January 16th, 2007

Chris Keeley

Hannibal Rising: Hannibal Lecter's origin myth

Hannibal Rising: Hannibal Lecter's origin myth

Hannibal Rising is Thomas Harris's latest book in his wildly successful Hannibal Lecter/Silence of the Lambs series. Harris has written precious few novels -- a thriller called Black Sunday and the four Lecter novels -- in thirty years. But for all that he's a very occassional writer, his books loom large in the popular consciousness, and with good reason. They're very, very good.

Hannibal Rising is the origin story of Hannibal Lecter, his childhood in war-torn Lithuania his life in a Soviet orphanage, his rescue to rural France, his move to Paris, and finally, his internship at Johns Hopkins in the USA. Hannibal is basically a superhero -- possessed of superhuman strength and intellect -- and so this is the equivalent of the radio-active spider bite and robbery-gone-bad that turns Peter Parker into Spiderman.

Harris writes superbly -- he's clearly an obsessive researcher, and he revels in the incredible, vividly drawn scenery he conjures. He imbues Hannibal with a cold psychopathy that sends shivers up your spine even as it evokes a strange sympathy for him.

The thread that connects all the Hannibal books is the philosophical question: where does evil come from? In The Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal is a kind of oracle of evil -- someone who understands it so well that he can tell you where it will strike, and hint that he knows why it will strike, too.

In Hannibal Rising, Harris takes us through the incredible atrocities that transform Hannibal from a brilliant little boy into a cold murderer. As we found out in Hannibal, the last book in the series, Hannibal's family was murdered by looters during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, who then ate his sister. In Hannibal Rising, we live through the events leading up to this, and through Hannibal's life afterwards, as he turns his brilliance to revenge, transforming himself from someone whose love is so fierce he kills for it into someone who can't feel love at all.

This makes the Hannibal/Clarice Starling love affair in Hannibal (hinted at in Silence of the Lambs) pay off all the more. Hannibal Lecter may be the most interesting anti-hero in contemporary fiction, a character so good that he works as well in film as he does in print.

The audiobook edition of Hannibal Rising is superb -- Harris himself reads it, in his soft southern accent, doing a marvellous job with the European accents, giving the text a real suspenseful treatment that only the author can impart.

There's only one thing I don't like about this book -- the cover. It stinks. It's like someone rang down to the art department and said, "Get that guy who letters all the crummy Tolkien knockoffs to just write the title on burnt parchment, OK?" Link, Link to audiobook

Chris Keeley

Photos of Dodos

Photos of Dodos
Posted 2007-01-22

This week in the magazine, Ian Parker writes about the British paleontologist Julian Hume, an expert on the dodo, a large, flightless bird that once lived on the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. The bird became extinct in the seventeenth century, before photography was invented. To create the photographs presented here, the artist Harri Kallio took life-size models of the dodo to Mauritius and recreated scenes of the bird in its native surroundings. Kallio’s work appears courtesy of the artist and the Bonni Benrubi Gallery.

To view the slide show, click on the red link in the Related Links box to the right.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/content/articles/070122on_onlineonly01

Chris Keeley

An Afghan farmer destroys poppies in his field near Kandahar last April.

Poppies and Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom

An Afghan farmer destroys poppies in his field near Kandahar last April. An Afghan 

An Afghan farmer destroys poppies in his field near Kandahar last April.

Ending an Opium War

Once, the British Empire fought a war for the right to sell opium in China. In retrospect, history has judged that war destructive and wasteful, a shameless battle of colonizers against the colonized that in the end helped neither one.

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Chris Keeley

Alice Coltrane, RIP: 1937-2007

Alice Coltrane, RIP: 1937-2007













The great jazz instrumentalist and widow of John Coltrane died on Friday. She was best known for her work on three instruments: harp, Wurlitzer organ, and piano. Link to Wikipedia bio, and here is her website. News coverage: One, two (Thanks, Dirk). Here's an interview in The Wire from 2002: Link.

I can't find any good video footage or sound samples online, but this experimental short on Google Video by an Icelandic filmmaker uses one of her most beautiful compositions, "Journey In Satchidananda": Link. "Blue Nile" is my all-time favorite, favorite track of hers, from this album, a very brief sound clip on this NPR feature page: Link. Amazon has some short clips from that same record here: Link.

Chris Keeley

Soldiers File Appeal For Redress Against Iraq War

Soldiers File Appeal For Redress Against Iraq War
A group of active-duty service members are heading to Capitol Hill today to call for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The soldiers will be presenting a petition – known as an appeal for redress. It has been signed by over 1,000 troops – mostly enlisted service members. The act marks the most public rejection of the war by active-duty soldiers since the U.S. invasion
Chris Keeley

Trial Begins in CIA Leak Case

Trial Begins in CIA Leak Case

By Amy Goldstein and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 3:10 PM

 

The trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of lying about the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity opened this morning, with the prosecutor and defense attorneys for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff questioning potential jurors about their views of the Bush administration, the Iraq war and the fallibility of human memory.

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Chris Keeley

The Best Chance at the Truth

The Best Chance at the Truth

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 1:24 PM

 

It's a compelling, but still largely unexplored, narrative.

It goes something like this: As President Bush's false case for war in Iraq began to unravel, his top aides took extreme measures to discredit critics who accused the administration of intentional deceit. One of their mechanisms involved using compliant reporters to spread sometimes inaccurate information, without leaving any fingerprints. As a result, they successfully kept charges of deception from becoming a major issue in the 2004 election, allowing Bush to win a second term. And since then, they have continued to avoid any meaningful congressional oversight, while at the same time keeping most of the press off the trail.

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