Self-Parody in Ian Fleming's James Bond Novels?

DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
edited April 2018 in Literary 007 Posts: 14,005
Of course we all know that in the James Bond film series self-parody set in relatively early. Kingsley Amis argued that it was there from the start in Dr. No (1962). More charitable commentators would have said that from You Only Live Twice (1967) on (omitting 1969's OHMSS as an anomaly of course) and especially in 1971's Diamonds Are Forever self-parody was the order of the day on into the Roger More era Bond films until For Your Eyes Only (1981) returned Bond to a pre-YOLT level of seriousness.

Something that is much less well-known or written about in any articles is the fact that there were pieces of self-parody in Bond from the very beginning - namely in the literary Bond of Ian Fleming. The first novel to contain self-parody was probably that of Goldfinger (1959). The whole plot is fantastical - raiding Fort Knox of its gold. The names are parodic in nature - Auric Goldfinger, Pussy Galore. Perhaps the fight with the giant squid from Dr. No (1958) the year before would count too?

Another example that comes to mind, that could sum up all of the Fleming Bond's fantastic adventures in one memorable sentence occurs at the very end of one of Fleming's most literary novels, Diamonds Are Forever (1956):

"Bond dropped down off the truck and started walking slowly towards the leaping fire. He smiled grimly to himself. All this business about death and diamonds was too solemn. For Bond it was just the end of another adventure. Another adventure for which a wry phrase of Tiffany Case might be the epitaph. He could see the passionate, ironical mouth saying the words:

'It reads better than it lives.'"


In Fleming's From Russia, With Love (1957) there were also elements of parody at play. On the first page of Chapter 1 of that novel Donovan 'Red' Grant is lying naked beside a swimming pool and by his side is, among other items, "the sort of novel a rich man pulls out of the bookcase to take into the garden - The Little Nugget - an old P.G. Wodehouse." It's not the sort of book one imagines a serial killer and SMERSH executioner like 'Red' Grant ('The Moon Killer') would appreciate or be reading. He'd be more into the likes of the works of Marquis de Sade (as Kingsley Amis' Colonel Sun Liang-tan later was)! Could this be Fleming's little joke at Grant's expense? I think so.

Then, towards the end of the run of Bond novels in You Only Live Twice (1964) it's revealed in The Times obituary chapter:

The inevitable publicity, particularly in the foreign press, accorded some of these adventures, made him, much against his will, something of a public figure, with the inevitable result that a series of popular books came to be written around him by a personal friend and former colleague of James Bond. If the quality of these books, or their degree of veracity, had been any higher, the author would certainly have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. It is a measure of the disdain in which these fictions are held at the Ministry, that action has not yet -- I emphasize the qualification -- been taken against the author and publisher of these high-flown and romanticized caricatures of episodes in the career of a outstanding public servant.

This was surely the height of Fleming's self-parody in Bond - that there was a version of his Bond novels in Bond's own world. This throwaway passage was later used as a springboard for John Pearson to write Bond as a real-life figure in his book James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007 (1973).

So, those are (to my mind at least) the most obvious examples of self-parody at work in the Bond novels of Ian Fleming. Do you agree with them? Are there any I have missed? Do you think there was an element of self-parody in the work of Ian Fleming that may have gone on to inspire the Bond films down a similar path in the 1970s? Or did the character of James Bond simply lend itself all too easily to self-parody anyhow?

This is the thread to discuss all of this. I'd love to hear your thoughts, as always! :)

Comments

  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 30,170
    I do agree, and I have noticed these things. If I get a chance I'll put more time into a response.
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    edited April 2018 Posts: 9,117
    A few you have missed:

    OHMSS - Ursula Andress popping up at Piz Gloria.

    YOLT - Giving Bond Scottish roots. Surely a response to Sean's casting as there is never any mention of it before this.

    Not sure I agree with your comments on Red Grant's taste in reading matter. He always struck me as something of a yokel and I can't really imagine him reading anything really. The PG Wodehouse book was probably just given to him by a SMERSH handler who thinks that's what the British read. There is of course the possibility that he's using it as part of getting into character for the role of Nash. You can imagine that he picked up his annoying habit of saying 'Old man' here.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 14,005
    I've added a passage to the OP from the DAF novel that came to my mind as I was tidying things up.

    Thanks for the responses so far. Can't believe I forgot about Ursula Andress turning up in OHMSS.

