And That’s Where We Differ.

I’ve recently finished the James Bond novel Goldfinger, the first Ian Fleming work I’ve tackled.

On the whole, I enjoyed the book. There’s a certain calculated calmness across its three acts, in which Bond plays cat-and-mouse, not to mention golf, with Auric Goldfinger. Unexpectedly, I didn’t imagine Bond as any of the actors who’ve played him on film. Rather, he became his own character with his own personal quirks.

Unfortunately, there are elements of his personality that age the novel badly.

Pussy Galore
Pussy Galore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In one scene, we’re told that Bond considers the Koreans – at least those who aid Goldfinger – to be lower than apes, an opinion that’s peppered throughout the rest of the narrative. In 1959, this might not have caught much attention, but it stands out today.

Furthermore, the female characters have barely any conflict with Bond; when he tells them to do something, they don’t question his orders. There is a hint of progressiveness as Pussy Galore is described as the leader of a Lesbian organisation – Fleming’s capital – but other casual digs set it firmly in a past era. These come to a head in the paragraph starting on page 221 of the Penguin Classics edition, in which it’s almost gleefully explained that:

Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterson was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed-up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and “sex equality.” As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits – barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.

Source: http://techland.time.com/2008/08/27/the_quantum_of_racist/

To me, the length and detail in this particular passage suggest the views aren’t simply the thoughts of James Bond but an authorial intrusion. As the protests surrounding the recently-elected US president have shown, they’re views that are no longer prevalent for many people. For further reading on this topic, I recommend the Grayson Perry book The Descent of Man.

Fleming has millions of fans around the world who read the books and watch the films, but would it right to remove these passages for a modern audience? It has been done relatively recently with a very different author.

In 2010, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were given a 21st-century makeover. The term housemistress became teacher, mother and father were changed to mum and dad, and in a more extreme case, dirty tinker was amended to traveller. Anne McNeil from Hodder also made it clear that the publisher would continue to release the classic editions of the Famous Five books with unchanged text.

I think the important factor to remember is that times always change and that nobody could’ve predicted how it would happen. Perhaps in 100 years, all of society will accept several gender identities without question, or perhaps eating meat will be seen as shocking. So when we read archive material, we don’t have to agree with the views of the day, merely acknowledge them.

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The Paper Trilogy.

I intended to make only one entry on the theme of paper, which turned into a second post. This entry will be a short third and final update on this topic, as I just keep finding more material.

I’ve discovered more notebooks, including some early drafts from my second novel, and a review of Tron: Legacy for my old LiveJournal blog. Once again, I’ve never reached the last pages of these pads. I find this rather strange, as I’m not the sort of person to leave a job half-finished. Once, I would have preserved them as they were, but I’ll use the other pages in the future if I need to.

My pencils are a different story. I have dozens of them around the house, and I don’t like to waste them. In fact, here are my two smallest ones joined by a rubber grip. I’ll use them until I physically can’t hold them any more:

The world's smallest pencil

I’ve also discovered from Mental Floss that every new prime minister leaves a handwritten letter about what to do in the event of a nuclear conflict if both he and his assigned second-in-command are dead. It seems a little strange that such a format is still used. If I was PM, I’d make sure I spelled it out in 16-point Helvetica so the commanders aren’t standing around asking, “Does that say, ‘load weapons,’ or, ‘lower weapons?'”

More poignantly, ListVerse posted a collection of last words written by people facing certain death. Not all of them had the luxury of pen and paper, including the prisoner of war who scratched out a memorial on a rock, and a diver who wrote his on a slate.

Lastly, I’d like to show you the paper books I plan to read throughout the rest of the year, including modern writers such as John Twelve Hawks and Richard Dawkins, a selection of Penguin Classics, and a number of local anthologies:

Paper books to read this yearIf you want more information on any of these, let me know.