Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bond Books Bits: Best Be Going

How much better would James Bond be if he had two heads?

“The Property of a Lady”

The biggest surprise of this story is that Bond spends some time describing an unattractive woman for once. He goes on and on about how angry she must be at the world because, as we all know, only beautiful people can truly be happy. The main plot however is about Bond’s attempts to smoke out the associate of a Russian double agent by attending an auction of a Faberge egg, an object so cool that I would totally buy it if I had infinite cash. The scenes’ focus on low-key tension, quickly increasing monetary stakes, and Bond’s skill at quietly reading people recall the excellent and surprisingly thrilling poker games in Casino Royale. Fleming wasn’t too fond of this one though. Maybe he was just getting tired. This story was used in the Octopussy movie but someone made the smart decision of just naming that movie Octopussy instead.

“The Living Daylights”

This is another story that takes place over a relatively brief amount of time. Bond has to wait night after night trying to snipe a Russian assassin but when it turns out the enemy is a female cellist Bond is hit with another moral crisis. By spending so much time with Bond alone with his gun, we see his colder, attentive, patient and borderline sociopathic side come out. We delve deeper inside his periodically emotionless mind, a place Fleming enjoyed exploring. In the end Bond intentionally disobeys orders and merely scares “the living daylights” out of the woman instead of killing her. He then casually hopes that he’ll be fired for it. There’s less of an emphasis on action but rather pure, nihilistic execution and Fleming actually brought in some outside military help for all of the specific descriptions of rifle parts. The 1987 film The Living Daylights was pretty much an expansion of this story.

“007 in New York”
I say, minorities!

When Fleming said some not so nice things about New York in an article, some Americans got incredibly butthurt about it so he wrote this “story” to calm them down. The “plot” is Bond has to warn some spy girl that her boyfriend is a Soviet agent, kind of like the end of Quantum of Solace the movie. However, this extremely brief, empty tale is basically Bond name checking various New York landmarks, talking about his CIA friend Felix Leiter, complaining about how frozen American food sucks, and comparing Cadillacs to Aston Martins. The great, original James Bond literary canon ends with a consolation prize full of classic British arrogance and thinly veiled contempt for the reader. It’s hilarious how anticlimactic that is.

Then it ends with James Bond’s recipe for scrambled eggs.

All is forgiven.

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