An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.
The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.
A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.
Already an international literary sensation, The Gargoyle is an Inferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.
Andrew Davidson Talks About Becoming a Writer
Some of what follows is true.
When I was about seven, I had a turtle named Stripe. I decided, because I liked my turtle and Jacques Cousteau, that I wanted to be a marine biologist. This ambition lasted until I was ten years old, when I spent a year gazing into the abyss, hoping that the abyss would not gaze back at me. At eleven, I longed for a master to teach me the secrets of the ninja, but the teacher did not appear; this probably means that as a student I was not ready. As I entered my teens, I set my heart upon becoming a professional hockey player. On weekend nights, the final game at the local arena ended around 10 p.m. but the icemaker was unable to leave the building until about midnight, as he had to clean the dressing rooms and do maintenance. I bribed him with presents of Aqua Velva aftershave to let me play alone on the rink until he headed home. Despite my devotion, I never developed the skills to make it off the small-town rink and into the big leagues. My dream shattered, at sixteen I started to spend more time writing. I began by changing the lyrics to Doors songs. I rewrote "Break On Through" so that it became "Live to Die": "Soldier in the forest / dodging bullets thick / only took one / to make him cry / All of us just live to die." Clearly, writing was my future.
I soon realized that, since I still had no authorial voice of my own, I should at least imitate better poets than Jim Morrison. Soon I was word-raping Leonard Cohen, e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, and John Milton. After writing much abusively derivative poetry, I moved onto stage plays written in a mockery of the style of Tennessee Williams, which also didn’t work out so well. Next, I tried to put baby in a corner, until it was explained to me that nobody puts baby in a corner. Following this, I produced short stories that would have been much better if they were much shorter. Then, screenplays that even Alan Smithee wouldn’t direct.
Somewhere along the way, I managed to get a degree in English Literature; this was strange, as I thought I was studying cardiology. Undaunted, off to Vancouver Film School I went, but naturally not to study film. Instead, I took the new media course, because there was this thing called the internet that was just taking off. I also spent a fair amount of time using digital editing software for video and audio. An example project: I slowed down the final movement to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, looped it backwards, put in a heavy drumbeat, and end up with a funeral dirge. "Ode to Joy"? I think not. "Ode to Bleakness" is more like it; I was very deep, and showed it by destroying joy.
After this course finished, I had tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, and could no longer avoid getting a job. I soon discovered, in no uncertain terms, that work is no fun. I stuck it out for as long as I could, which was way less than a lifetime. As my thirtieth birthday approached, I became incredibly aware that I had never lived abroad, so I moved to Japan.
I had no idea if I would like Japan, but I vowed to stick it out for a year. I did, and then another year, and another, and another, and another. In the beginning, I worked as a kind of substitute teacher of English, covering stints in classrooms that needed a temporary instructor. I lived in fifteen different cities during my first two years, traveling from the northern island of Hokkaido all the way down to the southern island of Okinawa. It was a great introduction to the country, but eventually the constant relocation became too much. I got a job in a Tokyo office, writing English lessons for Japanese learners on the internet. I lived in the big city for three years, and loved it: hooray for sushi, hooray for sumo, and hooray for cartoon mascots.
While in Japan, I entertained myself by writing and, having already mangled poetry, short stories, stage plays and screenplays, I thought it was time to give a novel a shot. A strange thing happened: I found that I don’t write like other people when it comes to novels—or at least, none of which I know. It’s true that I’ve read comparisons of my novel to a number of other books—The Name of the Rose, The English Patient, The Shadow of the Wind—but I haven’t read any of them. (To my great shame, really, and I suppose I should. Since they are my supposed influences, I should become familiar with them. I’ll appear more intelligent in interviews.)
I liked writing The Gargoyle, and I think I’ll write another novel. If I can, I’ll make up new characters and a new plot. That’s my plan.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At the start of Davidson's powerful debut, the unnamed narrator, a coke-addled pornographer, drives his car off a mountain road in a part of the country that's never specified. During his painful recovery from horrific burns suffered in the crash, the narrator plots to end his life after his release from the hospital. When a schizophrenic fellow patient, Marianne Engel, begins to visit him and describe her memories of their love affair in medieval Germany, the narrator is at first skeptical, but grows less so. Eventually, he abandons his elaborate suicide plan and envisions a life with Engel, a sculptress specializing in gargoyles. Davidson, in addition to making his flawed protagonist fully sympathetic, blends convincing historical detail with deeply felt emotion in both Engel's recollections of her past life with the narrator and her moving accounts of tragic love. Once launched into this intense tale of unconventional romance, few readers will want to put it down. (Aug.)
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