Monday, 30 September 2013

On Samsung, Bond, Boyd, and Teeth

So, I think we’re back and, as usual, I’m probably last to get updated name servers, those mysterious doodads that translate the www address you type into your browser into the real life address of the computers where websites live. I’ve been looking at a grey screen all weekend, waiting for the website to come live. Now it is, I’m left wondering what to say.

I wish I could say I had a busy weekend but I’ve been distracted by, among other things, the terrible news that Samsung are launching their cheapest Note 10.1 (2014 edition) in the UK at the price £479, or about £130 more than I’d hoped and considerably more than I could afford.

Another disappointment is the news that William Boyd’s new James Bond novel, Solo, might be a bit of a disappointment. If we’re to believe the early reviews, it’s probably the worst effort so far. It wouldn’t surprise me if it is, given that I’m a bit of a Bond purist. I will often reread all the original Bond books every year or so and then relive the disappointment of attempting the continuation novels. I’ve not enjoyed any of these new writers writing as Fleming. I thought Faulks’s effort the least objectionable despite the monkey pawed villain and the book being generally dismissed by the public. Deaver’s effort is as easy to ignore as he found it easy to ignore the canonical Bond, choosing instead to create something new and different and (sadly) popular. I couldn’t read any of the novels by Raymond Benson or John Gardner. The best was Kingsley Amis, though Colonel Sun was more Amis than Fleming. One book that I did enjoy but haven’t read it in many years was James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 by John Pearson. Perhaps I should give that another go.

Having said all that, I don’t want to dismiss Boyd’s efforts until I’ve tried it, especially when reviewers customarily confuse the literary James Bond with the movie James Bond. Reading Amazon’s reader comments, I found this, typical of many:

Remember how Fleming would introduce a subject? M would mention a name and Bond, showing off, would fire back a couple or three facts about it in half a minute which was supposed to be useful, as if spat out by his card index system (no computers worth anything in 1960-70: I used the first, at Manchester, a KDF 9 in 1965 which needed punched cards). This Bond is more intelligent. He takes serious injuries unlike the original who is always unscathed, his looks just as handsome as before. This version even has a scar.

I don’t recall Fleming introducing a subject through M and then Bond rolling off all the facts. That was the movie Bond. Yet the bigger mistake is in believing that the literary Bond was ‘always unscathed’. The Bond of the novels was routinely battered, broken, and bruised. It was his defining characteristic. He spends nearly the entirety of Live and Let Die with a broken finger and Fleming is always commenting on his scars, including the scar on his face which has never made it onto screen. It’s Bond’s vulnerability that makes the books so great. The films have entirely different virtues.

Speaking of battered yet misunderstood heroes, I’m going to the dentist later today to make a long overdue appointment. I’d like to say it’s precautionary but life isn’t like that. A bit of tooth broke off last week and it needs fixing. As soon as it happened, I knew my Samsung dreams had come to an end given that my money will now probably go to fund my dentist’s next skiing holiday.

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