BOOK & BLOG
January 8, 2007
Book(s) of the Week: HANNIBAL RISING by Thomas Harris and HELL TO PAY by Simon R. Green
Ive had what you might term a miscellaneous reading week. I got a box from Amazon and opened it with great excitement, since I almost always forget what I ordered. This box contained HANNIBAL RISING by Thomas Harris, HELL TO PAY by Simon R. Green, and SPOOK: SCIENCE TACKLES THE AFTERLIFE by Mary Roach.
I have a deep admiration for Thomas Harris. Not many writers can write one book every four to ten years and still maintain a good lifestyle. And I know a cousin of Harriss; in fact, she taught me in high school and we still see each other from time to time. Also, we share a name. If Harris had never written another book, HANNIBAL RISING would be considered interesting, compelling, and action packed; but Harris has written classics and created characters that are considered archetypes now, so hes measured by a different yardstick. As just about everyone knows by now, RISING is a prequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and details Hannibal Lectors early traumas. Compared to SILENCE, RISING is unconvincing stuff; a good read, nothing more. Maybe if we judge Harris by RISING alone, it would seem one of a kind, gruesomely original.
Ive talked about Simon Green before. Simon has his own world, the Nightside, inhabited by gods and monsters and a unique detective, John Taylor. Its always great entertainment to see what Simon comes up with. His characters are absolutely wonderful. Im especially fond of Dead Boy, and hes in this one. There are draggy parts, if you can consider a round of nightclubs catering to sexual deviations draggy, but on the whole HELL TO PAY is classic Simon R. Green; hair-raising fun.
As soon as I finish HELL TO PAY, Im reading the Mary Roach. I loved her book STIFF, which dealt in a frank and humorous way with the use of bodies after death, and I have high hopes for SPOOK.
My current state of mind began with my daughters advanced English assignment. She had to choose and illustrate a poem of John Donnes. Id read Donne in college (who didnt?) but the only poem I could still quote was the classic No man is an island . . . My daughter tracked down the poem and read it, and we talked about it together. I explained that it was about the community of man, and about death, and maybe several other things. I explained about bells tolling at the passing of a member of the community. We almost got bogged down at the Therefore, send not . . . because no one has servants to send anywhere any more. But she got the idea, and she made a neat illustration.
But its winter, and its gray and gloomy and rainy, and after you read Donne, you start thinking about death. Riding hard on the heels of this trigger, a young man in our town got killed by a train under murky circumstances, and we all are involved in his familys grief and deep concern about the cause of his death. Any parent sucks in a breath when a friend of a child dies, even if that child is in his twenties. It seems sheer luck that it wasnt your childs name written on the wall, and its awful to imagine the pain.
Then, as circumstances would have it, I began thinking about my brother, whos been gone for over ten years now. He and his wife (and his Scottie, Hamish) died in a house fire. Their lives might have been saved if theyd put up their smoke detector, which was still in a box in their living room. Im not repeating this to point out their carelessness, but in the hope that if your smoke detector is still in its box, you get it out and put it up and put a fresh battery in it at least once a year, if not twice. Make it part of your New Years Eve routine, or perhaps twice a year when the time changes, you can get out your stepladder and replace the old battery. There are deaths we cant prevent, no matter what, but there are deaths we can.
My latest issue of TIME magazine contains an article about deaths from malaria in Africa. The essence of the article is that we can save a life by donating ten dollars for a mosquito net. That seems a cheap way to save a life. Have a look at NothingButNets.net, and think about it.
Its a good way to turn a burdensome subject into a positive one.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris