MI6 Community Novel Bondathon (Begins Thursday, June 1st)

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  • Agent_99Agent_99 Enjoys a spirited ride as much as the next girl
    Posts: 1,481
    CASINO ROYALE

    Edition I read: 2006 Penguin with the film tie-in cover (I collect film covers)

    Where I read it: I got through a significant chunk while giving blood. It was a good distraction.

    James Bond

    He's good-looking, and Fleming has the skill to get that across without making me think 'ugh, an impossibly handsome hero, how nauseating'.

    We’re always right there in the moment with Bond: seeing what he sees, feeling what he feels, thinking what he thinks. He’s hyper-aware of everything going on in his own body and mind, as well as the world around him; he needs to be.

    He’s cold and efficient, but he’s human, delighting in his car and in good food to make up for the lack of close relationships in his life and fully aware that’s what he’s doing. Perhaps because he spends so much time on his own, he's developed some interesting philosophies, which he shares with Mathis or Vesper or simply runs through in his own mind for the reader's benefit.

    Obviously he is also a great big sexist. Or do I hold that opinion because, as a woman, I consist entirely of 'sex, hurt feelings and emotional baggage'?

    I will always forgive Bond, though. We learn later that he lost his mum early and went from boarding-school into the military; how is he supposed to know anything about women, poor old chap? And he learns a hard lesson here after dismissing half the human race so disdainfully.

    I’m touched, too, by how easily he flips from being cold and distant with Vesper to going all needy, and by that ‘poor little beast’ during the kidnapping even as he’s telling himself she’s not important and he’s going to let her die if necessary. Ultimately, in love as in his job, he's a fallible human who makes mistakes and isn't always sure exactly what's going on.

    The villain

    Le Chiffre sets the pattern for all the baddies who will follow him. Unusual history. Striking name. Physically gross. Sexually deviant. He’s the original and one of the scariest. After all, Bond doesn’t beat him in the end, but is saved by luck.

    The girl

    You know as soon as Bond rolls his eyes at being given a woman to work with that he will end up sleeping with Vesper, and I bet people knew it reading the first edition.

    Again, a pattern is being set for Bond’s future relationships. We see what he finds attractive in a woman, and why he doesn’t want to get too close (but does regardless).

    Vesper isn’t just a cipher (do you see what I did there? Thank you) - it’s clear that she has a life back in London and didn’t just pop into existence to be the love interest. Quite how complicated that life is won’t be apparent for a while, but there are hints right from her first scene.

    Other cast

    Having Mathis and Leiter around can feel like adding too many characters to a fairly straightforward narrative; the plot could manage perfectly well with only one of them, or even neither. They are both charming and fun in their different ways, though, and they will have their moments in later books. Fleming obviously had an eye on series potential from the start.

    The plot

    On the face of it, this is a very simple story in which Good, with skill and a little luck, defeats Evil at the card table (an interesting novelty). There are a few setbacks to raise the tension, but Good inevitably triumphs.

    You expect the win in the casino to be the end. Then you expect Bond to rescue the girl and propose to her, or at least hop into bed. Instead, there are several chapters of human relationships in all their complex messiness and a tragic ending. I'd never read anything like it circa 1993; the effect forty years earlier must have been sensational.

    The location

    Apart from a flashback to London, the action takes place entirely in and around Royale. This is one of the reasons CR is among my favourite Fleming novels.

    I’ve had plenty of holidays in France, many on the coast, as a child and as an adult. Since my teens, Casino Royale has crossed my mind on every occasion. I know this fictional place, its sights and smells and people; it’s an amalgam of all the French towns I’ve visited. It’s real.

    (I have been in a French casino only once: with my dad, who had decided it was somewhere that might sell him a pack of cigarettes at midnight. It was terribly seedy-looking and I was thrilled to bits.)

    Food & drink

    I have always loved the descriptions of Bond’s meals. A big part of that, I suspect, is my original reading of the novels at boarding-school, with its horrible, horrible school dinners. (Look how much detail JK Rowling lavishes on food in the Harry Potter books. She knows what kids want.)

    Funny how Gordon’s was a posh gin then. Today it’s the baseline below which lies supermarket own brand.

    “The trouble always is,” he explained to Vesper, “not how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it.”

    This may be my favourite line in all of Bond. It’s pure, delightful snobbery; I quote it whenever I am offered caviar, which may be why I don’t get offered caviar very often.

    The writing

    Fleming has an instinct for the well-crafted phrase – ’the loitering drum-beat of the two-inch exhaust’ is positively Homeric – but falls down occasionally on grammar. I’m looking at ‘As a woman, he wanted to sleep with her…’ which – pedant alert – implies Bond is a woman.

    He has an original way of thinking and writing that makes the book stand out from other thrillers. Both the first and the final lines are absolute killers which have always stuck with me.

    (I would have liked to have made this longer, but I’m about to go away and I was short on time. I always take a Bond novel on holiday, and I’m looking forward to reading LALD on this one. Catch you all soon!)
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    @Some_Kind_Of_Hero , I too get that thrill the first time I come across, "Bond_James Bond" (page 40). And it is very cool that he first uses it upon meeting Felix.

    While reading that page I thought: If only Fleming knew while typing this all out just what he was starting...
    Agent_99 wrote: »
    CASINO ROYALE

    Where I read it: I got through a significant chunk while giving blood. It was a good distraction.

    Probably one of the most badass ways to read James Bond. ;)

    Good insights there. "Hyper-aware" is a good way of describing Bond.
    Agent_99 wrote: »
    Obviously he is also a great big sexist. Or do I hold that opinion because, as a woman, I consist entirely of 'sex, hurt feelings and emotional baggage'?

    I will always forgive Bond, though. We learn later that he lost his mum early and went from boarding-school into the military; how is he supposed to know anything about women, poor old chap? And he learns a hard lesson here after dismissing half the human race so disdainfully.

    I’m touched, too, by how easily he flips from being cold and distant with Vesper to going all needy, and by that ‘poor little beast’ during the kidnapping even as he’s telling himself she’s not important and he’s going to let her die if necessary. Ultimately, in love as in his job, he's a fallible human who makes mistakes and isn't always sure exactly what's going on.

    Great thoughts on what has shaped Bond's harsh attitude toward women, and also on where we see his cracks as a fallible human being and how he perhaps begins to change. Though that last line of the novel does ring with inner resolve and finality. As we move through the novels, one of the things I'll be keeping my eye on is Bond's relationships with women and how his attitudes toward them change (or do not).
  • 16. The Crawling of the Skin

    As he's hauled into Le Chiffre's car, Bond is emotionally drained. "He had had to take too much in the past 24 hours and now this last stroke by the enemy seemed almost too final." This idea of Bond being thoroughly beaten (physically or mentally) by each novel's end. He sacrifices himself fully for the mission, willingly or not.

    After the thug's brutality (the blow over the heart, the rabbit-punch), "Bond hoped he might get a chance of killing him." An emotional, in-the-moment response perhaps, and the man is described as being thoroughly evil; still, this hoping for the chance to kill someone combined with Bond's official license to do so blurs things somewhat, morally.

    Bond fights an impulse to blame London and instead blames himself and his own hubris, guzzling champagne, thinking the battle won.

    Awesome moment as Bond takes action, hands bound, knowing the best he can do is attempt as much damage as possible at the two gunmen and exchange a quick word with Vesper. He fails, but at least he tries. Having only his legs. Only Bond.


    17. 'My Dear Boy'

    Grim setting for the torture. An ambiguous room somewhere between a living room and a dining room. Small stained carpet. Bizarre throne chair in carved oak, denoting a position of power. Of course, the cane chair. The setting alone does as much to instill unease within the reader as anything.

    The touch of the coffee bizarrely makes this all feel rather domestic. And then you have the incongruous touch of Le Chiffre seating himself on the throne.

    Before it begins, Le Chiffre looks Bond "almost caressingly" in the eyes. Of course Fleming intended subtle homosexual undertones in this scene. It's a sadomasochistic setup with one man bound naked to a chair and the other sweet talking him and beating his genitals with a large instrument. The film captured the tone perfectly I thought, with just the right subtle gestures. (And of course Skyfall took the idea a step further and played it much more overtly to comedic effect.)

    That line from Le Chiffre—"I shall take up a useful and profitable career and live to a ripe and peaceful old age in the bosom of the family I shall doubtless create"—stands out as one more barb or threat to Bond's manhood and what can be taken from him.

    Fleming addresses the sexual dynamic a bit more explicitly with Bond reflecting that torture can enter "a sort of sexual twilight where pain turned to pleasure and where hatred and fear of the tortures turned to a masochistic infatuation."

    Le Chiffre's plan with the check (purportedly winning the money back from Bond in one final gentlemen's game) sounds awfully tenuous.

    Bond thinks of Vesper in his pain.

    I suppose what I'm most impressed by in reading this is how well they adapted it to the screen. I particularly like Le Chiffre's film line, "Then I think I shall feed you what you seem not to value." Rather evocative of Faulkner's Light in August there.

    Fleming created an exquisite torture sequence here. The dynamic between villain and Bond is marvelously played.


    18. A Craglike Face

    Brief chapter told well from Bond's limited POV. The swift killing of Le Chiffre and the thoughtfulness in carving the label of "Spy" into Bond's hand further define SMERSH as a force to be reckoned with.


    19. The White Tent

    Bond survives physical torture where a normal man would not. Speaks further to Bond's resolve, his fortitude, his strength of will.

    Bond notes that the doctor is a good man. This appears to be a part of Fleming's world: this idea of good men vs. evil men. What defines Fleming's good men? Having good sense, giving wise orders, being in control...


    20. The Nature of Evil

    An interesting chapter wherein Bond grows morosely philosophical and admits to Mathis he's decided to resign. Also, his first two kills are elaborated upon.

