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  1. The 007th Chapter: Icebreaker – Rivke

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart – this time cunningly presented as a rerun. It’s summer time after all…

     

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    A famous episode of Hancock’s Half Hour is “The East Cheam Drama Festival”. Hancock, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Daniel Craig Sid James grapple “Look Back in Hunger” and “The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven and the songs that made him famous” and, titweepingly magnificently, “Jack’s Return Home.” In a coruscating exposure of the zeitgeist, poverty-stricken Joshua (Hancock) and wife Martha (Hattie) are menaced by landlord Jasper Stonyheart (Sid). It’s complex. Their son Jack is presumed dead – impaled by “the Zulus” – but Martha claims she insured his life, so all is well. Inopportunely, Jack (Bill) returns home, penniless. So Martha shoots him. ©BBC Worldwide, amongst others (prob’ly).

     

    Hancock: Aha, me old darlin’, you’ve shot Jack.

    Hattie: Yes, and I took out a policy on you as well, so watch it.

    Hancock: Wait a minute, I have a surprise for you. For thirteen years, you have thought I am Joshua, your husband.

    Hattie: Well, aren’t you?

    Hancock: No; stand back while I take my wig off. There…

    Hattie: Good heavens! Frederick!

    Hancock: Yes, Frederick. What do you say to that, Jasper Stonyheart?

    Sid: I’m not Jasper, I’ve been wearing this wig and pretending to be Jasper. This is who I really am. There!

    Hancock: Good heavens! Jonathan!

    Sid: Yes, Jonathan. I didn’t trust either of you, especially you, Martha.

    Hattie: And you were right not to, Jonathan, for you see, I am not Martha!

    Hancock: Not Martha?

    Hattie: No! There, now do you recognise me?

    Hancock: Gad! It’s Gladys.

    Hattie: Yes, Gladys, the girl you wronged.

    Hancock: Then who pray is the poor wretch we’ve killed?

    Bill: Fear not! You didn’t kill me! I was saved by my silver cigarette case. There! Do you not recognise me without the wig?

    Sid: Yes, I should have guessed – Ronald!

     

    Welcome to Icebreaker.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2016-07-12
  2. The 007th Chapter: Licence Renewed – King of the Castle

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart (yep, this one should have come before For Special Services, you get a cigar…)

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    In my youth (that’s not a location update) I set a “quiz” for my College. Brain-mashers like “Abbreviations excluded, name the only U.S state written using one line of typewriter keys” (Alaska; no-one knew (no-one cared)) and “Name the only country written using one line of typewriter keys”. Peru, but some “body” said Eire (fair point), another that “it’s Republic of Peru, actually, I know thart, actually, because I gap-yeared tharh, actually, licking yurts, communing with my spirituality, yah, and photocopying for my uncle at KPMG Lima.” There was such a fight. I encouraged it. Ectually.

    I also had a round on “James Bond”. This was 1993 (hence “typewriter”), with 007 as relevant and welcome as anything else dead for four years that sane folks hoped would never return, like Eastern European communism, that Dr Who children’s programme or the Ayatollah Khomeini (give him time). Select questions went:

     

    1. Which two Bond films to date do not feature a helicopter? (Child-like optimism to say “to date”, but child-like I was (rather than current lifestyle choice of childish), and brilliant. Precocious, smackable little weasel)

    2. Why is A View to a Kill unique amongst the Bond films? (Keep it clean. In early 2015, this answer still holds)

    3. Which author has written the most James Bond novels?

     

    There were others, such as Q’s I.Q. to the nearest five points (it’s five; trick question), something something watches something (it really doesn’t matter) and Anne Fleming’s inside leg measurement (loads of people knew it; some reputation, that) but I’ve forgotten the rest.

     

    Question 1? Yes, you, with the mittens…

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2016-05-09
  3. The 007th Chapter: For Special Services – Invitation by Force

     

     

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart – cunningly presented out of sequence…

     

     

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    Contains huge spoilers. Of a book over thirty years old. Isn’t it terrible, that news about The Titanic? Bet you can’t guess who Darth Vader really is. I think I’ve drunk wine younger than this book. Once, with regret. 

     

    I’m thinking… Ronseal.