    Bond's Scottish roots are first mentioned in OHMSS, although that would still place it after Connery got the role I suppose.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    edited April 2018 Posts: 30,170
    Also, maybe pushing it a bit, but if we are including Ursula; early on Fleming did mention that David Niven would be a good choice to play Bond, he then writes in YOLT that Niven was the one man that Kissy met in America that she liked or respected. Or that could just be an actor who is frequently at the top of his head.
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Bond's Scottish roots are first mentioned in OHMSS, although that would still place it after Connery got the role I suppose.
    You are indeed correct, very poor from the Wizard.

    Isn't there a book that has a passage that goes something along the lines of 'Bond was aware there was something alien and un-English about him'? This suggests that Fleming didn't always picture Bond with Scottish roots, thus supporting the Sean reference hypothesis.
  • edited April 2018 Posts: 684
    Something I picked up on my last read through of the novels was the following passage from Goldfinger:

    "By the time he had shaved and had an ice-cold shower and dressed it was eight o'clock. He walked through into the elegant sitting-room and found a waiter in a uniform of plum and gold laying out his breakfast beside the window. Bond glanced at the Miami Herald. The front page was devoted to yesterday's failure of an American ICBM at the near-by Cape Canaveral and a bad upset in a big race at Hialeah."

    News items that the Bond of DN and DAF would've found most interesting!
    There is of course the possibility that he's using it as part of getting into character for the role of Nash. You can imagine that he picked up his annoying habit of saying 'Old man' here.
    Really good point. I hadn't made that connection before.

    Re: Bond's ancestry and Connery. I remember reading on this forum somewhere a post by @bondsum explaining why that was a myth. Hopefully he can again provide some insight but I will try and find it.

    EDIT: That wasn't too hard. About halfway down this page (how do you link to specific posts?)
    bondsum wrote:
    The kilt introduction had nothing to do with luring SC back to the role after he quit. According to the Fleming Archives, Ian Fleming had begun researching Bond's ancestry as far back as 1960 and had settled on him having both a Scottish and Swiss ancestry long before SC was cast as Bond. I must admit even I believed the myth that Fleming included a Scottish background to his character due to the popularity of its actor, but this isn't true as the Fleming Archives show this was already being researched long before. Let's not forget that Fleming himself was of Scottish ancestry, and as he always saw himself as Bond, he gave his fictional character a similar background as himself.

  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    edited April 2018 Posts: 8,274
    Isn't there a book that has a passage that goes something along the lines of 'Bond was aware there was something alien and un-English about him'? This suggests that Fleming didn't always picture Bond with Scottish roots, thus supporting the Sean reference hypothesis.

    A favorite description of Bond from Moonraker.
    And what could the casual observer think of him, 'Commander James Bond, GMG, RNVSR', also 'something at the Ministry of Defence', the rather saturnine young man in his middle thirties sitting opposite the Admiral? Something a bit cold and dangerous in that face. Looks pretty fit. May have been attached to Templer in Malaya. Or Nairobi. Mau Mau work. Tough-looking customer. Doesn't look the sort of chap one usually sees in Blades.

    Bond knew that there was something alien and un-English about himself. He knew that he was a difficult man to cover up. Particularly in England. He shrugged his shoulders. Abroad was what mattered. He would never have a job to do in England. Outside the jurisdiction of the Service. Anyway, he didn't need a cover this evening. This was recreation.
    I think the un-English comment early on still lines up nicely with the much later appearance of the Scot background. The point is Bond is different, not a part of Blades or other establishment. [And I do take it as linked to Connery, however it came up.]
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    edited April 2018 Posts: 8,274
    Surely a lot of The Spy Who Loved Me is self-parody, from Vivienne Michel's thoughts written in the first person to Sluggsy and Horror.

    Did Fleming write the promotional insert "letter" from her? (Also printed inside the Jonathan Cape dust jacket.)

    the-spy-who-loved-me-promotional-letter.jpg


    There's also the "To My Readers" levity.

    TO MY READERS:

    I found what follows lying on my desk one morning.

    As you will see, it appears to be the first-person story of a young woman,
    evidently beautiful and not unskilled in the arts of love.

    According to her story, she appears to have been involved, both perilously and
    romantically, with the same James Bond whose secret-service exploits I myself
    have written from time to time.

    With the manuscript was a note signed "Vivienne Michel," assuring me that what
    she had written was purest truth and from the depths of her heart.

