Advice on how to read a Fleming novel

edited July 2013 in Literary 007 Posts: 686
A lot of people have never read the Bond novels and the success of Skyfall have gotten people interested in the books, here is some advice:

1. Read them in order of publication, including the short-stories. Start with Casino Royale and end with Octopussy and The Living Daylights. This will help in the later novels.

2. Clear your mind of the movies. There are no space based weapon systems, no volcano lairs, no lasers, no space flights, no Bibi Dahl.

3. Understand the era. Bond was born around 1920, most of the Bond women in the novels were born in the around 1930. There are things like 'wire recorders' in the novels that people will not have any idea what they were. If you need to, look them up on the internet. The kindle versions will help since you can get a definition.

4. Read them slowly including the "boring parts". Fleming paints a picture. He does not come out and says "the man dropped a grenade in the water", he will describe the action instead. Also, there are many references to gothic literature and mythology in the novels, if you read the books too fast you will miss them. The books were written in a time when people read and did not watch TV.

5. Ignore the continuity mistakes from novel to novel; Fleming was unaware that his novels would be successful and he never wrote fully anticipating he might have to be consistent in future editions.
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Comments

  • I think you've answered your own question with point 2.

    However I would always read with my eyes and not my feet. So avoid the feet.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 I've missed you all.
    Posts: 28,476
    I don't really see #5 as any excuse, but mostly fine tips nonetheless.
  • Posts: 96
    Good tips all around. I also think they should be read in publication order. If nothing else, it gives you a great insight as to how Fleming grew as a writer (i.e. CR has a great story, but it's not written particularly well. But Fleming was a quick study, it seems, because FRWL is brilliant).

    I think it's critically important to forget the movie version when approaching the books. Anyone going into the novels expecting they'll have anything to do with the screen version will be sorely dissapointed. That said, I find it impossible not to imagine one of the Bond actors in my head while I read the books.
  • 00Hero00Hero Banned
    Posts: 121
    Dont forget 6. Get ready to deal with some racism homo-phobia sexism Chigroes dragons etc because fleming brought all of that and more to my table some one could have told me so I am warning you now these books should not be read with a full stomach other wise you are good to go.
  • Posts: 96
    The racism, sexism, etc, simply reflected the common attitudes of the times and was in no way a political philosophy that Fleming was advocating. That's no excuse for having those attitudes, of course, but keeping that in mind does help while reading certain Bond novels (especially LALD.........ouch!)
  • 00Hero00Hero Banned
    Posts: 121
    Fetch my shoes Quarrel how does it feel.
  • Posts: 802
    The best way to read a Bond book is on a beach in Jamaica with a vodka martini in hand and a Honeychile Rider lookalike by your side. Alternatively they'll still thrill you on the 7:15am to Waterloo.
    As for all the racism, sexism criticisms — get a life - Fleming was no racist. In fact he was one of the few mainstream mid 20th century writers to feature non caucasians as heroes (Quarrel, Tiger Tanaka , etc.) and his language was simply the language of the time and doesn't have to be excused!
  • 00Hero00Hero Banned
    edited July 2013 Posts: 121
    Your right @Villiers they just didnt know any better at the time its an excuse for the ages. Im sorry but imo wide spread guilt does not lessen each individials guilt Im sorry you feel that it does.
  • Posts: 1,314
    Bond books are my holiday staple. Great escapist fiction when you're away from home and date I say it being a little more adventurous than the day to day grind.

    Fleming may or may not have been racist. I'm sure that was the language of the times but reading chapters with headlines like Nigger Heaven on a packed train going through Brixton might turn a few heads or worse.

    He sure as hell was a sexist and a sadist.

    But he had a great imagination and fine talent for simile, metaphor and attention to detail. Mind you, OHMSS some times reads more like a bar menu than a book!

    The Bond of the novels is a queer thing. Not particularly witty, or characterful sometimes. Again maybe the time it was written but sometimes he comes across as something of a bore in long passages of speech, but I still love the books.

    About to start Moonraker and Goldfinger then I think I've completed them.
  • Posts: 1,052
    I thought this was going to be and Idiot's guide such as, 1.Turn the page, 2. Read the words, 3. Don't forget to flush and wash your hands.
  • Posts: 802
    Quarrel wrote:
    The racism, sexism, etc, simply reflected the common attitudes of the times and was in no way a political philosophy that Fleming was advocating. That's no excuse for having those attitudes, of course, but keeping that in mind does help while reading certain Bond novels (especially LALD.........ouch!)

    @Quarrel, you are correct. No way was Fleming a racist. In fact he pretty much had a life long love affair with Jamaica where he was highly regarded. Indeed he is fondly remembered to this day.
    His language was very much the language of the times and any reader of John Buchan or Rider Haggard could level similar accusations when few did more to help develop relationships with Africa.
    The Bond novels should be read as period pieces and nobody should take offence. As one that read them as they were published I can assure you it was never the intent.
  • Posts: 96
    Anyone who is quick to condemn Fleming (and others) for lacking the awareness of, or inability to transcend, the attitudes of their times should remember that history will be judging them as well.

