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

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  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Christmas Jonestown
    Posts: 28,757
    I really enjoy it as well. It has only been a couple of years since I last reread all the Fleming novels. Otherwise i would have joined you.
  • JakeDelToroJakeDelToro Universal Exports
    Posts: 28
    I've been off forums for a few years but decided to jump back in. Oddly, last week I decided to re-read all the novels again so I'm delighted to see this thread. I started Live and Let Die a few days back so I'll be able to keep up.

    One quick note on Casino, I really miss the 'Nature of good and evil' speech in the film. It shows up all too briefly as a couple of lines by Mathis in Quantum but I would have loved to have seen it given proper staging.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    @JakeDelToro, great timing. We're happy to have you!
  • MrcogginsMrcoggins Following in the footsteps of Quentin Quigley.
    Posts: 3,126
    Glad to see your back .
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    You're getting ahead of me but I couldn't help but read on through your full analysis.
    I really enjoy it as well. It has only been a couple of years since I last reread all the Fleming novels. Otherwise i would have joined you.

    Thank you, guys. L&LD really is a blast. Every turn of the page, I'm being reminded why I've had it so high in my Fleming rankings in the past.
    I started Live and Let Die a few days back so I'll be able to keep up.

    Perfect, looking forward to your thoughts!
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited June 2017 Posts: 23,466
    I still have over half the book to go, but here are some of my notes form the last time I read through the books two years ago. I'll add and alter some of this when I finish with this current reading.

    LIVE AND LET DIE (1954)

    -When I first read these books as an early teen it was as I acquired them, out of order. Hence, CASINO ROYALE was not the first book I read. It occurred to me this time, If I had read them in order originally, I would probably have been jolted by the shift in scale (on many levels) we get in the second novel in the series. In contrast to the previous adventure, here we see Bond jumping from location to location to location, all thoroughly fleshed out and fully researched. Fleming doesn't hesitate to accentuate the bizarre and the mystical (the only Bond novel to overtly go in that direction).

    -The characterizations of Bond's closest allies, Quarrel and Felix Leiter, are certainly more developed and genuine here than are their cinematic counterparts. It is both touching and surprising, the depth of the affection and admiration that we see between Bond and Felix. No film version has yet to come anywhere near to the level of importance as the character does here and in future novels.

    -More so than CR, this novel sets the template for all that would follow. And as in the first, Bond is maimed beyond anything we would expect to see happening to 007 in the motion pictures. A tradition that would continue through nearly all of the later entries in the series.

    -We already have some continuity issues. In CR Bond states that his first kill for MI6 was in New York City, yet in the first few pages of LALD we are told that Bond has not been in New York since the war, though it hardly matters. Just pointing out that Fleming wasn't too concerned about such things, and this was long before all of the griping about the movies playing fast and loose with same. (I think I already noted that I now see that the error was in my understanding of the chronology)

    -The character of Mr. Big, as he is described by Fleming both physically and intellectually, is one of the best villains we will get out of the series. I certainly wish this was the interpretation we had gotten in the film adaptation (having said that, I do enjoy Yaphete Kotto's performance for what it is, and LIVE AND LET DIE is one of my Top Ten Bond films).

    More to come.
  • Posts: 1,162
    About the continuity issues - I was always under the impression that bond did both kills that gave him a double old license during the war.
    Isn't it even mentioned in CR that he was already working for the service before the war?
    I seem to recall there had been the affair taking place that gave him the reputation as the service's best gambler.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Christmas Jonestown
    Posts: 28,757
    Bond was recruited to the services in the late 1930s, when he himself was in his early 20s. Fleming later adjusted Bond s age, and thus the whole timeline. Same as the films, just on a smaller scale.
  • 9. True or False?

    Love how Felix builds a rapport with Blabbermouth over their shared interest in jazz and so escapes his maiming...for now.

    First mention of Universal Exports I believe.

    Love this description of M answering the line: "the cold voice that Bond loved and obeyed."

    Humorous exchange between Bond and M, using code based around catching the flu, etc., and referring to Felix as "Felicia." Fleming certainly had a sense of yuma'.

    M: "007 has my full confidence and I'm sure he acted in self-defense." When's the last time you heard that in a Bond film?

    After packing for Florida, Bond wonders how soon he can order breakfast. Man sure loves his breakfast.

    Not sold on this phone exchange between Bond and Solitaire. The part where he suddenly grabs a handkerchief to muffle his voice and asks "If I can reach Mr. Bond what shall I tell him?" even after Solitaire has said "I know it's you" strikes me as particularly juvenile and un-Bondlike. And then going right along with Solitaire's proposal doesn't seem the most level-headed move. I think Fleming could have massaged the writing a bit better to sell the plot-point.


    10. The Silver Phantom

    I like the touch of the train chef superstitiously fingering the lucky bean around his neck when he's told of the position switch. Just further illustrates the hold of fear Mr. Big has over the black world through his assumed Baron Samedi handle.

    So Solitaire believes she has second sight—"or something very like it"—but she doesn't attribute it to voodoo or witchcraft and believes all that stuff nonsense. Okay, I can go along with Fleming on this without writing the book off as having actually entered the realm of the supernatural. After all, the FBI and CIA have invested just how much research into telepathy and telekinesis? I can go along with Fleming on this, especially since Solitaire describes it as something like second sight. Perhaps her mind just works in a very perceptive and intuitive way. Furthermore, Bond has Solitaire go into the next room so he can speak with Baldwin in private. Fleming obviously hasn't intended Solitaire's "ability" to be some kind of all-powerful clairvoyance. In fact, Solitaire never really "sees" anything specific, does she? Just generalizations, which are a part of the trade of so-called professional "psychics."

    After Bond's insinuation of sleeping together, Fleming writes that Solitaire's eyes "speculated." Love that detail.

    "...as a girl, he reflected that it was going to be fun teasing her and being teased back..." Geez, man, did you learn nothing from your slip-up in CR? Stop making Bond a woman!

    I like that Fleming actually provided explanations for his girls' unusual names—Solitaire having received hers from working the sleazy nightclubs of Port au Prince. I wish there would be more of that in the films (both bizarre names and rational explanations for them).


    11. Allumeuse

    Bond says "Eyewash" to the menu and instead orders the scrambled eggs along with domestic Camembert "that is one of the most welcome surprises on American menus" (a cheese connoisseur as well).

    Lovely long paragraph on Solitaire's thoughts, her "half-belief," on voodoo and Bond's inability to understand the world she's coming from. Also: "rum, gunpowder, grave-dirt, and human blood"—sounds like a cocktail you might find at a Halloween party.

    The description of Big as gray and corpselike makes more sense now, considering people believe him to be the Zombie of Baron Samedi, literally an animated corpse. Creepy. I like it.

    Awesomely wry line from Bond here on whether or not Big can be killed: "When the time comes, I'll cut a cross in my bullet. That used to work in the old days." As a horror fan, I appreciate this stuff. Fleming clearly had a healthy taste for horror as well.

