[If you are affected by the issues raised in this edition of the 007th Chapter, a confidential helpline is available. Please ring 0044 207 493 7953. They could do with a good laugh. Won’t get it here].
An attention-guzzling British public figure, whose name phonetically delivers as Noisy Pest, or Dismal Prat or BumBum Teat, contrives events to make himself look utterly butterly to the easily deceived, but underneath he’s crazed and dictatorial and it’ll all end in dollops of war, the cheeky rapscallion. Hugo Drax? Gustav Graves? Maxwell Tarn? Tony Blair? Owen Jones? Kenneth Spoon? Donald Trump? (No, I said British. We can do our own bumbum teats, ta v.m. Albeit they tend to be fictional, or better considered same).
Hm. Well that’s the end of that theory, obv.
SeaFire, then. Once described as “Moonraker through the medium of tedium” (the once being just then), it’s a book I know I’ve read in the same way I know I’ve been to Los Angeles but l can’t recall a single sodding thing about it. No, tell a lie, there are three things (but not about Los Angeles); the warmed-over plot of Fleming’s third novel (this time it’s Nazis! Plus multiple hotel rooms and early-90s ecological virtue signalling despite relentless violence), the title and the girl.
When did mid-word capitalisation (MidWord capitalisation?) become an Actual Thing? Or ActualThing? Style’s called “medial capitals” apparently, and seems to derive from computer coding, so something JohnGardner might have KnownAbout, given “previous”. The memory associated with the use in SeaFire is that I thought it was a typo and, nurturing the frustrated bias that was building (unimpeded) against these books, I waved by any opportunity for fair contemplation and took it as nailed-on evidence of the lack of care being paid to the annual listless spewing of yet more Bond. Not even a resplendent megapixel arc of projectile vomit any more, but a sad dribble of oily bile, slumped exhausted against the bowl and dryheaving bitter content. Much like this tomfoolery of mine. If they couldn’t even type the MelonFarming title properly, what hope the rest of it? It’s not ThunderBall, is it? Nor MoonRaker. Not even BrokenClaw. I achieved solace, tolerance even (don’t suggest “acceptance”) via the soothingly RockSolid knowledge that not even the most loathsome cretin would molest “Goldeneye”.
What I don’t recall… no, correct that, what I do recall is not recalling seeing this meretricious phenomenon prior to SeaFire, thereby coming to the snap conclusion that when it went viral as an upsetting stylistic choice, it was evidence of the book having been immensely influential. Must have been off my chump. OffChump. It’s a late-in-run Gardner and therefore possessed by few and of long-term interest to yet fewer. However, it might be a pre-sunset flourish of signature Gardner soothsaying: this time it’s not smart cards nor data storage nor Russian coups, it’s the imminent collapse of Western syntax as I knew it. BurnWitch.
As for the girl… the girlfriend.
There’s no particular reason for KenSpoon not to have a LongTerm GoodChum with whom he SolvesCrimes (contradicts much prior evidence that it would be a woman, but that’s a GardnerTwist), and it’s healthier that the target for his windcheater-clad, sandwich-masticating affections is not his best friend’s young daughter. There is, however, a particular reason for James Bond not to have a long-term girlfriend, and that’s because he’s James Bond and is terrible at relating with, and to, women.
Not the leering priapic sponsored sex dolly of the (first twenty) films that can barely move for FlungAt jiggle-wiggle, which can apparently only be portrayed by a white man, but the relentlessly frustrated embittered failure of the Fleming books, which apparently can only be portrayed by a white man. Even though John NEVER SAW THE FILMS (given those emitted during his tenure, that’s not so much peevish posturing, more admirable judgment), his Bond women are far, far closer to the Eon norm of initial mild challenge but eventually succumbing to Bond and/or death. Such resistance as his “power women” present is richly characterised by the wearing of a suit, although as Gardner characters they can consider themselves overdeveloped in comparison to the rest of his assembly of the anonymous. That Mr Benson’s exculpatory assertion, when trying his very, very best to defend his GrimPorn, that Fleming would have been writing such stuff if alive at the time, doesn’t hold with the nature of what the man ectually did write, which, as stated by many, was the nature of the man himself: frustrated adolescent braggart childish athlete ectually terrified of yer actual ladies and their ways. There are few successes for Bond in Fleming; the author got in the way. Little enough succumb now, never mind Bensonesque succumb off.