     

    I haven’t succumbed to product placement (yet) but as I age, I dwell on how to keep wood. If none-the-wiser, or just aghast at the squalor of that joke, Ronseal is a creosote (this won’t get more exciting). Other brands are available but Ronseal stands out for possessing a bouquet that smacks-up dead quick dirt cheap, and having been advertised with the slogan “it does exactly what it says on the tin”, a phrase that has entered the wider lexicon, like those “Keep Calm” things – Keep Calm and Drop Dead – and “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and cultivate Type-2 diabetes”.

     

    This springs to mind not through an urge to paint the fence – one engages the little people for that, how charming they are with their “vans” and their “views” – but because I hold a-mitt a 1987 Coronet UK paperback of For Special Services. It looks chewed. There’s a distinct – dog?  – toothmark at the moment Bond eats a tuna sandwich and drinks Perrier. I might be blaming the hound unfairly; could have been me, enraged at this dumbing-down / plebbing-up of 007. There’s another incision just as Bond crams his gut with “chicken pie” and Apple Jonathan – presumably not Sir Jony Ive, although since Bill Gates gets an oblique reference in Role of Honour one can’t dismiss the thought. Fair’s fair, both meals are comforting beige stodge, so I might have been trying to join in. “Beige stodge” seems apt, somehow.

     

    Back to the “point” – the selling (or selling out) of Gardner Bond. Can’t judge a book by its cover, say “they”. Codswallop: the cover has “James Bond” in letters larger than both title and author, there’s a silhouette of a dinner-jacketed man taking aim and the base has “007”, big and bold. Little else upon which to judge it, frankly. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The book has James Bond 007 in it, although moot whether it’s ectually Ken Spoon (or Ron Seal). For Special Services might be open to many criticisms – on their way, lovey – but terminal ambiguity is not one. There is nothing else this could be. Anyone spotting you reading it – once they’ve stopped pointing fingers and whispering (although that’s nothing to do with the book and you know it) – would be in no doubt about what it was; similar absence of doubt in their deciding to flee, chop-chop quick.

     

    The back cover risks undermining this single-mindedness, instilling anxiety whether such tin-based-promise will come true. Things start “well”, boasting that Bond comes armed “with a new pair of Sykes-Fairburn commando daggers and a new Heckler & Koch VP70 hand gun”, as if that can impress non-mental people, and evidence of a burgeoning trend that hardware gets top billing. Still, the book delivers, narrating inanimate serial-numbered murder-things in greater detail than its characters. Possibly the point is that 007 is just an inanimate serially-numbered murder-thing too. Mr Gardner, you scamp. As if that wasn’t enough tedious name-checking of story-hijacking objects, the “turbo-charged silver SAAB 900” clanks back. The author’s note thanks SAAB (GB) Ltd for “proving that the James Bond SAAB really does exist” even if they don’t any more. Karma caught up with them. Because it wasn’t driving a frickin’ SAAB.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-12-24
  4. The 007th Chapter: Colonel Sun – Not-So-Safe-House

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    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.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-04-08
  5. The 007th Paragraph – Octopussy and The Living Daylights

    A literary mediation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    One has to pick the right moment to say goodbye.

     

    Also, the proper goodbye to say, be it to a beloved pet in a ditch-bound binbag, to a less-beloved relative going alongside it (bag one, get one free, too tempting to ignore), to one’s children scattering to University and to one’s money disappearing with them. Goodbye is not the hardest word to say; the hardest word to say is “specificity”. Goodbye is a hard thing to mean, if you misjudge what you inflict with it. At one end, it shorthands “Oblige Me By Fornicating Off and Dying in Pain, Immediately”, in the Goodbye, Mr Bond sense, the opposite of the oily dollop within Goodbye, Mr Chips (unless I’ve misunderstood both). Between, betwixt and around those gambol:-

     

    – the casual b’byes one uses with “friends” (whatever they are), with re-helloing imminent, although I tend to be in the Goodbye, Mr Bond bracket as articulated above;

     

    – ending a ‘phone call, although I tend to be in the Goodbye, Mr Bond bracket as articulated above;

     

    – the apology at the end of a relationship, having failed to worm one’s way out by all other means including “some” poison and “some” knives, although I tend to be blah blah blah…;

     

    – the celebratory goodbye as one watches a mighty Longship burn in the bay; and

     

    – the equally final type when you spot one of your sprogs aboard it, screaming and a-smoulder, increasingly combustible. Although I tend to be in the Goodbye, Mr Bond etc…

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-03-25
  6. The 007th Chapter: The Man With The Golden Gun – Un-real Estate

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    Start over, and simplify.

