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Spider Paperback – October 8, 1991


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Spider + Asylum + Dr. Haggard's Disease
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Contemporaries ed edition (October 8, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736301
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

I cut into my potato, and dead in the middle of the halved potato there was a . . . thick, slow discharge I recognized as blood.

A wry, mesmerizing tale of madness in a London suffused with the smells of jellied eels, leaking gas, outdoor lavatories and furry feet. Spider obsesses about wetness and fire and sexuality, about "this business of the thought patterns" and "the dead eyes" of his father and a woman named Hilda. Somewhere inside Spider's internal web of illusions lurks the truth about his mother's death.

From Publishers Weekly

In this "closely observed study of madness, memory and storytelling" the delusional Dennis Clegg, aka Spider, returns to his London neighborhood after 20 years in a mental hospital and insists that his father, not he, murdered his mother. "An admixture of Poe and the comic vulnerabilities of Beckett, this tale lingers long and disturbingly in the mind," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I wasn't excited to pick the book up again.
Labute
His thoughts and fears are as real to us as if they were our own.
Larry L. Looney
Sometimes, I found myself completely gripped by the story.
Sebastien Pharand

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on June 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
...take a step into Spider's mind -- and after you do that, you'd better pray that the door didn't slam shut behind you. You're definitely going to want a way out -- this is a pret-ty scary place.
Of the three novels and one book of short stories I've read by Patrick McGrath, this, I believe, is his masterpiece. As Spider narrates his story -- in an almost-torrential syntax that in itself reveals a lot about him -- the reader is inexorably drawn further and further into the mind of a man who is slipping away before our eyes. Spider is hanging on to the ledge of reality by his fingernails, while events conspire to take their turn trodding on his fingers. His thoughts and fears are as real to us as if they were our own. His world -- more-or-less present-day London -- seems as alien to us as a Martian landscape. Everyday people, events, objects and places leap out of the mist at him with frightening intensity -- we feel our breath and our pulse quicken repeatedly as he/we attempt to deal with the ever-more threatening reality of daily life in a halfway house, as images and ghosts from the past intermingle with pieces of the present, and it gets harder and harder to tell one from the other.
McGrath is, at the core, a master story-teller. His interest in the psychological most likely stems from his father's work at Broadmoor Hospital in England, where he grew up. All of his works share an eye for detail, and the care he takes in doing his homework is very apparent. This book is one of the most compelling, captivating and frightening portraits of madness I have ever read -- and it's thoroughly entertaining as well.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on October 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is my third Patrick McGrath's novel and my favourite so far. I've read `Asylum' and `Dr. Haggard's Disease' . The first is a haunting and dark love story --quite different, and very touching--, the second is interesting, however I don't know what happened, but I couldn't click with the book. But `Spider' became my favourite, and it is unforgettable to me.
It is a story of man, named Dennis `Spider' Cleg, a man who lives in a kind of halfway house for the mentally ill in London. As he is both protagonist and narrator, we are never sure of what he is talking about. Maybe things happened the way he says, maybe he is alucinating. Who knows? He is a man with mental problems that is followed by the image of his father killing his mother and bringing a whore to substitute for her. And we learn all that happened from Spider's sick mind. Until the surprising end.
I highly recommend this novel to readers who like dark thrillers, with psycological undertones. The characters are very well developed. Spider is a human being as any other, we can easily understand what happened to this man that led him to be the way he is.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C. ANZIULEWICZ on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Back in college I decided to take a class in abnormal psychology as an elective. Patrick McGrath's novel "Spider" would've made good supplemental reading for that class. What we have here is the journal of one Dennis Clegg, a man in his early 30s who is living in a kind of halfway house for the mentally ill in London. Dennis, whom we learn is nicknamed "Spider," has returned to London after being institutionalized with acute schizophrenia for some 20 years. He has never truly recovered, however, and as this narrative progresses we vicariously experience his increasingly fragile grip on reality. What precipitated his illness seems to have been the death of his mother when he was 13 or so; yet the exact circumstances or her death are cloaked in Spider's own paranoid delusions and hallucinations.
In "Spider," Patrick McGrath has crafted an affecting yet tragic and depressing portrayal of madness. This is powerful, though not necessarily enjoyable, reading. Rumor has it that director David Cronenberg's next film is to be an adaptation of this novel; if he is successful in translating McGrath's novel to the screen, is should be quite a film.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "scamper" on September 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure how Mr. McGrath would feel about being compared to Stephen King or Clive Barker. If I were the author of this chilling portrait of absolute insanity, I don't think I'd be flattered.
King and Barker are fantacists. McGrath is not. He is an enormously talented writer, gifted with the remarkable ability to present, in first person, a devastating portrait of a child/man who, as a child, was either irretrievably lost in the most unfathomable regions of acute mental illness; or was driven there by two exceptionally cruel people who played an unspeakably vile trick on a fragile and confused little boy.
McGrath, unlike King ( an excellent plotter, not a particularly good writer), has access to imagery that pins twisted thoughts, images, sensations, appearances like so many repellent but compelling specimens. Each one a beautifully worded, evocative bit of horror; each one all the more frightening because they could so easily be real.
No vampires, bogeymen, banshees,or nameless oozing horrors here. A Spider could be anywhere.
And McGrath- that very rare thing in this age of slick, mannered, safe, cookie-cutter best-selling fiction, is a real writer, capable of producing powerful, wonderfully worded original work.
"This is a good thing."
Read it.
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