Morning Music: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang BangMy sister texted me earlier and asked a question for a friend she was visiting: who wrote the book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I hate situations like that. I knew that it was somewhere in my brain. I knew it was someone who I knew. But I just couldn’t bring it out. I did note that I don’t like it and so I knew that it wasn’t Roald Dahl or E B White. Anyway, after telling her that I couldn’t remember, I looked it up and then I remembered: Ian Fleming. And that explained it because he was not a very good writer.

This led to a secondhand argument about the the quality of Ian Fleming. Look, I’m willing to admit that Fleming came up with something new. It wasn’t interesting or good, but it was new. Most people are capable of coming up with new bad things, but credit where it is due. Just the same, he is nothing compared to John le Carré and Robert Ludlum. Anyway, I also don’t like the movie. But this whole episode got that damned song going through my head. So I figured I’d pass it on to you:

4 thoughts on “Morning Music: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

  1. In one way, Fleming’s ahead of his time. The lone-wolf Western character or detective was presented as outside all law or societal structure (the detective had to comply with some rules when dealing with cops, but held them in contempt; that’s why he left the cops.) Bond is a pure Rand-ian figure. Gets all the benefits of being a government employee (cool gizmos, pretty much can’t be fired) yet does what he wants to and has a jolly old time. Terrific hotels on the company dime. Essentially amoral. No wonder Kennedy loved Bond books (and, in my little 12-year-old heart, I do too; it’s a fantasy of dominance within the system, much like what Rand and her acolytes dream of.)

    • I think there’s a larger issue here, which is that the western itself was from the very beginning about the royal-common distinction. The western hero might exist outside the law, but it was because he was following a higher law. He would eventually become the law or the baron at least. There’s a Nietzschean aspect to it that is very disquieting. But at the same time, there is a Shakespearean “royal blood” aspect to it. Both of these aspects should really disturb us.

      • In some ways I think it’s a pretty common fantasy, to be a free rider — to get all the perks and have none of the responsibilities. I certainly dreamed of doing that as a kid. It’s a bit odd to find grownups with a vivid fantasy life of living that dream, be they Fleming, Rand, or Paul Ryan. It’s like dreaming of marrying Brigitte Bardot, that level of silly/shallow.

        (At least most of the people who wrote Hollywood westerns — and people like Roald Dahl who wrote Bond films — knew they were writing fantasy. I’m not sure Fleming, etc., did . . .)

        • I think Fleming probably did. He seemed to have understood that he was writing pulp garbage. But anything to pay for his lifestyle!

          I think the whole “free rider” thing partly explains Bill Cosby and every other rich jerk who lose sight of what is proper behavior.

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