Saturday, May 26, 2012
"words which are but breath to me will last into eternity"--a paraphrase of Sappho Before I decided to become a certified public school teacher I was accepted into the graduate English program at College Park. I'd intended to get a PhD in literature, and had proposed a thesis idea about the paranoid authorial consciousness in Henry James, particularly in works like The Turn of the Screw and The Sacred Fount. Ramsey Campbell's latest takes a similar track, but in reverse. I shan't explain further for fear of wrecking the surprise premise. Seven Days of Cain combines the psychedelic prose and unreliable nature of perception found in his earliest, best work with elements of Pygmalion and Frankenstein. The result is a mostly satisfying novel. Andy is a photographer working for his folk's portrait studio. He and his wife Claire are trying and failing to conceive. As the novel progresses we find out that Andy was once an aspiring writer and that his imagined characters may be haunting more than their author. Occasionally the book gets bogged down in Campbell's late-phase tomfoolery with awful puns and exchanges of misperceived dialogue, but I enjoyed it. The opening half is the strongest work he's done in some time. If you want a thoughtful, moody horror novel, give it a try.