(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Douglas Cooper’s DELIRIUM, which has been promoted as the first novel to be serialized on the World Wide Web, is the second novel of a projected quartet. The first part, AMNESIA (1994), was Cooper’s critically acclaimed debut.

The plot of DELIRIUM has a carefully constructed, mazelike quality that mirrors the numerous labyrinth images interspersed throughout the story. Ariel Price is an aging architect whose modernist skyscrapers dehumanize the cities in which they are built. When he receives the first chapter of a biography of himself that threatens to expose his questionable past to the world, Price decides that he must murder the biographer, Theseus Crouch, before the book is published.

The conflict between Price and Crouch, however, appears only intermittently among numerous short narrative sections that detail other bizarre characters, such as Price’s deformed assistant, a young runaway with whom Price falls in love, and a performance artist who discovers an underground mall beneath one of Price’s buildings. Other sections reveal the narrator’s views on the nature of evil, the mechanics of his own narrative, and architecture. Indeed, the skyscraper that Price is building in downtown Toronto, where most of the story is set, serves as perhaps the most concrete and ubiquitous “character” in the novel. This tower, according to the narrator, grows “through the center of the story” and binds the various threads of the plot together.

Despite the fragmented quality of the story, Cooper’s novel methodically moves toward a surreal, philosophical confrontation between the architect and the biographer in which Price is finally forced to confront the past that he has tried so hard to keep buried.