    It's startling at first to hear Bond label Le Chiffre the hero, until one realizes that what has really been shaken within Bond is his devotion to his country and high moral causes, his views of political factions and allegiances and what's deemed right and wrong in the world, this country vs. that country, sides and how easily they change over time. It's a kind of gloomy, existential worrying about whether what he's fighting for today won't be what his country fights against in the next century. And he isn't entirely wrong in his thinking.

    Bond (really, Fleming) loses me a bit, however, when he goes off on the need for an Evil Book about how to be bad, and Mathis confuses things even further by sarcastically interpreting all this as how they should all pursue thoroughly evil lives. I think the plot is lost a little bit in all this. It has always seemed that way to me each time I've read this chapter.


    21. Vesper

    Vesper breaks down crying in front of Bond. Bond comforts her, despite being the one bandaged up and bed-bound. This is a type of scene returned to throughout future novels: Bond comforting or otherwise "dealing with" the emotionally distraught woman.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    Once again, great job. I'll be finishing the book soon; I'm fitting in chapters between sightseeing and such on my vacation.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited June 2017 Posts: 28,232
    I'll be adding some notes too. I may do it by chapter @Some_Kind_Of_Hero style, or I might just make a list of observations. I'm not really sure what format I'll present it all in, really. I probably should keep on the chapter notes route, as I do intend to do a review of sorts of each book, not that goes into all the elements minutely, but that would be like a movie review that covers broad things, goes in depth on a little bit of things, and gives an overall impression or conclusion on the creation.

    I don't intend them to be long essays like my Bond film reviews, not only because I don't think the books transfer to that kind of writing, but because I'll lack the knowledge of the books to really add in depth impressions.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    Like I said before, @BeatlesSansEarmuffs did this less than two years ago on the Originals thread, where we both wrote extensively on each book. I don't think I'm up to that agin, so I'll mostly be making short notes and commenting on others' comments. I'll also print edited versions of my previous reviews.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    If you haven't read the entire book yet, don't read this.

    My notes from March 2015:

    CASINO ROYALE (1953)

    I just finished CASINO ROYALE. Man, do I love everything about this novel. I believe that this is my fourth time reading it all the way through, the first being in the mid-'70s. I was kind of pushing my way through the first few pages, wondering if I was ready to delve into this large undertaking again, but after a (short) chapter or two I was completely absorbed.

    Once again, I am stricken as to how well fleshed out Bond is in this first adventure, and how he is already questioning the legitimacy and maturity of his chosen field: a theme that is built upon and reinforced throughout the series. Here, with the torture, the self doubt (particularly illustrated through his revealing and dark discussion with Mathis from his hospital bed) and with Vepser's betrayal and death, we see the beginning of Bond's mental and physical degradation that will continue to grow and finally reach it's peak in the final novel. I have no idea how much of that arc Fleming actually had in mind when writing this first story, but in retrospect it comes off as a brilliant master plan.

    The details in terms of settings and background feel beautifully authentic, and the characterizations of both villains and allies are not matched in many thrillers that I have ever read (and I've read many). The one exception possibly being Vesper. Though she will always hold high status in the canon of Bond literature as the first Bond Girl, the first Bond Girl to steal his heart, the first Bond Girl to betray him and the first one to be sacrificed in the name of this ugly business, she is not fleshed out in comparison to many of those to come later.

    This novel also sets the tone for all of the beatings, shootings, stabbings, burnings, etc. that our hero will receive down the line. I don't think a book goes by hence where Bond isn't severely tortured or injured (or both), but here we start with the worst and most chilling.

    Wonderful ending. From here on in Bond will "…attack the arm that held the whip and the gun.", translated in the 2006 film adaptation to "The big picture." And we get our first "Bond, James Bond" on page 40 (at least that is where it lies in my Signet paperback)!


    Now:

    I can't say that I would take any of that back with this current reading. One thing of note: every time I read this book it feels entirely new and different to me. I found myself seeing this as more of a dark and melancholy tale than I ever have before. Still love it.
  • Posts: 913
    I suppose what I'm most impressed by in reading this is how well they adapted it to the screen.

    It was indeed well-done, but the movie ultimately erred in adding too much humor to the scene--in Fleming we understand how grave the situation has become when Bond can barely even talk because of the pain and trauma. In the film Bond is alert enough to humorously taunt LeChiffre, which suggests his spirits haven't been broken--when they should be. The film is an excellent work on its own, but I find it a disappointment as an adaptation, because it waters down every major set-piece of the novel: poker instead of baccarat, a torture scene with too much humor, Vesper's death turned into an action sequence, and a positive ending (Bond gets his man) instead of the book's harsh, bleak conclusion.
    Bond (really, Fleming) loses me a bit, however, when he goes off on the need for an Evil Book about how to be bad, and Mathis confuses things even further by sarcastically interpreting all this as how they should all pursue thoroughly evil lives. I think the plot is lost a little bit in all this. It has always seemed that way to me each time I've read this chapter.

    The idea of a Bible of Evil is Fleming at his most intellectually playful, but also plays into the idea that LeChiffre's existence was necessary--because there is no book of evil, we must learn about evil from the actions of wicked men like LeChiffre, who therefore serves a useful purpose. Mathis is having none of this and sarcastically twists Bond's ideas to suggest we can better learn about evil by trying to be more evil in our everyday lives (why let supervillains have all the fun?).
    Perhaps the Bond novels are an attempt to make up for the absence of a Bible of Evil by giving us a rogues gallery of truly evil individuals.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Revelator wrote: »
    I suppose what I'm most impressed by in reading this is how well they adapted it to the screen.

    It was indeed well-done, but the movie ultimately erred in adding too much humor to the scene--in Fleming we understand how grave the situation has become when Bond can barely even talk because of the pain and trauma. In the film Bond is alert enough to humorously taunt LeChiffre, which suggests his spirits haven't been broken--when they should be. The film is an excellent work on its own, but I find it a disappointment as an adaptation, because it waters down every major set-piece of the novel: poker instead of baccarat, a torture scene with too much humor, Vesper's death turned into an action sequence, and a positive ending (Bond gets his man) instead of the book's harsh, bleak conclusion.
    Bond (really, Fleming) loses me a bit, however, when he goes off on the need for an Evil Book about how to be bad, and Mathis confuses things even further by sarcastically interpreting all this as how they should all pursue thoroughly evil lives. I think the plot is lost a little bit in all this. It has always seemed that way to me each time I've read this chapter.

    The idea of a Bible of Evil is Fleming at his most intellectually playful, but also plays into the idea that LeChiffre's existence was necessary--because there is no book of evil, we must learn about evil from the actions of wicked men like LeChiffre, who therefore serves a useful purpose. Mathis is having none of this and sarcastically twists Bond's ideas to suggest we can better learn about evil by trying to be more evil in our everyday lives (why let supervillains have all the fun?).
    Perhaps the Bond novels are an attempt to make up for the absence of a Bible of Evil by giving us a rogues gallery of truly evil individuals.

    I wouldn't say I agree with the above point. There's probably more humor and wit in the film than in the book, but I don't think it ever truly ruins the experience. I don't view Bond's verbal row with Le Chiffre during his torture as comedy at all. He's stalling for time, trying to think of a way to get out of it, or protect Vesper, and like a Spider-Man or other hero, he makes light of things to avoid thinking about the despair coming his way. That look he gives when his attempts fail and he hears Vesper's shrill screams echoing from the other chamber tells us all we need to know: Bond thinks he's about to die or face the most painful torture ever, and it's at that moment that he stops the acting. If not for White bursting in, it would've been an unbearable and life-altering next few minutes for him. The scene in the book and in the film both sell me that Bond is absolutely screwed, and only the luck of timing can get him out of it.

    I can more understand the anger about how Vesper's death was handled, as I know that Dan would've really sold a powerful scene where Bond finds the girl dead in bed, and reads her note to himself as the camera pans in for a close-up. That being said, the Venice scene we got doesn't disappoint me either, and in two major ways it's an improvement for me on the whole scene. For one, in the film Bond actually finds out about Vesper's betrayal in a far more shocking moment, and is able to chase after her while she's still alive to give her a piece of his mind. His anger and blind rage at this moment sells his later turn of feeling towards her at QoS's end, and in that second makes us angry and on the chase for Vesper too; we are involved in the story, not subtracted from it. Secondly, I think Vesper's actual death, drowning in front of Bond, is far more traumatic and startling than in the book, where we don't even witness her death. The movie puts us right there with Bond, in a place where neither of us are going to be able to save her. Eva plays is horrifically, like we're watching a snuff film of a dying woman, and that image is imprinted with me forever.

    Maybe the action went overboard at points, but to have the better reveal of the Vesper ruse and to see her die makes it all the more powerful. It again puts Bond in another helpless situation, trying to breathe life into her before giving up. All his emotions are sold in that close-up on Dan, and no words are needed. It gives us a better look into Bond's inner feelings on the matter than the book ever does, I feel. "The bitch is dead," is a great line, but unlike the movie, we never really get to see Bond visibly lying about his feelings for Vesper to his superiors like we do in QoS. The movies portray his conflicted feelings for her far better, as well as the journey he goes on to forgive her. The ending of QoS with that necklace lying in the snow following Bond's meeting with the man that helped string his woman along feels ripped right from the CR follow up Fleming never gave us.

