Sleepless nights and angst go
‘ 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