Sunday, March 25, 2007

Only human Bondage

Just finished reading Casino Royale. It's the first Ian Fleming book I've read and seems strange when all you know are the film adaptations/reinventions. For a start, there's James Bond's old-fashioned chauvinism, softened in the movies into charming roguish womanising. When 007 hears his Number Two will be Vesper Lynd - a woman! - his reaction is parodically dismissive:

And then there was this pest of a girl. He sighed. Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.


Also interesting is Bond's extravagance; he comes across as something of a show-off. Remember, the book is set in the post-war years, a time when the kind of stuff Bond's pouring into his smug mouth was beyond the reach of all but the most privileged:

"The trouble always is," he explained to Vesper, "not how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it."
"Now," he turned back to the menu, "I myself will accompany Mademoiselle with the caviar, but then I would like a very small tournedos, underdone, with sauce Bearnaise and a couer d'artichaut. While Mademoiselle is enjoying the strawberries, I will have half an avocado pear with a little French dressing. Do you approve?"


Later the British spy orders what was to become his trademark drink: a dry martini. But this one features "three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet". The mixer? "A large thin slice of lemon-peel". Bond tells CIA man Felix Leiter that he hates small portions of anything (a statement backed up by a moment in the book when we discover that Bond's cigarette is his seventieth of the day!) and, sounding more like a schoolboy (Jennings springs to mind) than anything else, adds boastfully:

"This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."


But in places, Casino Royale's just plain old-fashioned, in language and attitudes. It is of course incredibly immature to find the following passage funny. But it just is:

"I do believe I'm tight," she said, "how disgraceful. Please, James, don't be ashamed of me. I did so want to be gay. And I am gay."


Despite all of the above, it is, of course, a cracking read.

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