    All these factors are also why I wouldn't agree that the film is a happy ending, by any stretch. Bond gets White, sure, but we still know the stakes that've been set and all that Bond has gone through. He's put through the emotional and physical ringer like no other Bond film outside OHMSS (which it surpasses physically and approaches emotionally), so the film finishes with all this in mind. The money is gone, the woman betrayed him and killed herself in front of his eyes, and now he's picking up the pieces to get it all sorted, both for the mission and himself. Not my idea of cheery. ;)
  • 22. The Hastening Saloon

    An interesting glimpse into Bond's routine with women: "the conventional parabola—sentiment, the touch of the hand, the kiss, the passionate kiss, the feel of the body, the climax in the bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears, and the final bitterness...the final angry farewell on some doorstep in the rain." Of course, "with Vesper there could be none of this." Bond is happy to be with Vesper—even sticks up for her in his report—yet Fleming rather poetically describes the matter as, perhaps, escaping Bond's better judgment: "Whether Bond liked it or not, the branch had already escaped his knife and was ready to burst into flower."

    Vesper's anxiety begins to bloom. She dismisses it as nerves. "This road is full of ghosts."

    Which brings me to a question I've often had about this latter section of Casino Royale. Why do they remain in the area, where so much immediate trauma has been done to them and where anyone remotely connected with Le Chiffre would be sure to find them? I don't believe Fleming addresses this directly. The best explanation I've come up with for myself is that Bond is still healing and not up for travel. Anyone have a better one?


    23. Tide of Passion

    Lovely opening here—showing not telling the distance between Bond and Vesper, the words not spoken, the secret she bears. The beginning of lovemaking, the breaking apart, Vesper looking forlornly into the distance, removed from it all.

    The mark of SMERSH on Bond's right hand—a symbol of the evil they can't escape. It's there with them still.

    Even after his talk with Mathis, Bond still dwells on the possibility of resignation on the beach.

    And then this very bothersome line: "the sweet tang of rape." Actually, the library edition I'm reading (perhaps intentionally) has dropped the word "sweet," which, while I never agree with literary censorship, I'll concede does make the line more palatable. For as much as I admire the writing of Fleming in so many ways, he did have his "missteps" and this is one of the grandest of them all. TSWLM, I recall, contains another along similar lines. A reminder to future writers I suppose that what you put down in ink stands for all time and forever contributes to future generations' views of you as a historical figure (should you be so lucky to be regarded as such in the first place). Lovecraft's writing of course is tainted with horrific racist notions (some of King's early work too to a much lesser degree). But I won't go off on this tangent now. A bothersome line I'm hard-pressed to deal with in any other way than to shrug and concede, "yes, it is, unfortunately, there."


    24. 'Fruit Défendu'

    Bond has made up his mind to retire. He returns inside to a picture of orderly his and hers domesticity and is touched. It's a deeply bittersweet moment, harshly underlined by his innocent noticing of Vesper's Nembutal sleeping pills (already her mind is on the possibility of suicide, even as he dreams of a future with her).

    After Vesper's melancholy talk about people being islands, never really knowing each other, she alleviates the mood with a laugh, saying her island feels close to Bond's tonight. To which Bond replies, "Let's join up and make a peninsula." First of the groan-inducing entendres?

    Beautiful description of the moonlight through the shutters lapping at "the secret shadows in the snow of her body."

    After a night of lovemaking, Bond goes for a dawn swim and lets himself sink to the bottom. An interesting moment in and of itself, and one could read into the scene the representation of water as a metaphor for sex and Bond being alone here and wishing Vesper were with him, but what I find even more curious is the coincidental mirroring of Craig's reverse-gender Dr. No moment in CR:

    "Under the water he imagined the tranquil scene and wished that Vesper could just then come through the pines and be astonished to see him suddenly erupt from the empty seascape. When after a full moment he came to the surface in a froth of spray, he was disappointed."


    25. 'Black-Patch

    Things deteriorate quickly between Bond and Vesper, but as Fleming notes, this is true to how life can be. Tides changing suddenly and with little explanation.

    I love that even though Bond finds 'Black-Patch' an innocent figure, he still takes down the license plate. Never takes any chances.


    26. 'Sleep Well, My Darling'

    A final night of lovemaking. Vesper takes in her final moments of life: "She examined every line of his face as if she were seeing him for the first time." As you say, @Birdleson: this is a thoroughly "dark and melancholy tale." Once you know the ending (really, even if you don't) everything after the torture scene (no picnic, in and of itself) is a slow and grim march toward the inevitable, ever so poignantly punctuated by Bond's thoughts on resignation and his vision of a happy future with Vesper.


    27. The Bleeding Heart

    Bond snaps back to reality: "How soon Mathis had been proven right, and how soon his own little sophistries had been exploded in his face!"

    Fleming deftly sets up the next chapter in the life of James Bond: "Here was a target for him, right to hand. He would take on SMERSH and hunt it down...he would attack the arm that held the whip and the gun...go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy."

    And what an abrupt yet perfect line to end on. As Camille of QoS might say, there's something terribly efficient about Fleming in this final chapter. The last page sets things up perfectly for the rest of the series. A real cliffhanger ending. Stay tuned, readers, it says. James Bond will return.
  • Posts: 913
    There's probably more humor and wit in the film than in the book, but I don't think it ever truly ruins the experience. I don't view Bond's verbal row with Le Chiffre during his torture as comedy at all.

    But if Bond is still able to crack jokes, this reduces the impact of the torture. In the book, we understand he's passed into exhaustion and true helplessness because he can no longer even speak properly. Bond never reaches this extremity in the film, so the torture scene is weakened.
    the Venice scene we got doesn't disappoint me either, and in two major ways it's an improvement for me on the whole scene. For one, in the film Bond actually finds out about Vesper's betrayal in a far more shocking moment, and is able to chase after her while she's still alive to give her a piece of his mind

    I can't agree. The book has a two-part punch: Bond discovers Vesper is dead, and then discovers she was a traitor, which twists the knife. And then Bond realizes he has only been playing "Red Indians," so another twist. The film jumbles this: first we learn Vesper is a traitor and that Bond wants to kill her, and then the house collapses and he wants to save her. Instead of a deepening sense of tragedy, we get a yo-yo effect.
    Secondly, I think Vesper's actual death, drowning in front of Bond, is far more traumatic and startling than in the book, where we don't even witness her death.

    Perhaps, but I prefer the shock of Bond being wakened and rushing to find her body under the sheet. A great image, followed by the letter whose revelations will destroy Bond's love and turn his view of himself and his work upside down.
    All his emotions are sold in that close-up on Dan, and no words are needed. It gives us a better look into Bond's inner feelings on the matter than the book ever does, I feel.

    I don't think convey much more than grief and distress. It's not equivalent to the roller coaster of Bond's feelings as he reads the letter.
    "The bitch is dead," is a great line, but unlike the movie, we never really get to see Bond visibly lying about his feelings for Vesper to his superiors like we do in QoS. The movies portray his conflicted feelings for her far better, as well as the journey he goes on to forgive her.

    There's no reason for CR to show Bond's conflicted feelings at the end, because at the end of CR his feelings for Vesper are dead. The "bitch is dead" is not just a memorable line but a shocking one, because after almost becoming human thanks to Vesper's love, Bond has turned back into the cold "machine" Mathis wanted him to be. It's a terrifying last line, bleak and tragic. Ending a movie on it would have taken courage, because it would have been a comfortless ending.
    All these factors are also why I wouldn't agree that the film is a happy ending, by any stretch. Bond gets White, sure, but we still know the stakes that've been set and all that Bond has gone through.

    Compared to the book's ending, it's happy. At the end of CR Bond is humiliated and bereft. The enemy is no closer in sight and Vesper has done an immense amount of damage to the Service, which he can do nothing about. All he can do is phone his office and rage. But in the film? Vesper turns out to be a "good" traitor and posthumously gives Bond the information to get the bad guys. Bond gets his man and gets to look cool with his monster-size gun and recite his catchphrase to the accompaniment of the Bond theme. It's almost an inverse image of the impotence and rage of Fleming's ending.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    @Revelator, I just don't see Bond's actions or feelings as being dead for Vesper at the end of the book. If he didn't give a damn about her, he wouldn't visit her grave every year to pay his respects. Like much of what Bond does, it feels like he's putting on a performance. "The bitch is dead," more points to his impulsive rage than his hardcore, deep down feelings. He can't see anything but rage with the fresh wound, but it's clear that over time he forgives the woman.

    I also wouldn't agree that the betrayal turns him cold. It might've made him stall on settling down for a while and his ego is hurt for being duped, but he's still the man that runs in front of bullets for any injured girl he finds, and he is of course able to find the greatest love of his life again years later, the opposite of what a colder man would do. He just had to repress himself for a while and pull his heart a bit under his sleeve.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    22. The Hastening Saloon


    Which brings me to a question I've often had about this latter section of Casino Royale. Why do they remain in the area, where so much immediate trauma has been done to them and where anyone remotely connected with Le Chiffre would be sure to find them? I don't believe Fleming addresses this directly. The best explanation I've come up with for myself is that Bond is still healing and not up for travel. Anyone have a better one?
    rn.

    I think that it was partially what you surmise: Bond healing. But I also think it was a matter of convenience. Their alibis had been set, their stay was arranged and (I assume) covered up by the authorities and it was an ideal place to be. Convenience.
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    22. The Hastening Saloon


    Which brings me to a question I've often had about this latter section of Casino Royale. Why do they remain in the area, where so much immediate trauma has been done to them and where anyone remotely connected with Le Chiffre would be sure to find them? I don't believe Fleming addresses this directly. The best explanation I've come up with for myself is that Bond is still healing and not up for travel. Anyone have a better one?
    rn.

    I think that it was partially what you surmise: Bond healing. But I also think it was a matter of convenience. Their alibis had been set, their stay was arranged and (I assume) covered up by the authorities and it was an ideal place to be. Convenience.

