When Spencer Met Hannibal: I. of II.
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When Spencer Met Hannibal: I. of II.

Recreational Cannibalism in the New American Century

 Jonathan Penton
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 Jonathan Penton
When Spencer Met Hannibal: I. of II.
by Jonathan Penton  FollowFollow
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Jonathan Penton forged unlikelystories.org in the fires of Mount Doom, and into it poured his hatred, cruelty, and will to dominate. His books...read more of poetry are /Standards of Sadiddy/ (Lit Fest Press, 2016), /Prosthetic Gods/ (Winged City Chapbooks, 2008), /Painting Rust/ and /Blood and Salsa/ (Unlikely Books, 2006), and /Last Chap/ (Vergin' Press, 2004).
When Spencer Met Hannibal: I. of II.
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"KEEP ANCIENT LANDS, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips.
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Although written in 1883 and inscribed in America's port of entry as late as 1903, Emma Lazarus' The New Colossus symbolizes the greatest of American spirits, the all-inclusionism that so many Americans consider our country's highest, if sometimes ignored, virtue. The forces of inclusionism are always challenged in the U.S. by racists and reactionaries. With the latest round of anti-Latin sentiment in the U.S., we may be inclined to forget our nation's greater sin against inclusionism: lookism. Americans like the flashy, the articulate, and the well-groomed, and we are sometimes inclined to forget how few of our citizens can truly fall into these categories. It is the styleless, the stuttering, and the slovenly that Tom Bradley, expatriate, has championed with Lemur

[1]Published by and available from Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008.
. And since it goes without saying that the ultimate American ambition is to become a newsworthy serial killer, it is only natural that he should choose this milieu for his heroic call to the average.
Before we get into Lemur, though, let us consider the nation as it stands.
As Jack the Ripper was the father of the 20th Century, the father of the 21st is unquestionably Dr. Hannibal Lecter, otherwise known as Hannibal the Cannibal. The fact that Dr. Lecter is fictional is not incidental. A real human was necessary to usher in the violence of fascism, Stalinism, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but merely eight years into the 21st Century "real" violence has become passé. We focus on the terrorist acts of 2001, but easily forget that the first five years of this century saw rapidly-escalating death tolls from natural disaster, cheerfully enhanced by the PowerPoint presentations and scissor-lifts of Al Gore confirming that, yes, everyone on Earth is going to die, and, yes, it is the United States' fault. Our wars are already exponential: the 2,974 killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001
[2]Death toll taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11th_terrorist_attacks and excluding hijackers.
have been answered with between 86,864 and 94,782 civilian deaths in Iraq ; a shocking number over the course of five years, but less so when the fatalities in China reach over 69,000 from a single earthquake . True, the 20th Century saw its fair share of quakes: China's top four earthquakes of the 20th Century killed more than 692,000 , to say nothing of the century's tsunamis, hurricanes, genocides, and terrorist acts against Israelis, who are used to it. Dr. Lecter was fond of mentioning such disasters; like many of the rhetorically profound, he would often answer questions about his own vicious intentions by comparing them to God's. But the point is that in this century, with a steady stream of disastrous news not only instantly broadcasted into the homes of the sociopolitical elite by TV and DSL but instantly reported in the world's most popular encyclopedia, we understand that it is no longer real death that traumatizes, but our reactions to it. Genocide has a new flavor: our massively media-ted, and increasingly bitter, methods of commiseration are the glue of our new style of violence. Factual acts of violence are secondary when we can turn on To Catch a Predator and molest children by proxy. Many have joked about the phrase "embedded journalist," but it is perfectly apt: what is the War on Terror but the shining symbol of our new media-centric misanthropy, a society so humanitarian that, faced with the agony of the death of 3,000 New Yorkers, is forced to attempt to eliminate all the adherents of the world's second-largest religion, knowing full well that the effort will mean the end of our Republic?