     

    Often dreamt of by chaps sliding towards their forties, therefore not unusual for James Bond. True, it’s more commonly contemplated when staring into a ready-meal and the ready-meal stares right back, rather than after killing a maniac, impregnating a film star, unwittingly faking one’s own death and trying to kill the boss. Frankly, that lifestyle sounds titillating and a place one escapes to rather than from (possibly its original point) but perhaps even its view palls, in time.

     

    Given the opportunity, what would I do differently? “Rabat 2001”, definitely. Ectually name one of the offspring “Remnant”. Avoid that encounter with [not telling], although it’s now a divinely grubby anecdote since his conviction, so I’d think carefully before dropping it completely. Would drink better wine and get that ptarmigan tattoo I promised meself. A life still too short to learn Welsh, or to contemplate using public transport. Using the public as transport… wholly different matter.

     

    Not much else.

     

    Especially if this reboot requires electrocution by my chums (I have three; possibly four if Torquil returns my pinking shears). Call me selfish, call me a coward, call me Bwana (eccentric, but so tremendously sweet of you) but the prospect of twenty-four zaps at my brain over the course of thirty days doesn’t thrill. Telling me about it would pass quickly, though. Bond’s reconditioning in The Man with the Golden Gun, his own side microwaving his mind and cynically taking a gift of an open-goal to re-educate him, telling him he’s been brainwashed and to Kill! Russians! but markedly not reminding him about the dead wife or that his real name’s David Webb, lasts less than a page before he’s Bourne again and let loose to disrupt the scheme of a… a naughty hotelier.

     

    In both, one recognises the common perception of this novel as unfinished. What of Bond’s rehabilitation? Where is the villain’s outrageous apocalypse? Where are Bond’s reawakening memories of his marriage and realisation that his own side have done him more damage than Colonel Boris ever did? Why is it about an away-day board meeting / team-building exercise for conned investors? Where’s all the digression about shrubbery, for frick’s sake? However, Weir of Hermiston this is not. It is finished. There’s an ending – clue.  What it is, is unpolished. Arguable evidence of “unfinished”, in that Fleming had yet to apply louche but increasingly ill-disciplined extravagances before his days were rendered unprolonged. Raises contemplation: this is Bond in raw form, uncluttered with “views”, light of diversions into the author’s medical history or whatever he had read, liked and then pinched. Terser, harder, quicker. Just as juvenile – the sexually foggy villain has three nipples and a big gold gun – but blunter overall.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-03-01
  7. The 007th Chapter: You Only Live Twice –

     

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    Previously, on James Bahnd…

     

    Bezants! Syphilis! Girls! Chickens! Christmas! Microbes! Earlobes! Bobsleighs! Wedding! Bang!

     

    Exhausting.

     

    Chap’d need a holiday after that. Touch of sightseeing, a wander around an exotic garden, visit a castle, perhaps a mud-bath or a swim-swim. Pick up local customs, pick up a local, enrage them by behaving as a Brit abroad, complain about the food, have a fight, throttle someone, go crazed in blood lust and, when it’s time to go home, forget it all and defect. Have had similar city-breaks (ah, Paris) except for the last bit. James Bond has to go that one stage further, doesn’t he? Show-off.

     

    Mr Grumpy goes to Tokyo, then. I accept he has reason to be miz. However appealing a short-term solution to impeded freedom to do whatever and whomever one wants, losing one’s spouse cannot be fun. In vowing to be true until death does you part, one’s not expecting that to happen within an hour, before the weak buffet and witnessing an elderly relative get whammed and claim they invented the lemon. Won’t have even have had time for photographs of hair and faces both questionable when viewed a decade on; I mean, who the F*** is that bloke, there, next to your ferociously slutty fat friend with the tattoo of Harvey Keitel on her pockmarked whalethigh? What do you mean, how do I know about that? Look, there, atop those veined legs reminiscent of cheap Stilton. Agreed, it could be some cake, but it looks like Harvey Keitel. So does she.

     

    That said, Bond didn’t so much lose Tracy as have her removed from him, and only shortly after they’d met. Given that she was practically a stranger, is it more the traumatic manner of the separation (bound to tend to upset) rather than the loss itself? If so, arguably Bond could be happier: he had yet to observe the way she ate eggs, or cut her toenails whilst watching television, or [continues in this vein for umpteen tedious paragraphs of trivial domestic irritations] or the annual one-day interest in “sorting out the garden” despite patently not knowing a weed from a banana. All these things James Bond is blissfully denied and then he gets a knock on the head and forgets about his marriage anyway. I’m struggling to see the downside.

