Alan Wall Lightning Cage, The

ISBN 13: 9780099289531

Lightning Cage, The

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9780099289531: Lightning Cage, The
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In the tradition of Graham Swift and Patrick McGrath---Alan Wall’s The Lightning Cage is a gothic, metaphysical novel given the speed and strength of a thriller.

A former seminarian, Christopher Bayliss abandons his studies in Rome and returns to England determined to be cleansed forever of the contagion of religion and to leave behind his angels as well as his demons. But then something curious starts to happen: his research into an obscure eighteenth-century poet, Richard Pelham, reintroduces into his life those same ghostly whispers and rumors he thought he silenced for good.

And so he flees once more, into a different type of life entirely---he escapes into worldly success. But even still, it seems he cannot escape the mysteries of Richard Pelham. Soon these dark secrets begin to take over his life as insidiously and completely as they took over the poet over two centuries before.

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About the Author:

Alan Wall was born in Yorkshire and educated at Oxford. He is the author of several novels including The School of Night (available from St. Martin’s Press) and Bless the Thief. He currently lives in Wales.

From Publishers Weekly:

This tale of a scholar's struggle with an elusive subject is high on content and intelligence but middling on fulfillment. The narrative jumps between two different stories that ultimately interlock in a poignant, if muted, fashion. When graduate student Christopher Bayliss grows disenchanted with scholarly work on the life of obscure 18th-century English poet Richard Pelham, he decides to study for the priesthood. When his commitment fizzles, he goes to work for a small printing company, but gets fired after one of the employees he's supposed to be supervising embezzles money. An auto accident leaves him with painful whiplash and spare time, and he plunges back into research on Pelham. An alcoholic but often inspired poet who had been treated with laudanum under a doctor's care, Pelham went to live with Lord Chilford, a noted scientist, at his estate. Lord Chilford's treatments failed, however; Pelham found Chilford's wine cellar, and he once again became mad-but also the host of celestial spirits that appeared to spur his creativity. Pelham's decline and Bayliss's decline subtly run parallel as the novel progresses. Wall (The School of Night) tells the labyrinthine story with unusual ease, and it's easy to forget that we are assimilating many different layers: psychological case study, historical record, biographical mystery, occult tale. The narrative goes slack occasionally, when description takes over without advancing the story. Wall also doesn't make enough drama from Pelham's eerie predicament or the barbarism of the 18th century's treatment of mental illness. But the novel is a moving, complex portrait of dissipated lives and disturbed minds, strangely similar though two centuries apart.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780436204913: The Lightning Cage

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0436204916 ISBN 13:  9780436204913
Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1999
Hardcover

9780312287726: The Lightning Cage: A Novel

Thomas..., 2003
Hardcover

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Book Description Vintage, 2000. Paperback. Condition: Used: Good. Paperback in good condition, minor creasing to spine. Amazon In this sophisticated, complex and oddly moving novel, Alan Wall presents the reader with studies of two men: Christopher Bayliss, the present-day protagonist, and Richard Pelham, the 18th century poet and object of Bayliss's study. It is this double narrative, the second of which is refracted through the interpretative curiosity of Bayliss, that makes this novel such a subtle meditation on contemporary life, while at the same time augmenting the book's pace and rhythm. Wall's cleverly constructed work affords the pleasure of two interwoven stories that are both absorbing and compelling, as well as offering material for more profound reflection. Christopher Bayliss is a man who has renounced his religious studies and abandoned his thesis, and we are witness to his defection from the world of the mind to the material pleasures of the business world. But Bayliss, like many of the characters in the contemporary part of the book, is seen to have withdrawn from any real engagement with the world, and with life. His lover, Alice, a gifted painter, is almost somnambulistic in her passivity, but nevertheless discerns in Bayliss a deep disengagement with life. She at least has her art; he in turn has drawn back from almost all avenues of self- definition. Richard Pelham, on the other hand, is revealed as man almost too sensitised to the world around him, to the point of putative insanity--and it is between these two poles of engagement and withdrawal that the book oscillates, carefully counterpointing a subtext that explores the mythologies of artistic genius, responses to mental instability and the ways in which people direct or succumb to their lives. Wall deploys subtle shifts in stylistic register between the two narratives to good effect. The material of the two lives is echoed in the prose used to recount them; what results is a work that combines literary complexity and narrative drive without sacrificing either. Burhan Tufail. Seller Inventory # 22018

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