Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho offer sleepless nights

This Halloween, as you wait for monsters and witches to knock on your door, pick up a scary book and give yourself a good scare.

Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel, “The Silence of the Lambs” might be overwhelmed by the film adaption, but don’t let that stop you from picking it up.

“The Silence of the Lambs” is noteworthy for the various plotlines, all restrained, that emerge in the book. We follow the young FBI trainee Clarice Starling as she talks with the brilliant, eerie psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter — who also happens to be a cannibal in an asylum run by the egotistical Dr. Chilton. Lecter and Starling play an enrapturing game of quid pro quo — she tells him about her youth and, in turn, he gives her tidbits of information of the killer known as “Buffalo Bill,” who murders girls by gruesome means.

Additionally, Bozeman, Montana happens to plays a significant, if subtle, part in the novel. Starling was sent to live at a sheep and horse ranch in the Gallatin Valley as a child and the event that occurs there ultimately defines her.

What makes “The Silence of the Lambs” so horrific and wonderful to read is the slow, delightful build-up. Harris gives the reader more information than Starling or her FBI mentor, Jack Crawford, as they chase down Buffalo Bill, creating incredible suspense.

We meet Buffalo Bill and feel absolutely reviled by his every action. We end up being utterly hypnotized by Dr. Lecter, even at some points (potentially) rooting for him. Starling encounters horrific scenes — a storage unit with questionable contents, a dead body that Harris describes with mesmerizing detail, etc.  — while trying to unravel the clues Dr. Lecter gives to her in their “sessions.” Harris eloquently weaves past and present together and offers believable characters that live in a dark, flawed world. The dialogue is quick, the plot is tightly woven and the action could definitely disrupt sleep patterns.

——————————————————————————————————————

Take the restraint Thomas Harris put into “Silence of the Lambs” and throw it in the fire: Now you’re left with Bret Easton Ellis.

Ellis is often known as literature’s bad boy — he is not afraid to be be disgusting, grotesque and graphic in his descriptions of sex. That doesn’t mean, however, that his work is cheap or campy. “American Psycho,” which came out in 1991, takes all of Ellis’s signatures and puts them into the competitive world of Manhattan in the late 1980’s.

Patrick Bateman is the muscled, wealthy and intelligent protagonist. He lives in a large, airy apartment and carries out the most ritualistic and complex system to be as near-perfect as a humanly possible. Ellis places us into Bateman’s world of corporate lunches, excessive amounts of alcohol and business cards with varying classes of fonts — a world where ruthlessness is covered with the musk of expensive perfume and contained in tailored suits. Bateman’s only constant companion is his copy of the Zagat review book, so that he can get into the most exclusive restaurants and bars.

Once he’s out of the office, however, Bateman is allowed to indulge in the things he truly enjoys. At night, a murderer surfaces, still clothed in bespoke suits. Ellis makes this a clear swipe at the ridiculousness of “yuppie” culture  — “American Pyscho” lists more designers and purveyors of expensive goods than the mind can handle. There is a lot of cocaine, clubbing, fierce office rivalries and, at several points, Bateman openly tells his coworkers about the murderous and gory activities he takes part in, which they never take seriously.

[pullquote align=”right”]Ellis places us into Bateman’s world of corporate lunches, excessive amounts of alcohol and business cards with varying classes of fonts — a world where ruthlessness is covered with the musk of expensive perfume and contained in tailored suits. (For American Psycho)[/pullquote]

The capitalistic culture and vapidity of New York make it so that Bateman, and everybody he socializes with, see everything as an object — even people. This results in some rather nasty scenes and this is definitely not a book for the squeamish. “American Pyscho” is an intense read and incredibly creepy. It may even leave the reader wondering if there’s a little part of Patrick Bateman in everybody.