Spider (novel)

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First edition
Author Patrick McGrath
Country United States
Language English
Genre Psychological fiction
Publisher Poseidon Press USA
Publication date
October 1991
Pages 224
ISBN 0-679-73630-1
OCLC 23652235
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3563.C3663 S6 1991

Spider is a novel by the British novelist Patrick McGrath, originally published in the United States in 1990. Its eponymous character, birth name Dennis Cleg, is a recent arrival from a lunatic asylum to a halfway house in the East End of London—just a few streets away, by strange coincidence, from the very house where he grew up, and the scene of some barely visible but tremendous trauma which peeps out at the reader gradually from the fog of Spider's reminiscences.

As the story opens, Spider has just taken up residence in the halfway house, under the stern eye of Mrs. Wilkinson, along with a handful of others he calls "dead souls." He takes daily walks to the Thames, following the old canals and towpaths that run along the edge of his memories, under the shadow of the immense oil and gas tanks that dominate the industrial landscape. As he sits on a bench, rolling his own cigarettes, he begins to tell us the tale of his childhood, of his remote, emotionally brutal father and slight, quiet, protective mother. He is, or so he tells us, writing all this down in a notebook which he keeps hidden, variously, under a newspaper drawer-liner, under the damaged linoleum floor of his room, or up the chimney of a disused gas fire.

Like many of McGrath's narrators, Spider is unreliable, but like those of Edgar Allan Poe, he lures the reader onward deeper into his mental catacombs with his lyrical prose and extraordinary lucid moments. Spider was adapted as a film by David Cronenberg in 2002; the title role was played by Ralph Fiennes.