Title: The Silence of the Lambs.
Author: Thomas Harris.
Genre: Fiction, horror, thriller, serial killers, cannibalism, crime.
Publication Date: 1981.
Summary: The time is now. A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname—Buffalo Bill—is stalking particular women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the F.B.I. Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, Chief of the Bureau's Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and grisly killer now kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Lecter's insight into the minds of murderers could help track and capture Buffalo Bill. Smart and attractive, Starling is shaken to find herself in a strange, intense relationship with the acutely perceptive Lecter. His cryptic clues—about Buffalo Bill and about her—launch Clarice on a search that every reader will find startling, harrowing, and totally compelling.
My rating: 8/10.
♥ "The psychiatrist—Dr. Hannibal Lecter," Crawford said.
A brief silence follows the name, always, in any civilized society.
♥ "No. No, that's stupid and wrong. Never use wit in a segue. Listen, understanding a witticism and replying to it makes your subject perform a fast, detached scan that is inimical to mood. It is on the plank of mood that we proceed. You were doing fine, you'd been courteous and receptive to courtesy, you'd established trust by telling the embarrassing truth about Miggs, and then you come in with a ham-handed segue into your questionnaire. It won't do."
♥ "I think you can provide some insight and advance this study."
"And what possible reason could I have to do that?"
"About why you're here. And what happened to you."
"Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can't reduce me to a set of influences. You've given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You've got everybody in moral dignity pants—nothing is ever anybody's fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I'm evil? Am I evil, Officer Starling?"
"I think you've been destructive. For me it's the same thing."
"Evil's just destructive? Then storms are evil, if it's that simple. And we have fire, and then there's hail. Underwriters limp it all under 'Acts of God.'"
"I collect church collapses, recreationally. Did you see the recent one in Sicily? Marvelous! The façade fell on sixty-five grandmothers at a special Mass. Was that evil? If so, who did it? If He's up there, He just loves it, Officer Starling. Typhoid and swans—it all comes from the same place."
♥ "Being smart spoils a lot of things, doesn't it? And taste isn't kind. When you think about this conversation, you'll remember the dumb animal hurt in his face when you got rid of him."
♥ "And the study?"
"A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone. Go back to school, little Starling."
♥ She stood again in front of Lecter's cell and saw the rare spectacle of the doctor agitated. She knew that he could smell it on her. He could smell everything.
"I would not have had that happen to you. Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me."
It was as though committing murders had purged him of lesser rudeness. Or perhaps, Starling thought, it excited him to see her marked in this particular way. She couldn't tell. The sparks in his eyes flew into his darkness like fireflies down a cave.
♥ She drove back to Quantico, back to Behavioral Science with its homey brown-checked curtains and its gray files full of hell.
♥ No pills are in sight—Crawford emptied a linen closet in the hall and filled it with her medicines and apparatus before he brought her home from the hospital. (It was the second time he had carried her cross the threshold of that house, and the thought nearly unmanned him.)
O wrangling schools, that search what fire
Shall burn this world, had none the wit
Unto this knowledge to aspire
That this her fever might be it?
♥ Considering the face again, she believed she learned something that would last her. Looking with purpose at this face with its tongue changing color where it touched the glass, was not as bad as Miggs swallowing his tongue in her dreams. She felt she could look at anything, if she had something positive to do about it. Starling was young.
♥ Floaters are the worst kind of dead to deal with, physically. There is an absolute pathos about them, too, as there often is about homicide victims out of doors. The indignities the victim suffers, the exposure to the elements and to casual eyes, anger you if your job permits you anger.
♥ "Live right behind your eyes. Listen to yourself. Keep the crime separate from what's going on around you now. Don't try to impose any pattern or symmetry on this guy. Stay open and let him show you."