But I broaden my scope excessively. Let us refocus on Hannibal Lecter
[6]The word lecter is an archaic form of lectern, meaning a reading desk, most commonly the desk in a church from which sermons or scriptures are read aloud (from the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary).
. Dr. Lecter was created by Thomas Harris, a former crime journalist with the Associated Press, working in the U.S. and Mexico. His first novel was Black Sunday (1975, G. P. Putnam's Sons), a novel about planned terrorism at the Superbowl by an American (the idea came to him during the 1972 Munich killings). His second novel, the first novel in the Hannibal Lecter series, Red Dragon (1981, G. P. Putnam's Sons) was made into two films: Manhunter in 1986 and, after the success of Sir Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Lecter, Red Dragon in 2002. He released The Silence of the Lambs in 1988 (St. Martin's Press), and in 1991 it became quite probably the most influential serial killer film to date (though did anyone else find the sets rather reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show?). His book Hannibal was published in 1999 (Delacorte Press) and the film came out in 2001. He kept writing about Lecter after that, but fuck him
[7]Tom Bradley asked Raw Dog Screaming Press to send a review copy of Lemur to me, and suggested I "review the fuck out of it." He did this after reviewing the fuck out of my chapbooks, Painting Rust and Blood and Salsa, in nthposition, and after he sent me a copy of his acclaimed book of essays, Fission Among the Fanatics (2007, Spuyten Duyvil), and I loaned it to my neighbor before leaving that apartment in the dead of night with said neighbor's book on hiking in the Sandias. When contemplating this article, I promised to re-read Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal for research, but assured Tom that no amount of lit-love with him could get me to read Hannibal Rising.
. It is Hannibal that Tom Bradley has homaged, answered, and slaughtered with Lemur.
I'm going to assume, here, that you've either read or seen Hannibal, The Silence of the Lambs, and at least one version of Red Dragon, and I'll feel free to include spoilers of these works. I'm going to assume that if you haven't read Hannibal at this point, you don't intend to. I'm also going to assume that if you're the type of person who claims to have read books when you've only seen the movie, and have done this with Hannibal, that you've already been called out at a party, and are therefore aware that at the end of the novel Dr. Lecter and Clarice Starling settle into a life of bourgeois pseudo-European excess in Buenos Aires in which they both practice cannibalism for amusement and revenge.
While researching Red Dragon, Harris studied with John E. Douglas, the head of the FBI's Investigative Support Unit. Douglas, himself the author of thirteen books on criminology and six novels, has greatly advanced the science of criminal psychology since joining the FBI in 1970; the practice of "criminal profiling," in which a serial killer's personality is reconstructed from their crimes until they can be identified from the FBI database, has gained acceptance largely due to his success with it. He's the inspiration for Frank Black from the television show Millennium, Dr. Sam Waters from the television show Profiler, and has indirectly influenced huge tracts of the current crime fiction genre. In the three Lecter novels we'll discuss, he becomes by Section Chief Jack Crawford (played by Dennis Farina in Manhunter, Scott Glenn in The Silence of the Lambs, and Harvey Keitel in Red Dragon, not appearing in the film version of Hannibal).
In a 1999 interview with Salon, Douglas politely disclaimed any real association with the novels (his own web site encourages people wanting to understand criminal profiling to read his nonfiction books rather than novelizations of his work). Focusing on The Silence of the Lambs, he assured the interviewer that no person resembling Hannibal Lecter exists (then reminding us that there really are people who resemble Harris' fictional serial killer Buffalo Bill). By the end of the interview, Douglas seems to be attempting to analyze Thomas Harris and David Byrne as two candidates most likely to behave like Hannibal Lecter in the future.
