For the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise I decided to pull the original text of “You Only Live Twice” off the shelf. I understand it is onFor the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise I decided to pull the original text of “You Only Live Twice” off the shelf. I understand it is one of the weakest of the series and without having read the others I have to second that opinion. I grew up on Bond movies (one of my earliest memories is watching “The Man with the Golden Gun” at the drive-in) and have seen the majority of the films. It was refreshing to see a human Bond in these pages. Can you imagine the movie version of Bond taking luggage through the airport? Being excited about a mission? In emotional conflict over a woman? Being a drunken boor? This is Ian Fleming’s Bond.
More than half of the short novel tracks his being drunk on sake and clueless about Japanese culture. The fast-paced final chapters cover his mission; to destroy his arch nemesis Ernst Starvro Blofeld, who has taken up residence in Japan. He is doing this as a personal favor. I can swallow the majority of the story, but come on, Blofeld is able to scout out a location in Japan, win over the government, set up a “Castle of Death” where the Japanese go to kill themselves (the Japanese are overwhelmingly suicidal?), recruit members from the Black Dragons, import tropical plants and piranha from around the world, and set up his compound in under 9 months? Then he does not recognize Bond when he comes to kill him? The same man who had just murdered James’ wife. Really? I just can’t get behind it.
The one thing I am taking away is M’s “eulogy” of Bond, when he is believed to be dead, which not only gives his history (he’s an orphan?) and his succession of careers in the spy game. This was not one of the better movies, but the title is great and Soft Cell’s version of the theme song even better. Stick with the music....more
I will be the first to admit, I never expected to enjoy this book. I put off reading it for years—the movie didn’t do much for me—but I grabbed it offI will be the first to admit, I never expected to enjoy this book. I put off reading it for years—the movie didn’t do much for me—but I grabbed it off the shelf as light reading on a long flight. I was caught from the first chapter and pulled through the confusing plots and sub-plots, lies and deceits, fake names and false motivations, toward the not-exactly gratifying ending. This was my first Hammett, and my first of the potboiler genre, but not my last. Hammett’s style is hard, stark and concise; masculine in a way that Hemingway was credited for but without the self-conscious nihilism. I kept looking at the publication date, shocked at the 1930 date, and enjoyed it all the more. Aside from the overt sexism against gays and women, this is a very modern novel that remains universal in its truths: petty crime, greed, self-interest and raw sexuality. I had to grit my teeth over the sad homosexual stereotype in Joel Cairo, but felt heartened that he appeared to be getting down with the young and handsome hitman. Though he was ready to send his lover down the river to save himself, Cairo was the only person in the book to show any affection for another person. Sam Spade by contrast is the very essence of heterosexuality; uncaring, womanizing, out for himself, and self-promoting. You can’t help liking him....more