     

    So’s M. Not the most sympathetic of reactions, referring to Bond as a “lame-brain” and being “under the weather”, the brutal old blister. Bond’s more than that. The desperate, death-dripped recounting of a sweaty, out-of-condition James Bond shuffling around Harley Street practitioners trying half-heartedly to get well but trapped in the countdown to his next drink, resonates bleakly with what one knows of Fleming’s imminent fate. Possibly the saddest piece of writing in all the books, the loneliness in a crowd of a dying man and, more than that, a man who knows the game’s up but cracks a forced smile to try to convince others, and himself, to the contrary: heartbreaking. Possibly literally. Wasting one’s days in trying to prolong them, despite death addiction. All that work Fleming has been doing to undermine Bond’s appeal and I feel sorry for him now. Looking death in the face with a pointlessly brave one of his own; might be a second life, but it’s not much of one. The medical history Fleming ascribes to 007 one suspects is voluntary disclosure of his own records, embellished.  The autobiography turns bitter. Just not up to it any longer and the demands of the job increasingly beyond him. A couple of Bond’s recent missions have failed; stretching it perhaps but authorial reflection here on the trouble surrounding Thunderball and the reception for The Spy Who Loved Me? The expectations – the demands – of others have turned it sour and unappealing.

     

    What is required of Bond is required of Fleming: a supreme call on his talents in the face of an impossible job. You Only Live Twice tackles this need for energy by appearing to turn in the drowsiest novel of the run. That’s a disguise, and better than the one Bond adopts. Admittedly, the atmosphere is so dense one could dig into it with a spoon, but everything’s here, deceptively muted by oppressive melancholy and a pace that for two-thirds of the book might frustrate those seeking “thrills”. Fleming always was one for structural whimsy, was he not? Look carefully: what he’s ectually doing, skin tinted much darker but palpably there, is taking familiar tricks by the hand and skipping merrily over the top with them. A final wild fling for the old ways. The path may lead towards rebirth but before one emerges there washed of brain and identity, before one sloughs the old skin, all the characteristics of your first life get an outlandish, bacchanalian wake. For example –

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-02-21
  8. The 007th Chapter: The Spy Who Loved Me – Come Into My Parlour

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    I found what follows knifed into my cranium one morning. As you will see, it appears to be the first person story of a young woman (it’s in the interests of keeping a consistent number of testicles to write “young”), evidently beautiful (and in the interests of my lovely, lovely face) and not unskilled in the arts of love (and of the joint account). According to her story, she appears to have been involved, both perilously and romantically (but mostly perilously), with the same Jacques Stewart whose pointless exploits I myself have written from time to time. With the manuscript was a note signed (in my blood) ‘Mrs Jeem’, assuring me that what she had written was ‘purest truth and from the depths of her heart; take out the bins and deworm the dog’. I was interested in this view of Ian Flemeeeeng, through the wrong end of the telescope so to speak, and after obtaining clearance for certain minor infringements of domestic bliss, I have much pleasure in sponsoring its publication, otherwise she’ll make me sleep in the boathouse once again and its roof leaks.

     

    Send help.

     

    JS.

     

     

     

    ‘Allo. 

     

    Fnarr! Ten-line sentences! Ees what ma ‘usband does, ees eet not? Believe eet, talking to ‘eem is worse. I theenk ‘e breathes through ‘is plump skeen, jibber-jabber-jibber-jabber-bluh-bluh-bluh in that dialect of ‘is. Shaddap you face! Pigliainculo! We of Napoli can talk, but ‘e takes – as ‘e would say –  the sheety biscuit. Not that ‘e is allowed biscuits, the fat ‘ippo; ‘e ‘as to lose twenny pound, figlio di puttana. I know, I know, ‘e would say the easy way to do that is to give me money for shoes. Is “man” (!) who theenks shoes cost twenny pound. 

     

    Stronzo!

     

    What does ‘e mean, “wrong end of the telescope”? I’ve seen ‘is telescope. Need telescope to see eet. Piccolo. ‘E likes James Bond. Is bambino, ‘asn’t grown up. Is path-et-eeec, no? Thees James Bond, ‘e marry a di Vicenza, no? She mad, she die, ees good: northern slurt. 