    Solitaire's response further adds to Bond's human "superhero" status: "I believe if anybody can do it, you can." He's human, as we're reminded with each swollen groin or snapped finger, but there's no other human like him. He endures and achieves what the normal man would not—not because of physical superiority, but because of his will.

    Fleming really does right by the lovemaking scenes, delighting in each unique detail: the way Solitaire kisses Bond long and hard, "as if she was the man and he the woman," and describing her breasts as each having "its pointed stigma of desire."

    Wanting to be alone with Solitaire "with all the time in the world." Unintentionally sad line, that one.

    Biting—found in Brosnan Bond at least. I don't know about "hard" biting though.


    12. The Everglades

    Fleming firing on all descriptive cylinders even in the "unwashed, dog-eared atmosphere" of a Florida diner. Just describing the stove range as "a row of butane gas-rings" stuns me. Fleming builds his own atmosphere for these novels through judicious word choices.

    "Orange juice, coffee, scrambled eggs, twice."

    Of all the situations Bond's been in, retirement in Florida, the "Great American Graveyard," is what "sounds pretty grim" to him.

    Fleming sure keeps things moving—and exciting. Love how we cut away from Bond to that "Eye" phoning the Robber, and the Robber immediately gets on the phone with "a poolroom in a downtown bar in Tampa," needing two men for the job. Then we learn of the tommy-gunning and bombing of the train they left. Danger is everywhere in Bond's world. But Fleming keeps the focus simple, one threat at a time.


    13. Death of a Pelican

    Retreading thoughts on what makes Florida the smelly armpit of travel destinations; snobbery on American cars. Not the most engaging of page-fillers in the middle of the chapter here.

    The Robber is a great minor villain though. They don't come much better than this: battered baseball cap, toothpick, stained singlet, tobacco-colored skin, tiny close-set eyes suggestive of inbreeding, spittin' on the ground, wiping his rifle with an oily rag, animal abuse. A perfect caricature of the American hick. You sure had us pegged, Fleming.

    Love this Leiterism: "Just occurred to me you two might be hyphenating."

    Followed by a better one: "I use my ears for hearing with—not for collecting lipstick." Which prompts Bond to wipe Solitaire's lipstick off his ear, then take a playful swing at Leiter, which the American ducks, sending the two of them into long-lasting laughter. See, that's just great. As you said in your last write-up, @Birdleson, "the depth of the affection and admiration that we see between Bond and Felix" has been criminally shortchanged in every iteration that's ever been put to film. I really hope we get book Felix in the next reimagining of film Bond.

    Scrambled eggs count: 2
  • Posts: 661
    "...as a girl, he reflected that it was going to be fun teasing her and being teased back..." Geez, man, did you learn nothing from your slip-up in CR? Stop making Bond a woman!
    So Bond could be a woman in the movies. Fleming did it first.

    Thanks for these write-ups, @Some_Kind_Of_Hero. I think I'm enjoying reading these more than I would enjoy re-reading the actual novels. (Although I do plan on reading one or two myself when we get to them.)
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Milovy wrote: »
    "...as a girl, he reflected that it was going to be fun teasing her and being teased back..." Geez, man, did you learn nothing from your slip-up in CR? Stop making Bond a woman!
    So Bond could be a woman in the movies. Fleming did it first.

    Thanks for these write-ups, @Some_Kind_Of_Hero. I think I'm enjoying reading these more than I would enjoy re-reading the actual novels. (Although I do plan on reading one or two myself when we get to them.)

    That is strange, considering that the Bond of Casino was more bugged by the fact that Vesper was treating the mission like a game, and she came on to him partly to show her boss back in the office that Bond could be reached by a woman's charms. A nasty and dangerous game, really.
  • Posts: 661
    You've lost me completely @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Milovy wrote: »
    You've lost me completely @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7

    Bond was discussing fooling around with Solitaire, when that's what he hated Vesper for doing in Casino, and why he was worried about her being on the job in the first place. It seems strange for Bond to suddenly be fine with another woman doing it and he joining her in its practice, after how badly he reacted to the behavior in the previous novel. That's all.
  • Posts: 661
    Oh, I think you are replying more to @Some_Kind_Of_Hero's quote from the novel, rather than my post?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Milovy wrote: »
    Oh, I think you are replying more to @Some_Kind_Of_Hero's quote from the novel, rather than my post?

    Well, I think we were collectively laughing at the absurdity or strangeness of some of it. Sorry for the confusion.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 23,466
    Not related to the current discussion, but going back over my previous reviews of these novels I found a little side note that I had directed at Beatles, who was in agreement with me on the issue of Racism in LALD.

    @BeatlesSansEarmuffs , excellent points. Personally, I find the race issues so completely innocuous in this book, and that those who take offense, as you are more or less saying, have no sense of place, period or perspective. I generally refuse to address it.
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 4,830
    Milovy wrote: »
    "...as a girl, he reflected that it was going to be fun teasing her and being teased back..." Geez, man, did you learn nothing from your slip-up in CR? Stop making Bond a woman!
    So Bond could be a woman in the movies. Fleming did it first.

    Thanks for these write-ups, @Some_Kind_Of_Hero. I think I'm enjoying reading these more than I would enjoy re-reading the actual novels. (Although I do plan on reading one or two myself when we get to them.)

    That is strange, considering that the Bond of Casino was more bugged by the fact that Vesper was treating the mission like a game, and she came on to him partly to show her boss back in the office that Bond could be reached by a woman's charms. A nasty and dangerous game, really.

    To be fair, Bond is in different situations with these two women. Vesper is a professional Bond is assigned to work with at the outset of a mission, and he obviously has a bias against working with women in the field (however, he does nonetheless find himself stimulated by Vesper, brush that aside for the sake of the mission, and admit his prejudice was misguided in Vesper's case). Solitaire is just a girl Bond gets mixed up with who happens to be related to the mission. She immediately sends Bond lascivious messages and the interplay between the two is sexually charged the moment they enter their train cabin. Plus it's a long train ride with little to do but talking, teasing, and more.

    I'll admit though that some of Bond's thoughts on Solitaire appear to rise out of the blue, and with Live and Let Die in general Fleming appears to have taken a deliberate step toward escapism, and away from that grim tragic love story of Casino Royale. Bond can have fun with Leiter. He can have fun with Solitaire, too.

    I originally quoted that line about teasing, however, because of the mixed up grammar in the sentence which explicitly refers to Bond as "a girl," similar to the line in CR which goes something like: "As a woman, he desired her." Bond obviously is not a woman, yet Fleming's phrasing suggests he is.
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Not related to the current discussion, but going back over my previous reviews of these novels I found a little side note that I had directed at Beatles, who was in agreement with me on the issue of Racism in LALD.

    @BeatlesSansEarmuffs , excellent points. Personally, I find the race issues so completely innocuous in this book, and that those who take offense, as you are more or less saying, have no sense of place, period or perspective. I generally refuse to address it.

    Historical context should always be taken into account when reading older novels. It's important for instance, as @Revelator pointed out, that the terms "Negro" and "Negress," which are in abundance throughout the book, were commonplace and fully acceptable at the time of the novel's writing. We should therefore treat the terms as they appear in the novel as if they were to read "black" or something equally innocuous today. Something like that is no grounds upon which to cry racism.