    Convenience must surely have been a part of it. While Bond recovers from the worst of it, Vesper spends her days being shown around by contacts in the area. Under normal circumstances, that would seem a natural thing, but given the severity of the torture and the long arm of SMERSH you would think protocol would tell Bond otherwise. Maybe we're meant to believe Bond truly is confident the danger is well passed. He certainly seems to think so each time Vesper's "nerves" act up.
  • As @Birdleson noted earlier, I did a Novelathon a year or so ago, posting the results in the SirHenry's thread, and I'm not up for another one so soon. I am always happy to share some of my opinions, though...

    One of the points that I find interesting about Fleming's first novel as compared with the Bond character that we are most familiar with (that is, the one in the movies) is the discrepancies between what we have come to expect and the character as he is presented here. The world of MovieBond is an inherently glamorous one, the casinos most definitely included. Here, the first image we are given of a casino in the wee hours of the morning is largely distasteful. We are told that Fleming's Bond has never worked with a woman before, and that he probably won't like it. This is quite at odds with the Bond we've come to expect, who will be bedding at least two women per adventure, and either working with one as a trusted ally or stealing his adversary's mistress just to shake the poor felon up. I'm not stating a preference for one Bond over another here, just pointing out the differences between them. Did Fleming's view of the character change as the years went on and the novels piled up -- or was he just setting the readers up for a surprise?
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 913
    @Revelator, I just don't see Bond's actions or feelings as being dead for Vesper at the end of the book.

    But Fleming writes:
    He saw her now only as a spy. Their love and his grief were relegated to the boxroom of his mind. Later, perhaps they would be dragged out, dispassionately examined, and then bitterly thrust back with other sentimental baggage he would rather forget. Now he could only think of her treachery to the Service and to her country, and of the damage it had done. His professional mind was completely absorbed with the consequences — the covers which must have been blown over the years, the codes which the enemy must have broken, the secrets which must have leaked from the centre of the very section devoted to penetrating the Soviet Union. It was ghastly. God knew how the mess would be cleared up.

    Since the narrator in the books is a reliable one, I think this should be taken as an accurate portrayal of Bond's feelings, which certainly feel genuine.
    You're correct that nearly a decade later, in OHMSS, Fleming decides to tell us Bond annually visited Vesper's grave, and he also has Bond mention her in Goldfinger. But while Bond apparently had a change of heart, it didn't take place in Casino Royale itself but over time, as one would realistically expect. We know that Fleming reread his books before he wrote Goldfinger, which indeed reads like a self-pastiche, and this probably brought Vesper back to his mind. And in OHMSS, which was intended as a return-to-form and the book where Bond gets married, mentioning the woman Bond almost married would have made sense.
    Though Quantum of Solace had its problems as a film, I agree that it did a good job of wrapping up CR's loose ends and having Bond let his anger go. So it fills in the blank Fleming left in Bond's feelings toward Vesper between CR and GF.
    I also wouldn't agree that the betrayal turns him cold.

    In the long run, no. In the short-run of CR and LALD, yes. I think it's significant that in LALD Bond's feelings about his previous case only concern revenge toward Smersh. No grief over Vesper, or indeed any thought of her at all. She has been "relegated to the boxroom of his mind." Perhaps his feelings toward her softened after he fell in love again, and perhaps after Tiffany Case left him he made the first pilgrimage to Vesper's grave.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Birdleson wrote: »
    22. The Hastening Saloon


    Which brings me to a question I've often had about this latter section of Casino Royale. Why do they remain in the area, where so much immediate trauma has been done to them and where anyone remotely connected with Le Chiffre would be sure to find them? I don't believe Fleming addresses this directly. The best explanation I've come up with for myself is that Bond is still healing and not up for travel. Anyone have a better one?
    rn.

    I think that it was partially what you surmise: Bond healing. But I also think it was a matter of convenience. Their alibis had been set, their stay was arranged and (I assume) covered up by the authorities and it was an ideal place to be. Convenience.

    Convenience must surely have been a part of it. While Bond recovers from the worst of it, Vesper spends her days being shown around by contacts in the area. Under normal circumstances, that would seem a natural thing, but given the severity of the torture and the long arm of SMERSH you would think protocol would tell Bond otherwise. Maybe we're meant to believe Bond truly is confident the danger is well passed. He certainly seems to think so each time Vesper's "nerves" act up.

    I think this holds true in the film, as well, though both it and the novel don't make it all obvious. Bond suspects everyone in the novel, even the damn concierge of his hotel and the man who operates the lift, but not the one that counted. He is blinded to Vesper the entire time, and never once thinks she could cross him like that.
    Revelator wrote: »
    @Revelator, I just don't see Bond's actions or feelings as being dead for Vesper at the end of the book.

    But Fleming writes:
    He saw her now only as a spy. Their love and his grief were relegated to the boxroom of his mind. Later, perhaps they would be dragged out, dispassionately examined, and then bitterly thrust back with other sentimental baggage he would rather forget. Now he could only think of her treachery to the Service and to her country, and of the damage it had done. His professional mind was completely absorbed with the consequences — the covers which must have been blown over the years, the codes which the enemy must have broken, the secrets which must have leaked from the centre of the very section devoted to penetrating the Soviet Union. It was ghastly. God knew how the mess would be cleared up.

    Since the narrator in the books is a reliable one, I think this should be taken as an accurate portrayal of Bond's feelings, which certainly feel genuine.
    You're correct that nearly a decade later, in OHMSS, Fleming decides to tell us Bond annually visited Vesper's grave, and he also has Bond mention her in Goldfinger. But while Bond apparently had a change of heart, it didn't take place in Casino Royale itself but over time, as one would realistically expect. We know that Fleming reread his books before he wrote Goldfinger, which indeed reads like a self-pastiche, and this probably brought Vesper back to his mind. And in OHMSS, which was intended as a return-to-form and the book where Bond gets married, mentioning the woman Bond almost married would have made sense.
    Though Quantum of Solace had its problems as a film, I agree that it did a good job of wrapping up CR's loose ends and having Bond let his anger go. So it fills in the blank Fleming left in Bond's feelings toward Vesper between CR and GF.
    I also wouldn't agree that the betrayal turns him cold.

    In the long run, no. In the short-run of CR and LALD, yes. I think it's significant that in LALD Bond's feelings about his previous case only concern revenge toward Smersh. No grief over Vesper, or indeed any thought of her at all. She has been "relegated to the boxroom of his mind." Perhaps his feelings toward her softened after he fell in love again, and perhaps after Tiffany Case left him he made the first pilgrimage to Vesper's grave.

    @Revelator, all those details are right on the money, and I think that the films have had Bond develop in a similar way as he shows a human reaction to what he experiences. His narration at the end of the book is caught between reliability and unreliability. This is the man who, for the entire book, suspects so many people of being his enemy, but never Vesper. His mind clouded him from being truly impartial, and he lost the edge he so adamantly says he follows to the letter in the first chapter. After being so burned in the heart and ego, it's no surprise that Bond's first reaction is to call Vesper a bitch and contend that she means nothing to him. As I said though, it's quite clear that this feeling of his towards her is a very impulsive one and not his true feelings, otherwise he wouldn't feel compelled to visit her grave all the time or think of her in the last moments before he thinks he will die and see her in heaven. That's a man who still very much has feelings for her, and not someone who pushes all thoughts of her to the back of his mind. It's just that, fresh from a betrayal, Bond has trained himself to brush off the parts of himself he doesn't want to examine because it telegraphs a weakness. M would think lowly of him, possibly, for having a soft one for the double agent that embarrassed their whole service, and so Bond mourns in silence while putting on an indifferent face the way he is expected to by his employers.

    CR and QoS recreated this complex development of Bond's inner life expertly, and I think it's the crowning achievement of the era. Like in the book Bond plays it up that Vesper is a bitch and worthless to him, but we all know from jump that she has gotten to him and has made him "feel it." Over the course of the film we see Bond stealing her photo to hold on to, and later on the airplane he pretends to forget the name of the drink he named after her when speaking with Mathis. Bond is having a very natural reaction, compelled by his anger to write the woman off as nothing to him while in the same breath trying to hide how much he cared about her. The mix of his anger at her betrayal and his race to save her in Venice isn't choppy writing, but the very real inner battle of a man who got his heart and job confused, and doesn't know how to act appropriately.

    So when Fleming writes about Bond reacting to the fresh betrayal and later makes mention of Vesper in later books, he's showing us how the spy's initial impulse and anger has given way to the clarity his turbulent emotions wouldn't allow him to feel. With distance from the pain, he sees Vesper differently and is seemingly able to forgive her because she was ultimately victimized by the same people she was working for, manipulating into spying to avoid the death of her lover. Bond was unable to see the moral grays and trauma she was dealing with while crossing him and the guilt she felt (so much so that she was driven to suicide), but as time passed his logical mind and capacity for reason allowed him to see the dimension of the tragedy and understand why Vesper acted as she did. The masculine burst of testosterone and the need he felt to man up faded, and his mind returned to clear stability.
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 913
    His narration at the end of the book is caught between reliability and unreliability.

    I think Fleming's narration throughout all of the Bond books is reliable--I can't think of any passages where it misleads the reader. When Fleming tells us what Bond thinks, or what Spectre is up to, we trust him because he proves accurate.
    After being so burned in the heart and ego, it's no surprise that Bond's first reaction is to call Vesper a bitch and contend that she means nothing to him.