     

    [Mrs Jim interjects: Ectually, although Italian by birth, I (was) moved to England at three years of age and raised in East Sussex. I have no discernable accent affecting my pronunciation and certainly nothing like the preposterous depiction here. If anything, my English accent corrupts my Italian.  My professional letterhead doesn’t read “screeching blowsy fishwife psychopath cliché” but rather “consultant surgical oncologist”. I appreciate, however, that this nonsense is about an Ian Fleming novel, so cohering with the style I must adopt heightened characteristics and a farcically impenetrable, offensive manner of speaking so that the reader appreciates that I am “foreign”. I am fond of shoes, though. And swearing. As for persons of the Veneto: no strong feelings. If they stay out of my way, I stay out of theirs.]

     

    So, I do review-a. Thees Vivienne Michel – mignotta. End. Fine. Ciao!

     

    ‘As to be longer? Perche? Ma ‘usband makes ees longer? Is eet to compensate? 

     

    Part One: Mi

     

    “I was running away”. Along with creetics, leetle-boy Bond fans and readers wan’ing good time (testa di cazzo! Not that-a sort-a good time). I don’t theenk woman, she writes eet. I theenk eet ees Ian Flemeeeeng in slurt’s dress and whore’s shoes (twenny pound). Ees man who pretends to be woman, like ma ‘usband does when ‘e theenks I’m no in ‘ouse. What is thees – Silence of Lamb? Non mi rompere il coglioni! Man should be man. Was ‘e at Eeeeeeeton? Ah! Explains eet. Mamma knew. Mamma said. If it wasn’t for the keeeds…

     

    What-a can I tell you about-a my life? I was born in Napoli brothel to meeeeserable whore with ‘eart of lead and Latvian – how you say eet? – stevadore with an ‘ump. We were poor, but we weren’t ‘appy. I ‘ad to eat fish’eads until I was eight-a and then we shot-a the dog. I was urchina bella, stealing kerchiefs and inexplicably breaking into song and dance routines despite rickets and diurnal cholera outbreaks. Dio mio! And then wicked theatre producer, ‘e found me and put me in ees girlie show and [insert-a Tiffany Case life story…’ere. When done, insert-a Vivienne Michel life story where you goddamn-a like; I no judge you]. And now I am ‘ere, bird with a weeng down, feeeedled-with in cinema non-paradiso by thees Derek feelth and rejected by Aryan ‘omophobe and ridin’ my Vespa all a-carefree and leathered-up and alone which eeesn’t very wise for a veeectim of abuse at the rough ‘ands of men, save as moist sleaze fantasy by thees Ian Flemeeeeng. ‘As she not seen Psycho? 

     

    [A consultant surgical oncologist writes: Me accent’s slipping. Manchester? Liverpool? (Where?) No: ‘Ove. Sorry, darling – Hhhhhhove. Horrible Hairy Hove Hhhhhhaberdashhhhery. None of the above is true. My parents were doctors. I have never owned a Vespa. Like motorbikes, their only benefit is as a guarantee of imminent organ donation. I drive a Maserati. No, I aim a Masterati.  It weeds out the weaker cars. I don’t believe I know a Derek – one doesn’t mix with the teaching classes – but you’d be surprised at the number of Aryan ‘omophobes one encounters in Hhhhhenley-on-Thames. Usually trying to get my vote]

     

    Part Two: Them

     

    When all thees ‘appens, eet ees Friday 13th. Ees no subtle, no? Ees like pulp gangster tale. Ees not very good pulp gangster tale. She gonna be raped! She just victeeeem. She a-knows she ees victeeeem. She prisoner of dirty old-a man in ‘er ‘ead. Thees Flemeeeeng, ees bad-toothed stinkeeng alcoholic middle-aged “man” tryin’ to get into body of young woman. Ees peeg! If he write eet today, bad man pretend to be young woman on eenternet and ‘e get-a locked up with other bad men and become rottinculo. This a-Flemeeeeng, he just a-drool, old-a cazzone. Bastardo!

     

    Ees a gum-shoe novel, but in bad-a shoes. 

     

    Knock-a knock-a. 

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-01-27
  9. The 007th Chapter: Thunderball – Fasten Your Lap-Strap

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

     

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    Based on an original screen treatment by Jacques Stewart and two strapping young chaps he met in the pub. Several pints of wine later, he can’t recall who suggested what, officer, but once you’ve struggled to the end, you’ll know they won’t sue for credit. Defamation, perhaps.