    What I have encountered in the novel so far regarding anything that might be considered racist has been quite tame indeed, so much so that I haven't bothered to reference any of it in my notes (apart from Big and some thugs being referred to as animals/apes). However, if racist material indeed exists in Fleming's writing, it cannot simply be dismissed by saying, well the predominant view of the day was racist, therefore Fleming was simply in agreement with the majority view. That doesn't fly. For a far more clear-cut case, when H.P. Lovecraft was writing his fiction, which often was very thinly veiled and quite ghastly racism against immigrants and biracial people, his views were indeed shared by the majority of white New Englanders. I'm not saying Fleming is comparable to Lovecraft. I'm not saying there is heinous racism in Live and Let Die. But if there is, it should be acknowledged. In its context, yes, whether or not the predominant views of the day were themselves racist.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited August 2017 Posts: 23,466
    Reading, again, Bond's escape from Mr. Big's Harlem headquarters, I am struck by the clean and cold efficiency with which Bond dispatches three of Big's goons (his first on page kills). He is so matter of fact when approaching such matters (I don't think that we see Bond's glee at exacting hard revenge until GF, but I could be forgetting some still to come in the interim).
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 913
    To be fair, Bond is in different situations with these two women. Vesper is a professional Bond is assigned to work with at the outset of a mission, and he obviously has a bias against working with women in the field

    I would also add that by the time Moonraker rolls around, Bond has no objection to working with Gala Brand, so something obviously changed. My surmise is that after the events of Casino Royale, Bond realized his attitude toward working with women had done him no favors. The gradual humanization that Bond endured during CR may have also softened his opinions. Though Bond seems to revert back to his harsh, cold, older self in the final lines of CR, this reversion ultimately is not permanent--he has been humbled at cards and in love (and in his profession), and this makes him more human.
    I originally quoted that line about teasing, however, because of the mixed up grammar in the sentence which explicitly refers to Bond as "a girl"

    Why did none of the skilled readers and editors at Jonathan Cape catch such awful dangling modifiers?!
    What I have encountered in the novel so far regarding anything that might be considered racist has been quite tame indeed, so much so that I haven't bothered to reference any of it in my notes (apart from Big and some thugs being referred to as animals/apes).

    Those are pretty damaging though, because they occur throughout the novel--cataloguing them would be a dispiriting experience. Solitaire's casual use of the n-word is also regrettable. Fleming also goes overboard in associating African Americans with communism (which right wingers often used to discredit Civil Rights with) and superstition ("If he wasn't sprung in half an hour by that black mouthpiece of his, those Voodoo drums would start beating from here to the Deep South"). And then we have those patronizing remarks:
    'I don't think I've ever heard of a great negro criminal before,' said Bond [...] 'They don't seem to take to big business. Pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they've drunk too much.'
    'Our man's a bit of an exception,' said M. 'He's not pure negro. Born in Haiti. Good dose of French blood. Trained in Moscow, too, as you'll see from the file. And the negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions--scientists, doctors, writers. It's about time they turned out a great criminal. After all, there are 250,000,000 of them in the world. Nearly a third of the white population. They've got plenty of brains and ability and guts. And now Moscow's taught one of them the technique.'

    This passage is a strange mixture of praise and insult. Bond applauds blacks for being law-abiding but then adds that bit about drinking (what race isn't rowdy when drunk?). And M's remarks are contradictory--he says Mr. Big's big business criminality might result from his white blood but then adds black geniuses are popping up in every field.
    But while Fleming's attitudes are patronizing, they're ultimately not hateful: Live and Let Die is not The Birth of a Nation. Fleming's affection for African American culture is made clear by Felix Leiter, albeit with the usual patronization ("I like the negroes and they know it somehow...And I admire the way they're getting on in the world, though God knows I can't see the end of it"). While the phonetic transcription of African American dialogue seems insulting today, Fleming was writing from the perspective of someone from a country that had (at the time) very few black citizens--to him, African Americans would have seemed very foreign. But after Bond overhears a black couple talking, he says "Seems they're interested in much the same things as everyone else--sex, having fun, and keeping up with the Joneses. Thank God they're not genteel about it." In Bond's world, that is a very high compliment.

    I would also note that while the film of Live and Let Die went some way toward removing the most egregious racial elements of the book, its overall mediocrity is demonstrated by the fact that Yaphet Kotto was never given a speech like this:
    "In the history of negro emancipation...there have already appeared great athletes, great musicians, great writers, great doctors and scientists. In due course, as in the developing history of other races, there will appear negroes great and famous in every other walk of life...It is unfortunate for you, Mister Bond, and for this girl, that you have encountered the first of the great negro criminals. I use a vulgar word, Mister Bond, because it is the one you, as a form of policeman, would yourself use. But I prefer to regard myself as one who has the ability and the mental and nervous equipment to make his own laws and act according to them rather than accept the laws that suit the lowest common denominator of the people. You have doubtless read Trotter's Instincts of the Herd in War and Peace, Mister Bond. Well, I am by nature and predilection a wolf and I live by a wolf's laws. Naturally the sheep describe such a person as a 'criminal'. The fact, Mister Bond...that I survive and indeed enjoy limitless success, although I am alone against countless millions of sheep, is attributable to the modern techniques I described to you on the occasion of our last talk, and to an infinite capacity for taking pains. Not dull, plodding pains, but artistic, subtle pains. And I find, Mister Bond, that it is not difficult to outwit sheep, however many of them there may be, if one is dedicated to the task and if one is by nature an extremely well-equipped wolf."
  • As I've said earlier, I wonder if the change in Bond's attitude towards working with women is a natural progression of the character -- or a change in the author's attitude towards his character. I find it quite easy to believe that the Bond of the opening chapters of Casino Royale was less well defined in Fleming's mind than was the Bond of Moonraker. ProtoBond could easily have been leery of working with women because the soon-to-be-married Fleming was using the writing of his first novel in part to deal with his personal reticence towards his upcoming nuptials. The Bond of the third novel has found women to be useful in the field for a variety of reasons, and so he is more accepting of Gala Brand.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    While catching up with Live & Let Die I forgot to post my last thoughts on Casino Royale, so I'll do that now to avoid clogging up the place later on:

    Chapter 20- The Nature of Evil

    A lot to unpack in this chapter as Bond becomes conflicted about his purpose, the actions of his past and what both may say of his future. The old good versus evil argument rears its head through the lens of a spy’s life, and on the whole I think Fleming handles it very compellingly by placing Bond in a discussion with a man who has an opposite view of their work than himself in the form of Mathis.

    It’s clear that Mathis is very workman-like and is not one for overly dramatic protestations or ponderous thought. He knows his job and doesn’t seem the type to question it as it comes down the chain to him, because he knows his place and what is required of him. Bond’s recent mental and physical trauma at the hands of Le Chiffre, as well as his own feelings about his goodness or blackness of the soul really come to a head here as he unpacks his own life choices and makes value judgments on them.

