VROOM! VROOM!

(from the SHOULD I READ IT OR WATCH IT? category)

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November seems to have settled over us like a cold damp blanket. Suddenly, driving a car is more complicated, more hazardous and a lot less fun. A hassle, plain and simple. Cars lose all their glamour and appeal in winter: they get crusted over with slush and salt, and they sound and feel arthritic when the deep cold causes them to groan and moan and creak.

And yet, they’re such beautiful machines. Emblems of the 20th century. They’re about travel and speed and escape and human inventiveness and freedom.

0670899933.01.LZZZZZZZCinema loves cars. When I think of fast cars, it’s movies that pop into my head first, and there’s no fictional character more linked to great 300px-Ian_Fleming,_headshotcars than James Bond. It seems that through the series of Bond novels and movies, every fast car under the sun has been driven―and wrecked― by Bond, to Q’s dismay. These cars have been bullet proof, rigged with rockets, and controlled by a simple touch pad. They’ve also at times been submersible, buoyant, or capable of flight! But my all-time favourite was the Aston Martin Vanquish that was able to cloak itself in invisibility (in Die Another Day). Wow!

Many of the Bond series movies can be found at the library (such as Casino Royale, Dr. No, and For Your Eyes Only), but why not go to the source, and discover Bond as his creator, Ian Fleming, imagined him, starting with the very first bond novel, Casino Royale (1953)? You can then move on to Diamonds are Forever (1956), Goldfinger (1965), or Live and Let Die (1964). Fleming first began writing his bond novels during the Cold War, and if you haven’t met his Bond, then you don’t know James Bond.

Few people are aware of the fact that Ian Fleming is also the creator of a famous fictional automobile that flies, floats and drives itself. Have you guessed which it is?

It’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, also the title of a whacky story Fleming wrote for children (in 1964), that was later made into a feature film.

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Some fictional cars are far more menacing, like Stephen King’s Christine, the ’58 Plymouth that turns a teenage boy’s car fantasy into a deadly, Kingesque nightmare.christine

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And then others are the stuff of legend, like the souped up DeLorean in Back to the Future that changed Marty McFly’s life.  Marty’s story makes for a wonderful movie, but I think that the story of John DeLorean, the designer and builder of the iconic car with gull-wing doors and a stainless steel body is perhaps even more compelling, and you can find out a lot more about the man himself and what drove him by reading his autobiography, DeLorean, published in 1985, which you can find at the Library.

The “muscle car”, which John DeLorean made his passion, is pure Americana, and many films have been created around them. In recent years, there has been the Fast & Furious series of 7 films (!), as well as Gone in Sixty Seconds. But Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, and the cars featured in the movie―a 1968 Dodge Charger and a 1968 Mustang GT)―are the stuff of legend. It occurred to me that the lovable Flash McQueen, from 2170Pixar’s Cars, probably owes his surname to his predecessor Steve.  If you’re interested in knowing more about the life and times of the Hollywood icon, the Library’s catalogue includes three books about him in its collection.

North America’s passion for muscle cars is also shared by the Brits, who are quite simply car crazy. For a taste of British car culture, you can start by watching a fewbullitt-movie-poster-1968-1010376501 seasons of Top Gear, hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, with over 160 episodes to its credit.

But nothing expresses Britain’s passion for car racing better than Formula One and its pantheon of drivers which includes such greats as Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Sterling Moss, Nigel Mansell, Graham Hill, James Hunt and Lewis Hamilton. Fiercely competitive, F-1 pits driver against driver and machine against machine, as shown in Rush, the 2013 film directed by Ron Howard that tells the story of the deadly rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

Here’s a list of books about cars, racing, and such greats as Gilles Villeneuve that you can find on the Library’s shelves:

Stuart Codling, Art of the Formula One Race Car (2010)

Gerald Donaldson, Gilles Villeneuve : the life of the legendary racing driver (1989)

Bill Sherk 60 years behind the wheel : the cars we drove in Canada, 1900-1960 (2003)

Ted West, ed., American road warriors : classic muscle cars (2008)

Kate McLeod, Beetlemania : the story of the car that captured the hearts of millions (1999)

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4 thoughts on “VROOM! VROOM!

  1. My favorite automotive fiction is Harry Crews’ “Car,” in which a man exhibits his ability to eat a full-fledged automobile, in front of a crowd, for pay. I believe it’s a take-off on Kafka’s story “Josephine…” Harry Crews, from rural Georgia, USA, isn’t well known here, but his “A Childhood: Biography of a Place” is the best there is in memoir. RIP, Harry Crews.

  2. So far, I’ve loved all your recommendations. I’ll see if I can track that one down.

    I went searching and found this great quote from Crews himself:

    “God love the car. It has shown the naked heart that lives in all of us. Man invented the car but the car — out of pure malevolence no doubt — changed the history of the world by reinventing man.”
    Harry Crews

    Lots to think about in that one.

    Thanks David!

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