Douglas represents the "new" FBI. In the interview, he expresses amusement at J. Edgar Hoover's choice of privatewear, but something closer to shame at the FBI's files on Martin Luther King, Jr. His web site actively encourages women and racial minorities to join the FBI, while expressing regret at the slowness of the FBI to embrace such applicants. Almost all serial killers are male, and the vast majority are from the largest racial group in their region, and you can see frustration with the profiling traditions of local police departments in a great deal of what Douglas writes. Thomas Harris, for his part, took a little longer to catch up.
The first thing that impressed me upon re-reading Red Dragon was the truly awful style. I was sixteen when the The Silence of the Lambs film came out and, denied entrance to a cinematheque for the first time, sat down to read the novels. Even at the time, the gap in quality between Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs was jarring; as an adult, the first book was nearly unreadable. Red Dragon focuses on Will Graham (played by William Petersen in Manhunter and Edward Norton in Red Dragon), a retired FBI profiler living in Marathon, Florida. A talking cliché who can walk the walk, Graham is inexplicably begged out of retirement by a manipulative Jack Crawford, who absolutely needs Graham to solve murders of families in Birmingham and Atlanta. Graham, who captured Dr. Lecter (Brian Cox in Manhunter, and some short limey in Red Dragon) some years back, lives quietly in a vaguely Travis McGee world with his girlfriend and her kid, and is assured that he'll be working out of an office and totally removed from the situation. Instead, Graham visits the crime scenes, questions family members, and proceeds to visit Dr. Lecter in his asylum in order to request his assistance in profiling the killer. (Douglas disclaims this activity with some emphasis, saying that profiling involves interviewing and studying captured serial killers, but not requesting their assistance.) When the FBI realizes that Lecter has been communicating with the killer and has attempted to use him as a weapon against Graham, Graham proceeds to offer himself as bait for the killer halfway through the novel.
One might wonder why Crawford needed this poutily "reluctant" retiree so desperately, and the answer is related to us by forensic psychiatrist Alan Bloom (renamed Sydney Bloom and played by Paul Perri in Manhunter, mentioned but faceless in Red Dragon). Dr. Bloom, mostly a background figure, is crucial to the study of these novels. In Red Dragon, Crawford suggests that Bloom work with the FBI to trick the killer into suicide; Bloom refuses on moral grounds. This is the only time in the Hannibal saga in which we'll see two people, trying to do the right thing, disagree about what the right thing is. Outside of this scene, the morality of Lecter's world slides from monochromatic to pure black.
But back to Graham: Bloom informs a minor character that Jack Crawford believes that Will Graham has magical powers. Bloom himself does not believe Graham has magical powers, but appreciates his profiling talents in terms nearly as vague. We're left with Lecter's as the only concrete explanation of his alleged skill (not that his police work in Red Dragon displays any): "The reason you caught me is that we're just alike."
To quote Charlie Kaufman, "See every cop movie ever made for other examples of this."
It's not just the cops that are clichéd. I'll refrain from describing Graham's girlfriend, but suffice it to say that gender stereotypes are firmly in place. So, too, is racism and homophobia: some of the victims in the 2002 film became African-American, but in 1988 they were upper-middle class, and there are no middle-class blacks in our Hannibal readings. (We do not normally make accusations of racism based on ethnocentrism alone, but we'll come back to this.) Graham interviews a reluctant gay male teenager about his dead family, and with his knowledge of street lingo like "rough trade" demonstrates how homosexuality leads to petty crime and vice versa (and not in a sexy Selby way). The killer, for his part, is absolutely terrified of being considered homosexual (to the point at which the cops lure him out of hiding by referring to him as the Tooth Fairy), and since the killer is the most sympathetic character in the book, that means something.
