Books by Douglas Cooper

DELIRIUM by Douglas Cooper
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Feb. 24, 1998

The desire of architecture to impose order, and the repercussions of artistic ``overreaching,'' are given dramatic and often cryptic symbolic expression in this unusual second novel (``the first-ever to be serialized on the Web'') from the Canadian- born Cooper, who's a comic-surrealist crossbreed of the late Lawrence Durrell and William S. Burroughs. Several different stories are told by a narrator whose eventual revelation of his identity links this novel closely to its predecessor, 1994's Amnesia (with which Delirium should probably be read in tandem). Famous architect Ariel Price (born Preuss), who had dreamed of creating a Toronto that would match the structural marvels of Paris, has instead constructed ``a tombstone growing from the heart of a labyrinth'' in the eyes of those who judge him, and must face the consequences of his exploitation of a young street waif (Bethany), and his resolvebased on his insistence that ``no life bears scrutiny'' (a refrain repeated throughout)to murder Theseus Crouch, his putative biographer. And, in a series of ``Parallel Lives,'' which pair up other characters in disastrous combinations, Cooper teasingly explores (often obscure) connections among art, human aspiration, ``whoredom,'' and punishment. A further puzzling dimension is added by Ariel's ``discovery'' of the submerged city of Gomorrah; by the relationship between his daughter Arianna and Izzy Darlow (from Amnesia), who's researching the architecture of biblical cities; and by the implicit likening of Bethany's self-abasement to the tortuous reformation of Mary Magdalen (here identified with a prostitute, ``Saintes-Maries,'' and perhaps also a masochistic performance artist, Scilla, who enchants businessman Tom Sorrow, who works in Ariel Price's most celebrated office building). The compromising of visionary ideals by contact with sublunary lust and greed is clearly a central theme in a baffling, fascinating fiction that seems part of a multivolume work still in progress. One wonders what will succeed Amnesia and Delirium. A further descent into the maelstrom, or some promise of recovery? Read full book review >
AMNESIA by Douglas Cooper
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 10, 1994

Nobody will ever accuse Canadian writer Cooper of timidity. A Frankenstein machine, psychic possession, the Holocaust, and mental illness are just some of the elements in his first novel—all about guilt, memory, and the male as sexual predator. The place: Toronto, a city governed by ``propriety,'' where wildness has been confined to the ravines. The main players: Katie and Izzy. Katie is a virgin, sweet, trusting; her expensive home juts out above a ravine. Izzy Darlow is the middle of three brothers. Older brother Aaron takes after their father, a successful developer downplaying his Jewish heritage. Aaron dreams the future; he is building a resurrection machine. Younger brother Josh, a free spirit, celebrates the past. Izzy is the reader. When he learns about the Holocaust at age 12, he tries to destroy Aaron's machine; this is the novel's center. In the ensuing chaos, Izzy is possessed; Katie is violated and rendered mute; Izzy turns delinquent and causes the deaths of Josh and their grandfather. Three years later Izzy meets Katie in a mental hospital; the two amnesiacs move from trust to urgent coupling and then to betrayal when Izzy leaves her. It sounds preposterous, summarized, but plot is only one consideration in a novel that is structurally complex (there's a narrator who has his own problems with women and memory), thematically wide-ranging (Freud, architecture, the corruption of the academy), more concerned with emotional states than traditional characters, and more reminiscent of, say, Thomas's White Hotel than Hart's Damage. Cooper's supple intelligence and crisp prose sustain the novel and succeed in distracting us from its hokey heart until, in its final section, it becomes a listless raking of the embers. A beguiling if ultimately disappointing debut from a strong new talent. Read full book review >