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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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... in tiny points.’ Brrrrr. Is it chilly in here, or is it me? All this happens in Red Dragon, Thomas Harris’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 Hollywood, is that Graham is the man who caught Dr ...

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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... and Aristophanes can procure a pardon for that sort of thing. Other reviewers may commend Thomas Harris 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 finds the ...

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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... between the sexes and alert one to the way violence against women is routinely used in fiction. Thomas Harris’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 enthusiasm. For instance, the woman-in-peril ...

Australian Circles

Jonathan Coe, 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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... Tax Inspector is a much blacker novel than that, and several passages had me thinking of Thomas Harris – 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’) has distinct overtones of Jame Gumb’s basement ...

Lumpy, Semi-Dorky, Slouchy, Smarmy

John Lanchester, 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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... by John Douglas as ‘the father of behavioural profiling’. Douglas is the FBI man who inspired Thomas Harris 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 … neither fat nor skinny … a co-operative worker ...

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 1943, lured the Royal Navy to its destruction after learning that the British had cracked the Enigma code, and intimidated the United States into signing a peace treaty by successfully testing an atom bomb and launching an intercontinental V3 rocket across the Atlantic ...

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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... 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 waxing and waning of the year is more noticeable than in the ...

Warthog Dynamism

David Bromwich, 19 November 2020

... in 1948 demonstrated his political nerve against the favourite and eventual loser of that year, Thomas E. Dewey. The implied comparison, in 2020, was with the passive, careful, non-reactive campaign of Joe Biden, who arranged to be caught on camera in a face mask, projecting grandfatherly reassurance from his basement headquarters. Biden’s mental debility ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Radio 3’s ‘X Factor’, 14 July 2011

... 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 a bestselling history of the Ordnance Survey. ‘We are ...

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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... 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 thinking about the dead ...

Englishmen’s Castles

Gavin Stamp, 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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... 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 of great scope and interest. As Mr ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Rough Guiding, 1 June 2000

... The Spy who Saved D-Day (336 pp., £19.99, 25 May 2000, 1 873162 81 2) is the work of Tomás Harris, Pujol’s MI5 controller. Pujol was so keen to work against the Nazis that he started sending the Abwehr freelance disinformation from Lisbon even before the British recruited him. Eventually they agreed to take him on and he went to London in April ...

Marvellous Boys

Mark Ford, 9 September 1993

The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... 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 Harris, a student at ...

Underneath the Spreading Christmas Tree

Gareth Stedman Jones, 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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... 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 acolytes to early death, and General Gordon an imperial ...

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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... 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 Carlyle, that the mechanistic logic with ...

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