A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart
Kingsley Amis, with six double whiskies inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Acapulco airport and thought about killing James Bond with a bazooka. It could have happened…
Apologies if you sacrificed a disappointing child to ensure that this had ended. Can’t claim that continuation 007thChapters match the originals (for good or ill) and even a sympathetic reader filled with milky sap will conclude that I’ve exhausted an idea of debateable sustainability, given the knotweed of ennui throttling the initial run. You go spot a parallel, you clever old you.
I recently acquired a 1970 paperback Colonel Sun for 25p, coincidentally its price at the time and, like all books, more expensive in Australia. Why does it cost so much to stock a prison library? I suspect the bookmonger involved rejects decimalisation, and soap, but troglodytes have their uses: the book is in good condition and worth the princely sum. Second-hand bookshop for second-hand Bond: fitting. He (probably a he) muttered, through a greasedribbled beard / nest, “It’s not a real one”. I replied that he was therefore fencing counterfeit goods and I would report him to the Bizzies. Cracking him across the for’ead with me alabaster swordstick, cape a-twirl I sashayed from the emporium, the gay applause of other customers a-ringing like a peal of church bells heralding savage war, and my way festooned with seasonal blooms. Ectually, I didn’t do any of that and, in shuffling out into the drizzle, tripped over a pile (apposite collective noun) of Clive Cusslers meeting their natural fate by stabilising a table. The truth in this escapade is only in what he said, this “person” who – in principle – would be assumed to “know” books. Unrealistic to expect he had read all his wares (and, with the Cusslers, heartless to require it), but an interesting attitude. He didn’t try “Kingsley Amis wrote that”, suggesting he didn’t know / care and his ignorance / apathy had cheated him of, ooh, another five pence (max). I assert not that this is the approach of all booksellers but since in five years’ time the World’s only bookshop will be a warehouse staffed by exhausted dead-eyed polo-shirted slaves on six-hundred hours per week, I can’t expect knowledge going for’ard.
What is it – that the Flemings are “real” and the “not Flemings” are…imaginary? Imagining Colonel Sun I can accept, but dreaming up High Time to Kill? Jee Harvey Christ; must lay off the Moldovan Wait Wayne. Such examples cause pause. Colonel Sun. High Time to Kill. Same “thing”, ostensibly. Wow. OK, the Flemings fluctuated, and the films “vary”, but as widely as that? A hell of a chasm right in one’s face. I do feel it in my face. It’s hurting my nose. Perhaps I shouldn’t turn it up so high.
My purchase contained an insert from 1968 for “the Companion Book Club”, promising members a saving of 14/6 on Colonel Sun’s price (if reading in “American”, five trillion dollars). Further discounts were available upon introducing a friend (unlikely) to the cabal, who could claim a gift of a “Horrockses set” (not a clue), a Food Can Opener (canned food? For humans? Is that really a thing?) or the LP “It’s Easy to Remember” by George Shearing, even if it’s not easy to remember George Shearing. An insight into the persons at whom these books are aimed, or thrown. There’s a list of members – including Major R. G. H. Savory (mmm) – and mugshots that would now be silhouetted in a tabloid. N.J. Prentice of Drumadd, Co. Armagh, says he “enjoyed” the club’s choices, his photo betraying that N.J. Prentice of Drumadd, Co. Armagh’s concept of enjoyment is swallowing a whole Mars bar sideways whilst being told that his doggy is dead. A. Phillips of Pitlochry congratulates “a high standard of diverse yarns”, quaint, like his “face” and Mr T.B. Vadge (I’m not making this up) of Burton-upon-Trent (surely he’s suffered enough?) says “…your books are the envy of all”, but only because he introduced reading to Burton-upon-Trent but, considered a fad, it never caught on.