    Bond goes into detail on the kills that made him a Double-O, and we once again sense the feeling of distaste he has to bear that title. He’s looked at by many-including Vesper and her office of colleagues-as a British hero saving the realm abroad, but just as with Mathis, they are far removed from his experiences. All the people that give Bond these chivalric titles and subscribe notions of goodness to him aren’t there in the field making the choices of life and death matters, of who should live and who should die. At this point in his life and in the aftermath of his brush with death at the hands of a man who was simply trying to survive as all men are in his business, Bond questions if the work he’s done has ever been for the right side, or if there is a side to pick at all.

    Mathis handles the whole argument posed to him with amusement, almost treating Bond’s thoughts like a joke despite his very real concerns about what his life’s purpose has been as a spy. Bond quite cynically thanks Le Chiffre for acting evil towards him, because that is the only way men of his kind can appear good, as if to say that the righteousness of a hero can only exist through the exaggeration on the hero’s side of a villain’s anarchism and maliciousness. In short, their job is theater where everyone takes on the part of the hero by instinct, leading to a confusion of just what it means to be good or bad in a world still healing from a world war that makes little sense to Bond day by day.

    I think Mathis has little understanding of what Bond is actually saying in this chapter, because he seems to take Bond’s words as confirmation that they should be bad men in a possible effort to make an equitable level of goodness blossom in the world. Either that or Mathis assumes Bond means they are no better than Le Chiffre, and he requests that they live up to Bond’s view of their badness. While I think Fleming’s writing wavers in this section of the text, I do like how he frames Mathis as a man who does what Bond cannot: he labels men as enemies despite the existence of moral grays because that makes their job easier to do. A man wants to kill you, he’s bad and you must take him out, as it is your duty. Bond has a greater sense-or rather anxiety-about morality, however, and when a man wants to kill him he’s more liable to see a man trying to survive another day as he is than an evil man that must be vanquished.

    It’s quite clear that Bond refutes or disapproves of knight’s tales being made of him, because he understands the value of life and is very self-aware about the things he does on the job that truly don’t remove themselves too far from the acts of the “bad” men Mathis describes. In his world there are no dragons for the knights of the realm to slay and that’s largely because he doesn’t treat his work in absolutes. He has a keen sense of his own judgment and is critical of everything in his environment, especially himself, to the point that he opens himself up to doubt or self-criticism. He can’t kill and blow it off like nothing and struggles to justify some of his actions.

    On top of this, Bond doesn’t lie to himself about his thoughts, feelings and actions, nor does he make excuses for his mistakes. It’s because of this that he is able to see himself reflected as a villain in another man’s mind, because he understands the layers of his job and the consequences all actions have no matter who takes them. His picture of the world is framed more opaque than men like Mathis: he doesn’t lie to himself by pinning a hero badge to his chest, nor does he whisper fables to make himself sleep better at night for what he does on the job.

    I find Mathis’ last lines before he departs Bond interesting, where he supports that human beings are easier to fight for than principles. By this I think he means to point out that principles and systems of morality can drive you insane, as they are Bond in bed there, because you constantly make yourself anxious by questioning what good you’ve done or how much bad you may’ve implicated yourself in along the way to offset that goodness. Bond points out the relativity of morality, showing it has weak foundations and that we often tell ourselves things and impose notions of goodness onto our actions to justify what we do, corrupting the image. I think Mathis partly understands this, and wants Bond to get away from that poisonous thinking because of the tug of war of the heart and mind it invites.

    Instead, Mathis advocates that Bond surround himself with human beings-friends, wives, children-because it is through those we care about that our enemies become clear. Those who work with us are on our side, and those who wish our loved ones harm are our enemies in the Frenchman’s reality. In a mad world with little absolutes, I think this is the notion of morality that Mathis holds on to, where he judges people on how they treat his inner circle most immediately, and acts against what he perceives. He then treats it as his duty to protect those in his life he cherishes, and wastes no time trying to psychoanalyze his choices or philosophize about the nature of good or evil men and where his actions will take him either through normal life consequence or in an afterlife of his own mind’s creation. It makes sense that he refers to Bond as a machine, as the spy’s stance on all this morality talk is a calculated and unemotional one, where he is taking a far more objective and critical approach of his work than most people would for fear of coming out bad in the accounting.

    Mathis seems to want his simpler version of life to be adopted by Bond, which is tragic considering the amount of times the spy does try to build a better life for himself with a family as a part of it to live up to the notion the Frenchman expresses, only for it to be dashed. He’s very much a man pushing a boulder up a hill, always slipping down as he goes just when he’s near a peak. When trying to fight for human beings like Vesper rather than principles, he finds himself back where he started as his heart and head are rattled by what he experiences while trying to change. It’s no surprise why Bond is so conflicted about the issues spinning around his head because he has no data to support Mathis’s view of life and nothing but to support his own.

    Chapter 21- Vesper

    With this chapter Fleming starts to reunite Bond and Vesper, while bring the former back to his usual self bit by bit. While I think Fleming took a bit too long tying these characters together, the intent of his writing in this section is clear, setting up the last bit of the book for a major focus on the pair and their possible relationship.

    I like the little details we get from Bond’s perspective as a healing patient, disliking the claustrophobic effect of flowers and overdone sympathy. Although he was white hot pissed at Vesper during his chase after Le Chiffre for failing to see a trap being sprung on her, here he has softened in the way he did when he saw her tied up in her own skirt and laid bare to cruel men. He has set about getting the details of what happened to her straight for his report, and wants to be careful not to describe her actions as foolish for fear of losing her a job.

    One of the bigger focuses on the chapter is Bond’s ability to experience sexual pleasure, which thoughts of Vesper’s sensuality have him worrying over. For a man as carnally driven as Bond I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his questions about his ability to perform are at the forefront of everything else in his recovery. He’s really been holding out for Vesper, and he wants to make sure he doesn’t disappoint her, not only for her enjoyment, but also for his pride and personal pleasure. I feel like there’s still a part of him, even after all he’s faced, that can’t stand the fact that Vesper seemed indifferent to him when they first met and then later at their dinner following his baccarat victory. He’s had something to prove since he met her, and now his chances of showing her what he’s got could’ve been impaired. There’s also just a blanket concern that he won’t be able to feel his blood warm at the sight of beauty again, something he clearly feels livens him and that he values experiencing as a man.

    One of the things I always dislike about how Fleming handles Vesper at the end of the novel is how often she breaks into tears. That being said, I can write it off as her being empathetic to Bond while dealing with the truth of what she knows, feeling major guilt and worry on all sides. When the pair finally meet again in the hospital, you can tell that Bond is really stepping on eggshells as carefully as he can so as not to hurt Vesper’s feelings. He doubts his ability to be sprightly again and a worthy sexual partner for her, and those concerns have made his mood very stark. Vesper takes it personally, and Bond must constantly assure her that he wants to be outside with her doing all kinds of recreation. His willingness to lie and tell her all she wants to hear just so she doesn’t take things to heart shows how much he’s grown to feel towards her since his references to her as a bitch when he found out her role on the mission and later in anger and resentment when she had been kidnapped.

