies of democracy, megalomaniacs" and Burgess glories in the plan to rob Fort Knox, complete with nerve poison, lesbian gangsters, nuclear missiles and Soviet cruisers. So far then, Burgess seems to value the book as merely "a great joke", but he believes it is far more, due to its expression via "good writing—a heightened journalistic style", Fleming's eye for detail and espionage experience, and "a kind of sincere Manicheism." By contrast, the later Bond films--in his opinion--express only the joke. They miss the other half of the equation.

"Sincere Manicheism," by the way, is a wonderful phrase--it captures Fleming's attitude toward villainy. In Casino Royale Bond expresses doubt and moral relativism regarding the East/West struggle, but Mathis tells him "now that you have seen a truly evil man, you will know how evil they can be and you will go after them to destroy them in order to protect yourself and the people you love...You may want to be certain that the target really is black, but there are plenty of really black targets around." Bond eventually sees the worth of those words and tells himself "The business of espionage could be left to the white-collar boys. They could spy and catch the spies. He would go after the threat behind the spies." Fleming thus addresses and sidesteps the moral ambiguities of Greene and LeCarre--white-collar boys like George Smiley can go play at espionage, Bond will go after the really black targets and engage in the Manichean struggle of Bondian good versus monstrous evil. Goldfinger is surely the most flamboyant example of "the black target"--a black target that glitters.


In Topic: Anthony Burgess Picks Goldfinger--The 99 Best Novels since 1939

27 March 2014 - 05:47 PM


And once more we get a glimpse of Bond's softer side as he hasn't forgotten about Vesper and wonders, how to explain to her the company of Tilly. Not only does he assume Vesper at the same place he is destined for, he also assumes she will still be on conversational terms with him. If you think about it it's a touchingly naive side this brief passage reveals.

    

 

It's also surprising that Bond thinks about speaking to her in the first place. She was dead to him--figuratively, not just literally--at the end of Casino Royale, and Bond had not thought of her since. Why now? Probably because Fleming had reread his own books and decided to draw on the past. That also explains why Goldfinger can read like a self-parody. Perhaps that's what Burgess liked about it.  As a self-parody it is the most "Bondian" of the books. FRWL is influenced by Ambler, DN by Rohmer, and CR by the hardboiled detective school, but Goldfinger is 100% Fleming--it recycles and encapsulates the most characteristic elements honed in the previous books. It is the biggest and splashiest of the Bond stories, the most larger-than-life, and that undoubtedly attracted Burgess.
Many of us are predisposed to knock the book because we were first exposed to the film, one of the few which unmistakably improves on its source. Reading the book makes us doubly conscious of all the implausibilities that were ironed out by the movie. But Burgess undoubtedly read the book first, and it's interesting that his cut-off point for the Bond films is FRWL--right before the film of Goldfinger.


In Topic: ChickenStu on Fleming's originals.

17 March 2014 - 10:38 PM

FRWL was also Fleming's favorite, and is commonly cited as the best of the Bond novels. It's certainly the most carefully-crafted. Plotting was one of Fleming's weak points, but not in FRWL. It's also the strongest book in characterization--Bond, Darko Kerim, Tatiana, Rosa Klebb, and Grant make a hell of a cast. And then there's the intense atmosphere of Istanbul (during its most run-down and melancholy period) and a great set-piece in the moving death-trap that is Orient Express.

As for the ending--perhaps they could use it for Craig's last Bond film. Then the next film could start with M being angry at the new Bond for letting himself get kicked...


In Topic: Philip Larkin on Gardner, Fleming, and the "Batman from Blades"

15 March 2014 - 12:12 AM

I agree. Air travel is much less luxurious and glamorous than it was in Fleming's day.