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Slapping the Clammy Flab

John Lanchester: Hannibal by Thomas Harris

29 July 1999
Hannibal 
by Thomas Harris.
Heinemann, 496 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 434 00940 7
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... cell, the good doctor wakes up: ‘Dr Lecter’s eyes are maroon and they reflect the light redly in tiny points.’ Brrrrr. Is it chilly in here, or is it me? All this happens in Red Dragon, ThomasHarris’s second novel, his first being the, in retrospect, remarkably undistinguished all-Palestinians-are-terrorists thriller Black Sunday. Red Dragon’s back story, as these things are called in ...

Strangers

John Lanchester

11 July 1991
Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... as certain other books implicitly hate women. In that sense, it is an attempt to defamiliarise violence between the sexes and alert one to the way violence against women is routinely used in fiction. ThomasHarris’s The Silence of the Lambs is a thriller which achieves similar effects of defamiliarisation by avoiding some of the stock themes of the genre, and by embracing others with a convert’s ...

Nutmegged

Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis.

10 May 2001
The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... managed a wan smile’; ‘God, you’re so naive.’ No expensive talk about Descartes, Marivaux, Lemprière and Aristophanes can procure a pardon for that sort of thing. Other reviewers may commend ThomasHarris for committing ‘not a single ugly or dead sentence’ but Amis finds enough of them to label Harris ‘a serial murderer of English sentences’ and Hannibal ‘a necropolis of prose’. He ...
12 September 1991
The Tax Inspector 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 279 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 16297 5
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The Second Bridegroom 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 214 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 9780571164820
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... wants to become an angel’) led me to anticipate an exercise in the wackier reaches of magic realism. But The Tax Inspector is a much blacker novel than that, and several passages had me thinking of ThomasHarris – though Carey insists he has never read any of his novels. Benny’s hellish underground hideaway (‘The air was as thick as a laundry. The concrete floor was half an inch deep in water ...

Bright Blue Dark Blue

Rosemary Hill: ‘Weatherland’

5 November 2015
Weatherland 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 432 pp., £24.95, September 2015, 978 0 500 51811 3
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... and temperature, the stuff of art and conversation, weather would seem to be a relatively late development. Seasons, the overarching and background reality of life, are older, although as Alexandra Harris explains, ‘spring’ was invented only in the late Middle Ages. Before all that there was just climate and what people thought about it is all but unknowable. In the temperate zones, where the ...

The Lady in the Back Seat

Thomas​ Jones: Robert Harris’s Alternative Realities

15 November 2007
The Ghost 
by Robert Harris.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 09 179626 6
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... Robert Harris’s first novel, Fatherland (1992), was a counterfactual historical thriller set in Nazi Germany in 1964. In the alternative reality of the book, Germany defeated the Soviet Union in the Caucasus in ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot

3 February 2011
Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... cut’ ever put his hand to a pitchfork, the incident has gone unreported. And yet in Romantic Moderns, her provocative critical survey of English cultural life between 1930 and 1945, Alexandra Harris points to Eliot’s lines in ‘East Coker’ about ‘Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth/Mirth of those long since under earth/Nourishing the corn.’ Harris argues that the poet was ...

Short Cuts

Thomas​ Jones: Radio 3’s ‘X Factor’

14 July 2011
... they’ve made so far to Night Waves have been interesting enough (and must have boosted their ‘impact’ ratings no end), but then these particular academics are hardly obscure. Alexandra Harris (‘A Brief History of Being Cold: Journeys through English Art and the Elements’) won last year’s Guardian First Book Award; Rachel Hewitt (‘Britain in the 1790s: The Age of Despair’) wrote ...
9 September 1993
The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... all experimental art, from Picasso to Joyce, and metamorphosing into ardent traditionalists. They especially despised Surrealism, reserving particular contempt for the New Apocalypse school (Dylan Thomas and Co), whose influence was just beginning to register on the Australian literary scene, mainly thanks to the only avant-garde journal of the time, Angry Penguins. Angry Penguins was edited by Max ...
22 December 1994
Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain 1870-1914 
by José Harris.
Oxford, 283 pp., £17.95, June 1993, 0 19 820412 4
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... 1914. The terms of this contrast were clearly implied in Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, published in 1918. Of Strachey’s chosen targets, Cardinal Manning was a self-deceiving hypocrite, Dr Thomas Arnold the epitome of earnest Victorianism, who modelled his pedagogic vision on Jehovah’s relations with the Israelites, Florence Nightingale a bedridden female tyrant who drove her devoted male ...

In such a Labyrinth

Jonathan Rée: Hume

17 December 2015
Hume: An Intellectual Biography 
by James Harris.
Cambridge, 621 pp., £35, September 2015, 978 0 521 83725 5
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... Mossner wanted to rescue his hero from the romantic reactionaries who typecast him as a narrow-minded representative of the Age of Reason. In particular, he hoped to challenge the condescension of Thomas Carlyle, who dismissed Hume as an associate of Voltaire and the French philosophes, and a slave to the ‘obscurations of sense, which eclipse this truth within us’. Hume had imagined, according to ...
7 February 1980
The Victorian Country House 
by Mark Girouard.
Yale, 470 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 300 02390 1
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The Artist and the Country House 
by John Harris.
Sotheby Parke Bernet, 376 pp., £37.50, November 1980, 0 85667 053 7
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National Trust Studies 1980 
edited by Gervase Jackson-Stops.
Sotheby Parke Bernet, 175 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 85667 065 0
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... glad I still have my copy. I am also very glad to have a copy of The Artist and the Country House for, doubtless with an eye to their principal business, Messrs Sotheby Parke Bernet have carried John Harris’s research in a heavy and lavish volume with 419 plates – some a little grey, alas, but there are 26 good ones in colour. This may not be the first book on the subject, but it is a scholarly work ...

Tuesday Girl

Colin Burrow: Seraphick Love

6 March 2003
Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin 
by Frances Harris.
Oxford, 330 pp., £25, January 2003, 0 19 925257 2
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... under ground’. In his gardens at Sayes Court, on the edge of the naval dockyards at Deptford, he laid out complex arrangements of the most exotic trees and plants. Like his Norfolk contemporary Sir Thomas Browne, he admired the fact that a tree could ‘generate its like without violation of Virginity’. But he was no Swampy or tree-hugger. His plans for giant plantations of trees had a military and ...

Chevril

J.D.F. Jones: Novels on South Africa

11 November 1999
Ladysmith 
by Giles Foden.
Faber, 366 pp., £9.99, September 1999, 0 571 19733 7
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Manly Pursuits 
by Ann Harries.
Bloomsbury, 340 pp., £15.99, March 1999, 0 7475 4293 7
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... some acknowledged that he was forced to travel through desperately difficult terrain, facing an enemy whose guerrilla skills became a model for later insurgencies. Foden does not conceal his debt to Thomas Pakenham’s classic history, The Boer War (1979). A less skilful novelist might have been tempted to exaggerate the plight of Ladysmith, but Foden does not pretend that the town was ever at its last ...
23 August 2001
Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous 
by Don Foster.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 333 78170 8
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... the cops had in December consulted a New York psychiatrist called James Brussel, described by John Douglas as ‘the father of behavioural profiling’. Douglas is the FBI man who inspired ThomasHarris to invent the character Jack Crawford in the Hannibal Lecter novels, so he should know. This is the psychological portrait Brussel came up with of the Mad Bomber: He’s symmetrically built … ...

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