    I was much interested in this view of James Bond, through the wrong end of the
    telescope, so to speak, and, after obtaining clearance for certain minor
    infringements of the Official Secrets Act, I have much pleasure in sponsoring
    its publication.

    IAN FLEMING
  • edited April 2018 Posts: 2,185
    Strog wrote: »
    Re: Bond's ancestry and Connery. I remember reading on this forum somewhere a post by @bondsum explaining why that was a myth.

    I don't think it is. The facts are that in every book before OHMSS Bond was referred to--by the characters and the narrator--as English, never Scottish. Fleming might have started researching Bond's roots years before Connery, with an eye to making the character share part of his own ancestry, but it was only after Connery was cast that Bond suddenly and loudly revealed his hidden heritage. In OHMSS Bond says "My father was a Scot and my mother was Swiss" and later tells Tracy "we can be married again in an English church, or Scottish rather. That's where I come from." Fleming might have been previously flirting with giving Bond some Scottish ancestry, but it was Connery's casting that prompted him to stress Bond's Scottishness. Fleming was writing OHMSS while Dr. No was being filmed and obviously had the movie on his mind--hence Ursula Andress's cameo and Bond's coming out as Scottish.

    ***

    Here's a list of all the references to Bond's ethnicity pre-OHMSS. As one can see, Bond is referred to as English continually by not only other characters (who could be mistaken) but also by the narrator and himself.

    Casino Royale:

    "Bond reflected on the problem...With another part of his mind, he had a vision of tomorrow's regular morning meeting of the casino committee...'Then the Englishman, Mister Bond, increased his winnings to exactly three million over the two days.'"

    "Mathis tore the telephone off its hook beside Bond's bed.... 'and tell the police,' he concluded, 'tell them that the Englishman from Jamaica who was knocked over by the blast is my affair.'"

    "'Ah, my dear fellow, I had forgotten to tell you.' Le Chiffre smiled wolfishly. 'We met after our little game at the Casino and you were such a sportsman that you agreed we would have one more run through the pack between the two of us. It was a gallant gesture. Typical of an English gentleman.'"

    "[Bond] smiled. 'I'm glad there's something the stupid English can teach the clever French.'"

    "Mathis smiled back at him. 'Continue, my dear friend. It is interesting for me to see this new Bond. Englishmen are so odd.'"

    Live And Let Die:

    "Leiter examined the Englishman affectionately."

    "Then she looked back across the table into the cool wide grey-blue eyes of the English agent."

    Moonraker:
    "Bond knew that there was something alien and un-English about himself."

    "Drax smiled cheerfully and looked along the barrel at Bond's stomach. 'Your memory is bad, Englishman,' he said flatly."

    Diamonds Are Forever:
    "'Listen, Bond,' said Tiffany Case, 'it'd take more than Crabmeat Ravigotte to get me into bed with a man... I don't often date a good-looking Englishman and the dinner's going to live up to the occasion.'"

    "Bond walked over to the reception counter and glanced over the rack of paperbacks. He was amused and rather impressed by the meticulous accounting of these people and the care they took to have each step of their operations protected by a legitimate cover plan. They were right, of course. Where would he, an Englishman, be able to get $5000 except by gambling?"

    "'Dear Diary,' said the girl, 'having wonderful time with handsome Englishman.'"

    From Russia, With Love:

    "'You are pleased to joke, Comrade,' said General G. ... The executioner should have dealt with the Englishman at the same time, but he did not. ...There was some business about a treasure in the Caribbean. I forget the details. This Englishman was sent out by the Secret Service and smashed the whole organization and killed our man. It was a great reverse. Once again my predecessor should have proceeded ruthlessly against this English spy.'"

    "The legs [of Bond] were crossed in that attitude that only an Englishman adopts--with the right ankle resting on the left knee and the left hand grasping the ankle."

    "'Yes,' said Rosa Klebb, pleased with the effect of her words. 'He is an English spy.'"

    "'The target is an English spy. You would like to kill an English spy?'"

    "'Colonel Klebb speaking. The konspiratsia against the English spy Bond. The operation will commence forthwith.'"

    "The conductor, with an impatient glance at the tall Englishman, picked up the iron pedestal and climbed with it into the train."

    "'Be certain not to open the bag again or let it out of your compartment until you get to the other end. Or this Englishman will take it away from you and throw you on the dust-heap.'"

    "To make the contact easy, Bond went out and stood in the corridor. He ran over the details of the code of the day, the few harmless phrases, changed on the first of each month, that served as a simple recognition signal between English agents."