    Chapter 22- The Hastening Saloon

    With Bond in full recovery following this chapter, we get red flags that all may not be well. Readers unknowing of Vesper’s secret will perhaps feel a pang of paranoia as Bond and she become tailed by a black saloon. If that’s not symbolism, I don’t know what is. On the face of it, it’s somewhat understandable for a regular woman like Vesper to still be feeling the trauma of the past weeks, unable to accept that they are truly safe again after coming in contact with what Mathis describes as true evil. Fleming hides his big reveal well, painting Vesper’s actions as very human as opposed to one of an obvious traitor.

    With Le Chiffre dead Bond is again jumping to the conclusion that his job is over, just as he did after winning the baccarat game. It’s hard to blame him for being so blind to the possibility of another threat, as he has faced so much and psychologically wants nothing more than to see the rear of all his problems passing him on. His constant worry about portraying Vesper as too daft in his reports blinds him to the idea that she’s a lot smarter than she seems, the ultimate detail that the detail-oriented fellow misses.

    Throughout the chapter we get little details that show us how Bond is warming to Vesper. When making out his reports he is purposefully fudging facts and making her look more effective in the moment rather than the very poor and helpless victim he holds her to be. You can tell Bond has a tug-of-war going on inside about this, as part of him doesn’t like the idea of an amateurish agent out on the job, while the other side feels compelled to have her as his own. His business and his pleasure are well muddled by this stage of the novel, to the point that he’ll lie to M to get what he desires.

    I love the little passage we get where Bond muses on the nature of relationships, and why he gets exhausted by them. This is very much the man we see in the films, especially Connery’s Bond. First and foremost, I assume that Bond wishes to shirk all the dating and mating traditions because he’s a bold man who knows what he wants. When he and a girl are talking you can imagine him doing an eye-roll and saying, “Darling, we both know what we want, let’s just get on with it.” He seems to believe that humans hide their lust behind particular stages in a relationship, where you must reach intimacy gradually instead of just jumping right to it like most parties would want to in an effort to avoid seeming indecent and driven by that lust and desire by outside eyes.

    I think this definitely speaks to the kind of man Bond is, who knows how quickly life can be over, and how important every second is. Each moment wasted on tradition neither party believes in is detrimental to him and his experience of life, and his passion all bottled-up sours. His viewpoint is further backed up by the nature of his job, as he’s always on the move from one country to the next. He’s used to getting his pleasures and moving on, and complex entanglements only complicate the very base human desire he has to expend his passions. He wants to get off, then get on.

    Chapter 23- Tide of Passion

    If there’s anything that this chapter tells me, it’s that Fleming would’ve made a surprisingly strong writer of erotic fiction if he were so disposed. Bond tries his damnedest to get at Vesper before they get their night’s meal, but after a bit of passion he finds himself blockaded by her again. He seems willing to hold off again, if only to avoid upsetting her as he did in the past with his cold memories of his past.

    It’s often hard to place just what Bond wants or expects. His confusion at Vesper is obvious, as she is a bit of a labyrinth, but from all his talk he seems perfectly happy to expend his energies on her and move along to another if he must. In the previous chapter he listed the series of crumbling passions that couples go through, and he seems to imagine that he and Vesper will chart the same course. If it doesn’t work and they fizzle out he can always have the excuse that work colleagues shouldn’t fancy one another, or if it’s more complicated, he’s willing to quite his job and travel the world, an interesting solution to a very simple problem of sex if I may say so myself. He definitely hungers for her and she meets much of his advances with her own sensuality, but her very private nature and cold exterior also make him seem challenged, with each session of love-making being one of conquest. There is again that part of him that wants to bend her to him and make her feel his own, to prove something to either of them.

    I guess we are to assume that, because he forgets that he’s naked while walking the beach following his swim, Bond is subconsciously at peace with his body and now feels prepared to do his final test? It seemed like he had an anxiety at being seen naked for the appearance of all his gashes and bruises, but at this point he doesn’t feel as labored by it and feels prepared to commit himself to the great experiment.

    Chapter 24- Fruit Défendu

    Fruit Défendu (translation)- Forbidden Fruit

    In this chapter Bond and Vesper are at their warmest yet, swapping pleasantries and flirtations frequently. While I feel Fleming fails to show us why we should care about this relationship, he does make up for some lapses by crafting some interesting dialogues between the pair over dinner. I especially like the humorous notion of humans being islands, and how Bond wants their landmasses to form a peninsula. Over the meal we again see red flags flare regarding Vesper, where she speaks of not deserving Bond’s treatment. Fleming again masks her true concerns well and doesn’t yet show his hand.

    It’s interesting that the French title of this chapter translates to “Forbidden Fruit,” as Bond ultimately gets what he has wanted this entire time by sleeping with Vesper. Fleming never gives us the details of their mating ritual after dinner, but when Bond “reveled in the body which the night had given back to him” following his swim, we know exactly what he means. In short, his final test for his body was a rousing-and arousing-success. Or perhaps the title is a reference to Bond’s larger experience of Vesper, and of how he’ll remember her instead of how she appeared to him at that moment in time. She excited him in new ways he’d seldom seen, but ultimately their union feels impossible in the long term even as they warm to one another. By the end of the novel, this union becomes impossible.

    Chapter 25- ‘Black-Patch’

    In true Fleming fashion, the symbolism of blackness provides us with a chapter that sells the growing clouds of disrepair looming over Bond and Vesper’s relationship. Little clues, from her sleeping pills to crying fits and inability to accept life’s splendors without needless guilt slowly begin to frame a problem for Bond. Finally, after all this time he suspects something greater is going on and it took her twisted narrative about an early phone call to do it. Perhaps Bond was so hungry for the woman that the conquest to have her as his own took up all his energy and clogged his mind. With that mission of his completed, his senses are now cleared without desire driving his mind as heavily as before.

    Bond clearly tries to reassure Vesper and settle her nerves, but to no avail. When the rather innocuous figure of a black-patched man comes into her view, Bond again experiences her rattled nerves. Compelled to drive sense into her, he goes off in search of the man’s car to prove that he isn’t the driver of the saloon, but does in fact find a car of a similar appearance in the courtyard. At this point Fleming does a wonderful job of making it uncertain if Vesper is simply driven by mass paranoia and fear, or if she truly has reason to worry. Her bouts of hysteria mixed with her very honest expressions to Bond in the previous chapters make her a hard character to pinpoint, and I think even the spy is unsure of what to believe at that stage. It’s the origin of the number Vesper was calling that truly seems to decide things, implicating her in a rather suspicious business. If not Mathis, whom would she call in Paris?

    Chapter 26- ‘Sleep Well, My Darling’

    The “calm before the storm” chapter. I think the moment that leads into the whole of the last chapter and really, the end of Vesper’s life, is Bond’s confession that he wants to marry her. It is that admittance that shows the woman how much she means to him, and how much he felt her to be a worthy partner. Realizing how hard it would be to be honest to Bond and admit what she had done, she turns to a permanent escape that frees her of the choice to face those consequences. It seems clear that she feels unable to live with a man she wronged, and in a posthumous message she spills her guts in a fashion that frees her from the consequence of having to experience Bond’s shock and possible anger.