♥ And Crawford saw that the atmosphere had changed here in the presence of the dead: that wherever this victim came from, whoever she was, the river had carried her into the country, and while she lay helpless in this room in the county, Clarice Starling had a special relationship to her. Crawford saw that in this place Starling was heir to the granny women, to the wise women, the herb healers, the stalwart country women who have always done the needful, who keep the watch and when the watch is over, wash and dress the country dead.
♥ She watched him walk away, a middle-aged man laden with cases and rumpled from flying, his cuffs muddy from the river-bank, going home to what he did at home.
She would have killed for him then. That was one of Crawford's great talents.
♥ "Most people love butterflies and hate moths," he said. But moths are more—interesting, engaging."
"Some are, a lot are, but they live in all kinds of ways. Just like we do." Silence for one floor. "There's a moth, more than one in fact, that lives only on tears," he offered. "That's all they eat or drink."
"What kind of tears? Whose tears?"
"The tears of large land mammals, about our size. The old definition of moth was 'anything that gradually, silently eats, consumes, or wastes any other thing.' It was a verb for destruction too."
...Out of the cosmic hangover the Smithsonian leaves came her last thought and a coda for her day: Over this odd world, this half the world that's dark now, I have to hunt a thing that lives on tears.
♥ Some days you wake up changed. This was one for Starling, she could tell. What she had seen yesterday at the Potter Funeral Home had caused in her a small tectonic shift.
Starling had studied psychology and criminology in a good school. In her life she had seen some of the hideously offhand ways in which the world breaks things. But she hadn't really known, and now she knew: sometimes the family of man produces, behind a human face, a mind whose pleasure is what lay on the porcelain table at Potter, West Virginia, in the room with the cabbage roses. Starling's first apprehension of that mind was worse than anything she could see on the autopsy scales. The knowledge would lie against her skin forever, and she knew she had to form a callus or it would wear he through.
♥ "I'm not sure you get wiser as you get older, Starling, but you do learn to dodge a certain amount of hell."
♥ "What do your two disciplines tell you about Buffalo Bill?"
"By the book, he's a sadist."
"Life's too slippery for books, Clarice; anger appears as lust, lupus presents as hives."
♥ "You believe he's a catatonic schizoid?"
"Yes. Can you smell his sweat? That peculiar odor is trans-3-methyl-2 hexenoic acid. Remember it, it's the smell of schizophrenia."
♥ We rarely get to prepare ourselves in meadows or on graveled walks; we do it on short notice in places without windows, hospital corridors, rooms like this lounge with its cracked plastic sofa and Cinzano ashtrays, where the café curtains cover blank concrete. In rooms like this, with so little time, we prepare our gestures, get them by heart so we can do them when we're frightened in the face of Doom.
♥ "Help me. Help me. Help me." She thought for an instant of her late parents. She wondered if they would be ashamed of her now—just that question, not its pertinence, no qualifications—the way we always ask it. The answer was no, they would not be ashamed of her.
♥ Dr. Lecter, murderer of nine, had his fingers steepled beneath his nose and he was watching her. Behind his eyes was endless night.
♥ Silence can mock.
♥ "A caterpillar becomes a pupa in a chrysalis. Then it emerges, comes out of its secret changing room as the beautiful imago. Do you now what an imago is, Clarice?"
"An adult winged insect."
"But what else?"
She shook her head.
"It's a term from the dead religion pf psychoanalysis. An imago is an image of the parent buried in the unconscious from infancy and bound with infantile affect. The word comes from the wax portraits busts of their ancestors the ancient Romans carried in funeral processions.... Even the phlegmatic Crawford must see some significance in the insect chrysalis."
♥ She hadn't known she knew that. The mayor in his leisure suit and Navy surplus shoes. The cocksucker. "Quid pro quo, Dr. Lecter."
"Did you think for a second you'd made that up? No, if you'd made it up, it wouldn't sting."
♥ Dr. Lecter amused himself—he has extensive internal resources and can entertain himself for years at a time. His thoughts were no more bound by fear or kindness than Milton's were by physics. He was free in his head.