    Technically, it isn't his first reaction--Bond initially sheds tears. Then, after reading Vesper's letter, he gradually considers the scale of her treachery, its effects, and his own foolishness, and after having considered all this, he finally shows that Vesper (as far as this specific book is concerned) is dead to him by referring to her with the same dismissive word he'd used before falling in love with her.
    "Bitch" is literally Bond's final word on Vesper in the book, and for the next six years as well. After all that time had passed, Fleming, in a nostalgic mood, decided Bond had made peace with the character. But had he not done so, CR would have been the bleakest possible ending to the relationship, because there's nothing in the book to suggest Bond would ever love her again. Instead the cold machine that Mathis described reasserts itself: "he could only think of her treachery to the Service and to her country, and of the damage it had done. His professional mind was completely absorbed with the consequences." CR's ending is doubly tragic because not only Vesper but also Bond's human side dies. And arguably doesn't return until he falls in love again, this time with Tiffany Case.
    I don't object to either Fleming or QoS later having Bond bury the hatchet after taking some time for reflection. But the power of CR's bleak ending would be diluted if this happened within the book. I can understand why the filmmakers went for a different ending, since next to the sad ending of OHMSS, CR's is harsher and would have ended the movie without a single note of consolation for the audience. But I can't help regretting that the 2006 film was not the adaptation I had hoped for and which might have been possible with a more daring set of filmmakers. However, I am probably in the minority on this issue--Goodreads has a list called "The Film Was Better Than the Book," and Casino Royale has a prominent place on it. I get angry just remembering that, but I can't refute the preferences of the public and undoubtedly many Bond fans. Though I do wonder how Tarantino would have handled his adaptation...
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    @Revelator, my comment about narration was less about Fleming's own accuracy and more how he presented Bond. I always feel that, despite creating the character, he wrote for the man without acting like he knew everything about him, sort of like an outside biographer at times. So, while he took the face value of Bond's reaction to Vesper and the bitch line he delivered, he didn't plunder the possible lies Bond could be telling himself to get through the pain. I equate it to how Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes, never revealing the man candidly in a way that seemed to show that even to him the detective was a mystery.

    So it's less about Fleming's narration and more how Bond himself acts and talks, which I should've worded better. When he says, "The bitch is dead," that's a very surface comment that, to me, doesn't represent what he truly feels. We can talk about what that line meant that that time in 1953, but with the full set of novels now available to us we can see that Bond was having the sort of grief stricken episode of denial I was trying to describe that he later overcame once the cloud of anger faded.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    Just to reiterate; reading these books again is a near singular pleasure. The thrill of getting to the book in the evenings or when I get a bit of spare time is what I hope you all feel. I also hope that many more will jump on in. I know that some members have not read Fleming's work, which is alarming to me. I believe that (for the most part) they trump (hate using that word) films, and one of the greatest pleasures in life. I want to read wheat it is like, after some of you being cinematic Bond fans for so long, to finally enter this world.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    When he says, "The bitch is dead," that's a very surface comment that, to me, doesn't represent what he truly feels.

    No question.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    Actually, I just reread the last few pages and I'm going to contradict my last post; I now believe that it was Fleming's intent that Bond is sincere in that final statement. As opposed to the film incarnation who was putting forth a cold, but false, bravado.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited June 2017 Posts: 28,232
    I've been running through each chapter of Casino Royale and have compiled some analysis on any notions they make me think about. The first six are posted below:

    Chapter 1- The Secret Agent

    “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”

    It doesn’t get much better than that. While many literary maestros would likely disregard Fleming’s opening as a distortion of their fine writing form with its lack of commas or condensed language, what the man does here sets the tone of the entire series immediately. His drawn out description of Bond’s surroundings and the repetitive usage of “and” to bog down his list of details make the narration come off as one of a man droning on through half-awakeness to paint a picture to you. The sloppy and extended opening description recreates, in a very meta way, the feeling of “soul-erosion” the spy is experiencing as he takes a break from his gambling rounds to scope out Le Chiffre from above, a predator admiring his prey.

    There really is no secret why I, as a writing student in college, chose to select the opening of Casino Royale as one of the best first paragraphs in literature-alongside Fahrenheit 451’s “It was a pleasure to burn”-for an assignment given by my instructor. On the face of it we have an interesting description that goes against the finely oiled machine of grammatical practice (ie. boring writing), but read on past the opening and you will see how minutely Fleming describes the whole of Bond’s life and job, and the feelings that it can create in him.

    If Fleming had any skill as a writer, it was in his ability to craft characters from passages absent of any dialogue. Playing with images like a cinematographer, he tells us all we need to know about the figures of his fiction by the way he paints those pictures. Take the card playing Le Chiffre, for example, as Bond stares him down from the balcony above. “There was an untidy pile of flecked hundred-mille plaques in front of him,” Fleming writes, only giving us a small look at the man who shall become the villain of the piece.

    We don’t know why Bond is there, for what purpose Le Chiffre serves or why he is at the gambling tables, but everything about his body language does. In a sea of miscellaneous information Fleming points out the untidiness of the man and how he stacks his winnings, telegraphing a certain sense of unrest in the man. You can’t help but get images of Le Chiffre winning a big pot and immediately shuffling his plaques from the center table to his side, lost in a strewn mess. This tells us that, though the winnings are his prime directive, he is so focused on the game at hand that he doesn’t even have the time to carefully and calmly stack his plaques in an orderly manner; he’s wired and sparking. It’s clear already that this man isn’t at the casino by choice or simple recreation, and is instead trying against the promise of death to win big. Fleming gives us this peek and leaves us hanging, offering a little taste of the apple before he cuts it from the tree chapters later and engorges us with it.

    The real reason why this chapter functions so well, and is one of my favorite chapters in all of fiction, is in how the writer builds up the character of James Bond. For those unfamiliar with Fleming’s spy original, you could give them just this chapter to read and already they’d be set off with a better idea of who he is and why he became such a compelling icon. To offer us details about James Bond, Fleming often helps us to view him through the lens of paranoia. Immediately after spying on Le Chiffre, Bond calculates in his head the odds of the man trying to steal money directly from the casino, matching them against the odds of the man hiring a small team to pull off a robbery. In this moment we are placed right inside Bond’s brain stream of consciousness style as we experience the room through his eyes. He meticulously runs through the obstacles in the way of a thief, from the gun-saddled clerk at the table to the distance that it would take for the robber to escape with the cash, even running through the validity of a man jumping over the chin-high barrier to get at the money and past the mechanism at the front door that would stop any man from pursuing such a suicidal venture.

    In the next moment, still thinking on the likelihood of a casino robbery, Bond plays out the meeting between the casino committee that next morning, predicting how the men will view the house’s losses and the profits and luck of the gamblers under their roof from the day before. It seems a common practice for this man to actively play the roles of other people surrounding him in order to understand fully how he may misstep around them or how they could come to challenge him in the future. These passages show less a sense of paranoia in Bond, but more the pragmatist who is constantly absorbing the minutia of his environment that most repress to sap them of their details and dangers. While 99% of the population would walk into a casino and expect major losses or gains to their coffers, Bond sees a complex system of possible crimes that could unfold at any minute, from a minor robbery to a veritable heist. But, as he remarks later in the chapter, “He was a secret agent, and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the detail of his profession.” For this man, it’s all about survival and awareness.

    In between these descriptions and story-building moments, Fleming stops at times to rest with Bond in thought, giving readers particular details about the man. While the James Bond films often have the overt goal of making everything that James Bond does fall in line with an Anglo-Saxon distortion of an Übermensch, in Casino Royale Fleming often delivers to us very raw and unglamorous details about his spy character that make him more man than superman. On page three of the text, Fleming pauses the action as Bond heads outside the casino and describes the severe taste lingering in his mouth-likely from the tar of seventy smoked cigarettes-the sopping nature of his clothes wet from the sweat caking his armpits, the strain of his eyeballs languishing in their sockets and the congestion that his nose and antrum are suffering through.

    These invasive details about Bond’s body, his taste and his scent are not in touch with the sex-laden image of a powerful Sean Connery in a finely tailored suit gracefully striding out of a casino, and that’s what makes them so jarring and interesting to uncover. Fleming forsakes glorified imagery to share with us a man who is more like us than above us. The raconteur didn’t just want us to see Bond as a rough and blunt instrument of government utility, he wanted us to at times feel on his level. In that aspect, the closeness we feel to Bond and his worn out nature, his sweating form and his clogged nasal passages, open us up to fall deeper into the story that is being told to us. Because Bond isn’t that Übermensch, it’s not an intimidating concept to follow him on this journey of his.

    As the chapter goes on Fleming piles more extraneous data and details on us to paint a picture of how Bond operates as a spy. With the finesse and penetration of a stenographer, we uncover the complex negotiations that’ve gone down between Bond and M at Regent’s Park, M and Clements, the head of the department, Bond and his Jamaican contact Fawcett, and all the dealings between the service and the French bank in between. By doing so, Fleming shows the depth and conspiracy that lies in plain sight, and how the head of a department at a Jamaican paper could in fact have heavy connections to major intelligence bodies around the world. These details accompany Bond’s paranoid ramblings of contingency plans quite well, because he is a man who has learned to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and the danger in the dull.

    Fleming decides to close out the opening chapter of his debut Bond novel exactly how he started it, bookending the piece with paranoia. As Bond answers his cable from Jamaica and makes his way to his room on the first floor of the Hotel Splendide, we again come in contact with his always-alert mind. With every step he retrospectively examines every choice he made to critique if it was the most effective in advancing his goals, all while pondering what traps lie in wait around him as he goes forward. Following his response to the Jamaican wire, Bond immediately wonders if the concierge at the desk is a planted mole sat there to spy on his communications with London and Jamaica.

    As he approaches the lift that would take him to the next floor seconds afterward, he immediately thinks against that mode of travel and heads for the stairs, preferring their ability to give him a more subdued entrance to the next floor, and a certain element of surprise. If a gunman was in wait for the lift, Bond would be at their mercy, trapped inside a steel box with nowhere to hide. These minute details, of a man seeing danger in the random faces around him, again tells us just what kind of job he has and what kinds of modus operandi he must keep constant to survive in it. It’s second nature for Bond to act and react in this way, like programming, and you can be sure that on some job in the past Bond was sabotaged by a man he thought was background dressing in his environment. From that day on he chose to never be duped by anyone again, at any costs.