    Who really knows what future generations will think of our current attitudes, beliefs and political policies? Whether it be our turning a blind eye toward the daily horrors and abject poverty in Africa, to our destruction of the environment, to our stubborn refusal to wean ourselves off our oil addiction, to religious fanaticism, there's plenty to condemn already. And if history teaches us anything, its that there will be plenty more things that seem normal to us that will seem odd and downright wrong to future generations. We are of our time, as was Fleming.
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    Posts: 12,436
    My personal opinion: Also keep in mind the way Fleming portrays the treatment of women at times is more than harsh. It can be revolting and unethical no matter how you look at it. I am thinking of FRWL, which is probably my favorite novel ... but when Kerim Bey describes his former abduction, degradation, and sadistic treatment of a woman (told to Bond as a jolly, matter of fact escapade), that part I have to throw out mentally because it is sickening to me and in no way do I condone it. I do not enjoy reading about things like that. It is rather jarring to me, considering the rest of the novel is very well written, intriguing, and a truly great story (and it is one that has one of my favorite endings, too).
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Perdogg wrote:
    A lot of people have never read the Bond novels and the success of Skyfall have gotten people interested in the books, here is some advice:

    1. Read them in order of publication, including the short-stories. Start with Casino Royale and end with Octopussy and The Living Daylights. This will help in the later novels.

    2. Clear your mind of the movies. There are no space based weapon systems, no volcano lairs, no lasers, no space flights, no Bibi Dahl.

    3. Understand the era. Bond was born around 1920, most of the Bond women in the novels were born in the around 1930. There are things like 'wire recorders' in the novels that people will not have any idea what they were. If you need to, look them up on the internet. The kindle versions will help since you can get a definition.

    4. Read them slowly including the "boring parts". Fleming paints a picture. He does not come out and says "the man dropped a grenade in the water", he will describe the action instead. Also, there are many references to gothic literature and mythology in the novels, if you read the books too fast you will miss them. The books were written in a time when people read and did not watch TV.

    5. Ignore the continuity mistakes from novel to novel; Fleming was unaware that his novels would be successful and he never wrote fully anticipating he might have to be consistent in future editions.

    Great advice @Perdogg

    I'm passing this onto a friend who has not read any of them yet.
  • Posts: 686
    Kerim Bay was talking about his mother in reaction to an Italian girl that Bay had "captured". Bond was laughing that Bay liked to consume large quantities of food, drink, smoke, and women. I think your context is a bit off.
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    Posts: 12,436
    No, Kerim goes into detail. Oh the context of that talk ... Maybe not a jolly escapade, then, because he was talking about his mother's reaction - however, the way he describes his treatment of the woman is so casual (if not jolly) about it as to be chilling.
  • Posts: 686
    Right he had a woman chained nude under the table and got busted by his mother. This was Turkey 60 years ago.
  • edited July 2013 Posts: 4,622
    Villiers53 wrote:
    As for all the racism, sexism criticisms — get a life - Fleming was no racist. In fact he was one of the few mainstream mid 20th century writers to feature non caucasians as heroes (Quarrel, Tiger Tanaka , etc.) and his language was simply the language of the time and doesn't have to be excused!
    Well said. Fleming didn't have a racist bone in his body. Yes he made cultural and racial generalizations and such, but so what. He wrote about the world as he observed it. He wrote honestly and provocatively. If he hadn't, his books would have been dull as dishwater. I still laugh when I read his treatise on women drivers in Thunderball. That's funny stuff. I would expect no less from Mr. Fleming. Fleming provokes.
    As for Kerim, he is a larger than life caricature, but just the same, Fleming had reason to believe that such men did exist, yet as we saw, they weren't without virtue either. Kerim lived and thrived in a very patriarchal society.
    60 years later,I am not sure much has changed in such societes.

  • Posts: 1,314
    I guess like anybody Fleming was a product of his era and his background.

    I can overlook the bits I don't like as a result of this.

    If I met anyone now who thought like this though I'd consider them an arsehole
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    Posts: 12,436
    Exactly. And don't get me wrong; I like Fleming and FRWL in particular. A great story superbly told. Just as advice when reading Fleming, know that kind of thing will come your way at times. I just ignore it and enjoy the rest.
  • Posts: 1,143
    FRWL is a fantastic novel and the Kerim passage described in earlier posts was memorable to me. It demonstrated yet again a brutal side to the world set within the Bond novels. A world that could be exciting, exotic and wonderful but also dangerous, corupt, deceitful, ruthless, greedy and lustful. Thats what made the Bond novels such a draw and great read. They could excite and titalate but also shock and deplore, they may be many things but certainly not a bore!
  • Posts: 4,622
    It demonstrated yet again a brutal side to the world set within the Bond novels. A world that could be exciting, exotic and wonderful but also dangerous, corupt, deceitful, ruthless, greedy and lustful. Thats what made the Bond novels such a draw and great read. They could excite and titalate but also shock and deplore, they may be many things but certainly not a bore!
    For sure, Fleming provoked. The best authors do. They don't write safe. Hemingway for example, if I may be so bold, and there are contemporary authors that write with the same provocative flair.
    I am reading one now, David Stone, that @perilagukhan was kind enough to recommend in another thread.

