Arrow Books, £7.99
Paperback review: The Silence of the Lambs, By Thomas Harris
Sunday 22 September 2013
Hannibal Lecter – psychiatrist, psychopath, purveyor of ghastly canapés – is an ambiguous presence in Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon (1981) and its sequels. Rarely the outright villain, he tends to play the role of a genteel monster with whom the reader is, scandalously, invited to sympathise.
In The Silence of the Lambs, the best of Harris’s novels, the FBI requires Lecter’s insight in order to catch serial killer Buffalo Bill, who enjoys parading about in the flayed skins of his victims. Clarice Starling, a pretty trainee agent, is sent to visit Lecter in prison and charm him into offering help.
Lecter agrees, on the condition that Starling reveal details of her early life for analysis, and much of the novel is devoted to their queasy tête-à-tête. Lecter is a polite, even avuncular presence, but you’re never sure whether he is more interested in picking Starling’s brains or merely pickling them.
As the cover of Arrow’s 25th anniversary edition demonstrates – “Seen the film? Now read the book …” – there is another sort of cannibalism going on here. While this is a finely crafted thriller, and there is a relishable, hard-bitten quality to Harris’s prose (“She could see the dying moon, pale and thin as a bone fishhook”), The Silence of the Lambs has been swallowed whole by Jonathan Demme’s unforgettable screen adaptation.
After the movie, it becomes impossible to think of Starling without recalling Jodie Foster’s delicate performance, to read Lecter’s lines without hearing Anthony Hopkins’s fricative-laden delivery. Thus does pop culture eat itself: with fava beans, and a nice Chianti.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 3 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 4 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
- 5 Cristiano Ronaldo storms out of interview after being asked about possible sale of Manchester United target Sergio Ramos
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
Chronixx interview: Reggae sensation on taking the opening spot at Glastonbury and calling Barack Obama a 'waste man'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director Jack Bender says showrunners 'communicate closely' with George RR Martin
Amy Winehouse film: Mark Ronson praises 'respectful' movie as it scores highest ever UK opening for British documentary
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts