Shaken Not Stirred

“Please. I just chase embezzlers, what do I look like, James Bond?” This is Maxine’s response to March’s suggestion to post some of the information that Maxine has discovered to her weblog. Maxine believes that she isn’t like the 1950s British secret service agent. However, I believe that Maxine really does resemble James Bond and that Thomas Pynchon deliberately created Maxine to exemplify a postmodern, feministic, post-Cold War era James Bond.

James Bond is a recurring from the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming, first appearing in the novel Casino Royal, published in 1953. When Ian Fleming started creating James Bond, Ian Fleming wanted James to be “an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument…” Looking at the description of Maxine, she is a typical Jewish mother living in New York. There is nothing extraordinary about her as a character, but the events that occur around her are what give her depth. Bond’s description in the novels and in the movies include “certainly good-looking … Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way,” but with something dark, cold, or cruel in his face. No physical description of Maxine is given in the novel, but one can assume that she is attractive to the typical man given all of her exploits throughout the novel. In addition, her personality can come off as dark, cold, or cruel with how she responds in most conversations with jokes or sarcasm, often times being a little dark. This also goes along with the classical James Bond trait of making jokes in dire situations, especially when his life is in danger.

Maxine’s habits also match James Bond’s habits pretty close to a point. Both Maxine and James have a drinking problem, with Maxine and her wine and Shirley temples and James Bond with his vodka martinis. Both characters drink large amounts of alcohol, with James Bond consuming 49.8 units of alcohol in a single day. With both characters, the amount of alcohol intake doesn’t appear to impact their skills or how they perform their jobs. Besides their drinking, they also share a smoking habit, with a slight difference. James Bond is also heavy smoker, smoking constantly throughout both the novels and films, with an average of 60 cigarettes a day. Maxine is a frequent pot smoker, smoking several times throughout the novel, but clearly not to the same degree as James Bond.

To continue to beat you over the head with it, Pynchon also gave Maxine both of the guns that James Bond owns. Originally James Bond’s preferred weapon was his .25 ACP Beretta automatic pistol. As show on page 190, Maxine typically carries her Beretta 3032 which uses sixty-grain hollow-point bullets. However, after the urging of a man named Geoffrey Boothroyd, who stated in a letter, “I wish to point out that a man in James Bond’s position would never consider using a .25 Beretta. It’s really a lady’s gun – and not a very nice lady at that! Dare I suggest that Bond should be armed with a .38 or a nine millimeter – let’s say a German Walther PPK? That’s far more appropriate”, Ian Fleming switched James Bond’s sidearm to his signature Walter PPK. This idea that the weapon is ‘not a nice lady’ fits well for what Thomas Pynchon is aiming with his novel. It doesn’t take a ‘nice lady’ to accomplish things in the post-Cold War era. Even when Maxine switches to her other gun, the Walter PPK, she clearly indicates it is not the woman’s model. “… and brings out the PPK. At least it isn’t the ladies’ model where the grip comes in pink pearl.” Maxine is written to be the feminist James Bond of the 9-11 era. When expanded, PPK stands for the German phrase Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell, translating to Police Pistol Detective Model, which perfectly fits both her and James Bond.

Even the clichés from James Bond translate over into Thomas Pynchon’s creation of Maxine. Throughout Ian Fleming’s work, there are numerous women known as ‘Bond Girls’, who fit a pretty broad profile, but most importantly, end up sleeping with James Bond by the end of the novel or film. There is no specification whether the ‘Bond Girl’ be a villain or a heroine, whether she lives or dies, or whether she will end the novel with him or if some other girl will. The same can be said for Maxine and her numerous partners as well. Some such of her ‘Bond Boys’ live and are generally helpful such as Eric Outfield while others such as Nicholas Windust begin ‘evil’, have a moment of redemption and die in the end. In the end, she ends up with her ex-husband, Horst Loeffler, with no clear indication if there will come anything from it, nor is there any need to. Thomas Pynchon wrote Bleeding Edge as a feministic novel and there is no need for Maxine to permanently end up with Horst and anyone else.

Bleeding Edge and Maxine were created as a post-modern and feministic version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Maxine perfectly fits a female, 9-11 era James Bond. She is an evolved version of the Cold War era espionage ideas. Maxine fits into a much more internet based society that the romanticized secret agent can’t fall into. Maxine is this era’s secret agent.


Works Cited

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. 119. Print.

Rothman, Joshua. “Lunch With Ian Fleming.” New Yorker 12 Nov. 2012. Print.

Amis, Kingsley. The James Bond Dossier. New York: New American Library, 1965. 35. Print.

Benson, Raymond. The James Bond Bedside Companion. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1984. 62. Print.

Johnson, Graham, Indra Guha, and Patrick Davies. “Were James Bond’s Drinks Shaken Because of Alcohol Induced Tremor?” British Medical Journal 347 (2013). The BMJ. British Medical Journal. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f7255.full.pdf html>.

Chancellor, Henry. James Bond: The Man and His World : The Official Companion to Ian Fleming’s Creation. London: John Murray, 2005. 70. Print.

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. 190. Print.

“Bond’s Unsung Heroes: Geoffrey Boothroyd, the Real Q.” The Telegraph 21 May 2009. The Telegraph. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/jamesbond/5320024/Bonds-unsung-heroes-Geoffrey-Boothroyd-the-real-Q.html&gt;.

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. 408. Print.

“Walther PP and PPK Self-loading Pistols (Germany), Pistols.” Jane’s Infantry Weapons. Jane’s Infantry Weapons, 14 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20110322035701/http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-Infantry-Weapons/Walther-PP-and-PPK-self-loading-pistols-Germany.html&gt;.

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. 225. Print.

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. 258. Print.

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3 Responses to Shaken Not Stirred

  1. univerrse says:

    Your comparison of Maxine and the many Bonds especially how you described the change in psyche of Maxine when switching from the Beretta to the Walther PPK. Bond as a character is multifaceted however, each Bond is different from the last, who do you think Pynchon relates Maxine to the most?

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  2. adeledazeem says:

    Very interesting! While I agree that there are strong parallels, the guns, being surrounded by crises, I think Maxine’s family dynamic and the role Ziggy and Otis play can’t be ignored. Being a mother is a large part of Maxine’s character. Without a family holding her down, this novel may have taken a very different direction. I’m also hesitant to buy that Horst is simply a ‘Bond Boy.’ It’s rather apparent that Horst is back for more than the immediate future — the gesture with the Impala, the family outing for pizza, the anxious husband waiting at home when she returns back late, etc

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  3. It is interesting to see you compare Maxine to James Bonds, and I agreed that Maxine is somehow assembled to James Bonds under Pynchon’s pen. Besides, I think the image of secret agents was put on Maxine’s characters, however, I think there is different between Maxine to a secret agent. I think being a secret agent is more complicated than investigators like Maxine. In this novel, I would think Windst is more likely playing the role of secret agent. Windst represents the deep involvement of the US intelligence with the 9/11 attacks, even though Pynchon blurred the nature of the involvement. The United States government might know the conspiracy by Al Qaeda, or even went ahead to use Ice’s network in expanding its global networking. However, FBI failed to access the event. In the end, Windst was assassinated by the US agency. I think the introduce of James Bonds is to reveal the importance of intelligence in the information science era.

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