Book Review: An Old Favorite

I'm rereading Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs.

It's a better book than anything Clancy, Grisham, or that idiot Brown have ever written. It's more compact, more insightful, and more powerful. Harris' cold steel eyes see enough of his characters to so often describe them in a single, concrete, potent metaphor. Just look at the introduction for the sleazy Dr. Chilton:

"Starling knew without thinking about it that the shine on his extended hand was lanolin from patting his hair."

Now if that isn't a great use of a being verb in a novel, I don't know what is. Starling knew. "without thinking about it" zipping us along with her thought, then "shine" a wonderful, descriptive word. We can almost see it. It also tells us the room is somewhat bright, as a hospital should be, and, just perhaps, our imaginations adjust the mind's eye to the light, so that in the "world without mingling" below, Hannibal's lair may seem darker. Then we know what she was thinking - lanolin from patting his hair. Without saying it, Harris has given us a word for Chilton - greasy. Greasy and image-obsessed.

The first two paragraphs of the novel, even, are rich with death and burial metaphors (echoing the quotes that begin the book) and the urgency at the end of the second paragraph "now" makes us rush to the next chapters, through which the timing is astounding. Chapter 1: Meet Clarice, basic introduction and background, meet Crawford, brief image of Hannibal. Chapter 2: Meet Chilton, brief intro to Hannibal, and the world in which he now lives. Chapter 3: Meet Hannibal. And, may I remdind you, these are not long chapters. Fourteen pages in the first two chapters.

It is a modern and unrecognized classic.

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