    It becomes quite clear what Vesper is doing as the chapter closes. She feels so indebted to Bond and appreciative of his care and love for her that she pretends nothing is wrong with her and gives him a final day with her filled with passion. Bond views this change in her as an honesty forming between them after a few humps in the road, blind to the gift of her final days. The double meaning of their last discussion really is touching, and ultimately tragic. Vesper holds Bond and inspects him closely as if to remember him one last time, to savor him one last time. Her “Good night” to him is crudely final, and Bond’s “Sleep well, my darling” a cruel and unknowingly prophetic response to her last words to him. It’s the delight and love of this final moment that will shock Bond the most, as he loses hold of something glorious and innocent feeling the moment when he felt it was most his own. He can’t-won’t-ever be the same.

    Chapter 27- The Bleeding Heart

    With great immediacy, Fleming drops the bomb on both Bond and us, changing his spy’s life forever. In seconds all the red flags of the past make sense, and the very dark symbolism of Vesper, her black hair, black moods and her stormy namesake all tie together into a tragic package.

    Bond’s shame and anger at being duped overcome him, and so he looks at Vesper as a professional instead of as her lover, blowing her off as a traitor worth forgetting. It’s hard to tell if Bond truly feels this way, or if part of him still holds warm thoughts for her that his more controlled and stringent side is repressing to avoid uncomfortable thoughts regarding his care for her. It becomes far easier for his sanity to write her off, as if she meant nothing and was nothing to convey a hard, not soft, exterior.

    Ultimately, the book ends with a shattered Bond reacting to Vesper’s betrayal in a fashion that recalls his discussion of good and evil in the hospital during his recovery. The real tragedy is that Mathis’s urging for him to get a family made him even more committed to having Vesper as his own, and I think it’s the man’s emphasis on fighting for human beings over principles that gives Bond such clarity. Following this talk Bond pursues Vesper deeply with the aim of building the kind of life Mathis desires for him to have, one the Frenchman promises to be an easier course to travel than the spy’s old road. But when Vesper’s betrayal is finally known, Bond’s attempts at forming this better life blow up in his face and he is set at a crossroads of morality once again.

    Following Le Chiffre’s torture of him, Bond’s view of morality was a cynical one, and he found it quite disagreeable that we classify mankind as either all good (God) or all bad (The Devil). Bond seems to point to a grayness in existence as we make our life choices, or he at least underscores a certain doubt in Mathis’s view of morality that refuses to look too deeply. The Double-O can see the world from Le Chiffre’s eyes, a man doing bad to survive for his own good, and his confusion over heroes and villains stems from that dire point. Mathis has a far more straight-forward idea of badness and goodness, however, and focuses on his duty without questioning his actions like a philosopher, acting against those who act badly to him. It is perhaps the Frenchman who misses the whole picture of the human experience and the irregularity with which moral value is prescribed, while Bond is able to see all the gradations.

    Part of what makes the ending of Casino Royale so tragic is that we see Bond go back on all he fought for in his discussion with Mathis in the hospital, until he borders on hypocrisy. His transparent and self-aware view of the world grows just as opaque as the Frenchman’s, and ultimately he does the very thing he despised most regarding issues of morality: he tells himself a lie to justify his future action by creating villains for himself to face.

    This change in Bond is very distressing, because Vesper’s betrayal actually proves Bond right about the relativity of morality, while the man’s own response to Vesper’s betrayal proves Mathis right, or rather supports his view of how morality should be handled by men of their ilk. Vesper’s manipulation at the hands of the Russians and the actions she took while motivated by helplessness and fear should in truth show Bond that the world is as gray and twisted as he thought it was: there aren’t just good or bad people, as we can do bad things for good reasons with good intent. Vesper endangers his operation, sure, but she does so to protect a man she cared for. The exact classification of her actions’ moral value become uncertain to a trained and critical eye, and I think that Bond would agree with that stance if he wasn’t so heavily wrapped up with Vesper’s betrayal. Because he loved her and got his heart caught in the dangerous mechanism of the woman’s actions, he has lost the clarity he had about his own work as a spy and instead sets about protecting his own pride.

    In a world of relativity confusion is the only absolute, and Bond doesn’t want to face the uncomfortable symbol that Vesper represents as direct proof of his old view of the world. He is able to see Le Chiffre as both good and bad because he’s disconnected from the man, and ultimately still holds a negative view of him in the end. Vesper, however, was a woman who was supposed to be pure, and the existence in her of a certain darkness confuses and taxes Bond. He was able to see the gradations of morality in existence in the world until one of the people he loved served as the greatest example of his hypothesis.

    The real tragedy of Bond’s character and his response to Vesper’s betrayal is that he has made himself unable to see how right he was about everything, about the grayness of the morality she represents. Instead of clinically looking at the situation-as he used to be able to do for his own mistakes-he chooses to tell a fib and does the very thing he condemned in the hospital. Proving Mathis right, Bond builds up Vesper in his mind as a villain, and SMERSH as a larger one by association, to give himself a mission and an enemy to fight to justify his response to the threat. Gone is the man who can look at the actions of human beings with a removed and clear head, replaced by one who commits himself to avoiding all attempts to philosophize on morality or to micromanage all his actions with the critical eye of a lawman.

    We leave James Bond as a shell of himself, regressed to a far less noble man through what has happened to him in the book. His hard observations of the past fade to easy and rather lazy lies about the nature of humans, showing how much he’s mutated. It’s very much a story about the fall of a man, but also the fall of his moral system and clarity of thought and action. Vesper’s actions not only have a ripple effect that confuses Bond’s idea of right and wrong, she also seems to make him forsake the notion of a lasting relationship for many years to come. In the end, her lies serve as the final proof he needs to live a life of detachment, acting on passion without sticking around to make his bed with any woman.

    While the spy seems to soften on Vesper over time, what with his annual visits to her grave around the time of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in Fleming’s debut novel Bond crafts the cold mask that he bears to brave so many of his coming days. Instead of facing conflicting questions posed by Vesper about the confused nature of morality in his world, he buries the discomfort of the thought underneath a hunt for his Devil, the vile SMERSH, and doesn’t look back.
  • Agent_99Agent_99 Enjoys a spirited ride as much as the next girl
    Posts: 1,481
    Crikey, I go away for ten days and find 80 posts to read, most of them long and detailed. Hard work, but rewarding; @Some_Kind_Of_Hero, I'm especially enjoying your whistle-stop tour of LALD.

    I was hoping to get it read on holiday but people kept making me socialise and have conversations and stuff, so it will have to be this weekend!
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited June 2017 Posts: 23,466
    I love how the world that Bond is immersed changes so completely from novel to novel in these early books. As much so in the third outing where his adventures will be confined to England. We do get a bit of repetition down the road (several trips to both America and the Caribbean), but that element of 007 being a stranger in a strange land is integral to much of the entire run.
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation Co-Founder
    Posts: 2,782
    Si. I see what you did there.
  • Revelator wrote: »
    What I have encountered in the novel so far regarding anything that might be considered racist has been quite tame indeed, so much so that I haven't bothered to reference any of it in my notes (apart from Big and some thugs being referred to as animals/apes).

