Earlier this evening a friend's bounty brought me a copy of Hannibal Rising, really nothing is going to stop me from reading it but it is true that a damper was placed on my enthusiasm when I saw what Anthony Lane had to say just now at the New Yorker (and the thing is I can see that Lane really loves those earlier books too, this is not just someone doing a scathing takedown with no sense of what made the early Lecter books total genius):
Hitherto, the champions of Lecter have ascribed to him a core of monstrosity, no more malleable than a diamond, and native to him alone; if so, it is brushed aside and squandered by the uncovering of his past. With “Hannibal Rising,” we watch the legend sink.
Why did Harris pursue this line of inquiry? He has written one great Lecter book, “The Silence of the Lambs,” and two lesser ones, so why produce a fourth that is not merely the weakest but that makes you wonder if the others were so gripping after all? There is a puff of grand delusion here, of the sort to which all thriller-writers are susceptible. Compare “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” an early novel by George V. Higgins, with the bulky solemnities of his later work; or, for that matter, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” with more recent le Carré like “The Night Manager” or “The Constant Gardener.” At some point, each man started to hear that he was so much more than the master of a genre (as if that were an ignoble thing to be), and responded to such flattery by expanding his fiction beyond its confines, not realizing that what he felt as a restriction was in fact its natural shape.
I could not agree more about Le Carre, in fact it was "The Night Manager" in particular that really first strongly drew my ire (you can see it certainly in "The Constant Gardener" also, but I think "The Night Manager" was the most comically and disgustingly over-the-top embarrassingly affected and pretentious). And I truly now can no longer see the merits of even the best early Le Carre, I tried to reread "Tinker Tailor" a few years ago and found it pretty tedious. Hmmm....