This weekend, instead of finishing the multitude of books I knew I should finish (well, I also finished Thousand Splendid Suns, but that was out of necessity, not virtue), I read the entirety of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Don’t read this book. On the one hand, it includes some very lovely and touching love stories set in exotic times and locales (a Japanese glass-blowing beauty who sacrifices her life and love for the life of her father, a Viking warrior who saves his best friend’s child in a fire, and a long saga about a nun who leaves her monastery with her burn victim former mercenary lover, only to be chased down by his former employer.) These are well written and interesting, but they are tied together with a story about a burn victim befriended by a very odd woman whose mental stability is at question from the moment she claims that she actually is the aforementioned nun and the burn victim is just the reincarnation of her former lover. Yes. It’s that bad.
The characters in the stories that Marianne tells have about three times as much dimension as Marianne and her confused new lover. At least we know that they are supposed to be fanciful, and we recognize the fairy-tale element in each of their situations. Marianne, however, is too much of a caricature to be at all believable. (Did you know that caricature does NOT have an h after the first c because it actually comes from the French caricature, meaning “a satirical picture”, or literally “an overloading”, which traces its roots back to the Latin carricare, “to charge or load”, while the word character comes from one of my favorite words in the Greek language, (as seen in Hebrews 1) kharakter meaning “an engraved or embossed image”? Knowing that helps me to keep my spelling straight. Not that you’re interested in the twisted workings of Coral’s internal spell-check.) Anyway, back to Marianne. She is a strange, gothicky mental patient who carves gargoyles for a living, believing that she entrusts each one with a heart from her nearly never-ending flow (despite an x-ray administered merely to prove to her that she only has one heart beating in her chest.) She carves in days-long manic episodes, in the basement of the abandoned church she lives in with medieval instruments while naked (naturally, because wielding a chisel with no protective clothing sounds like a recipe for missing body parts) and has tattoos of Latin inscriptions and medieval crosses all over her body. Naturally. Seriously. How did this book get away with being published as a hardcover? It should be in a mass market, with a naked-ish tattooed woman on the cover and sold in grocery store check-out lines.
I kept thinking that it must get better, that there must be something redeeming in this book to justify the general tripping-over-each-other-to-garble-in-superlative-adjectives reviews it got in the press. I’m really not sure. Maybe it was marketed as such to appeal to the Twilight population of readers, but while the love story itself is chaste enough (by medical necessity), I’m not sure that market really is interested in the clinical details of the burn recovery of a drug-addict/p*rn star (I know, seriously. When I caught that, I nearly stopped right there.) There’s no more objectionable material in this book than in any other novel I read, and his career is something he feels strongly that he needs to redeem himself from, not to mention that there is the cliche amount of introspection and growth about his attitudes towards physical love, but it’s just so…overdone. The worst kind of hedonistic person in the world, saved by a pure, completely chaste love for a woman. I don’t think he even gets a name, he is completely characterized by his actions.
Yeah. Don’t read it. Unless, of course, you’re into that sort of dark cliche.