    "'Comrades, it is easy with a vain fool like this Bond. Watch him take the bait. You will see. I tell you he's a fool. All Englishmen are fools.'"

    "'Sweet dreams, you English bastard.'"

    "'Eh bien,' it was the voice of delight that Bond remembered so well. 'The 70th position! Now, at last, I have seen everything. And invented by an Englishman!'"

    Doctor No:

    "A Mr Bond, an English visitor, who had been lent the car, was asked to contact the nearest police station."

    "'I'm an Englishman. I'm interested in birds.'" [Bond to Honey]

    "She said shyly, 'You're the first Englishman I've ever talked to.'"

    Goldfinger:
    "'I'm from England. That stuff of yours has killed quite a lot of young people over there.'"

    "Goldfinger's voice held an ounce of urgency... 'And are you being fair to the girl? Is this the behaviour of an English gentleman?'"

    "You underestimate the English...You think you'll be pretty safe in Russia? I wouldn't be too sure. We've got people even out of there before now. I'll give you one last aphorism for your book, Goldfinger: "Never go a bear of England."'"

    For Your Eyes Only:

    "Bond said: 'I wouldn't hesitate for a minute, sir. If foreign gangsters find they can get away with this kind of thing they'll decide the English are as soft as some other people seem to think we are.'"

    "'Yes, I'm English. My name's Bond--James Bond.'"

    "Colombo roared with laughter. 'Ah, the quiet Englishman! He fears nothing save the emotions.'"

    "Mr Krest gave a short barking laugh. 'Civility and Servitude. You English make the best goddam butlers and valets in the world.'"

    "She said quickly: 'But really, what am I saying? Anyone would think we had known each other for years.' She smiled shyly. 'I suppose it's meeting someone from England.'"

    The Spy Who Love Me:

    "When he spoke, my heart leaped. He was English!"

    "The Englishman said easily, 'It's a bit late at night for that.'"

    "They both took a step towards the door. But the Englishman, bless him, stood his ground."

    "I took the opportunity to nod urgently and appealingly at the Englishman and he gave me another of those reassuring smiles."

    "He turned to the Englishman. 'Hey, limey. What's your name?'
    'Bond. James Bond.'
    'That's a pretty chump name. From England, huh?'
    'That's right. Where's the registry? I'll spell it out for you.'"

    "The Englishman broke in quietly. 'Well, it seems I came along at the right time to keep the peace.'"

    "I said, 'Well, there's a man called James Bond who's involved. He saved me and shot these two gangsters. He's some kind of an English agent, secret service or something.'"

    "'Don't thank me, Miss Michel,' the captain's eyes twinkled frostily. 'It was your English friend, Commander Bond, who suggested it.'"

    "So he was a commander. It was the only rank I liked the name of. And of course he was bound to have put the captain's back up--an Englishman with all this authority."

    "Captain Stonor held up his hand...'it would be perfectly natural, almost inevitable, that you might have lost your heart, or at any rate part of it, to this personable young Englishman who has just saved your life.'"

    Thunderball:

    "A glove had been thrown down, by the Englishman. Was it about the girl? Probably."

    ***

    I also searched for "Scot" and "Scottish," but the only character consistently described as Scottish is May, Bond's housekeeper:
    "He had a small but comfortable flat off the Kings Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper--a treasure called May" (MR)
    "May, Bond's elderly Scottish treasure" (TB)
    "May, his treasured Scottish housekeeper"/"May, an elderly Scotswoman with iron grey hair and a handsome closed face" (FRWL)

    Bond is never described as Scottish until OHMSS.
  • Posts: 684
    Informative and thorough response as always, @Revelator. Was hoping you'd have some input. Thanks for cataloging those references.

    I take your point that regardless of when Fleming began researching potential Scottish roots for his character, he pulled the trigger on describing him as such only after Connery secured in the role. I also can see how his concurrent writing OHMSS and Eon's filming DN would've (and did) impact the material.

    I'd be interested still in seeing more info on when Fleming started to research and/or think of changing Bond's roots, and whether any traces were left of his thought process on that.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 30,170
    Excellent @Revelator .
  • Posts: 12,921
    One has to make a distinction, I think, between commonplaces in genre fiction (the meaningful names, the far fetched plots), mise en abyme (references to Bond as fiction) and parodies. When Fleming does parodies it is very light, more like an ironic touch here and there.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    edited April 2018 Posts: 14,005
    Ludovico wrote: »
    One has to make a distinction, I think, between commonplaces in genre fiction (the meaningful names, the far fetched plots), mise en abyme (references to Bond as fiction) and parodies. When Fleming does parodies it is very light, more like an ironic touch here and there.