The only character with a backstory, the killer, a film processor by the name of Francis Dolarhyde (played by Tom Noonan, then Ralph Finnes [man, I totally typed 'Manhunger' in IMBD just now, that was trippy {have you seen Carrington and the way Jonathan Pryce as G. Lytton Strachey pronounces "Ralph?"}]), was abandoned by his mother because of his harelip and taken in by his senile grandmother who runs an abusive long-term care facility for the even seniler. From an early age, he associated nervous tension with Love, and when the Love became more than he could bear, would kill an animal. The book isn't totally clear on how he began to associate sex with Love, but when the book opens he's murdering families and arranging the dead kids in the form of an audience, so that they can "watch" him fuck their dead mom. Wearing his grandmother's dentures, he bites the corpse as he's fucking it, and his failure to create hickeys is thus crucial to his profiling (and the gay slur that drives him to rage). He films the acts and masturbates while watching them (hell, a man can't slaughter a family every time he needs to come), and it's both through these films and Graham's inner dialogue that we encounter all the gory details; hideous descriptions, slightly removed by the passage of fictional time.
Back in real-time, Dolarhyde gets a girlfriend, a beautiful blind female named Reba McClane (played by Joan Allen then Emily Watson), who, while not really a well-developed female character, at least is more sympathetic than Graham's stick with boobs. And here, we first see Harris' ideas about class, refinement, and taste. In her first few minutes on-the-proverbial-camera, McClane is being hit on by a co-worker, who makes it clear that he thinks he would be doing her a favor, since she's blind. McClane had already begun a cautious flirtation with Dolarhyde, and complains of the pity of men, to which he responds "I have no pity." (Did you see Angels in America? I'll stop.) This doesn't quite convince her, but he gets her into his van and quickly onto his prick by asking to drive her home "for my pleasure."
While Harris' own aesthetic is largely buried in cliché at this point, we're beginning to see symptoms. Dolarhyde has a schizophrenic alter ego which is finally named when he first sees William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun: to him, the Red Dragon is a real entity which has been growing inside of him, and that Blake must have met under different circumstances. (How that fits in with Dolarhyde's decision to eat the original confuses me, but that's less important than the fact that the painting-eating scene was fucking hilarious.) Besides the respect he shows McClane when he asks for a date (his first), he beats, then later murders, a gas station attendant who ogles her; it's an act we're expected to sympathize with. Throughout Red Dragon and Hannibal, the killers are refined, sophisticated, and educated in all manner of arts and culture, the cops are crude, and the reporters would embarrass a troglodyte. Manhunter failed to properly sexualize this: its Dolarhyde is sympathetic, but not particularly sexy. 2002's Red Dragon applied its man-musk with a hammer. The Constant Gardener proved that Ralph Finnes could play a desexualized role (without establishing why anyone would want him to). He wasn't asked to do so for Red Dragon. Everyone's favorite death-camp rapist was back in full form, with muscles a-rippling, speech impediments a-leaping, and agonized cries to a dead maternal figure. The book wasn't quite as devoted to the sexy-killers/gauche-victims dichotomy, and Lecter himself is strictly a minor character, but the trend is there: chapters are devoted to superhumanly scuzzy tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds (played by Stephen Lang, then Philip Seymour Hoffman), his shameless exploitation of the graphic nature of the crimes (as opposed to, you know, the novelist's), and his kidnapping, the removal of his lips by denture bite, and his immolation. Then he dies.
Anyway, the book sucks. Harris' next book comes out twelve years later, and in the intervening time Harris learned to write, Graham became addicted to alcohol, and Dr. Lecter grew an eleventh finger. No, seriously. Graham says "he looks normal" in Red Dragon, and in The Silence of the Lambs he has a perfectly-formed sixth finger on his left hand, which Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, Julianne Moore in Hannibal, in case you've been comatose for a while) somehow knows to be "the rarest form of polydacty."
