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You Only Live Twice

April 13, 2010

One of my most surprising finds has been Ian Fleming. Previously, my impression of him was based solely on the few Bond movies I had seen.  Consequently I expected schlocky fromage of the highest order.  I was pleasantly surprised by Fleming’s concise, descriptive, and engaging writing style when I picked up first Casino Royale, then You Only Live Twice.

Yes, the plot is quite preposterous, even laughable (Vladivostok!) in spots. Yes, it is dripping with the latent chauvinism of the era in which it was written (but not nearly to the extent of the cinematic versions.) However, there is something about the novels that dispels the cheesiness of the movies, that grounds the action and adrenaline with emotion and risk. While the movies seem made for men (aside from the occasional shot of Bond removing his shirt to keep us gals awake), the books are more complex and I found them gripping, amusing and intense rather than macho cheese flavoured.

I was also bemused by Bond’s attempt at composing a haiku, from which the title is derived:

You only live twice:
once when you are born,
and once when you look death in the face

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