    Yes, that's no doubt true. Perhaps I am making the mistake of lumping them all in together in the general 'self-parody' camp. Your background as an academic really shines through here, @Ludovico.
  • Posts: 12,921
    Thanks. I'd say that the presence of Ursula Andress in OHMSS for instance is more a friendly nod to the movies than pure parody. And a lot of what we'd see today as parodic are commonplaces in the genre at the time: the gross villains with meaningful names, the damsel in distress, etc.
  • Posts: 514
    Strog wrote: »
    Informative and thorough response as always, @Revelator. Was hoping you'd have some input. Thanks for cataloging those references.

    I take your point that regardless of when Fleming began researching potential Scottish roots for his character, he pulled the trigger on describing him as such only after Connery secured in the role. I also can see how his concurrent writing OHMSS and Eon's filming DN would've (and did) impact the material.

    I'd be interested still in seeing more info on when Fleming started to research and/or think of changing Bond's roots, and whether any traces were left of his thought process on that.

    Excellent response from Revelator and others.
    The influence of the casting of Connery and DN the movie was apparent in OHMSS.

    With the exception of TB (for obvious developmental reasons), OHMSS was his most cinematic novel and it was no surprise, at the time, when Fleming retrofitted Bond’s birth origins to introduce a Scottish ancestry.

    Regarding other examples of ‘self-parody’, yes they exist but The Pussy agrees with Ludovico that Fleming’s fantastical plotting and story elements should not be conflated with or interpreted as parody.


  • Posts: 12,921
    I'd also add that parodic elements were more more present in later movies and that Bond "fed" parodies in literature and cinema because what was at the time normal in a straight spy thriller was taken as a joke 10-15 years later.
  • Posts: 2,185
    At the time Goldfinger was released, some critics also thought Fleming was lapsing into self-parody. Here's a review from the April 8, 1959 issue of Tatler:
    It's getting tougher to take Mr. Bond
    by Siriol Hugh-Jones

    It is becoming harder and harder to know what on earth to make of Mr. James Bond. With Goldfinger his creator, Mr. Ian Fleming, seems to me to get as close to self-parody as makes no difference, and even for a once devoted Bond-admirer like myself, the old familiar mixture of preposterous plot, success-fantasy, cruelty and blind-them-with-science technical talk no longer seems quite such a good lark as before. Maybe we are all just older and harder to amuse. One might guess that Mr. Fleming is possibly beginning just faintly to despise his own puppets and the market for them, and the ingredients that go to make up these extraordinary confections are growing a trifle stale.

    Bond, tougher and bleaker than ever, is this time up against a truly dreadful person of more than usually unprepossessing appearance called Auric Goldfingcr, who cheats at canasta and golf, is working on a little plot to rob the gold out of Fort Knox, and has a fancy for covering girls with gold paint before working his beastly will upon them. Throw into the bubbling brew a pinch of Top People’s cars (including, by golly, a Silver Ghost in white gold), a few spoonfuls of torture, a ladle of gracious living (“Please try the hock. I hope it will be to your taste. It is a Piesporter Goldtröpfchen ’53”), a bouquet garni of girls—one fairly amazingly named Miss Pussy Galore, and one in the black bra and briefs which are becoming a sort of brisk uniform for Bond girls— and there you have the rich pot au feu which is Fleming's specialty and which he likes to keep merrily on the boil. Only this time I am beginning to wonder whether such a heavily spiced exotic dish can be consumed regularly without severe queasiness.

    Bond himself has me worried; he is becoming mechanical, more extravagantly unreal than ever. Sometimes I feel he needs a year's enforced rest on a bland invalid diet and no chance of driving any cars whatsoever.

    A similar note was struck in a review of You Only Live Twice by Simon Raven, who wrote:
    I am worried about Bond himself. He has now become just like one of those cats or whatever in animated cartoons: even if he falls off a skyscraper and squashes himself flat on the pavement, he just blows himself up again and gets on with the next scene. True, convention allows, as the publisher no doubt demands, that he should always survive for the next book; but the supernatural versatility with which he is now endowed makes an end of any possible suspense. Time was when Bond had some human attributes, was at least theoretically mortal; now, in all save his concupiscence, he is Ariel or Puck.