    The chapter comes to a close as Bond finally enters his hotel room, gun drawn for any possible enemies who may be lying in wait. In short form Fleming runs us through the kinds of strategic “burglar-alarms” that Bond implements when he’s in the field, like strands of his hairs or bits of talcum powder that he uses to uncover if his drawers have been disturbed, or markings on his toilet to sniff out possible visitors. Like all of his actions in the field, these feel like those any man in his position would have to take to survive. It would be a fool’s errand to avoid the planning and constant thought Bond always implements on his missions, because you immediately lower your life expectancy by becoming complacent and blind to your surroundings.

    The images that Fleming leaves us with before heading on to chapter two are powerful despite their subtlety. Fresh from a shower to cleanse his exterior of a hard day, Bond lies down and attempts to send himself off to sleep. Even while going to bed, it seems that the spy has a certain ritual he must complete before he allows his eyes to close with any sort of surrender. Starting off by lying on his left side, Bond reflects on the activities of his day, balancing his goals between the possible gains of his enemy, and how that balance could equalize or upset either party the next day. Once this practice is done and his thoughts are clear, he turns on his right side to finally get some rest.

    And yet, though he is committing himself to sleep, he always has the fingers of his right hand ready to grasp the gun hidden beneath his pillow in case an attacker plans to surprise him in the middle of the night. You must wonder how much sleep Bond really gets, and if he’s capable of anything but a half-sleep at all. I always imagine that he’s trained himself through extensive practice to engage in a deep sleep that can be broken through by extraneous noise the way a light sleeper could be stirred. Thus, Bond can get his rest, but can also be on guard for any outside forces attempting to disrupt his slumber.

    The final line of the chapter tells us all we need to know about Bond as a man, with sleeping finally coming to him. With “the warmth and humour of his eyes extinguished,” I get the sense that the “taciturn mask, ironical, brutal, and cold,” is not just a mask, but his default and original state. For this spy, the warm features appear to be the elements of himself that he must put on, like a performance, and the man he returns to when in private are those that are native to him, as unpleasant as they may be.

    Chapter 2- Dossier For M

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’re all fans of Fleming and his writing style-otherwise we wouldn’t be here. That being said, this chapter has to be one of my least favorites he ever wrote, and will surely be my least favorite of this particular novel, no matter what.

    As an aspiring writer myself I find it a drag to read through another author who just presents us with exposition in the form of endless files. It’s clear that with this chapter Fleming was trying to simulate for us what Bond goes through as a new operations folder pops up on his desk and he absorbs all the necessary data, but that approach comes off very poorly in an actual novel. I think the information that the chapter provides us, which is essentially just dedicated to underlining what kind of man Le Chiffre is and who SMERSH is as an enemy to the service, could’ve been more effectively relayed to readers if this chapter and the next chapter were melded into one. Have Bond showing up to Regent’s Park for a meeting with M, and have all this background on Le Chiffre delivered organically in their discussion about the operation. Bond could have his little reactions to certain features of Le Chiffre’s life, like his fetish for being whipped during acts of coitus, and M could present his pitch to entice Bond to sign up as the lead agent of the operation because of his adept gambling capacities.

    The way the chapter plays out now, starting with some clever integration of M’s reactions and impressions on the information, eventually just degrades into an endless stream of information that needed some spark to liven it up. The lack of character, dialogue or anything of the sort makes it come off less as storytelling and more as messy expositional plastering. Maybe this is the mark of a man who was just getting into fiction having a hard time trying to find a way to feed information to his readers and Fleming improves on his delivery of the plot and its stakes much better in later novels. At least I hope so.

    This all being said, I do enjoy the details we get about Le Chiffre here, though Fleming largely keeps him a mystery. It’s interesting to note his origins, with the record of his activities only being known until after he took up the name of “Le Chiffre.” It is revealed that he was an inmate in a camp for displaced persons in Dachau, Germany, so I think it’s safe to infer-along with his Jewish features-that he had spent some time in internment camps during World War II. The experiences he could’ve had in such dreadful and demoralizing environments could be the triggers that cemented his personality as an adult, as his file describes him as one who “smiles infrequently” and “does not laugh.” It is also recorded that, fresh from the displaced persons camp, Le Chiffre feigned amnesia and a difficulty to speak. I think it’s fairly supportable that, given the horrors he could’ve seen following his internment around Germany, this man pretended to forget the details of the last few years and lied about his ability to talk simply so that he wouldn’t have to discuss his experiences with anyone and drum up old traumas.

    I also find it interesting that, despite his skill with mathematics that no doubt landed him his job as SMERSH paymaster, Le Chiffre chose to call himself by that moniker because he started his new life as just a number on a passport. This glimpse at his origin helps to give us a better idea of the man, and actually makes him a more sympathetic character than the film adaptation really does. The sense of humanity he lacked in the camps and the repressed traumas of his wartime experiences add a layer of tragedy to him that offset his villainy. He’s less of a bad man and more a misguided one, lost and trying to put his life back together. Fleming reveals this very expertly by first making us think that the man gave himself the name of Le Chiffre for his skill with numbers before peeling back the layers that give us a window into his tragic past.

    The chapter ultimately starts to pay off on the tease that Fleming gave us in chapter 1, taking us into the recent past to detail how Le Chiffre ended up at the card tables desperately trying to gain winnings. The causation of his financial straits via the shutdown of his brothels is very much of the time, but I do like the added detail that argues that he wasn’t risking all that money for his personal gain, but more for his organization’s. In a way you can appreciate his sense of care for his union’s finances, but on the other hand you can’t help but think he should’ve invested far more wisely instead of risking so much capital on a taboo venture. It’s clear that, as with many villains from all eras of storytelling from the Greek myths to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Doyle’s Moriarty, “bad men” are often undone by hubris alone.

    I also like the idea that, despite having an issue with his lungs that he uses an inhaler to alleviate, Le Chiffre still smokes cigarettes. By trying to cut back on the nicotine in the cigarettes he’s helping to mitigate the effects of the vice on his already strained breathing, and could also be trying to avoid getting too addicted, as he seems to have an obsessive personality-at least when it comes to sex. Maybe this was Fleming’s way of showing that every man has his vices, even Bond, which he so openly details in the debut chapter.

    Chapter 3- Number 007

    Chapter three does a far better job of kicking off the lead-up to the big mission and setting the stakes of the story than chapter two. We get the inclusion of actual dialogue, first the very amusing one with Head of Section S and Tanner, another with Head of S and M himself (unheard but referenced) and a final one with Head of S and his own underling agent. In this last example Fleming teases Bond’s involvement with the operation in a bit of dialogue that confirms M’s selection of him for the job. In this dialogue we are given a bit of backstory on Bond’s past work with the service, involving a casino job at Monte Carlo where he worked with French Intelligence to clean out some enemies before walking away with a clean million francs for his troubles.

    This dialogue not only effectively enters our hero into the action, but also explains why he is on the job in the first place. M wants the best card player the service has and Bond is built up to be this same sort of man that is needed. Even Mathis of French intelligence is given a bit of a tease before his big introduction in the next chapter as we learn about the history he and Bond share and how much this Le Chiffre job will likely make them experience a bit of déjà vu.

    The meeting with Bond and M does a great job of setting up the professional relationship of the two men that was so well translated to the screen with Sean Connery and Bernard Lee. From the very beginning we see that M is the man to whom Bond will bend, but it’s nice to see that, as in the films, their dynamic comes from a place of respect. When Bond confesses to a certain worry over the facts and figures of the game and the odds stacked against him, M is there to reassure him of his abilities and warn that Le Chiffre could have a cock up or two just the same.

    The last paragraph of the chapter, like the one that ended chapter one, tells us a lot about how Bond views his work. He prefers to face things alone in the field (likely to decrease liabilities), and his worry at being teamed up with a partner who is disloyal is a nice foreshadowing for the traumatic rollercoaster ride that Vesper Lynd will take him down in the ensuing chapters.

    Chapter 4- L’Ennemi Écoute

    L’Ennemi Écoute (translation)- The Enemy Listens*

    *I’d just like to mention that I really enjoy the fact that Fleming plays with so many French titles in this novel, giving the book a real sense of place and a certain vivacity and cultural flavor. The books have very pulpy origins, but he always found a way to make them more than the genre-bound fiction they were labeled as. In short, he gave a bit of sophistication to an underappreciated market of fiction novels.

    With the state of play underlined and Bond’s role in the operation detailed, Fleming places us back into the “current” timeline that the story opened on. It’s clear that Fleming sectioned off chapters by isolating certain key moments in his novels, and with the translated title of this particular one being “The Enemy Listens,” the man does just that. The entire chapter is restricted to Bond’s hotel room where the main conceit and driving force of the information we get is through a discussion with Mathis as a radio plays. Once this little slice of stimuli ends, a new chapter with a new isolated moment begins.

    This has always been a favorite chapter of mine, and a perfect sort of recreation of what I could see real spies having to do in the field. I love the very cartoonish nature of Mathis playing a role to get to Bond’s room, and how the men use loud radio programs to stop the agents above them from listening in on them as they plan their counter-attack and discuss the mission at hand once they are given a short window of time to debate things. It’s at times a very amusing chapter despite the very real dangers to Bond and his blown cover, simply because Mathis gets so much unrepentant joy from screwing with the Muntz couple above.

