A man is haunted by the memory of his mother standing under a gibbet with a rope round her neck. It is the American War of Independence, and having defied the British forces occupying New York she must pay for her revolutionary activities. But fifty years on her son harbours a festering guilt for his inadvertent part in her downfall. Then, in a nineteenth-century New York of thrusting commercial enterprise, a ruthless merchant's sensitive son is denied the love of his life through his father's prejudice against the immigrants then flooding into the city - and madness and violence ensue. Finally, a Manhattan psychiatrist tries to treat a favoured patient reeling from the destruction of the World Trade Centre. But she fails to detect the damage she herself has sustained, and suffers the consequences of her blindness.
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Patrick McGrath is the author of a short story collection, Blood and Water and Other Tales, and six novels: The Grotesque, Spider, Dr Haggard's Disease, Asylum, Martha Peake and most recently Port Mungo, which was published by Bloomsbury. He lives in London and New York. Spider was made into a film in 2002 by acclaimed director David Cronenberg.From Publishers Weekly:
Beneath Manhattan's ever-changing skyline, familial betrayal and guilt remain hauntingly constant in these three juicy novellas, the latest in Bloomsbury's Writer in the City series. In "The Year of the Gibbet," set in the burned-out, British-occupied city of 1777, a boy inadvertently exposes his mother as a spy for General Washington; after she is hanged, her ghost returns to torment him. "Julius" moves ahead to the Civil War era to tell the Jamesian saga of a weak-minded art student who goes insane when his wealthy businessman father breaks up his love affair with a lowborn artists' model. "Ground Zero" is the tale of a man who begins a relationship with a prostitute who keeps seeing the specter of her lover, a man killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. It's told from the viewpoint of the man's jealous psychiatrist, who gradually allows her voice of psychoanalytic detachment to take on a vengeful tone of post-9/11 paranoia. McGrath (Asylum, etc.) sets these stories against the burgeoning city and its stew of sublime aspiration, corrupt failure, and sexual and class antagonisms. He writes in a range of registers, but complicates each with a subtle, empathetic humanism.
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