I had intended to write a post this week about the pathetic fumblings of Congress this year — only in session for 103 days, even fewer than the 110 of Truman’s “Do-Nothing” 80th Congress — or the exceptional performance of Red Hat on the CIO Insight 2006 Vendor Value study, where they tied Cisco for 3rd, above stalwarts like Dell (7th), IBM (16th), Microsoft (24th), and Oracle (32nd). However, I lost momentum in the middle of a very busy work week so I’ll have to leave that to the rest of the blogosphere.
It’s far easier to read at night in bed than tap away on the laptop, so I did manage to punch my way through Thomas Harris’ new novel Hannibal Rising. By far the slightest of Thomas Harris’ works, there’s not much of a surprise factor in reading about Hannibal Lecter’s downward adolescent trajectory from war orphan to monster. The evocative asides from Harris’ earlier novel Hannibal were more than adequate to paint the broad strokes of this story. The most intriguing fraction of this book depicts the relationship between Hannibal and his stepmother, Lady Murasaki Shikibu (named for the Tale of Genji author of course).
But the story’s mostly simple revenge plot is not a detriment, and in fact, I think there’s a fair argument to be made that this is a conscious choice on Harris’ part, tying in to a rich vein of Japanese literature. It’s hard also to find fault with the elegant execution of Harris’ prose, sensuous and heady throughout, but often also cuttingly direct:
Night in the gross-anatomy laboratory. The large room with its high windows and big vent fan was cool enough so that the draped cadavers, preserved with formalin, remained on the twenty tables overnight. In summer they would be returned to the cadaver tank at the end of the workday. Pitiful little bodies underneath the sheets, the unclaimed, the starvelings found huddled in alleys, still hugging themselves in death until rigor passed and then, in the formalin bath of the cadaver tank with their fellows, they let themselves go at last. Frail and birdlike, they were shriveled like the birds frozen and fallen to the snow, that starving men skin with their teeth.
I truly enjoyed Harris’ last book Hannibal, and was one of the few, I suppose — judging from the critical reactions — who was disappointed by the film’s departure from its Cocteau-worthy denouement. This book wasn’t as thoroughly satisfying, but it was a pleasurable read and a welcome diversion from a grueling work week.