Book Review

The Ipcress File by Lee Deighton

makes ian fleming look like hanya yanagihara

Unfortunately – as much as I mostly wish it wasn’t the case – I have an English cock and English balls fleshstrapped between my gut and perineum, which means that it is impossible for me to pretend I don’t like James Bond.

This book, then – The Ipcress File, a 1962 thriller I bought in Copenhagen airport a few weeks ago as I thought I was going to finish Black American Psycho on the journey home – is not James Bond, but not James Bond not in the way that I am not James Bond, but not James Bond in the way that Austin Powers is not James Bond. -No, maybe that’s not true either, maybe it’s not James Bond in the way that Jason Bourne is not James Bond or – no, that’s definitely not right – not James Bond in the way that only something that wants to be James Bond but doesn’t want to be wanting to be James Bond could be James Bond. Yeah?

The Ipcress File is something that desperately wants to prove that the protagonist isn’t James Bond, that the writer isn’t Ian Fleming, that this isn’t a Bondified campy world and nor is it a cynical if still toff-packed John le Carré serious spy novel (was le Carré writing before ’62? I don’t know and I won’t be looking that up, but if he wasn’t then he was definitely responding to this crap, right? Or was doing cynical corrupt intelligence operatives drama not as original as either seems to imply that it is?)

(((((& actually I did look it up and le Carré published his first book in 1961 but none of the famous ones until a little later, so maybe he did read this crap and was like “oh I can do that better (and still keep all the poshos in)”)))))

It’s about the cold war and information trading and people smuggling, it’s about spies and nuclear weapons and brainwashing and corrupt institutions. It’s about a main character who isn’t a public school prack (that’s “prick” spelled like how a posh person might pronounce it) who outsmarts all the public school pracks by being the same as them but a little more wily. It’s sexist, it’s racist, it’s silly but thinks it’s serious… It’s a tolerable plane read, but it uses this like tongue in cheek comedian voice throughout that is very grating as none of the gags really work 61 years on, so long stretches of the novel read like listening to a very uncharming person you don’t know very well tell an anecdote that never ends.

Maybe if I was less mentally ill I would have enjoyed it? Maybe if the book was better I’d be less mentally ill???

Maybe if Deighton hadn’t leant so hard on two dual and incompatible intentions this book might have balanced out, rather than being bent into an irrevocable mess: this reads like a novel that desperately desperately desperately wishes it was a James Bond novel but is desperately desperately desperately ashamed of this.

Worth casting into the fire unless you need to be reminded of Ian Fleming’s real (raw?) talent.

Yes. is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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