‘Follow your fate, and be satisfied with it, and be glad not to be a second-rate motor salesman, or a yellow-press journalist, pickled in alcohol and nicotine,’ James Bond tells himself about halfway through «From Russia with Love», the fifth and perhaps the best of Ian Fleming’s thrillers. This sounds like good advice, but it does raise one large issue: what exactly counts as being ‘pickled’?
Flying from London to Istanbul – the journey in the course of which Bond indulges in these reflections – Bond drinks ‘two excellent Americanos’ during a thirty-minute wait at Ciampino, puts away two tumblers of ouzo at Athens (‘Bond felt the drink light a quick, small fire down his throat and in his stomach’) and then, during the ninety-minute flight to Istanbul, has ‘an excellent dinner, with two dry Martinis and a half-bottle of Calvet claret’. I make that about sixteen units of alcohol for the trip, so our hero is doing well when he manages to thank the stewardess and carry his ‘heavy little attaché case’ off the plane without doing a Yeltsin down the steps. The in-flight consumption is in line with Bond’s general boozing level, established during a medical he undergoes in one of the books as half a bottle of spirits a day. He also smokes between sixty and seventy cigarettes, so I ask again, how pickled do you have to be before Bond regards you as being pickled?
More at «The London Review of Books» website.