     

    Datedly jiggerscreeched at the outset of many a DVD:

     

    You wouldn’t steal a car. Correct. That’s not “couldn’t”, so presumably it’s not a challenge. I wouldn’t steal two nuclear bombs either (he writes, attempting to discipline this drivel). As for “couldn’t”, that’s for me to know and for you to find out.  Top tip: stock up on tinned food before 29 August 1997. No, that hasn’t been and gone; you were told that by The Man and chose to believe it because “they” fed you distracting consumerist pleasures. If the views dripsneered onto message boards establish a date by spot-testing social mores of the age, it’s currently June 1959.

     

    You wouldn’t steal a handbag. True again! Oh, how you know me. You complete me. I love you.

     

    You wouldn’t steal a television. Spooky now.

     

    You wouldn’t steal a movie. Well, not so much steal as sorta borrow it. Don’t worry, nobody really minds. Trust to luck that the same nobody notices.

     

    Unfortunately, despite clever hiding of it in the next hugely anticipated adventure of the singlemost culturally significant fictional character of the twentieth century, “notice” is what they did. “Mind”, too. James Bond did not believe in luck, we are told. Ian Fleming patently didn’t believe in good judgment, save for the one handed down that accelerated his demise. Did he learn his lesson? The Spy Who Loved Me suggests not: he pinched that from a “Vivienne Michel”, although she wisely kept quiet and chose instead to pursue a more rewarding career as a motel nymph.

     

    Hindsight rendering the question a fat lot of use, but it’s questionable whether the Thunderball litigation was interested in preserving the sanctity of contribution per se or rather the incredible opportunity that presented itself to secure rights to the tale as a springboard for the ancillary cash graspable in selling toys and “lifestyle” tat; worth suing for. “Exploitation of intellectual property” rarely had a rawer example. It’s difficult to regard Never Say Never Again as bettering the cultural stock of the human experience, ars gratia artis and all that, but squeezing the golden thunderballs at our expense made someone rich and kept shareholders and pension funds all smiles. Doubtless – and indeed, legally – those promulgating the case were entitled to do so, just as I’m legally entitled to unblock a toilet with my bare hands, although exercising such entitlement seems grubby.

     

    This is in obvious contrast to the altruistic fluffiness of Danjaq, a charitable enterprise of greater benevolence than a rest home for insufficiently wounded kittens.

     

    It’ll be on the litigious side of unwise to comment – even within a facetious piece – about who did what to whom because a ) there’s probably still someone kicking around with a stake in the outcome of the Thunderball trial and b ) rich people squabbling about who gets to relieve us of yet more money is unedifying. The case’s legacy is mixed: the brace of films it spawned are peerless, at differing ends of that scale, although it seems that Blofeld could now appear in future Eon films. Given their previous loon-based depiction of him, and multiple parodies since, it’s moot why the Broccoli factory would want to reintroduce his roundly-mocked persona to disrupt the current balance of begloomed despair, peevish insubordination, a half-naked  drunk and a M named Gareth. Possible that the implausibility of The Cackling Wig O’Skyfall buttered us up for insertion of Ernst.  It wouldn’t be our first time, either, although it strikes me that making Silva an information exploiter shoots Blofeld’s bolt, unless there’s opportunity to pick up the Skyfall plot thread of the leaking of British agents’ names, mysteriously abandoned half way through in favour of Grab a Granny.

     

    The spavined whining about recent Bond ripping off Bourne forgets that Bond’s most successful film, pre-rebooting, was itself spawned of a rip-off. Perhaps that’s what the film-makers mean when they umpteenthly claim they’re “going back to Fleming”. “Perhaps”. Choppy waters, and dangerous to stay in too long: the sharks, they circle. Query whether Thunderball should even come into an exercise of finding the core of a Fleming Bond, if it’s not all his own work. It might be a diversion to try to work out what’s plainly him and what’s more doubtful. Whilst the idea of (say) SPECTRE could be the result of collaborative work (don’t know and don’t care, in equal measure), the articulation of the ideas one assumes is his alone otherwise Blofeld sharing Fleming’s birthdate and his antipathy towards Germans is one mother of a coincidence.

