James Bond book 9, the 8th full-length novel
Not bothering to open the low door of the MG, the girl swung one brown leg and then the other over the side of the car, showing her thighs under the pleated cream cotton skirt almost to her waist, and slipped to the pavement…
He was wearing a very dark blue lightweight single-breasted suit over a cream silk shirt and a black knitted silk tie. Despite the heat, he looked cool and clean, and his only concession to the tropics appeared to be the black saddle-stitched sandals on his bare feet. It was an obvious attempt at a pick-up. He had an exciting face, and authority. She decided to go along.
She wore a gondolier's broadrimmed straw hat, tilted impudently down over her nose. The pale blue tails of its ribbon streamed out behind. On the front of the ribbon was printed in gold “M/Y DISCO VOLANTE .'' Her short-sleeved silk shirt was in half-inch vertical stripes of pale blue and white and, with the pleated cream skirt, the whole get-up reminded Bond vaguely of a sunny day at Henley Regatta. She wore no rings and no jewellery except for a rather masculine square gold wristwatch with a black face. Her flat-heeled sandals were of white doeskin. They matched her broad white doeskin belt and the sensible handbag that lay, with a black and white striped silk scarf, on the seat between them. Bond knew a good deal about her from the immigration form, one among a hundred, which he had been studying that morning. Her name was Dominetta Vitali.
commentary: Earlier entry talked about the strange genesis of Thunderball and its continuing disputes, and dealt with the first part of the story.
Sixty pages in, the proper plot begins, and along comes Blofeld.
And I was almost immediately completely distracted from the plot, by this sentence about Blofeld's early life :
He soon realized, for he was a man of almost mimosaic sensibility in matters of security, that the pace could not possibly last. (my italics)Mimosaic is an attractive word, but doesn’t seem to exist in any dictionary. Looking for any other uses at all, I found a possibility of, in Bible studies, mi-Mosaic (as in some way not Mosaic, against Mosaic, in the sense of Mosaic Law in the Old Testament). Didn’t seem likely. The only other viable instance was as a translation of the German phrase
die mimosenhafte Empfindlichkeit der TurkenIt is from a book on German responsibility in the Armenian genocide, and is a quote from German ambassador of the time, Count J. Bernstorff - it is translated as ‘the mimosaic sensitivity of the Turks’. So I consulted my friendly team of language experts, who say that it would mean ‘over- or hyper-sensitive’. The reference is to mimosa leaves, which curl up if you touch them.
I was then delighted to find this quotation from a letter from Fleming to his publishers:
“I gratefully note all your cuts and digs and accept them all with the exception of 'mimosaic', a word which I saw somewhere and have taken to my heart. Do please let me leave this in if only to make my readers read at least one of my words twice over.”He certainly got his way with me, I have spent a lot of time chasing it up, and involved other people.
And perhaps I am deliberately lingering around page 63, because I found the rest of the book rather a disappointment. I liked Bond arriving in the Bahamas, meeting up with Domino (above) and Felix Leiter – but the long dreary chases and fights in the ocean were not enthralling for me.
I enjoyed the distractions – Domino’s long story about the figure on the Players cigarette packet, and Felix’s disquisition on how to make money out of selling Martinis. It reminded me of the wonderful Peg Bracken , who quoted the passage in her Instant Etiquette Book then said ‘Felix Leiter was an admirable private eye, and I couldn’t have been sorrier when he was eaten up by the sharks. But he made a surprising omission here: the tip’. This was her intro to her own section on tipping – excellent.
There’s an odd and rather graceless moment when Felix and James swoop in their tiny plane over a woman sunbathing naked on the roof of a cabin cruiser and Felix says ‘authentic blonde’.
Emilio Largo is a good villain – used his picture from the Thunderball film before, in fact:
And I like that his boat is called Disco Volante – Flying Saucer – in an era before, I presume, that Disco meant something else.
And a few questions– I don’t want to be tasteless here, but Domino is tortured using a lit cigar, and ice cubes, ‘applied scientifically’. I don’t know what the ice cubes were for?
And, after giant squids and octopuses in previous books, is Fleming having a game with us by immobilizing Bond with a baby octopus?
And, the ransom letter from SPECTRE: is it meant to be weirdly written and at times incomprehensible:
The whereabouts of this aircraft and of the two atomic weapons, rendering them possible of recovery, will be communicated to you in exchange for the equivalent of £100,000,000 in gold bullion, one thousand, or not less than nine hundred and ninety-nine, fine.What does that last bit mean? Reads like an unchecked draft?
Bond’s clothes come, of course, where else, from the fabulous and highly-recommended Suits of James Bond website.
Thanks again to the language helpers.
First entry on Thunderball here.