Sleep­less nights and angst go

Don An­der­son

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

‘ IT is a truth uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged,’’ that ‘‘ all happy fam­i­lies re­sem­ble each other; each un­happy fam­ily is un­happy in its own way’’. Ac­tu­ally, that is two truths. Pa­trick McGrath’s latest novel, Trauma, is con­cerned with the Weir fam­ily, whose name may serve to sug­gest weird, which they are, and- or a weir, which holds back the flood of fam­ily trauma.

McGrath, who was a guest at this year’s Ade­laide Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, is the au­thor of six nov­els and a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries. His sec­ond novel, Spi­der , was made into a film of the same name by the truly weird ( on the ev­i­dence of his movies) David Cro­nen­berg.

In 2005 McGrath pub­lished Ghost Town, con­cerned with New York, in Blooms­bury’s The Writer and the City se­ries, which also in­cludes Peter Carey’s Syd­ney .

The open­ing sen­tence of Ghost Town reads: ‘‘ I have been in the town, a dis­qui­et­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, for New York has be­come a place not so much of death as of ter­ror.’’ Though that is said of the town of New York in 1777, it is true of the time in which Trauma is set. Not so much in the shadow of the twin tow­ers, for the novel is dis­tinctly lo­cated af­ter the US with­drawal from Viet­nam, in Man­hat­tan, as the World Trade Cen­tre is un­der con­struc­tion.

But the grim fu­tu­rity of 9/ 11 dom­i­nates the reader’s aware­ness of what McGrath’s char- ac­ters are suf­fer­ing. As Noah van Horn, Amer­i­can plu­to­crat, re­flects in Ghost Town, at the time at which Moby- Dick was fall­ing on deaf ears: ‘‘ He had re­cently read that the com­ing of the great cos­mopoli­tan city marked the last phase of a civil­i­sa­tion, the city be­ing

A fine sense of the gothic: Pa­trick McGrath plumbs fam­ily trauma in his latest novel

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