    Lastly, I notice that Ian Fleming has taken a hint from films of his books and is now inclined to send himself up. I am not at all sure that he is wise, for it is this, I suspect, which has made for the Disneyesque unreality of which I complain. To indulge in irony at his own expense is invite the unbelief which hitherto, in deference to Commander Fleming’s blow-by-blow expertise, one has always been wilting to suspend.

    Raven, incidentally, is a fascinating figure. He positively reviewed four Fleming novels, along with the Amis and Pearson books, before writing dialogue for the film of OHMSS, an experience he later drew upon for a novel (he was an excellent novelist who dabbled in spy fiction). I'm currently working on an article about his Bond connections.
  • Posts: 514
    Revelator wrote: »
    At the time Goldfinger was released, some critics also thought Fleming was lapsing into self-parody. Here's a review from the April 8, 1959 issue of Tatler:
    It's getting tougher to take Mr. Bond
    by Siriol Hugh-Jones

    It is becoming harder and harder to know what on earth to make of Mr. James Bond. With Goldfinger his creator, Mr. Ian Fleming, seems to me to get as close to self-parody as makes no difference, and even for a once devoted Bond-admirer like myself, the old familiar mixture of preposterous plot, success-fantasy, cruelty and blind-them-with-science technical talk no longer seems quite such a good lark as before. Maybe we are all just older and harder to amuse. One might guess that Mr. Fleming is possibly beginning just faintly to despise his own puppets and the market for them, and the ingredients that go to make up these extraordinary confections are growing a trifle stale.

    Bond, tougher and bleaker than ever, is this time up against a truly dreadful person of more than usually unprepossessing appearance called Auric Goldfingcr, who cheats at canasta and golf, is working on a little plot to rob the gold out of Fort Knox, and has a fancy for covering girls with gold paint before working his beastly will upon them. Throw into the bubbling brew a pinch of Top People’s cars (including, by golly, a Silver Ghost in white gold), a few spoonfuls of torture, a ladle of gracious living (“Please try the hock. I hope it will be to your taste. It is a Piesporter Goldtröpfchen ’53”), a bouquet garni of girls—one fairly amazingly named Miss Pussy Galore, and one in the black bra and briefs which are becoming a sort of brisk uniform for Bond girls— and there you have the rich pot au feu which is Fleming's specialty and which he likes to keep merrily on the boil. Only this time I am beginning to wonder whether such a heavily spiced exotic dish can be consumed regularly without severe queasiness.

    Bond himself has me worried; he is becoming mechanical, more extravagantly unreal than ever. Sometimes I feel he needs a year's enforced rest on a bland invalid diet and no chance of driving any cars whatsoever.

    A similar note was struck in a review of You Only Live Twice by Simon Raven, who wrote:
    I am worried about Bond himself. He has now become just like one of those cats or whatever in animated cartoons: even if he falls off a skyscraper and squashes himself flat on the pavement, he just blows himself up again and gets on with the next scene. True, convention allows, as the publisher no doubt demands, that he should always survive for the next book; but the supernatural versatility with which he is now endowed makes an end of any possible suspense. Time was when Bond had some human attributes, was at least theoretically mortal; now, in all save his concupiscence, he is Ariel or Puck.

    Lastly, I notice that Ian Fleming has taken a hint from films of his books and is now inclined to send himself up. I am not at all sure that he is wise, for it is this, I suspect, which has made for the Disneyesque unreality of which I complain. To indulge in irony at his own expense is invite the unbelief which hitherto, in deference to Commander Fleming’s blow-by-blow expertise, one has always been wilting to suspend.

    Raven, incidentally, is a fascinating figure. He positively reviewed four Fleming novels, along with the Amis and Pearson books, before writing dialogue for the film of OHMSS, an experience he later drew upon for a novel (he was an excellent novelist who dabbled in spy fiction). I'm currently working on an article about his Bond connections.
    Revelator wrote: »
    At the time Goldfinger was released, some critics also thought Fleming was lapsing into self-parody. Here's a review from the April 8, 1959 issue of Tatler:
    It's getting tougher to take Mr. Bond
    by Siriol Hugh-Jones

    It is becoming harder and harder to know what on earth to make of Mr. James Bond. With Goldfinger his creator, Mr. Ian Fleming, seems to me to get as close to self-parody as makes no difference, and even for a once devoted Bond-admirer like myself, the old familiar mixture of preposterous plot, success-fantasy, cruelty and blind-them-with-science technical talk no longer seems quite such a good lark as before. Maybe we are all just older and harder to amuse. One might guess that Mr. Fleming is possibly beginning just faintly to despise his own puppets and the market for them, and the ingredients that go to make up these extraordinary confections are growing a trifle stale.