    Throughout the chapter Fleming sprinkles more details about James Bond and his habits, operational protocols and his views on women in a broader scale. Since arriving on location two days earlier we learn that Bond has been trying to increase his cash load by a few million to reach the total twenty-five million that Le Chiffre is playing with. We can tell that Bond is quite the careful and clear-headed player, because he only plays roulette when he knows the odds are even to favor a win or loss equally, and if he fails to make profit on a game of chemi-de-fer he gives up beyond a second loss. He knows his mission and is there to conserve cash, carefully increasing his hold only when the odds are more predictable than dubious. Like a predator, we also know that he has taken to mapping out the casino’s lay of the land in his head, knowledge that could aid him if things went awry, and has burnished his card playing faculties while scoping out those of Le Chiffre to prepare for their ultimate face-off. Once again his twelve-steps-ahead thinking materializes.

    Fleming later details Bond’s morning habits for us, his preferred breakfast meal and smoking habits, again cementing the spy as a ritual driven man who forms his life around a stream of activities made second nature through practice and implementation. By giving his life structure, Bond is always tuning his mind towards thinking and reacting to what is around him, and by creating patterns in his own life he is able to see patterns that have shifted or gone out of practice in those of others.

    The fun and frivolity of the chapter comes to an end once Mathis mentions Bond’s contact and “Number Two” on the mission, none other than a woman. It’s a very interesting reveal to his character that Bond has such a lack of warmth to the news, and is only more conflicted and concerned about the mission’s success after discovering the truth. The instant that Mathis describes this woman as beautiful, Fleming inserts a reaction mid-sentence to tell us that Bond is frowning in reaction to hearing it. Perhaps he is concerned about getting distracted by the dame and her pleasing features-or vice versa-or maybe he doesn’t like the idea of a nice girl getting wrapped up in what he sees as man’s business. Bond’s comments about the mission not being a picnic could underscore this last point, about how he viewed women not befitting his line of work.

    Bond’s mention that, “Women were for reaction,” and how “they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around,” makes it plain to see that the spy hasn’t run into many of the opposite sex who truly impressed him. As a man of Fleming’s generation and adoptive of some of the author’s own character traits, the dark and dangerous world of spies wasn’t meant for women and he viewed their presence in it as an unwelcomed problem or worse, a possible casualty.

    This view of women could be less of an original personality trait girted by Fleming to his creation, and far more a commonality that both men shared inherently. It’s possible that the death of Fleming’s one-time love Muriel Wright could’ve formed his hardline impression of women involved in conflict that Bond also mirrors in this particular chapter. While it is said that Fleming ran from woman to woman while with Wright, it was her death during an air raid in World War II that really shook the man up and likely gave him the cold perspective he later passed on to his spy character. Following Wright’s death Fleming was called in to identify the body as hers, and by doing so he directly faced the impact that war can have on innocent women without a stake in the fight and took it all to heart.

    Fleming’s possible view of women as individuals to be cherished and protected instead of involved in the destruction and horror of war could’ve fed into why Bond has such a similar distaste for the role of women in his own world of spies. Perhaps he had seen many a woman fall by the wayside on operations in the past, women who tried to compensate for a gender that was called unfitting for the job, and this misguidedness led them to death or torture at the hands of the enemy. Because he doesn’t view women as welcome, it seems that Bond labels them as a liability on all fronts and unneeded distractions to the mission at hand. As he says, women were those who “one had to look out for…and take care of them.”

    Ultimately, this impression of women that Bond represents seems to come more from a place of concern than true condescension or hatred toward their gender. He follows the pre and post-war mantra that women should be sheltered at home and men are the ones that face the horrors and fatalistic consequences of war, because they are expendable. In short, men were programmed for the work that Bond does, whereas women were intended for purposes beyond sacrifice and as pawns on a chessboard.

    Fleming’s later use of women in the novels, materialized as birds with broken wings or at the heel of powers beyond their ability to challenge, including Honey Rider, Tatiana Romanova, Jill and Tilly Masterton and Tracy di Vicenzo back up this impression that the man and his hero may’ve held for women. I don’t think it’s any accident that Fleming emphasized the very pure and natural images of these beautiful women and the very sacred nature of their sensuality in these books. Descriptions of a Venus-like Honey stripped bare in nature and the sight of a delicate Tracy walking in a gorgeous haze to be claimed by the sea really serves to paint a contrast of what happens when Bond’s world intersects with those of these women.

    In each story these figures of beauty and-often-innocence stick out as not belonging, because we worry for their safety the way Bond inherently seems to. Their deaths aren’t expected casualties as they would be for males, but more unfortunate and tragic outcomes that shouldn’t come to pass. Perhaps it’s the maternal sort of instincts in women that make us instantly want to run to their aid, and the shock of their beauty in ugly scenarios that makes those like Bond wish they didn’t have to face the dastardly designs and evil deeds that men propagate.

    Beyond these added details about Bond’s character, this chapter also has two instances of very black humor, but humor nonetheless that really made me grin. In the first example Mathis has just confessed to Bond that Le Chiffre’s men are meeting with a bunch of enemies who speak Bulgarian, making it likely that Russians are using them as their preferred killing machines once again. This not only foreshadows the use of Bulgars in From Russia, With Love down the line, but also helps to create the specter of fear for Bond as a hit team could be breathing down his neck. Mathis describes the Bulgars unfavorably as “stupid, but obedient,” and says that the Russians “use them for simple killings or as fall-guys for more complicated ones.” This remark then makes Bond dryly wonder whether the hit on him would be classified by SMERSH as a simple or complicated kill, giving us a window into the sardonic humor his cold world has crafted inside of him.

    The second and final instance of black humor occurs at the very last paragraph of the chapter, where Bond lets out his anger at how his mission has warped itself into a problem by uttering the word, “bitch.” He seems to say the curse quietly the first time because, with the gained knowledge that he’s being listened in on, he repeats it all the louder a second time so that his enemies can make note of his mood. I really like this reaction Bond has, a sort of, “who gives a damn,” response that shows how little he believes in the success of the operation and the low value he stakes in his cover. This moment really changes everything before the mission even begins or Bond touches a single card, because we already know that much has been compromised and that the facades are now essentially useless for the spy and his team. He’s already dangling over the flames while being surrounded by killers everywhere, and by throwing himself into it he risks being burned alive.

    Chapter 5- The Girl From Headquarters

    Fleming begins the chapter by dipping into the sort of journalistic travelogue writing he was invested in before turning to fiction, offering us details about the area that Bond is surrounded by. At times these moments of the text are hit and miss for me, as it’s all about how a writer delivers exposition. I think Fleming often goes on far more than he needs to about many details, in the way a Thomas Hardy or Herman Melville did, but he keeps it all to just under two pages and we move along without too much momentum lost.

    Just as previous chapters captured the isolated moments of Bond walking out of the casino, M reading a dossier on Le Chiffre, Bond meeting with M and Bond and Mathis discussing their blown covers inside the hotel room, chapter 5 continues off of this pattern by detailing to us the hyped up moment that Bond and Vesper Lynd meet inside the Hermitage bar.

    While Bond waits for his company to arrive we overhear a quick dialogue being exchanged by a French couple who discuss dry martinis down to the ingredients they prefer in them, and it makes me wonder if Bond took note of the recipe, found it to his liking, and went on to order a similar type of drink later on during the card game.

    Our first look at Vesper is in the arms of Mathis as they approach the bar from outside, locked in an embrace that lacked intimacy from Bond’s perspective. Right off the bat we can sense the impact this woman has on the spy, and I personally picture something of a Jane Russell type dame with a face that can wear expressions of both sultriness and concern in rotation and like second skins. Bond notes how the woman lacks affectation of movement and is very restrained, giving her a very robotic feeling. Perhaps Fleming provided the character with this tough shell and imperceptible sort of personality to have it contrast later on with the emotional wreck she gradually crumbles into being beside Bond. At the start, however, it’s a hell of a performance and you’d never expect this girl to be compromised.

    It’s interesting how Bond seems to view Vesper’s presence as both a challenge and bit of intrigue. He views her disinterest in him as an opportunity to prove her wrong, and he dreams openly of acting on his attraction to her after the mission is over, much like the rule that Bond has in the film. It’s interesting how Fleming builds up the character of Vesper in the exterior, making the prominent colors of her features and her ensembles dark black. This color palette gives her a femme fatale persona, a bit of a red flag, but also provides a sense of mystery. This mystery is further underscored by the way that she refuses to really speak or react to anything while Mathis is around, but opens up when she and Bond are alone. This could be down to her own mission and the distance she could be ordered to narrow between herself and Bond. Because of this, she focuses all of her energies on him and nobody else, since he is the main target of SMERSH.

    I find it interesting that, when Bond invites Vesper to dinner he observes that the girl, “smiled with the first hint of conspiracy she had shown.” I don’t really know what Fleming meant by this. Was Vesper sending off red flags to Bond, who briefly perceived something amiss with her, or was it Vesper that seemed to be alerted to some greater danger?

    Following the admission from Bond that he may’ve been wrong about the girl, the chapter closes with the first major bit of action in the novel as an explosion from outside the bar rattles our characters and sends Mathis on hot pursuit. It’s the first chapter that ends with an actual cliffhanger punctuated by a dire happening, whereas the last paragraphs of the other chapters transitioned into a new scene that continued to build up the framework of the story. Now the action has begun and we don’t stop from here on in.

    Chapter 6- Two Men in Straw Hats

    This chapter is very interesting not only for its stirring imagery, but by how it backtracks us and plays out events from Bond’s perspective. By showing us Bond departing from Mathis and Vesper at the end of the last chapter before a bomb rang out, Fleming instantly makes you wonder about where the spy is at and what, if any, injuries he has undergone. This chapter then goes about capturing the isolated moment of showing us the blast from Bond’s point of view, from the time he leaves the Hermitage bar to the instant the explosion rattles him.