It might be going too far to suggest that Fleming’s Bond is a tale of an enraged, weak man who cannot connect with women other than on physical basis (although re-read through that filter, the books tap a rich vein of (presumably) unintended humour in watching the miserable fool flounder so). “Fleming wrote Bond as a white man.” Indeed. However, there’s always a block, a barrier, to Bond succeeding. Practically every Fleming woman is ultimately out of his grasp, if not his blood-soaked clutches, and those that are strike one as the least interesting of the sorority. It’s knowing revisionism to suggest this is the result of the unappealing nature of Bond’s character, and that’s presumably not what was intended as written, however one now reads it. What we’re served is always (always) Bond’s inability, practically a disability, not being his own fault – it wouldn’t be, would it? - but more often than not something’s amiss with the young lady herself, and beyond the surface level of their being physically mucked-up in some way. Fleming hardwires them to mean there will be no prospect of success, another cruel taunt from an author possessed of no enviable personal qualities beyond his financial success.
As exercises in frustration – Bond’s attempts to escape his livelihood despite himself, Bond’s guilt in acquiring consumer goods, the discomfort of luxury, the author’s envy of his creation, the schoolboyish rejection and resentment of authority, the harsh teacher/lecturer and unruly pupil relationship between most villains and Bond – that bleak, never-resolved atmosphere of thwarted yearning that is the core of Fleming’s Bonds, largely absent from the norm-driven continuations, is no stronger when considering Fleming’s depiction of Bond’s relationship with women, so regularly possessed of that quality suffered in dreams when reaching and reaching and reaching and… bollocks, it’s Monday.
The marginally happier reading of this locked-in habit of the Fleming Bond stories, at least for narrative purposes, is that the thrill is in the chase, never the capture. What this says about a) the fun in pinching Lord Rothermere’s wife but then b) the misery of finding one’s self ectually married to the vinegary old measle and c) deciding to name loads of alluring female characters after one’s lady friends but not one’s own Mrs, I leave to the amateur psychologists.
[An amateur psychologist writes: it says dungloads. What a terribly damaged, grimbrained and venal emotional cripple he must have been].
Observe ye the catalogue of premeditated failure. The relationship with Vesper Lynd is doomed because she’s a dead traitor. Tendency to get in the way, both idiosyncrasies. The one with Solitaire is similarly wretched, although this time it’s because she’s a psychic witch; not a type evidently suited to sofa-bound box set marathons, not least because she’d predict all the mid-season twists, the voodoo moo. Gala Brand is far more interested in someone else and the first potentially credible relationship, with Tiffany Case, fails completely when domesticity inflicts itself. That’s a BIG CLUE to what’s going on here, with Fleming, underenthused about institutions from an early age, finding himself trapped in one. Tatiana’s a Russian spy, so that’s not lasting, Honeychile is a dim savage who kills men in nasty ways and then there’s a brace of lesbians. Many of them have histories of vicious abuse. As Tinder profiles* go, these are challenging. That’s probably the point. Better perpetually unobtainable than permanently obtained.
(*I have no idea what these are but given that the modern news agenda is edited by those who have an interest in such things, I am deemed to be obliged to know otherwise my life is obsolete).
It would be foolish to ignore that it assists the ostensible appeal of the lead character that there’s fresh fluff every mission, and that all adds to the longevity and marketability of James Bond. What strikes as interesting is that – a couple of notable exceptions aside – there’s little in the films to suggest that Bond’s relationship with his lady chum will be anything other than a ripping success once they’ve reached dry land and the projectionist’s gone home; the Fleming books go the other way, in inverse proportion. Weird. Wassface at the end of Quantum of Solace, all hollowed out by vengeance, walking off to do noble ecological works after Bond sexually assaults her, is not very Eon, but solidly Fleming.
Judy Havelock doesn’t seem interested in this Bond weasel and he takes advantage of her grief-released fleeting excitement, the grotty scoundrel. Mary-Ann Russell is probably closest to the film norm of being mildly chiding but eventually up for some squidgy nurkle, and no-one bothers much with her despite being so “norm”. Liz Krest is a domestically-abused murderer, Lisl Baum’s the plaything of a vicious gangster upon whose good side Bond just happens to be on that occasion and Domino is owned, by Kevin McClory. Vivienne Michel thinks the spy loves her: he doesn’t, although he behaves in much the same way as those who have previously “loved” her, all her prior abusive experiences rolled into one utter bastard rather than being shared out amongst several. An efficient approach, but not one to praise. That’s not love, love. None of these set solid foundations for domestic bliss. Tracy Bond (…Noisy Pest) is just Tiffany Case with a rich dad and more pills. Kissy is of an alien culture (about which we have been whacked around the noddle for a hundred pages or so before she swims into view) and Mary Goodnight… Mary Goodnight’s a simpleton but plays a significant part in the overall scheme by completing the arc with that final line of The Man with the Golden Gun, which puts the tin lid on what’s been going on throughout. Ultimately, that stuff about the view palling is the optimum sign-off for the Bond series, and is confirmatory of the bitterness and attitude to relationships throughout. If you’re of the persuasion to look for themes and arcs and suchlike in Bond (never let anyone tell you that’s not the approach of a winner) then contemplate a last-line twist in the tale that was there all along.