I was still feeling a little literarily sore after reading that affecting, though unrealistic, dystopian novel (Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy), so I decided to read something as frothy as the milk no one is drinking in cafés any more: Roger Moore’s 2008 autobiography, My Word Is My Bond.
What I forgot, though, is that my general mood isn’t tied to the emotional content of the book that I’m reading, but rather to its literary merit.
I’ve never read a celebrity autobiography before – and of course I never will again – because though this frothy, throwaway, book-shaped ITV content was everything I should have anticipated it being, spending a couple of days reading this led me to spend hours and hours and hours sat, hiding in bed, weeping beneath my bespoke face-mask and feeling nothing but utter fucking despair about myself, the future, the world and this pandemic. Also, while I was reading this book Bernie Sanders dropped out of the American presidential election which basically means Donald Trump is guaranteed another four years in office and Americans are guaranteed another four years (at least!) with their insane, gun-rich, healthcare-poor dystopia that sounds like an unliveable nightmare to anyone who hasn’t been brainwashed by propaganda (or affluence) into thinking that it’s an acceptable way for a country to be.
But, hey, I don’t live there so what do I care???
I don’t know why my interest in James Bond persists, given that the ideologies espoused by these books and films are antithetical to anything else I stand for. I don’t know if, were I to engage with the James Bond franchise fresh, I would enjoy it at all. Maybe, conditioned as I am by my childhood, youth and young adulthood in the UK, I would feel – were it to be new – like it had always been there; something dependable, something… right [wing].
James Bond, Ian Fleming and – to the best of my knowledge – all of the actors who have performed the role over the years – are right wing. In this autobiography, Roger Moore repeatedly speaks at length about his tax avoidance schemes. “All above board,” he (or his ghostwriter) informs the reader, without pausing for even the slightest discussion of the ethics around doing so. Similarly, in later life when Moore was travelling the world as a representative of UNICEF, his combined expectations of personal luxury and his embracing (literally) of dictators and despots who “promise to help the children” makes for pretty uncomfortable reading, if My Word Is My Bond is being read by anyone half-awake.
Of course, very rich people avoid tax. Of course, major celebrities who work as fundraisers for international charities expect to be put up in the style to which they are accustomed while on trips to witness child poverty, and of course the whole purpose of having people like Audrey Hepburn and Roger Moore and Shakira as UNICEF ambassadors is that they are charming and glamorous enough to get the attention of dictators and despots in order to gently persuade them that, maybe, being nicer to the children in their domain is just like a nice idea or whatever, right?
I get it.
I get that this is the purpose; but paying for Roger Moore to spend a week in a suite in a luxury hotel, dining with industrialists and presidents on the proviso that he also spends a few hours being photographed walking around a slum seems a bizarre deal to make. Not to Roger Moore, though, of course: if someone offered that deal to most people, they’d probably accept it. It would be bizarre not to.
HOWEVER, there is a lot of humility in My Word Is My Bond (though not enough to believe in paying tax) and Moore never at any point appears to lose his awareness that his life was a string of moments of good luck stretched out for many decades.
Does Roger Moore think he was a great actor? No. Does Roger Moore think he is whip-smart clever? No. Does Roger Moore know that he was very very very good-looking and reasonably charming in his youth and happened to catch the eye of well-connected producers several times in his early-twenties? Yes.
That Roger Moore was very very very good-looking is a matter of public record, and though he didn’t retain his looks – or, let’s be honest, career success – into his later years in the way that fellow James Bond actor Sean Connery managed to do, Moore doesn’t give the impression in this book – and didn’t give the impression in his life – that he was anything but tremendously content with his fourth marriage, lots of international travel on UNICEF’s dime and the occasional bit of voiceover work for the last twenty-plus years of his life.
There’s classism and casual sexism (though nothing compared to the formulaic sexism of the Bond franchise en masse), but mainly My Word Is My Bond is a combination of after dinner-speechified anecdotes (many secondhand) and synopses of pretty much every film Moore was ever in (the vast majority of which were critically decimated). As you can imagine, this doesn’t provide much pleasure for the literary reader, but it wasn’t aimed at me and, I suppose, it wasn’t really aimed at anyone who would read the whole thing in a few brief sittings in the middle of a global fucking pandemic. Maybe it wasn’t even written to be read?
One thing that confused me about My Word Is My Bond is that the ghostwriter is openly named, both at the start of the book and in the acknowledgements. Does a ghostwriter count as a ghostwriter if they are a named, corporeal, being? Or do they instead become a collaborator, something different? Regardless of which is right, naming Gareth Owen so openly is part of the character of Roger Moore that is created by this book: the Roger Moore of My Word Is My Bond does not pretend to be any better than he is.
Roger Moore knew his limits, and those limits were good looks and charm, which were enough to give him a very high quality of life for a very long time.
Overall, My Word Is My Bond is an atrocious book that has no real purpose, but, hey, it passed a few more hours and this lockdown looks set to run and run and run and run and run and run and run and-
I previously copied and pasted “and run” until there were almost 84,000 words in this post, but that made the page crash, which NOBODY wants. Thanks for reading this MUCH truncated second edition!!!
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