    I like that Fleming begins the chapter by having Bond encounter seemingly regular people out in public all before making the spy paranoid that he is being ambushed. In seconds, the spy attempts to predict the weapons the men would have on them and prepares to race for cover as they fire on him. While Bond’s suspicious impressions of the concierge and lift in chapter one may’ve just been nerves, here the payoff and surprise is that he is completely correct to fear for his life. His brush with death as the blast goes up, rescued by the shelter of a tree trunk, gives credence to his tendency to see dangers in the people around him. If he wasn’t always on guard, he would’ve been dead long ago.

    I find it interesting that the items these enemies are wearing, straw hats with black ribbons, is exactly the head wear that Vesper has with her as she meets with Bond. I don’t know if Fleming intended for the image of straw hats with black ribbons to be signifiers of cruel intent in the story, but I find it odd that he would make mention of them just a few pages apart. I’m wary of the use of black in most pieces of art anyway, as it seldom means anything good from a symbolic perspective.

    The blast itself is very jarring and shocking in content, as Fleming holds no details back. I’m sure that for some readers in his day and even now it’s a sequence that is hard to get through. As much as I dream of seeing a faithful 60s adaption of the novel with Sean Connery, I don’t believe even the 2006 version of the film could’ve presented this moment as directly and uncensored as Fleming does here, sparing no adjectives to paint the picture of the horrors Bond has survived.

    Later on a recuperating Bond gets a call from Vesper and they share a brief conversation where she seemingly just wanted to hear his voice and know he was okay. This could be a sign of guilt she feels for putting him in danger, the growing concern of a normal woman turned into a double-crosser, or maybe something else. I like the image of Bond eating his lunch that closes out the chapter, how he savers every bite and promises to give the waiter one helluva tip. This is a man in a dangerous business celebrating being alive, and sparing no expense in doing so.
  • Posts: 1,162
    @Revelator, my comment about narration was less about Fleming's own accuracy and more how he presented Bond. I always feel that, despite creating the character, he wrote for the man without acting like he knew everything about him, sort of like an outside biographer at times. So, while he took the face value of Bond's reaction to Vesper and the bitch line he delivered, he didn't plunder the possible lies Bond could be telling himself to get through the pain. I equate it to how Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes, never revealing the man candidly in a way that seemed to show that even to him the detective was a mystery.

    So it's less about Fleming's narration and more how Bond himself acts and talks, which I should've worded better. When he says, "The bitch is dead," that's a very surface comment that, to me, doesn't represent what he truly feels. We can talk about what that line meant that that time in 1953, but with the full set of novels now available to us we can see that Bond was having the sort of grief stricken episode of denial I was trying to describe that he later overcame once the cloud of anger faded.

    Sorry, but your theories don't hold any water. We can be absolutely sure that Fleming meant what he wrote because he doesn't even bother to mention her in the next novel where Bond is going against Smersh and would have any reason to relate to what has happened the novel before and how it fired up as his hate. That he had a change of heart a decade later ( when he already felt the heavy hand of the reaper on his shoulder ) doesn't matter at all.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    @Revelator, my comment about narration was less about Fleming's own accuracy and more how he presented Bond. I always feel that, despite creating the character, he wrote for the man without acting like he knew everything about him, sort of like an outside biographer at times. So, while he took the face value of Bond's reaction to Vesper and the bitch line he delivered, he didn't plunder the possible lies Bond could be telling himself to get through the pain. I equate it to how Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes, never revealing the man candidly in a way that seemed to show that even to him the detective was a mystery.

    So it's less about Fleming's narration and more how Bond himself acts and talks, which I should've worded better. When he says, "The bitch is dead," that's a very surface comment that, to me, doesn't represent what he truly feels. We can talk about what that line meant that that time in 1953, but with the full set of novels now available to us we can see that Bond was having the sort of grief stricken episode of denial I was trying to describe that he later overcame once the cloud of anger faded.

    Sorry, but your theories don't hold any water. We can be absolutely sure that Fleming meant what he wrote because he doesn't even bother to mention her in the next novel where Bond is going against Smersh and would have any reason to relate to what has happened the novel before and how it fired up as his hate. That he had a change of heart a decade later ( when he already felt the heavy hand of the reaper on his shoulder ) doesn't matter at all.

    As already stated, why would Bond rip open a fresh wound come Live and Let Die? He still felt the sting of Vesper and at that time was repressing everything he felt, to everyone, so he wouldn't mention her or make note of her. I don't think he'd want to spill his guts to M and say, "You know that dame that lied to us all and screwed up our last operation? I loved her." He had to appear cold and indifferent to her, like she hadn't moved his heart an inch to preserve both his own dignity and the professionalism that M expects of him. He'd be laughed out of the service if he was honest about all that went down between he and Vesper, and how she was able to fool him upside down and left to right, especially when the job literally rested on his shoulders alone. It was the smarter move for himself to pretend she didn't exist when speaking with others, and choosing not to bring it up because it was one of his biggest failures as an agent and as a man. When you face trauma you commonly don't shout about the details on the street corner to all who are near; you keep it wrapped inside where it inevitably festers until you're ready to properly deal with it.

    That's why I see the line, "The bitch is dead" as Bond attempting to sell a story to himself, and create a villain in Vesper that he can then rage at and move on from forever. Admitting how he feels would be admitting weakness, and he obviously doesn't want to do that. We don't know how he finally came to forgive her, but we know that he does, showing his change of heart and the fact that his words at the time were motivated by his own embarrassment at being duped rather than what he truly felt. Once he was able to gain clarity about her again and see that she was just a victim like he was, similar to the film, I think that's when it clicked for Bond that she was not his enemy.

    It's all down to perspective so this doesn't have to be a big argument about who is right. I just see a difference between a writer and the characters he writes, where the former's reliability has nothing to do with it and the latter's reliability can be put into question because characters in fiction often do and say things they don't mean as designed by said writer. From my point of view, Fleming was consciously showing Bond in denial following Vesper's betrayal, avoiding certain truths that would've made him feel sympathy for her so that he could instead forget her and the pain she caused by sloppily marking her as a villain to him and the service.
  • Posts: 1,162
    Yeah, sure! He feels so sore that he falls in love with Solitaire almost right from the get go ( as,by the way, he does in almost every novel with the appearing "main girl"). I simply don't buy those theories of yours. But you're still of course have every right to entertain them, don't get me wrong.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Yeah, sure! He feels so sore that he falls in love with Solitaire almost right from the get go ( as,by the way, he does in almost every novel with the appearing "main girl"). I simply don't buy those theories of yours. But you're still of course have every right to entertain them, don't get me wrong.

    Bond is clearly a sex fiend, with his first thought about Vesper running to the same carnal passions, but the fact that he wants to immediately jump on the next girl only continues to support his attempts to forget the last girl and move on. In a sense, he could screwing to avoid the thought of the last broad when the distraction is presented.

    I'm a little rougher on Live & Let Die when it comes to Solitaire, so I'll have to see how I feel when I reread it once again and study Bond's reactions to her.
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.
    Posts: 30,290
    One of the first things I notice when I dive into these Fleming novels is the amount of detail, makes it impossible to put down once I start reading.
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 913
    I always feel that, despite creating the character, he wrote for the man without acting like he knew everything about him, sort of like an outside biographer at times.

    I don't think this is accurate; if anything, Fleming was an inside biographer, with a God's Eye view of his creations. The narration in the Bond books is omniscient and it is never incorrect or misleading. There are no examples to prove otherwise. That narration is our only way into Bond's head.
    So, while he took the face value of Bond's reaction to Vesper and the bitch line he delivered, he didn't plunder the possible lies Bond could be telling himself to get through the pain.

    But Bond isn't telling himself any lies. Everything he feels is genuine. A few years down the line he softens toward Vesper's memory, but not now.
    When he says, "The bitch is dead," that's a very surface comment that, to me, doesn't represent what he truly feels.

    I think the power of the novel's last line--which has the force of a slap to the reader's face--is greatly reduced if Bond doesn't truly feel that way. To reiterate, "bitch" is what Bond called Vesper before he came to love her. His reuse of that word is Fleming's way of letting us know that he doesn't love her anymore, and that she is truly nothing but a spy to him. The Bond who had theorized about the nature of evil and contemplated resigning from the service was Bond in love. He dies and is replaced by the cold, harsh man from the beginning of the novel, who now has new purpose to his existence--smashing Smersh.
    As already stated, why would Bond rip open a fresh wound come Live and Let Die? He still felt the sting of Vesper and at that time was repressing everything he felt, to everyone, so he wouldn't mention her or make note of her.

    Perhaps, but then why does he not even think of her? Not until Goldfinger does he do so.
    That's why I see the line, "The bitch is dead" as Bond attempting to sell a story to himself, and create a villain in Vesper that he can then rage at and move on from forever.

    But Vesper is a villain: As we are told, "Now he could only think of her treachery to the Service and to her country, and of the damage it had done. His professional mind was completely absorbed with the consequences — the covers which must have been blown over the years, the codes which the enemy must have broken, the secrets which must have leaked from the centre of the very section devoted to penetrating the Soviet Union. It was ghastly. God knew how the mess would be cleared up." [Italics added.]
    There is no reason to doubt any of this or doubt that Vesper did real damage. Bond's "professional mind" is rightly occupied with it. And unlike the film, Vesper does not mitigate that damage by giving Bond vital information to catch villains with.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    I wouldn't outright and offhand call Vesper a villain, not just because the books make a strong point of showing us that there's very little separating good and evil acts. She was a woman victimized and manipulated into a bad situation, but I don't think that makes her inherently bad, nor would I label it either way. Bond fills the same moral grays, where what he does could be seen as the most vile thing ever because he does it for a good reason, and as the books goes a long way towards stating, every villain is the hero of their own story. Humans don't naturally view themselves as evil, and it little befits outsiders to make judgements on the acts themselves because more often than not there's no absolute morality on display.
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