Wednesday, April 27, 2011

THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson

Our unnamed narrator is a pornography mogul with a cocaine habit, who diverts his car over a guardrail and down a cliff when he has a hallucination of flying arrows. Then he spends months undergoing excruciating treatment in a hospital burn unit, contemplating an elaborate suicide plan that he will execute upon his release. Then a woman from the psych ward, Marianne Engel, appears in his room and claims to have been his lover in medieval Germany. In fact, she expects him to believe that she has been alive ever since (and she's not even a vampire). Marianne captivates him with the story of how they met centuries ago and sprinkles in other stories, such as those of a Japanese glass blower and a homosexual Viking. Is she schizophrenic or just wildly imaginative? In any case, as our burn victim is enduring a living hell of his own, we are fed large doses of references to Dante's Inferno, which, I confess, I have never read. As our self-proclaimed atheistic narrator regains his will to live, despite bankruptcy, his gargoyle-esque disfiguration, and the loss of several important appendages, this becomes a tale of redemption, with some heavy-handed religious overtones. I think the metaphors are a little heavy-handed, too, particularly that of fire as a source of rebirth. Is there a mention of a phoenix in there somewhere? Much is made of the narrator's reversal of fortune: before the crash he was beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside, but now he's…. (You can fill in the blanks here.) My favorite character is Jack Meredith (a woman), an art dealer who handles the sale of the myriad gargoyles that Marianne chisels out in frenzied carving sessions, and I love that Jack has the gall to call our narrator "Crispy Critter." She provides some, but not enough, comic relief in this over-hyped, overly long, predictable fantasy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I came across the book in a coffee shop and had never heard about it or the hype surrounding it... I started to read the novel out of curiosity and was quite enjoying its over descriptive, yet intelligent narrative, which is blended with a straight talking attitude, when, after a chapter or two,I began to feel uncomfortable; ignoring the unsettling twinge I read on for a bit, but after a few more pages the uneasiness returned and I could ignore it no more. I had been duped. The novel is nothing more than a pulpit for the Christian preacher. The first chapter is a trick, a clever story to draw you in but all too quickly the ruse is uncovered and the evangelical overtones are plain to see. I quickly stopped reading - just as fast as I'd walk past a preacher who is praising the lord in the street and telling any passer by that they'll go to hell unless they let the light of The Lord in... Binned!