Bond’s Goodnight

Ian Fleming died on this day in 1964. Below, in the last paragraphs of The Man With the Golden Gun, thirteenth and last of the series, James Bond gives what he can to Mary Goodnight, the last of his women. Whether acting as helpful secretary or hopeful woman, Goodnight has just offered Bond a few weeks of recuperation at her rented villa — he could play bridge and golf, she could “cook and sew buttons on for you and so on”:

James Bond, in the full possession of his senses, with his eyes wide open, his feet flat on the linoleum floor, stuck his head blithely between the mink-lined jaws of the trap. He said, and meant it, “Goodnight. You’re an angel. “At the same time, he knew, deep down, that love from Mary Goodnight, or from any other woman, was not enough for him. It would be like taking ‘a room with a view.’ For James Bond, the same view would always pall.

*** Thomas Mann died in Zurich on this day in 1955, aged eighty. Mann’s last book, The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, provides an unexpected addition to the more famous, earlier works — The Magic Mountain, Doctor Faustus, and the other books which had earned a Nobel, and an international reputation for writing of philosophical and moral seriousness. Felix Krull is a smooth and charming cad in the Tom Jones-James Bond spirit, one who carries an appreciation of the well-turned phrase and a “natural instinct for good form” into all his encounters. One of these is with an older, mink-coated woman who fancies herself a writer of Thomas Mann’s earlier sort of books — “novels, you understand, full of psychological insight,” she explains at one point. Felix sizes her up while escorting her in his elevator, and knocks on her door the moment he finishes his shift:

“Why, what’s this? A hotel employee, a domestic, a young man of the people comes into my room at this hour when I have already retired?”
“You expressed the wish, madame,” I replied, approaching the bed.
“The wish? Did I so? You say ‘the wish’ and behave as though you meant the order a lady gives some minor servant, an elevator boy perhaps, but what you really mean in your unheard-of pertness, yes, shamelessness, is the longing, the hot, yearning desire….