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Member Since 19 Sep 2003
Offline Last Active Aug 31 2015 09:04 PM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: The Next Bond Novel That Fleming Planned

31 August 2015 - 06:31 PM

Returning to the topic, Richard Hughes's memoir Foreign Devil claims that Fleming was extremely interested in learning about and seeing the Panama Canal. Hughes strongly suggests that Fleming would have sent Bond there, had illness not intervened. Since Fleming tended to base the Bond novels on his own travels, I have little doubt that better health would have ensured a Bond novel set in Panama.

In Topic: The Spectre Trilogy to be published this October

09 July 2015 - 01:02 AM

Of course, purists should contact the publishers and IFP to let them know that it's really a tetralogy. No Spectre omnibus edition is complete without "Bedtime Story" from TSWLM.

Now this, more than the "Collected Letters", is a cash grab.


Purists would also maintain that Spectre does not appear in YOLT.  I'm not bothered by the cash grab, provided it enlarges Fleming's readership. With luck, folks unfamiliar with book Bond will be encouraged to buy this and might be impressed enough to read more, since the Blofeld trilogy is arguably Fleming's masterwork.

In Topic: Why James Bond books are still popular?

09 July 2015 - 12:52 AM

Let's remove anything offensive or even potentially offensive from Fawlty Towers - then you can get through all twelve episodes in under an hour.


Funny that you mentioned that--there's an episode of Fawlty Towers where the Major casually uses the plural form of the n-word, and from what I understand that's now edited out of current repeats (with Cleese's permission). One could argue that this backs up Double Naught spy's proposal, but I wouldn't.


The Major's use of the word shows that it could still be casually dropped well into the 1970s, which explains why Fleming casually used it 20 years earlier. But undoubtedly part of the joke in FT is that the Major, an old dotard, is casually using a disreputable word. 40 years later, the word has become more shocking, due to increased racial sensitivity in Britain, and the joke is more likely jar viewers than make them laugh. Cleese, being a pragmatist, decided a one-line edit wouldn't hurt.


With Fleming it would take far more than deleting one line to produce an inoffensive text of LALD. Actually, it's hard to determine where one would stop (should the phonetically-rendered dialogue be regularized?). Better to assume that a literary audience will realize that LALD was written over 60 years ago in a very different time--and they'll certainly realize that, because the Bond novels are now period pieces, whereas Fawlty Towers still feels less dated.

In Topic: Why James Bond books are still popular?

08 July 2015 - 03:40 AM

Whoa!  I'm not calling for Fleming to be "censored."  What I'm advocating is that the owners (IFP) of Fleming's work seriously consider what's more important to them: Maintaining the historical integrity of his works at the expense of hurting a (very vocal) segment of the population or, potentially increasing the sales of updated versions of Fleming's novels via the positive PR they, IFP, would doubtlessly receive by taking such a bold, enlightened step towards the future?  


I can see why that would seem like an attractive idea, but I don't think it would work. The genie's been out of the bottle for half a century. Taking out the offensive bits would likely draw more attention to them, not less. It would undoubtedly draw negative publicity. Some would attack it as an attempt to fool the public and point to the well-known censored passages, giving them even more unwelcome attention. Readers whose only experiences were with the sanitized books would feel betrayed and angry upon later encountering the offensive passages--and such encounters would be quite likely, since those passages can hardly be expunged from the public record. Such a project would also go against common standards--it's common for controversial passages of older books to be restored, but not for an uncensored older book to be censored. I doubt that IFP would chance the loss of prestige associated with censorship.


And ultimately I don't think creating sanitized versions of the novels would drive up sales. We don't have evidence that bad public word of mouth has kept sales down. The cultural prominence of the Bond movies has probably had a more negative impact since the films have completely overshadowed their sources and affected the public's perception of them (a frequent complaint I've heard is that the Bond books have "less action" than the movies). The readership for old thrillers is also small. William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim were once among the most widely-read spy novelists in the world. Who reads them today, aside from literary historians? Moving forward, there are more readers for Eric Ambler and Graham Greene and John LeCarre (who is still active), but that's partly because they've been acclaimed as classics, like Chandler and Hammett in the detective field. And whether one likes it or not, it's usually the acclaim of academics and influential critics that allows a book to survive after it's stopped being a bestseller (those who don't believe me should take a look at the lists of the ten best-selling books of any random year--whether it's 1942 or 1958 or 1971, most of the blockbusters have passed into oblivion). Though Fleming has recently achieved more critical respectability recently, he's not out of the woods yet. 


Fleming's work has been strong enough to generate a cult following, but there's a limit to its size, especially because the Bond films are no longer the hot novelty they were in the 60s. Since the Bond books are concerned with adult interests they'll never have the childhood appeal of stuff like Harry Potter, and they're too rooted in their time and place to have the cult appeal of Tolkien and other fantasies.

I don't foresee censored editions of the Bond books coming out anytime soon, but it's instead possible they might be reissued with "Trigger Warnings"--though I think they're of dubious effectiveness, I don't mind a compromise on that scale.

In Topic: Why James Bond books are still popular?

07 July 2015 - 03:57 PM

Oh! Then perhaps Gilbert discussed the change elsewhere than in the chapter on DAF. Or I have an overactive imagination...

The American editions also made changes to parts of the books discussing race. The American version of LALD removes all instances of the n-word, and the lousy "jegro" joke is absent from DAF. I grew up reading the American editions of those two books and sometimes regret that Fleming's British editors didn't excercise similar judgment. But Britain was a less racially senstive country back then.