LALD The Jamaica Version

Mister BiswasMister Biswas TokyoPosts: 78MI6 Agent
This is Mister Biswas. This is my first post after a long absence from the forum. My recent excitement over the new film prompted me to revisit all the Fleming books in order. Anyway, I did a search for LALD, and since I could not find a discussion thread on what I wanted to say, I started this one. I hope you enjoy what I have to say.
My absolute favorite chapter of LALD has to be “The Jamaica Version.” This chapter, where plot-wise Bond is traveling to Jamaica after having avenged the attack on Leiter by taking care of the Robber at the warehouse in grisly fashion, contains to me perhaps one of the most perplexing and fascinating of Ian Fleming’s passages. The plane hits a bit of turbulence: “The great plane shattered and plunged, its screws now roaring in vacuum and now biting harshly into walls of solid air. The thin tube shuddered and swung. Crockery crashed in the pantry and huge rain hammered on the perspex windows.” Bond grabs tightly the armrests and begins to consider how futile his situation is.
Then, quite unexpectedly, Fleming gives us a page where he discusses the fallibility of our lives in very vivid language. He gives us the image of a plane that crashes because the ground mechanic “is crossed in love and skimps his job” and how the people in the plane, “fallible within the plane’s fallibility, vain within its larger vanity, fall down with it and make little holes in the land or little splashes in the sea.” “Which is anyway their destiny, so why worry?” To ignore our own fallibility is nothing short of being vain! Then, one of my favorite quotes ever, Fleming writes “You start to die the moment you are born. The whole of life is cutting through the pack with death. So take it easy. Light a cigarette and be grateful you are still alive as you suck the smoke deep into your lungs. Your stars have already let you come quite a long way since you left your mother’s womb and whimpered at the cold air of the world.” Finally, Bond remembers his close call with the Robber the night before and, for lack of a better expression, thanks his lucky stars. “Don’t lose faith in your stars.” But, as he leaves the plane, Bond thinks a very cryptic and ambiguous thought: “To hell with it . . . as he stepped down out of the huge strong plane.”
What an absolutely fantastic passage! I love the ambiguities that are present here. On the one hand, Bond/Fleming gives us insight into their belief in some sort of guiding, all-knowing faith. Yet, on the other hand, no faith in God or other divinity is expressed, just faith in the stars. Is this a jab at modern belief systems? Or is this a proclamation of faith and the value of faith as a means to (at the very least) cure us fallible people of our own vanity?
Does Bond/Fleming embrace this faith? Is there a sarcasm present here? Is Bond really stating his belief that existence is futile and that our whole existence depends solely on luck? Is this what is meant when we read “To hell with it”? Or is Bond shedding off his own fear and instead making himself stronger by means of this proclaimed faith “in your stars”?
I bring this up because this chapter to me is one of the key chapters in all of Fleming to best understand who Bond is. Now that we are about to be blessed with a film version of CR where the producers are promising a more vulnerable Fleming-esque Bond in Daniel Craig, it will be interesting to see how the new film and subsequent other cinematic adventures portray this philosophical side of Bond. What does he believe it? What does he have faith in? Is it God? Is it his job? Is it is country? Bond obviously seems to believe in some form of good/evil belief system as shown in the equally amazing chapter “The Nature of Evil” in CR. But, the portrait Fleming paints in LALD includes sampling of ambiguity that might suggest otherwise.
And indeed, this kind of ambiguity in what Bond actually believes in (whether it be God or lady luck) makes for another interesting point. Most of the books, especially FRWL, deal with a Bond who is fallible and utterly at the will of some other entity (ie SMERSH). It is only through luck (ie Bond is lucky to have his cigarette case deflect a bullet from Grant’s gun; Bond is lucky to have escaped being blown to bits by the bomb outside the bar in CR; Bond is lucky to have decided to slip off the train at Jacksonville rather than get massacred by Mr. Big’s men on the train in LALD, etc.) that Bond escapes the villain’s traps. A lot of the Bond film aficionados claim to prefer the cinematic Bond who seems to use more his wits to get out of situations rather than rely on sheer luck (think to the scene in FRWL where Bond now uses his wits and defeats Grant using the briefcase; Bond uses his wits to escape the towing scene in FYEO, a big difference from the LALD book where Bond prepares his body for the worst possible crashing against the reef when the timed bomb destroys the boat, etc). Cinematic Bond is arguably more an active character, whereas book Bond is a passive one. And yet, I find passive Bond to be the more interesting of the two because book Bond is more thoughtful and more pensive about the nature of life and existence. It is almost as though Bond accepts his fallibility in a way that the cinematic Bond (save for a few moments here and there a la Dalton and, hopefully, Craig) would never do.
Anyway, please post if you have any thoughts! Now that’s done, it’s time to get back to my law books (sigh!).


Sign In or Register to comment.