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by Douglas Cooper

Those looking forward to their reacquaintance with Izzy Darlow, the neurotic fairy-tale raconteur of Douglas Cooper’s enchanting 1992 novel Amnesia, are likely to be disappointed by the author’s muddled sophomore effort, the aptly titled Delirium.

For one thing, Darlow appears in Delirium not as the narrator but as just another name in a cast of tangential, somewhat clichéd, undeveloped characters. Like Cooper, Izzy has moved to New York. Unlike Cooper (one supposes), he has done so to escape the past of ghosts, ravine hauntings, and Judeo-Christian symbology that Cooper’s reading audience will so vividly remember from Amnesia.

But the past haunts Izzy, this time in the form of a mysterious woman visitor and a phantom biography that threatens to reveal the secret of the callous architect Ariel Price. The reader begins this novel engaged and confident that they are in the hands of, if not Izzy, then some equally adept narrator. That is to say, one looks forward to being drawn into the Cooper world where guilt is a kind of confused morality, and dreamscape cities suck the hope right out of everything.

But as the novel introduces a vaguely familiar cast of urban stereotypes including the saint/whore runaway Bethany, the crippled but kind visionary Cosimo and, most dubious of all, the goth artiste Scilla, one feels, in fact, rudely thrust out of the world of Izzy Darlow. Izzy, for instance, would never be guilty of penning a sentence such as: “Ariel emerges from the bus into the sickly humidity and stumbles along the shore of the ailing water until, nauseated from the journey, he sits heavily on a sharp rock.”

No, it is Cooper himself who is responsible for the adjective-laden, overwrought tone of this book. He has also burdened what is, at heart, an interesting story with unnecessary pretension and preachy, unconvincing plot-lines.

The memory of Izzy Darlow ensures that there will be die-hard Cooper fans who will seek out this book. Having reached the end of the story, however, I suspect they will long for another novel from Cooper, one that will recollect the legacy of Amnesia before it is forgotten in the throes of Delirium.