Fleming’s papers: Life as it is vs. how it should be

Ian Fleming

This week, The Indianapolis Star (a paper where the Spy Commander worked for 17 years) had a feature story about how Indiana University is the home to a collection of Ian Fleming’s first-edition books and 007 manuscripts.

Understandably, this made its way around social media. Some British 007 fans decried how a library in the United States had custody of this material.

I understand the sentiment. But when you look at things how they are compared with how they should be, the situation becomes more complicated.

Ann Fleming

Specifically, Ann Fleming (1913-1981), the widow of Ian Fleming, had no use for James Bond.  She thought she was marrying the foreign editor of The Sunday Times of London.

Instead, she got married to an author who was in the process of creating James Bond.

Ian Fleming died in August 1964. Ann eventually sold off Ian’s collection of rare first-edition books (the primary interest of Indiana University’s Lilly Library). As part of the deal, she threw in many Ian Fleming manuscripts of James Bond novels.

As a chaser, the university received Fleming correspondence with the likes of (among others) Raymond Chandler, Allen Dulles and Robert F. Kennedy.

Anyway, during a discussion about this on Facebook, some British fans decried how the papers concerning the most British of heroes were housed in the United States.

I understand that. It is not what you’d expect.

The thing is, if Ann Fleming hadn’t sold the collection off, she probably would have just chucked it all in the trash. She wasn’t a Bond fan and it was taking up a lot of space in her home.

The question is not why are Fleming’s papers in the United States. The answer is known: Ann sold them off (for $150,000, according to The Indianapolis Star story).

The question is are the papers in safe hands? The Lilly Library at Indiana University has holdings including a Gutenberg Bible. The answer appears to be yes.

2003: Academics dissect (and then some) James Bond

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

We were reminded of an event that took on a life of its own: a 2003 academic conference about Ian Fleming and James Bond.

It was held at the main Indiana University campus in Bloomington, where many Fleming manuscripts and letters are kept. On May 29-June 1 of that year, various academics descended on Bloomington to examine 007 from every conceivable angle.

Some of the essays were collected in a 2005 book, Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007. It’s a bit pricey even today, with a paperback costing $26.

However, the book’s introduction can be viewed on a Google preview of the book. It gives you a flavor of some of the subjects discussed.

For example, “Fleming’s Company Man: James Bond and the Management of Modernism” argued that 007 was “less a champion of consumer culture than a hero of the corporation,” according to introduction.

“‘Alimentary, Dr. Leiter’: Anal Anxiety in Diamonds Are Forever” is an essay that “explores Bond’s sexuality, but as it is represented in the films of the seventies.”

Another entry is “Lesbian Bondage,” which “traces Bond’s transformation from excessively masculine hero to stylishly accessorized dandy.” The latter version “is less appealing to feminists and lesbians,” according to the introduction’s summary of the essay.

Other essays presented at the conference sought to put Bond in a historical context, including how the novels were first published as the British Empire was dissipating. “The Bond novels represent a response to the dilemmas and give voice to the hopes and fears of Cold War England,” the introduction says.

What’s more, the introduction says there were disagreements arose during conference planning. It says there were “disparate goals” between Ian Fleming Publications and the Ian Fleming Foundation.

The latter preserves Bond-related artifacts, including vehicles and miniatures that appeared in the films. Ian Fleming Publications hires authors to write 007 continuation novels. IFP, according to the introduction, urged conference organizers “to use only Fleming’s name — not Bond’s — on our promotional material and to avoid any kitschy display of fan-based adoration.”