I have read every word of Hannibal, most of them only twice but some as many as five or six times, sending them whirling among a bevy of sound engineers who organized them into the thirteen-hour, unabridged audiobook of Thomas Harris’s summer page-turner.
When I won the assignment, I received a box crammed with 600 pages to be ingested in time for the first session just two days later. All I had to go on to bring the characters to life were half-remembered echoes from The Silence of the Lambs; Anthony Hopkins’s gentle, seductive menace in his pronunciation of “Clarice,” and Jodie Foster’s sexy-sweet vocal tic that layers a soft shushunation over her Southern drawl.
I bent my North London accent to accommodate North and South Carolina; east and West Virginia; Maryland; D.C.; politicians; swat teams; African-Americans; women and men, one of whom had been left with no facial features – a reader particularly missed the use of his lips. Then, on the fourth day, the story decamped to Italy! Sardinians, Florentine intellectuals, Roman police, gypsies, extracts from the cantos of Dante’s Il Purgatorio (in the original, to be sure). The unusual haste with which the project was arranged produced only one casualty: A character I’d decided to enunciate in South African tones turned out, a couple of hundred pages later, to be Swiss. Listen to where my pronunciation warps from one culture to the other in mid-sentence.
Weeks later, I see the book all over town and am nostalgic for the characters and the time I spent with them between the covers. They may have gone from my daily life, but they are out there somewhere. I can still taste them.