I read too fast for my own damned good. Yesterday i decided to go on a smallish shopping spree with my credit card to see how close i could get to maxing it out without being rejected from purchasing something. In the madness, i hit Borders and picked up Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and a sweet oversized edition of Silence of the Lambs. I’m not sure what suddenly spurred this in me, but recently my girlfriend’s roommate has been powering through Lambs, and i always meant to read it, and i sorta want to go see Hannible. So, i suppose the plan was to get through the two of them soon enough to buy a non-movie edition of Hannibal to read before i go see the flick in a weekend or two. Or, as it turns out, maybe this weekend.
First of all, you have to understand my unholy hatred of movie-edition paperbacks. I hate them. Hate them. While having the image of a main character to aid me in visualization is always helpful, i’ve endured too many ugly movie-photos like the ones on the covers of The Beach or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, both of which previously featured superb cover work. Even worse, the new edition of Hannibal doesn’t even use the creepy zombie-like picture of Anthony Hopkins from the movie posters – instead it substitutes some awful and nearly amusing picture of him preening with a large straw hat on. It isn’t too threatening.
Borders had two copies of the non-movie edition, but i didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Paperbacks cost quite a lot now ($8 for a paperback? Does anyone else miss the 90’s yet?), and i didn’t want to sink nearly $30 into three books that i might not even like. So, i bought Red Dragon so i could finally read it & Silence of the Lambs, which looks nice if nothing else. I finished the dense 450 page Dragon in under 20 hours of intermittent reading; started around 4pm yesterday and completed noon today with rehearsal, sleep, and class coming inbetween. I was proud of myself. I’ve been known to finish 500 page books in well under eight hours in the past, but i tend to lose my momentum when i don’t read a large book all in a single sitting.
So far my impression is that Thomas Harris is a tremendous writer but a nearly equally inconsistent author who relies on too many plot devices and explicit histories in the place of actual suspense and horror. Much as in the movie of Silence of the Lambs, where you become excited by the chase rather than the whodunnit, this novel reveals the killer early on and becomes a book as much about him as about the protagonist (who’s a much better character). The protagonist is vivid, logical, and entangles himself and the reader frighteningly deep into each murder. On the other hand, the killer’s history is boring, contrived, evokes little pity, and surprisingly does nearly nothing to set the reader up for his near schizophrenic behaviour near the end of the novel. In fact, the book took a downturn as soon as it dropped the pretense and mainly focused on the murderer. And, i’ll never look at dentures the same way again.
Lambs is 350 pages in super-oversized soft-cover format, and it looks to be a bit more firmly put-together than Dragon. And, of course, it has a lot more of Hannibal Lecter in it. One thing i’ll hand to Harris as an author is that he crafted the ultimate chiller of a villain in Hannibal; in his new forward to the first novel he portrays the writing of Lecter’s first scene as though he viewed it from a corner where he was huddled in fear the entire time, fending off the urge to bolt out the door as well as the cackling of other inmates in the asylum. His description of writing Hannibal seems apropos, because i would hardly expect someone to deliberately conjure this sort of killer from the depths of their own imagination. A monster is hard to create, and much easier to develop in small strides as he crawls into the cracks of your psyche and makes you scared to even write him. Lecter definitely had that effect on his author, and now i can hardly wait to get Silence of the Lambs out of the way so i can run back to Borders tomorrow to buy a lovely copy of Hannibal.
Who knows, i might even wind up seeing it this weekend…