Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming Part 2

 

James Bond Book 10


published 1962





 
Spy who loved me 3


My white Terylene shirt was smudged from my fall and I washed it and hung it up to dry. I had already forgotten my chastisement by the storm and the fact that I had behaved like a silly goose, and my heart was singing again with the prospect of my solitary evening and of being on my way the next day. On an impulse, I put on the best I had in my tiny wardrobe – my black velvet Spy who loved me 2toreador pants with the rather indecent gold zip down the seat, itself most unchastely tight, and, not bothering with a bra, my golden thread Camelot sweater with the wide floppy turtleneck.

I admired myself in the mirror, decided to pull my sleeves up above the elbows, slipped my feet into my gold Ferragamo sandals, and did the quick dash back to the lobby. There was just one good drink left in the quart of Virginia Gentleman bourbon that had already lasted me two weeks, and I filled one of the best cut-glass tumblers with ice cubes and poured the bourbon over them, shaking the bottle to get out the last drop. Then I pulled the most comfortable armchair over from the reception side of the room to stand beside the radio, turned the radio up, lit a Parliament from the last five in my box, took a stiff pull at my drink, and curled myself into the armchair.

 
spy who loved me 4
 


commentary: This is a fairly slight book, but it demands a second entry (after this one) because of this particular outfit.

The gold zip down the seat is very unusual, you don’t find that very often. And the Camelot sweater is a mystery too – another one is going to turn up in On Her Majest’s Secret Service (that would be Violet in the violet Camelot sweater). There are plenty of Camelot sweaters mentioned here and there in the rest of the world, but there’s nothing to pin it down, they are all different: it is a brand name, or an embroidered slogan, or just a style name. Perhaps is it something loose-threaded, resembling chainmail?

As I said in the last entry, The Spy Who Loved Me is a very different kind of book from the rest of the series – visual, and good on atmosphere and the sinister countryside. The thugs are almost cartoonish, it’s all quite Mickey Spillane, and I have to agree with Kingsley Amis that there’s something wrong with this piece of dialogue from Sluggsy – I’m sure the villainous Horror would see that there’s both tautology and inaccuracy here:
‘Hey, Horror. Guess what! This shamus is a limey dick! Whadya know about that? A gumshoe!’
Viv is sometimes made to talk in the worst thrillerese – ‘I told him [the story] cutting out all but the essentials’: this virtue signalling is always turning up in books, and is surely as meaningless as Bond listening to her ‘without comment’. It was always a great favourite of my friend Biggles (see eg here for comparisons between Bond and Biggles), who often listens to Ginger telling the story ‘concisely, but omitting nothing of importance.’

There is one infuriating reference to semi-rape, though I actually think it is Fleming’s language at fault here, not his attitudes. But I still would say that Fleming has a brave stab at thinking how a young woman like Viv might operate, and describes the horrors of young love and sexual experimentation very well. Her memories of her sub-deb life in 1950s London are nicely done – the milieu reminded me of Robert Barnard’s Scandal in Belgravia, and Peter Dickinson’s Death of a Unicorn,  and Jo Walton's Half a Crown. I liked Viv’s aunt thinking she should ride her scooter side-saddle to be more ladylike.

In this book, as in Thunderball, there is a reference to abstinence - here Bond asks Viv:
‘Have [the bad men] had any drinks? Do they smoke?’
‘No. Neither of them.’
‘I don’t like that either. It’s only pros that don’t.’

In Thunderball it says: ‘the real pros don’t drink or smoke’.

Odd considering Bond’s reputation and the actual amount he does drink and smoke throughout the books…

Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot are displaying the kind of style Viv likes.

















12 comments:

  1. Yes, indeed, Moira, those pants and that zipper do deserve mention. They really are unusual. I had to chuckle a little at the language, too; you've highlighted some real examples of cartoon-speak there. Well, I still give Fleming some credit for trying something new, despite his use of language.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think he was always an interesting writer, and good for him for trying out different things.

      Delete
    2. Don't know if this is what Fleming was referring to, but Camelot was a metallic yarn used for glamorous hand-knitted fashions.

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/22377329368455026/

      http://freevintageknitting.com/free-pajamas-pattern/cm768/guadeloupe-pajamas

      Delete
    3. Thanks Shay, well done, I didn't find that in my researches although the knitting pattern site is one of my favourite resources! That pyjama picture is awesome.

      Delete
  2. Shay mentions that metallic thread, and since Viv talks about her 'Golden thread Camelot sweater' that sounds pretty convincing. It's probably one of her best bits of clothing, and likely an elborately embroidered sweater.

    In a way it's perhaps understandable that Viv comes across more realistically than the gangsters. During the '30s and '40s Fleming would have been intimate with a load of young women of her class, and I suspect that it would only require a little bit of updating for it to be fairly convincing. He does strike me as being a good listener. The gangsters sound like something that he has picked up from a book. I suppose it's the same sort of thing as an American writer having Cockneys say 'Lor lumme, luvva duck, here's a right bloomin' 'ow der you do and no mistake, Guvnah!'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that perception that Fleming knew young women better than spies - hilarious and perfect! And yes, he is far from alone in wince-making attempts to voice foreigners...

      Delete
  3. Not a book that I have spent more than a second thinking about since I read it decades ago - thanks for making me want to try a little harder with this, Moira! As for the snaps, well, it's interesting, Hepburn and Bardot seem as entrancing as ever to me - but who ever that is in the middle with the unseemly zip seems very lacking in 'charm' by comparison!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, she can't compete with Hepburn and Bardot that's for sure - but she did demonstrate that rather weird zip arrangement. AS Viv says, rather indecent.

      Delete
  4. Nice selection of photos. I'll repeat myself, Fleming one day!

    ReplyDelete
  5. That is a very interesting outfit. Also interesting about the metallic yarn. At number 10, you will soon be running out of books. I look forward to the next one: On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I would love to skip ahead to that one, since I am so slow. But I am determined to go in order.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I will be very sorry when I finish, I have enjoyed these books so much. But am slowly watching the films too, which will extend it. OHMSS coming soon I think...

      Delete