The bench appears to show pictures of the main characters on the lower part of the seat and on the back rest, there is a hot air balloon. That's the problem. Balloons certainly feature in Verne's novels, among them Five Weeks in a Balloon (1865) and The Mysterious Island (1875), but Around the World in Eighty Days isn't one of them. Phileas Fogg travels by rail, boat, and elephant, but not balloon.
I suspect that the screen adaptations have intruded here. A number of versions, including the well-known 1956 film produced by Mike Todd and starring David Niven, and the 1989 television mini-series featuring a pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan, have put Phileas Fogg in a balloon, and invariably a balloon is depicted on poster art accompanying the adaptations. Recently I was able to see the James Bond bookbench at its home in Bloomsbury Square Gardens. As I was admiring it, I wondered whether the artwork on this bench had similarly been influenced, at least in part, by screen adaptations.
The artwork depicts Fleming's Bond stories in a general way, although it seems to have been inspired by Casino Royale, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Live and Let Die in particular. The artist Freyja Dean explains that artwork offers us a glimpse of Bond's thrilling adventures for Her Majesty's secret service, but also conveys the sense of Bond's high living.
|James Bond bookbench, front|
While James Bond is instantly recognisable, and the playing card motifs seem entirely appropriate to the world of James Bond, I do wonder whether the dinner suit, the gambling, and even the vodka martini, are over-played as elements of the Bond novels. All certainly feature in the novels, but relatively infrequently compared with their appearances in the Bond films. Indeed, that the dinner suit, for example, has become so synonymous with James Bond must surely be thanks to the films. Bond wears a dinner suit in most films, and a dinner-suited Bond has featured with few exceptions on poster campaigns throughout the Eon series. The association has been reinforced by the depiction of a dinner-suited Bond on countless Bond-related products and promotional material.
|James Bond bookbench, back|
The James Bond bookbench on Bloomsbury Square Gardens is a wonderful celebration of Ian Fleming's creation, and I think the artist, Freyja Dean, has brilliantly evoked the essence - service to country, sophisticated living, and exotic adventures - of James Bond. The motifs used on the bench undoubtedly appear in the Bond novels, but it is perhaps no coincidence that the use of these memes has been exaggerated in the films (turning, for example, an occasional martini drinker in the books into a habitual martini drinker in the films). Like the bookbench celebrating Around the World in Eighty Days, perhaps to some extent the films have shaped the artwork depicted on the James Bond bench.