Despite that, The Silence of the Lambs is the least silly of the Lecter books, and as such the least relevant for "our" purposes. Again for the recently-comatose, the plot is a riveting one: Crawford gets a trainee, who begins the book unaware that she's being groomed for his section, to interview Dr. Lecter for information about the serial killer known to the press as Buffalo Bill (note: this is still stupid, yet now also awesome). Starling is unusually physically attractive, and when Lecter's cellmate throws semen at her Lecter becomes attracted to her, and willing to converse. When it becomes clear that Lecter knows Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine in the film), Lecter begins trading information about the killer in exchange for personal details about Starling's life, which causes the attraction to deepen. By the end of The Silence of the Lambs, Starling finds and kills Buffalo Bill, and Lecter escapes, communicating to her (by phone in the film, remailing service in the book) that she's really cool and he won't hunt her if she won't hunt him. Harris' writing style hasn't made as much progress as his plotting, but it's still a better book than Red Dragon by any measure.
In this book, we can see Harris actively trying to not be racist, a hilarious artifact from our pre-Living Color past. Starling's roomie at the FBI Acadamy (Ardelia Mapp) is black, as is Nurse Barney Matthews (Frankie Faison in the films for both The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal), the good-natured, meticulous guard at Lecter's asylum who manages to keep Lecter imprisoned by virtue of his thoroughness and maintain the doctor's esteem through civility (at the end of the book, Lecter mails him a tip). Harris' attempts to not be homophobic are the real slapstick, though. Buffalo Bill is really Jame Gumb, a homosexual male with a record of beating up gays (written shortly before Dahmer's capture). As far as Gumb knows, he is not kidnapping and murdering women because he is attracted to them; an accomplished seamster, he is trying to make a dress out of human skin. As Lecter teases Starling with information, he suggests that she check records of hospitals where gender reassignment surgery is performed. From there, Dr. Lecter, Starling, and Crawford (who isn't in the room at the time) all take time out of their busy dialogue schedules to mention that transsexuals are nonviolent, that Gumb only thinks he's a transsexual, and would doubtless be refused in the hospital's screening process: the cops are to search for rejected applicants for gender reassignment surgery. But it is a Dr. Danielson, head of the Gender Identity Clinic at John Hopkins, who makes the full speech, to Crawford, when the latter man asks to see the hospital's records:
"To even mention Buffalo Bill in the same breath with the problems we treat here is ignorant and unfair and dangerous, Mr. Crawford. It makes my hair stand on end. It's taken years—we're not through yet—showing the public that transsexuals aren't crazy, they aren't perverts, they aren't queers, whatever that is…"
"The incidence of violence among transsexuals is a lot lower than in the general population. These are decent people with a real problem—a famously intransigent problem. They deserve help and we can give it. I'm not having a witch hunt here. We've never violated a patient's privacy, and we never will."
Contemporary persons such as my readership might first assume that this is another case in which good men disagree. That's not what Harris intended, and when Crawford threatens to pull political power and get gender reassignment surgery legally reclassified as cosmetic, it's done in such a way that we realize: Dr. Danielson is the bad guy.
Needless to say, Jame Gumb is far less developed than Francis Dolahyde. The fascination is all for Lecter, whose "Sympathy for the Devil"-esque sophistication rings through each page. A gentleman's gentleman, he's articulate, observant, genuinely interested in Starling's personality and history, unfailingly civil and dining only on the uncivil (though he conducts less elaborate murders for reasons of convenience), and particularly fond of The Goldberg Variations. Personally, I think liking The Goldberg Variations should be classified as a mental illness in and of itself, but the same people who once beat up math geeks for lunch money tend to see the Variations as a symbol of sophistication in adults. The message of The Silence of the Lambs is as clear in the book as it is in the movie: Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.
In 1991 Harris became incredibly rich and famous. Never a prolific novelist, he released his next book eight years later. At 546 pages, it's about 200 pages longer than the previous Lecter books, and is also something completely different: art. Not good art, exactly. But for all its sloppiness, it strives for something the others didn't: truth. In Harris' case, the truth is that he believes that Americans are ignorant, graceless monstrosities, abortions of the human race, who would serve the planet best by being killed by crossbow, dissected, and served as organ meat for Europeans.
