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! :)