    Those are pretty damaging though, because they occur throughout the novel--cataloguing them would be a dispiriting experience. Solitaire's casual use of the n-word is also regrettable. Fleming also goes overboard in associating African Americans with communism (which right wingers often used to discredit Civil Rights with) and superstition ("If he wasn't sprung in half an hour by that black mouthpiece of his, those Voodoo drums would start beating from here to the Deep South"). And then we have those patronizing remarks:
    'I don't think I've ever heard of a great negro criminal before,' said Bond [...] 'They don't seem to take to big business. Pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they've drunk too much.'
    'Our man's a bit of an exception,' said M. 'He's not pure negro. Born in Haiti. Good dose of French blood. Trained in Moscow, too, as you'll see from the file. And the negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions--scientists, doctors, writers. It's about time they turned out a great criminal. After all, there are 250,000,000 of them in the world. Nearly a third of the white population. They've got plenty of brains and ability and guts. And now Moscow's taught one of them the technique.'

    This passage is a strange mixture of praise and insult. Bond applauds blacks for being law-abiding but then adds that bit about drinking (what race isn't rowdy when drunk?). And M's remarks are contradictory--he says Mr. Big's big business criminality might result from his white blood but then adds black geniuses are popping up in every field.

    But while Fleming's attitudes are patronizing, they're ultimately not hateful: Live and Let Die is not The Birth of a Nation. Fleming's affection for African American culture is made clear by Felix Leiter, albeit with the usual patronization ("I like the negroes and they know it somehow...And I admire the way they're getting on in the world, though God knows I can't see the end of it"). While the phonetic transcription of African American dialogue seems insulting today, Fleming was writing from the perspective of someone from a country that had (at the time) very few black citizens--to him, African Americans would have seemed very foreign. But after Bond overhears a black couple talking, he says "Seems they're interested in much the same things as everyone else--sex, having fun, and keeping up with the Joneses. Thank God they're not genteel about it." In Bond's world, that is a very high compliment.

    That paragraph you've quoted was one of the passages that gave me pause and made me, as I previously described, "vaguely uncomfortable." You've done a good job of explaining why: the mixture of praise and insult, the patronizing attitude. And you're right that Fleming doesn't come off as a hateful racist, but perhaps might be guilty of what one scholar has described as "casual racism," of which Arthur Conan Doyle and myriad others are guilty as well. Leiter does indeed speak positively of black culture, also referencing his favorite jazz artists. And I share your views on the phonetic transcription: Fleming was trying to capture a culture that was very foreign to his readers at home and portraying nuances of speech was one more way he aimed to accomplish that. No problem there as far as I'm concerned.

    One early aspect of Live and Let Die that always caused me trouble, however, was the scene where Bond turns the tables on Tee-Hee in the stairwell. He has every right to be volatile in this moment—the man has just had his finger cruelly snapped broken and is being led to further torments—but we can't forget it is Fleming who devised the situation as its author, and there is something that has struck me as being almost hateful in the way Bond is described as cracking a gun down on the back of the man's skull, then putting all of his force into kicking him in the rear with his steel-capped shoe (I believe the only book where he's referenced as having steel-capped shoes) sending him flying down the stairs to his death. The details feel vicious, though I understand this can be a subjective thing.

    But then I'm reminded that the Robber—who also receives a horrendous death—is a stereotypical white yokel American. (And also that Bond receives a black ally later on the book.)

    Fleming's villains represented a variety of nationalities—though none were ever English, naturally—and he dealt a tremendous amount of heated violence and/or humiliation (Dr. No and birdsh*t anybody?) out to them all. Perhaps Fleming was equal opportunity in his unsavory portrayals of foreigners?
    Agent_99 wrote: »
    Crikey, I go away for ten days and find 80 posts to read, most of them long and detailed. Hard work, but rewarding; @Some_Kind_Of_Hero, I'm especially enjoying your whistle-stop tour of LALD.

    I was hoping to get it read on holiday but people kept making me socialise and have conversations and stuff, so it will have to be this weekend!

    I'm glad you've been enjoying it—I've enjoyed writing it! I'm looking forward to your thoughts on L&LD, too!
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I love how the world that Bond is immersed changes so completely from novel to novel in these early books. As much so in the third outing where his adventures will be confined to England. We do get a bit of repetition down the road (several trips to both America and the Caribbean), but that element of 007 being a stranger in a strange land is integral to much of the entire run.

    I had a similar thought recently myself. L&LD really is a big shift from CR both in location and tone (more escapism, more adventure, greater helpings of sadism, moving from the elegance of the casino to the tribal setting of voodooland), and Moonraker is yet another big tonal and setting shift from L&LD.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    I don't see Bond's kill of Tee-Hee as Fleming being racist at all. We knew the man would die, and that Bond would have to kill him. His skin color doesn't come into it, as he's a villain like every other.

    The problem we face while trying to make a value judgement on a writer's real feelings while only looking at his books is that writers, by their very nature, give their characters attributes that they personally don't have. Just because I write a sexist character doesn't mean I am one myself, and the same for any other hot button issue people get bothered about. Villains are intended to be nasty, and to make them that way you have to give them attributes that fit the image, many of which will never be your own. I don't know who Fleming was or what his thoughts on these kinds of issues were, but the last place I'd look to interpret his beliefs would be his novels, which are fantasy. We can see hints of himself in Bond, but when we try to search for his racist attitude in how he handles things like the above in a time that was removed from our own, I don't see the point. I'm not going to witch hunt him on this one.
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 4,830
    True, someone can write a sexist character without himself or herself being sexist, but we can also certainly discern things about authors from the content and the views they put into their novels. I've used him as an example before, but my God, you only need to read one or two stories from H.P. Lovecraft to understand that the man was a deeply hateful racist.

    Regarding Tee-Hee: It wasn't simply the fact that Bond killed the man. It was that this is the first time we see Bond deal out a truly vicious and detailed death against someone, and that that someone is black. He beats the man on the back of his skull with a gun, then kicks him in the rear (with all the force he can) with his steel-capped shoe sending him straight down a set of stairs to his death. That's pretty over-the-top and pretty detailed and the specifics of the scene are quite humiliating.

    As you say, Fleming's Bond novels are fantasy. They are Fleming's fantasy.

    To be fair, as I said, Bond deals another vicious death out to the Robber, who is a grotesquely stereotypical white American.

    There is another scene of vicious brutality dealt by Bond against a German in Moonraker. There is most definitely a trend in the Bond novels of Bond dealing out extreme violence against grotesquely described foreigners. No witch hunt. That's what's in the books.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    True, someone can write a sexist character without himself or herself being sexist, but we can also certainly discern things about authors from the content and the views they put into their novels. I've used him as an example before, but my God, you only need to read one or two stories from H.P. Lovecraft to understand that the man was a deeply hateful racist.