For the first 246 pages of Hannibal Dr. Lecter is in Florence, Italy, representing himself as Dr. Fell, an expert on Dante recently relocated from Brazil. (Lecter now has a backstory, and appears to originally hail from the lands once known as the Austrian Empire; the fact that he'd seem to some to be an escaped Nazi doesn't come up.) The art, architecture, streets, foliage, and people of Florence are described with pomp to rival Cormac McCarthy and John Jakes' heteronormative love child, storied so deep in Italy's religious literature that America's legends look like an ALF marathon in comparison. He's being tracked by Mason Verger (played by Gary Oldman), who was, some decades ago, persuaded by Lecter to eat his own nose, and wants revenge. Verger is a carefully-constructed obscenity. Now horribly deformed, he's kept alive by a nebulously-described breathing machine, his one eyeball misted by robot as he sits in low light. (In the film, attention is given to Starling's lack of discomfort with his hideous appearance; in the book, she and Lecter revel in her sexual disgust.) The heir to a Virginia pig-farming fortune, he and his father have committed an endless array of corporate crimes and health department infractions, while never being unwilling to stoop to petty cruelties to random children passing by. His Lecter-hunting staff, whom he refers to as "eating his chocolate," includes Nurse Barney, Paul Krendler (a Justice Department executive who has transformed from a minor, relatively sympathetic antagonist in The Silence of the Lambs into a sort of Supervillian of Misogyny, as well as from Ron Vawter into Ray Liotta), Verger's sister Margot, whom he habitually ass-raped as a child, turning her into a steroid-popping lesbian bodybuilder, and a Dr. Doemling, psychologist, whom the author mercilessly mocks for his occupation, portraying him as the most arrogant imbecile of this highly arrogant group of incompetents.
Now, to some degree, any novelist mocking Freudian thought has a reasonable motive. The debt that modern society owes to Freud is immeasurable; he taught us how to study, explore, and analyze those aspects of human experience most resistant to analysis. That said, most of his individual ideas were demonstratably wrong (before him, they weren't falsifiable, so that's still to his credit). No medical discipline still uses them, nor are they taken seriously, without significant amendment, in any other area of study except art criticism. Academic literary critics, second only to film critics, sit like the tarot's high priestess between the twin pillars of Freud and Marx, analyzing authors wholly by these models, seemingly unaware that psychology and philosophy have moved on, leaving European secular morality to its poorly-remembered nightmares.
The problem is that if critics have failed to amend Freud, Harris has failed to understand him. The characters in Hannibal, who are normally as evil as Starling is holy, are preposterous amalgams of the most extreme childhood trauma and sexual cruelty, with psychoses as vicious as they are insipid. Virulently anti-sex, the whole book reads like the worst literary criticism, caught in a malevolent limbo between a hatred for God and a hatred for Ratzinger-style sins.
Starling, meanwhile, as her thirty-third birthday approaches (and just in case you don't get the Christ symbolism, Hannibal repeats it, repeats it, repeats it, has Lecter draw a literal picture, then explains it), is having serious career trouble when she shoots a black mother, who's carrying an infant on a sling and a submachine gun in her hand, in self-defense, and is photographed in the act by a wandering tabloid reporter. Ardelia, her roommate from her FBI Academy days, with whom she now shares a duplex, says:
"Your question is, how do I feel about you killing that African-American woman holding that child. This is the answer. She shot you first. I want to you be alive. But Starling, think about who's making the policy here. What kind of dumb-ass thinking put you and [her] together in that sorry place so you could solve the drug problem between you with some damn guns. How smart is that? I hope you'll think about whether you want to be their cat's paw anymore."
Before we can think about what that could mean when a black female FBI agent says it to a white female FBI agent (OK, actually a few chapters later) we learn that Ardelia hears through the "African-American grapevine" that no blacks blame Starling for the shooting, although the Crips still want revenge.