♥ Crawford, ever wary of desire, knew how badly he wanted to be wise. He knew that a middle-aged man can be so desperate for wisdom he may try to make some up, and how deadly that can be to a youngster who believes him. So he spoke carefully, and only of things he knew.
♥ She felt lighter, better. Crawford really was very good. She knew that his little nitrogen question was a nod to her forensic background, meant to please her and to trigger ingrained habits of disciplined thinking. She wondered if men actually regard that kind of manipulation as subtle. Curious how things can work on you even when you recognize them. Curious how the gift of leadership is often a coarse gift.
♥ When her pupils darkened, Dr. Lecter took a single sip of her pain and found it exquisite. That was enough for today.
♥ She didn't give a damn about some of them, but she had grown to learn that inattention can be a stratagem to avoid pain, and that it is often misread as shallowness and indifference.
♥ Dr. Lecter had a sleek dark head.
He's a cemetery mink. He lives down in a ribcage in the dry leaves of a heart.
♥ "What does he do, the man you want?"
"Ah—" he said sharply, averting his face for a moment from her wrongheadedness. "That's incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?"
"Anger, social resentments, sexual frus—"
"He covets. In fact, he covets being the very thing you are. It's his nature to covet. How do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort at an answer."
"No. We just—"
"No. Precisely so. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over you every day, Clarice, in chance encounters? I hardly see how you could not. And don't your eyes move over things?"
♥ "Take your case file with you, Clarice, I won't need it anymore." He held it at arm's length through the bars, his forefinger along the spine. She reached across the barrier and took it. For an instant the tip of her forefinger touched Dr. Lecter's. The touch crackled in his eyes.
♥ "That is the Death's-head Moth," he said. "That's nightshade she's sitting on—we're hoping she'll lay."
The moth was wonderful and terrible to see, its large brown-black wings tented like a cloak, and on its wide furry back, the signature device that has struck fear in men for as long as men have come upon it suddenly in their happy gardens. The domed skull, a skull that is both skull and face, watching from its dark eyes, the cheekbones, the zygomatic arch traced exquisitely beside the eyes.
"Acherontia styx," Pilcher said. "It's named for two rivers in Hell. Your man, he drops the bodies in a river every time—did I read that?"
♥ Crawford tried going into the next room—he still could turn when he wanted to and see her through the open door, composed in the arm light of the bedside lamp. He was waiting for her body to become a ceremonial object apart from him, separate from the person he had held upon the bed and separate from the life's companion he held now in his mind. So he could call them to come for her.
His empty hands hanging palms forward at his sides, he stood at the window looking to the empty east. He did not look for dawn; east was only the way the window faced.
♥ As a child in institutions where there were few prizes and many hungers, she had learned to hate a thief.
♥ He sees very clearly—he damn sure sees through me. It's hard to accept that someone can understand you without wishing you well. At Starling's age it hadn't happened to her much.
♥ Teach us to care and not to care.
Teach us to be still.
♥ Nothing makes us move vulnerable than loneliness except greed.
♥ Problem-solving is hunting; it is savage pleasure and we are born to it.
♥ She found Starling in the warm laundry room, dozing against the slow rump-rump of a washing machine in the smell of bleach and soap and fabric softener. Starling had the psychology background—Mapp's was law—yet it was Mapp who knew that the washing machine's rhythm was like a great heartbeat and the tush if its waters was what the unborn hear—our last memory of peace.
♥ Far to the east, on the Chesapeake shore, Orion stood high in the clear night, above a big old house, and a room where a fire is banked for the night, its light pulsing gently with the wind above the chimneys. On a large bed there are many quilts and mounds beneath the covers may or may not be Noble Pilcher, it is impossible to determine in the ambient light. But the face in the pillow, rosy in the firelight, is certainly that of Clarice Starling, and she sleeps deeply, sweetly, in the silence of the lomabs.