  • 00Hero00Hero Banned
    Posts: 121
    Quarrel wrote:
    Who really knows what future generations will think of our current attitudes, beliefs and political policies? Whether it be our turning a blind eye toward the daily horrors and abject poverty in Africa, to our destruction of the environment, to our stubborn refusal to wean ourselves off our oil addiction, to religious fanaticism, there's plenty to condemn already. And if history teaches us anything, its that there will be plenty more things that seem normal to us that will seem odd and downright wrong to future generations. We are of our time, as was Fleming.
    Are you saying our current beleifs didnt exist 50 yrs ago. How do those compare to bigotry and why is others opinions of your behaviour more important to you then wether or not its right.
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    Posts: 12,436
    I think you are getting Quarrel's comments wrong - and why are you acting so angry and provoking, anyway?
  • edited July 2013 Posts: 5,767
    I don´t see why anyone able to read a novel should be warned of Kerim Bey or what might be taken as racism (and what I understand as very skillfull application of clichés for the sake of antagonising heroes and villains). It should be self-understood that Fleming didn´t write novelizations of the Bond films.

    I remember too well how disappointed I was when the Thunderball novel I read when I was 16 didn´t feature laser watches and flying cars, me unaware that the novel was written 30 years earlier. Twenty years later I re-discovered Flemings novels and had the revelation that they can be great entertainment if viewed i the context of the times. Fleming tought me to read the publisher´s info on the first pages of any novel ;-).

    And, if I count correctly, number 7 ought to be not to spend too much time with Fleming´s novels. With Stephen King, you can read 20 pages today, the next 20 pages next week, it doesn´t matter. If you do that with Fleming, you´ll get bored. As one member years ago proposed: get yourself a comfortable chair and read one novel over night ;-).
  • Posts: 96
    00Hero wrote:
    Quarrel wrote:
    Who really knows what future generations will think of our current attitudes, beliefs and political policies? Whether it be our turning a blind eye toward the daily horrors and abject poverty in Africa, to our destruction of the environment, to our stubborn refusal to wean ourselves off our oil addiction, to religious fanaticism, there's plenty to condemn already. And if history teaches us anything, its that there will be plenty more things that seem normal to us that will seem odd and downright wrong to future generations. We are of our time, as was Fleming.
    Are you saying our current beleifs didnt exist 50 yrs ago. How do those compare to bigotry and why is others opinions of your behaviour more important to you then wether or not its right.

    You totally missed my point. What I'm trying to point out is that there are attitudes and beliefs that seem perfectly normal and justifiable to us, but future generations might see them as wrong, barbaric, or otherwise stupid.

    It's not that difficult a concept to understand. For well over 2000 years of human history certain things like slavery and the subjugation of women were accepted beliefs. It wasn't that long ago that humans also thought the world was flat. These beliefs were so commonly held as to be seen as unquestionable and certain. But our modern, more enlightened minds see these beliefs for what they are. Should we condemn them for thinking that? Or should we simply understand that those people were of their time, as we are of our time? It's call human progress. And human progress does not stop with us.

    Fleming was of his time, and thus his writing refected those times. If we condemn Fleming for not being able to transcend the errors of his time, we should be prepared to be condemned by our children for not being able to trancend our own time.
  • Posts: 686
    I wish that people would not hijack this thread to discuss politics.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 I've missed you all.
    Posts: 28,476
    boldfinger wrote:
    And, if I count correctly, number 7 ought to be not to spend too much time with Fleming´s novels. With Stephen King, you can read 20 pages today, the next 20 pages next week, it doesn´t matter. If you do that with Fleming, you´ll get bored. As one member years ago proposed: get yourself a comfortable chair and read one novel over night ;-).

    I can somewhat agree with you. It took me forever to finish LALD because I read it during my senior year and couldn't really focus enough to read it that much, and it was a rough personal time for me when I wasn't too ambitious. I found it hard to follow the plot because it would be days at a time before I picked it up to read again, so I lost some of the greater details in consequence. Whether those factors hurt my enjoyment of the novel I don't know, but I will revisit it along with CR and MR when I attempt to tackle the novels one by one from the beginning.

    While it may be a better idea to read tons of the novel in one sitting, when I do that I have a hard time summarizing the plot up to the point that I left off because everything is all one big blur.
  • Posts: 96
    Perdogg wrote:
    I wish that people would not hijack this thread to discuss politics.

    Who's talking politics? The discussion is about how to approach Fleming's novels. Giving consideration the era of an author and his work is an integral part of approaching any novel (or any work of art, for that matter). Did you not pay attention in freshmen English?
  • 00Hero00Hero Banned
    edited July 2013 Posts: 121
    Perdogg wrote:
    Right he had a woman chained nude under the table and got busted by his mother. This was Turkey 60 years ago.
    Some of us are looking for a hot tub time machine now.

    I understand @quarrel but where did I condemn Fleming anyways. Im trying to warn about the bigotry of his time showing up in the books they are not as timeless as some peopl are led to beleive. This is just my opinion but wide spread bigotry doesnt make each bigoter less guilty. PS Im not angry.
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