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2015-01-20
  10. The 007th Chapter: Goldfinger – Thoughts in a DBIII

     

     

    A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart

    GFWC600

     

     

     

     

    Why write?

     

    To make money? Presumably. Not all do. Fewer should. Colossal drivel out there. In here, too, although you get this for free. Like roadkill, or the ‘flu.

     

    To influence? Goldfinger was my first exposure to anything Bond. Made me the creature I am today. I blame Ian Fleming rather than take any individual responsibility.

     

    To better the world with the outflow of their creativity and express the innermostest innermost of their tortured, yearning souls? Arguable, albeit pretentiously.

     

    To annoy, and have a right old go at people they don’t like so narrative credibility can go boil its bum in Bovril? On the evidence of this novel, undeniable. Insofar as applying to these pieces too, see “influence”, above.

     

    The 007th Chapter of the 007th book. If one believes weirdo Black Magic demented claptrap, this “lucky number seven” stuff promises good fortune. It’s no more weird, blackly magical nor demented as claptrap than the belief that spits diametrically opposed propositions about a man marrying another man (a heinous obscenity) and a man marrying his own rib (obviously totally unmental and the basis of a secure family unit). Should you choose to be offended by that, you’ve probably come to the right place, and definitely so if you:

     

    • are Korean and/or
    • smell of “zoo” and/or
    • drive slowly, be it in either/both the motoring or golfing context and/or
    • are Mexican and/or
    • are teetotal and/or
    • are a pansified Italian and/or
    • are around five foot tall and/or
    • are euphemistically probably Jewish despite unconvincing protestations to the contrary and/or
    • are fat and/or
    • are Chinese and/or
    • are wealthy and/or
    • [… is there anyone interesting left? If you’ve been playing along with “and” rather than “or”, we definitely need to meet; you sound scrumptious]

     

    That’s only the first few chapters, and before we’re dipped in chocolate and thrown to the lesbians. On and on this (relatively) long novel goes, with practically everyone who ever lived getting a kick in the Penfolds. Few escape without (at least) a sideways barb, Fleming injecting into the book all the bitterness of his colossally difficult struggle, that “wealthy layabout elitist journalist drinks his private income and exploits well-connected wife’s literary contacts so he can afford to pretend that all he’s interested in is tropical fish rather than the vulgarity of being seen to try” specie of colossally difficult struggle. Long, stony road from underprivilege, that. With, let’s be kind, rampagingly feeble plotting and extensive pastoral interludes extolling the latest enthusiasm, be it bullion-smuggling, golf, curable lesbians or exuberant xenophobia, it’s the grumpiest of the books, in many ways unappealing misanthropy, and needing a good shave. I know I bang on unedited, but, y’know, influence.

     

    In much the same way as (say) Die Another Day might be a good “James Bond film” because it contains the usual things but is a disastrous “film” when stacked up against anything outside the series, with its slothful pace, threadbare non-plot and appalling attitudes, Goldfinger is a ghastly novel when compared beyond its own kind, in which company it arguably polishes up reasonably well. It definitely has all the requisites exemplified in the 007th Chapters so far, and a few more that go towards building a Fleming Bond archetype:

     

