DELIRIUM by Douglas Cooper

DELIRIUM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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?

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7868-6341-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1998