Don't expect much from For Your Eyes Only, as I recall the stories were Bond-lite. When the Quantum of Solace movie was released there was a book published under that title that collected all the shorter Fleming Bond stories from For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and Other Stories. If nothing else, it was a nice idea to have all the short stories in a single volume.
"Don't expect much from For Your Eyes Only..."
Oh, I don't. I've read it before. In fact, I've read the entire series start to finish on three occasions: in junior high school, in college and in the '90s. In addition, I have read odd books on a "one off" basis from time to time. The last time I did a comprehensive read-through (some 25 years ago now), I came to the conclusion that I need not ever read them again. I'm beginning to weaken, though. For one thing, I enjoy reading certain books at different stages of my life to observe how my impressions change. Although I have read For Your Eyes Only three times over the years, I recall very little of it (which fits your characterization as "Bond-lite"). I'm just reading this collection until I decide what I really want to read next. I may not even finish it.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY: As I indicated yesterday, this is my fourth time through Ian Fleming's James bond short story collection For Your Eyes Only. I was going to wait until I had finished all five stories before posting, but i want to get some thoughts down while they are fresh in my mind. The stories in this collection (copyright 1959, 1960) originally appeared in divers sources such as Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazine. I had forgotten how topical these stories would have been when they first appeared. Two of the first three are set against the backdrop of the Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution.
In "From a View to a Kill," James Bond has been tasked with finding a group of Russian spies who are ambushing dispatch riders from SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). "For Your Eyes Only" is a simple assassination mission which becomes complicated when the daughter of two of the victims' becomes involved. Von Hammerstein is an ex-Nazi who has fled to Cuba but, in the rise of Castro's regime, tries to muscle his way into a private estate in Jamaica. when that goes south, he flees to a cabin on a lake in upstate Vermont, Bond comes in from Canada to kill the man at the request of M, who was a personal friend of the murdered couple. Those familiar with James Bond only from the movies may not think of him as a sniper, but although he played that role more than once, this time it's not official business but rather a personal favor.
In "Quantum of Solace," the Governor of Nassau relates an anecdote to Bond at a party. That's it. I hadn't really remembered this story at all, despite having read it three times before. This time I was transfixed. I was fascinated by this character study, and the surprise ending blew me away. It just goes to show that what you get out of a story depends very much on what you bring into it. This story meant nothing to me when I was 15 or 20-something or 30-something. I'm going to take a chance here and transcribe the paragraph from which the story takes its title out of context. It may not mean anything to you, either.
"The Governor paused and looked reflectively over at Bond. He said, 'You're not married, but I think it's the same with all relationships between a man and a woman. They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people. When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously and sincerely doesn't care if the other is alive or dead, then it's just no good. That particular insult to the ego--worse, to the instinct of self-preservation--can never be forgiven. I've seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I've seen crimes and even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and every other form of social crime. Incurable disease, blindness, disaster--all these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I've thought about this and I've invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Law of the Quantum of Solace.'"
I knocked out Sign of Chaos, and I'm working on Knight of Shadow, the second to last book in the Amber series.
I actually got about 20 pages into Parker Posey's You're on an Airplane. These are her memoirs, with the conceit being you're on an airplane ride with her. Its one of those ideas that probably sounded good on paper, but so far lacks in execution. Its kind of stream of consciousness, so it goes in different directions. I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe another time.
I was once on a flight from Atlanta to New York with Parker Posey.
I just read Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. It's my favourite book of this last year. I plan to read Nelson Algren's A Walk on the Wild Side next week.
I liked Piranesi, too. My favorite book of the year was Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead.
I finished Prince of Chaos, the last Amber novel written by Roger Zelazny. I liked it, and it certainly left open a lot of threads for more stories.
Now, if I never have to read about someone walking The Pattern again, I'm fine with that. Its always mentioned its the hardest thing anyone can do in their life, yet someone walks it just about every book. So, it kind of loses it shroud of awe because of it.
When I broke for Thanksgiving I was in the middle of For Your Eyes Only, Ian Fleming's first collection of James Bond short stories. When I returned, my attention drifted elsewhere, but watching No Time to Die last week in the theater put me back in the mood. While i was at it, I also reread Octopussy, Ian Fleming's second collection of James Bond short stories. I mentioned in a previous post that I have (mostly dustjacketless) first editions of all of Flemings Bond books. that turns out not to be the case. I have first editions of only ten of them. Octopussy is definitely a first edition, though, because it includes only two stories; luckily I also have a paperback edition which has all three.
"Risico" - A story of drug smuggling.
"The Hildebrande Rarity" - Another story, like "Quantum of Solace" (see above), that I reacted to quite differently to this time than any other time I have read it in the past.
"Octopussy" - This story bears certain similarities (the marine angle) to "The Hildebrande Rarity." In the first part of the story, James Bond pays a visit to a traitor to the crown; the middle part is a flashback to the crime he committed; in the third part, the traitor pays the price. A reader could, conceivably, read the second part first or omit it entirely. The story was incorporated into the movie of the same name as an anecdote Bond related to the traitor's daughter. Ironically, the movie gave it the "corny" (Fleming's word) ending that he himself avoided... IIRC. In earlier posts I alluded to my least favorite James Bond movie: it's Octopussy and I have no intention of re-watching it now or ever again.
"The Living Daylights" - James Bond on a sniper mission. Like "Octopussy", it was incorporated into the movie of the same name, but merely as a scene.
"The Property of a Lady" - James Bond attends an auction. That's pretty much it. His mission is to observe who the Soviet bidder from the KGB is, then to confirm by trailing him back to the Russian embassy so that he can be deported. Fleming makes it much more tense than that, of course. Again, this motif was also incorporated into a movie at one point. This plots might seem surprising to anyone familiar with the character only from the movies, but the Fleming stories have an emphasis on espionage. Still, these are not the books/stories I would recommend as an introduction to the literary James Bond.
I said in a earlier post that, after having read the entire series through three times start to finish, I determined in the '90s that I need never reread a Fleming Bond novel again, but this experience has changed my mind. I have no intention to continue at the present time, but I've already decided which ones to reread in the future when the mood strikes.
Octopussy was the one 007 short story by Fleming that really worked for me. It had more substance then many of the others.
I'm two-thirds through Nelson Algren's A Walk on the Wild Side (1956). A little like the love-child of Steinbeck and Kerouac.
DICKENS: Charles Dickens wrote many more Christmas stories than just A Christmas Carol, some of them ghost stories as well. In addition to Carol, he wrote four other books and 14 additional stories. Several years ago I bought a collection of them all and it has become my habit to read one or two every year. This year I read "Dr. Marigold" and "Mugby Junction" in addition to the perennial "What Christmas Is as We Grow Older." I may read one or two more if my mood holds.