When not receiving messages from singing, dancing raisins, Starling jogs in the closest Virginia State Park and visits a fallen agent at Arlington National Cemetery. It bears mentioning that the park is unidentified and scarcely described, and Arlington (which is quite haunting and brilliantly designed) isn't described at all. In Florence, on the other hand, we see every street that Lecter walks down not only described but identified by name. It's one thing to call America's suburban sprawl repulsive; it's another thing to dis the Virginian countryside.
Anyway, Verger and his crew send a corrupt police detective, a bunch of Italian kidnappers, and a pornographic filmmaker to catch Lecter; Lecter kills the detective and some kidnappers and the other kidnappers kill the pornographer for no reason I could discern. Lecter then comes to the U.S. to hunt Starling. Several artists, Hannibal director Ridley Scott included, have put forth the alarming claim that Lecter is not insane, but here we get some moral relief: Lecter is hunting Starling because when he was a small child, his younger sister was eaten by Red Army deserters, and Lecter wants to kill Starling and bring his sister back to life in Starling's body. It's silly psychology, but it's psychology: it makes it clear that Thomas Harris, unlike so many of his fans, does not see Lecter as some sort of advancement in evolution.
But then, it really doesn't matter what Thomas Harris thinks. There are 300,000,000 Americans, and only one him.
Margot Verger and Barney Matthews become friends, and are able to quickly reconstruct their relationship after he attempts to rape her. Meanwhile, Paul Krendler destroys Starling's career so that Mason Verger can use her as bait. The plan works, and the remaining Italian kidnappers acquire Lecter, leaving Starling confused in a grocery store parking lot. While Starling figures it out, and prepares to make an unauthorized and dumbassed rescue, Lecter further elucidates the moral structure of the novel by attacking a gay man for fun and being extraordinarily kind to the lesbian (the gay man was of course a pederast, but Lecter didn't specifically know that). Starling attempts to rescue and arrest Lecter, but is shot with a tranquilizer dart; Lecter grabs her and escapes in her car, so Margot kills Mason with his own pet eel. And that, my friends, is the most subtle symbolism in the novel.
Lecter wants Starling to voluntarily defer her place in the universe to his sister, but he does brainwash her with the use of psychotherapy, hypnosis, and drugs into a more amoral creature, first. They eat Paul Krendler's brain together while he is still alive, sharing it between hilariously sensuous descriptions of the recipe, smells, and the difficulties of preparing fresh brain (which is usually jellied, first, for ease of cooking [except when coal-barbequed, but that is just far too unrefined to bear mention in this tome]). Lecter then proposes Starling die for his sister's benefit. Starling says that she appreciates his thought process, but would rather he suck on her tit. The book ends.
I call this mess of a book "art" because of a single passage, the opening to Chapter Twenty, in which the corrupt detective sees "Dr. Fell" observing the Florentine crowd at the "exposition of Atrocious Torture Instruments," and the author breaks the fourth wall to ask: Now that ceaseless exposure has calloused us to the lewd and the vulgar, it is instructive to see what still seems wicked to us. What still slaps the clammy flab of our submissive consciousness hard enough to get our attention? It was this passage that, nine years ago at twenty-four years of age, made this book, with all its redundant adjectives and ludicrous psychology, so very worthwhile to me. It is in these two sentences that we understand Harris' level of expertise in this deeply relevant field of study. It doesn't matter that he can't write; it doesn't matter that he's as silly about race as we're all crazy about sex. We need him that way, as surely as we need mirrors. And when he turned Starling to cannibalism, the message to the audience was unmistakable: Fuck you. I quit. I ain't your fucking mirror no more. As the end of a trilogy, it earned my immediate and complete respect. When the publication of Hannibal Rising was announced, that respect vanished as immediately and completely. And when the film version of Hannibal Rising failed to attract big movie stars or big audiences, I gained the satisfaction of knowing that America was no longer eating his chocolate. Click here to read Part II *Originally published @ Unlikely Stories

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