    Bond, tougher and bleaker than ever, is this time up against a truly dreadful person of more than usually unprepossessing appearance called Auric Goldfingcr, who cheats at canasta and golf, is working on a little plot to rob the gold out of Fort Knox, and has a fancy for covering girls with gold paint before working his beastly will upon them. Throw into the bubbling brew a pinch of Top People’s cars (including, by golly, a Silver Ghost in white gold), a few spoonfuls of torture, a ladle of gracious living (“Please try the hock. I hope it will be to your taste. It is a Piesporter Goldtröpfchen ’53”), a bouquet garni of girls—one fairly amazingly named Miss Pussy Galore, and one in the black bra and briefs which are becoming a sort of brisk uniform for Bond girls— and there you have the rich pot au feu which is Fleming's specialty and which he likes to keep merrily on the boil. Only this time I am beginning to wonder whether such a heavily spiced exotic dish can be consumed regularly without severe queasiness.

    Bond himself has me worried; he is becoming mechanical, more extravagantly unreal than ever. Sometimes I feel he needs a year's enforced rest on a bland invalid diet and no chance of driving any cars whatsoever.

    A similar note was struck in a review of You Only Live Twice by Simon Raven, who wrote:
    I am worried about Bond himself. He has now become just like one of those cats or whatever in animated cartoons: even if he falls off a skyscraper and squashes himself flat on the pavement, he just blows himself up again and gets on with the next scene. True, convention allows, as the publisher no doubt demands, that he should always survive for the next book; but the supernatural versatility with which he is now endowed makes an end of any possible suspense. Time was when Bond had some human attributes, was at least theoretically mortal; now, in all save his concupiscence, he is Ariel or Puck.

    Lastly, I notice that Ian Fleming has taken a hint from films of his books and is now inclined to send himself up. I am not at all sure that he is wise, for it is this, I suspect, which has made for the Disneyesque unreality of which I complain. To indulge in irony at his own expense is invite the unbelief which hitherto, in deference to Commander Fleming’s blow-by-blow expertise, one has always been wilting to suspend.

    Raven, incidentally, is a fascinating figure. He positively reviewed four Fleming novels, along with the Amis and Pearson books, before writing dialogue for the film of OHMSS, an experience he later drew upon for a novel (he was an excellent novelist who dabbled in spy fiction). I'm currently working on an article about his Bond connections.

    Although PussyNoMore can understand where Hugh-Jones and Raven are coming from he thinks it is more a desire on their behalf to adjust Bond to their perception of reality rather than a true assessment of Fleming’s work.
    IPNSHO (In PussyNoMore’s Not So Humble Opinion) the plot line in GF was not more far fetched than MR. Neither was YOLT more outlandish than DN.
    Bond was never a parody. He was a true fantasy original and there is a big difference.
    The Pussy thinks that there is a tendency over many long running series for fans to want to re-calibrate their heroes.
    Fleming was a fabulous writer of spy fantasy fiction who had an amazing ability to make readers suspend belief and buy into the border-line impossible.
    Le Carre is an amazing writer of completely realistic spy fiction.
    Austin Powers is a parody.
    There is a difference.

  • Posts: 5,767
    @Revelator, your list painfully makes me long for an immediate viewing of AVTAK and hearing Sir Rog say, "My name is James Bond. I´m English." How that man over and over again managed to give such silly lines such deep meaning is a true marvel!

    The only instance in Fleming´s novels I would define as parody and not British humor would be in GF when Bond muses about some of his past affairs. I think that is the most prominent incident at all of Fleming openly referencing other Bond novels. And it´s the first time in the novels Bond is depicted as a collector of women.
    As for the novel GF on the whole being a parody, I don´t see that much difference to previous novels.
    At all, I believe to have read somewhere that Fleming was quite a fan of Raymond Chandler´s novels, and those were full of dry humor without being in the least parodistical. And Fleming´s Bond was pretty much a highly pimped-up Continetal op or Marlowe, even if Hammett and Chandler were a league of their own with regards to writing style.
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