    • Attitudes promulgated to provoke
    • High-living (with associated disdain), rich food (with associated disgust)and carrrdds (with associated… um… excitement, possibly, I dunno)
    • Foreigner-baiting, “exaggeration of an attitude that couldn’t possibly be held and is therefore a joke” beginning to wane as an excuse for unrepentant, attention-seeking racism
    • British Establishment snobbery (not wholly disconnected from the above)
    • Fewer bursts than one might expect of savage action interrupting lengthy digressions on “stuff”
    • A none-too-disciplined attitude towards having it convince; just rumbling towards the bits that interested the writer, and glossing over the rest with a practised aloofness
    • A nice drawing
    • Women! Know your place. Basically, a victim of childhood abuse who ends up dead, submissive or cured, or a combination of these
    • Ridiculous female names. Vesper. Solitaire. Gala. Tiffany Case. Romanova (given its context, it seems absurd). Pussy Galore. Jill.
    • Physical freaks roundly sneerbullied by a schoolboy athlete
    • American gangster clichés
    • The prospect of 007’s genitals accruing significant damage
    • Bond’s contemplation of his job, his income and disillusion with both
    • Hey everyone! It’s they United States! They have food
    • Slightly half-hearted, at-a-distance-and-can’t-really-be-bothered dipping of the toe into the waters of tradecraft, in this instance with the Identicraft and the Homer, in comparison to ages spent eating crabs, being lectured to about gold and roughly forty pages setting up and playing golf
    • Nihilistic fatalism – the first chapter with its conclusion that everyone dies anyway is tremendously bleak
    • Structure games – the Happenstance etc… is funny, and Bond being held captive for so long is a departure from an adventure norm, where the hero fights his way out within seconds
    • Product-placement. Relentless product placement
    • Gentleman’s sports described at length, at which the cheat is himself cheated
    • Name-checking one’s acquaintances, in this case the likes of Blackwell, Blackwell’s cousin’s husband Mr Goldfinger, Raymond Chandler and Alfred Blacking/Whiting. How droll
    • Bond relying on total fluke such as hiding the message in the ‘plane’s loo and Goldfinger’s baffling decision not to butcher him into cutlets but instead recruit him as a P.A following a distinctly homoerotic interview process requiring an oiled-up half-naked mute bodybuilder masseur and buzzsaw-up-the-fudgegun. Fifty Shades of Gold
    • James Bond being passive and clumsy. Fancy getting yourself caught like that
    • Returning characters (Du Pont, the Spangled Mob and a questionable Felix Leiter cameo seemingly for the hell of it)
    • The savagery of the animal kingdom; the patently subhuman zoological specimen of Oddjob being fed a cat being a “highlight”
    • Substantial sexual deviancy, in multiple manifestations
    • Ham sandwiches with plenty of mustard (not wholly disconnected from the above, if in the right mood)
    • Knocking around Kent and the posh bits of London
    • The pesky Russians exploiting a hangover from World War II
    • Bond investigating X – Major Tallon’s murder, Strangways’ murder, gold smuggling – turning into exposing a lunatic masterplan with dubious scientific veracity but probably terribly exciting nonetheless
    • ‘Planes, trains and automobiles, the latter driven thuggishly.

     

    I’m happy to assert this list as keystone Fleming Bond, despite risking meaning the 007th Chapter exercise is done. Oh, cheer not: there may yet be attributes to ascertain, but that run-through brings all the previous books into this one whole. On the one hand, that makes Goldfinger a dream Bond book – it’s got everything. Trouble is, that renders it as bloated as its eponymous villain. If written by someone else, it would be lampoon, tipping the individual ridiculous attributes into excess. Emanating from the original author, it’s hard to avoid the smell and smoke and sweat of indulged self-parody, one that was bound to sell and no-one had the guts – or the financial desire – to tell him to simmer it down a nadge. This is as far as it could go and the strain shows, I fear, particularly in narrative credibility. The traditional legerdemain of papering over lacunae with extensive description of peripheral incident (e.g. golf) now looks diversionary and idle rather than daffy and charming.

     

    Whilst books and short stories yet to come may take one or more of these elements further, I’m pretty confident nothing left to come includes them all to the extent that this does. Just as with GoldenEye and Die Another Day it’s a Greatest Hits package to keep the fans immediately sated but once the superficial thrill of first encounter dissipates, we’re left wondering whether it hasn’t cheated us by emitting little that was fresh. Fortunately, the remaining Flemings don’t go down this route but, despite the books from 1960 to the end containing much of interest and novelty, a fondness for short stories and borrowing other people’s work may suggest that the excess and overkill of Goldfinger exhausted (or bored) him. The film version is readily – if lazily – seen as the Bond archetype, a model for the films that followed (for good or ill); the book, conversely, exemplifies written Bond of the 1950s but query whether it was too rich a feast of the stale.

     

    If, as happened to me, this was the first one you read, eminently possible due to a famous title, you might – as also happened to me, initially – consider other Flemings lesser because they didn’t include all “the stuff”. A similar phenomenon is observable with folks for whom their first Bond film was that merciless slog of reheated guff GoldenEye, when required to contemplate (say) The Living Daylights or Quantum of Solace. Without wanting to provoke an argument about the films, insofar as the books went I was mistaken. Because it has everything, Goldfinger is the weaker for it, leaking at the seals. Appealing characters, some (albeit not much) suspense but a directionless, complacent amble through overblown crowd-pleasing. When that happens with the films, people demand “they now need to make a For Your Eyes Only”.

     

    Good idea.

     

     

    The 007th Chapter – Goldfinger: Thoughts in a DB III

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    Helmut Schierer @ 2014-08-07
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