    I don't view it as a smart practice to simply assume that what a writer creates has some subtextual commentary on their own character. I ran into this problem at university and it pissed me off, where people looked at a character I wrote or a scene I created and made a value judgement on my character. You can create examples of it as much as you please, but speaking as someone from the same world as Fleming, I don't find much utility in scouring a book for details about the writer's life. Just because you find it to be true for Lovecraft doesn't mean it correlates to other writers.
    Regarding Tee-Hee: It wasn't simply the fact that Bond killed the man. It was that this is the first time we see Bond deal out a truly vicious and detailed death against someone, and that that someone is black. He beats the man on the back of his skull with a gun, then kicks him in the rear (with all the force he can) with his steel-capped shoe sending him straight down a set of stairs to his death. That's pretty over-the-top and pretty detailed and the specifics of the scene are quite humiliating.

    Bond kills endless people brutally. Strangling, shooting, stabbing, etc. He's an assassin, that's what he does. One only has to listen to him discuss in it Casino, where he chooses to stab a double-agent in his sleep with a knife, probably the strangest way to do that. Bond isn't beyond using delicate and brutal instruments to kill people.
    There is another scene of vicious brutality dealt by Bond against a German in Moonraker. There is most definitely a trend in the Bond novels of Bond dealing out extreme violence against grotesquely described foreigners. No witch hunt. That's what's in the books.

    I think you're looking far too much into this. These are the kinds of arguments that you see people make for the New York Times or wherever who want to make Bond out to be a toxic xenophobic or something, but have yet to read the actual books beyond paragraph selections. Bond faces people from all walks in the books, he's an international agent who is always traveling. He's going to bump heads with people from an overwhelming number of nations.

    I think Fleming makes the great point many times in his writing that Bond is just as bad as those he faces, with the agent's staunch dislike for being praised as a Double-O for doing what is just brutal killing. The character finds a formidable and nasty enemy in the Soviets, but that correlates to the time and his mind is also reeling from Vesper's betrayal; he needed to create a villain to fight. Outside of that, so-called "foreigners" like Le Chiffre made Bond see how alike they all were as men, and how notions of heroes and villains were just things we told to justify our own actions.
  • I don't view it as a smart practice to simply assume that what a writer creates has some subtextual commentary on their own character. I ran into this problem at university and it pissed me off, where people looked at a character I wrote or a scene I created and made a value judgement on my character. You can create examples of it as much as you please, but speaking as someone from the same world as Fleming, I don't find much utility in scouring a book for details about the writer's life. Just because you find it to be true for Lovecraft doesn't mean it correlates to other writers.
    I think you're looking far too much into this. These are the kinds of arguments that you see people make for the New York Times or wherever who want to make Bond out to be a toxic xenophobic or something, but have yet to read the actual books beyond paragraph selections. Bond faces people from all walks in the books, he's an international agent who is always traveling. He's going to bump heads with people from an overwhelming number of nations.

    I think you're confusing two different things here. Just because a novel has a racist character, say in the works of Mark Twain for instance, that does not inherently mean the author himself is racist. If a work contains deliberate or casual racism that clearly wasn't intended ironically or as the work of an unreliable narrator—Mr. Big being physically described as "animal-like, not human," for instance—that's another matter entirely.

    There is no "witch hunt" here to brand Fleming a racist. If I wanted to do that I'd simply latch onto an instance of him calling a black thug an "ape" and use that to damn his good name to Hell. I'm responding to everything I encounter in his books, the good and the bad, and it would be a disservice to critical reading to pretend the bad doesn't exist and just embrace the good. I'm as much a fan of Fleming as anyone. I clearly love his books and think enormously highly of his prose. But his books were not perfect and it's okay to acknowledge that.

    That would indeed be extreme to dismiss Fleming as a "toxic xenophobe," and no one here has done that. Nonetheless there are race matters to be discussed in Fleming's books and we should be able to approach them in fair and critical ways. Is the description of Tee-Hee's death indicative of racism in Fleming? No, not necessarily, and I didn't say that it was. Just the same, the scene doesn't sit with me and that's a valid point worth exploring.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    I don't view it as a smart practice to simply assume that what a writer creates has some subtextual commentary on their own character. I ran into this problem at university and it pissed me off, where people looked at a character I wrote or a scene I created and made a value judgement on my character. You can create examples of it as much as you please, but speaking as someone from the same world as Fleming, I don't find much utility in scouring a book for details about the writer's life. Just because you find it to be true for Lovecraft doesn't mean it correlates to other writers.
    I think you're looking far too much into this. These are the kinds of arguments that you see people make for the New York Times or wherever who want to make Bond out to be a toxic xenophobic or something, but have yet to read the actual books beyond paragraph selections. Bond faces people from all walks in the books, he's an international agent who is always traveling. He's going to bump heads with people from an overwhelming number of nations.

    I think you're confusing two different things here. Just because a novel has a racist character, say in the works of Mark Twain for instance, that does not inherently mean the author himself is racist. If a work contains deliberate or casual racism that clearly wasn't intended ironically or as the work of an unreliable narrator—Mr. Big being physically described as "animal-like, not human," for instance—that's another matter entirely.

    There is no "witch hunt" here to brand Fleming a racist. If I wanted to do that I'd simply latch onto an instance of him calling a black thug an "ape" and use that to damn his good name to Hell. I'm responding to everything I encounter in his books, the good and the bad, and it would be a disservice to critical reading to pretend the bad doesn't exist and just embrace the good. I'm as much a fan of Fleming as anyone. I clearly love his books and think enormously highly of his prose. But his books were not perfect and it's okay to acknowledge that.

    That would indeed be extreme to dismiss Fleming as a "toxic xenophobe," and no one here has done that. Nonetheless there are race matters to be discussed in Fleming's books and we should be able to approach them in fair and critical ways. Is the description of Tee-Hee's death indicative of racism in Fleming? No, not necessarily, and I didn't say that it was. Just the same, the scene doesn't sit with me and that's a valid point worth exploring.

    Considering that I delineated that point earlier, I don't think that's an area where I have confusion. ;)

    Of course we need to be critical and open about our impressions on a book. I don't like Bond's attraction to coming at Vesper in a fashion that feels like "sweet" rape to him, and I'm open about that. I just wouldn't jump the gun and say Fleming locked little girls in his sex dungeon and had his way with them when he wasn't writing his novels just because Bond himself was a sex fiend (not saying you did either, just proving a point).

    There's some things that bug me about the writing, others that don't. Fleming's comparison of Big to an "animal-like" fellow is very standard for writers, as it's a very accepted and famous practice of character building to compare your evil foils to beasts of the animal kingdom. It's a great way to get them to stick in the minds of readers from the beginning. In other areas you may find issue, and that's fine.

    I just think that with the practice of reading old fiction you need the proper context of when they were written, the style of the time and the culture milieu of the day, not to justify it, but to understand it. As a writer myself I just stand more firmly against judging a man's character by the attributes he gave to fictional figures. It sets up a very bad precedent and an unhealthy way to study a writer when we take such broad strokes to criticize something (again, not saying you've done this, but I read it a lot from others).
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