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October 16, 2005

The Spy Who Dug Commodities

I had some Ian Fleming audiobooks read to me lately, provided by my trusty public library. Never having seen them Bond movies, I thought I might do some catching up and got "Goldfinger" and "Casino Royale". To my surprise, the books are not really about espionage at all, they're all about luxurious lifestyle and status symbols. Generally, reading them feels like being lost in a whiskey ad which is somewhat tedious, but also strangely attractive. Fleming is not that interested in the secret service, not even on a phantasmatic level; in the hidden center of the two books are topics totally unrelated to all that spy stuff: "Casino Royale" seems to be about baccarat and "Goldfinger" about golf. (In the middle of the book, there's a description of a game of golf between Bond and Goldfinger which takes up several chapters and seems to take forever, even in the abridged audio version.) The Bond novels' main topic seems to be the swashbuckler's constant defense against all those people who are set to take his expensive hobbies and manhood-enhancing toys from him - let's just call them evil people and communists, shall we? That's what all these ridiculous descriptions of agent operations come down to. From start to finish, the stories could be read as allegories of the psychic and organisational ups and downs of someone who lives way beyond his means, as Fleming apparently did until his novels started to sell.


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