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The Gargoyle Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 5, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 568 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 5, 2008
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Product Description
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524943
  • ASIN: B002PJ4L8G
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (568 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harkius VINE VOICE on August 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As ever, the plot is adequately summarized in other reviews, so I will not go in detail here. Instead, I will tell you why you should read this novel.

I can understand why many people didn't like this book. I personally loved it, but that is not the point, yet. Many people will not like the details that the author describes about burn recovery and/or will be displeased with the other physical descriptions.

One reviewer goes so far as to mention the eponymous character a "male fantaasy". Which is amusing to no end, if you have read this novel. The male lead is not a fantasy for most men. It would simply be awful. It is clear in his description that he loathes his life, even before his accident.

One of the refreshing things about the book is that the narrator never asks for forgiveness from the reader. He doesn't ask for understanding. He is unrelentingly self-interested for the beginning of the book and then interested only in Marianne Engel for the remainder. This, to me, was beautiful. It was a description of the healing moment for a soul in agony. The narrator, whose name we never learn, spends the beginning of his life hating himself and those around him. He doesn't feel anything, ever. It's only after he has lost everything that he valued and is stripped of the empty shell of his life that he begins to gain an understanding of beauty and compassion.

His growth is charming, including his involvement in the relationship of other characters. The author has done a wonderful job of creating two individuals, tied to one another: The Narrator and Marianne Engel.
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2 Comments 128 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Read this book. Read it. Just shut up and read it, already. Are you reading it? Why not? I told you to read it!

"But it's yucky!" you complain. "The narrator gets all burned and gross, and he's mean, and what's up with the crazy lady?"

All right, yes, I will grant you, the first few chapters are incredibly difficult to get through, particularly if you have a delicate stomach. The unnamed narrator does, indeed, get in a horrific car crash where he is terribly, almost fatally, burnt. What follows is a stomach-turningly graphic depiction of what goes on in a burn ward. Stephen King would probably turn green at some of these scenes. You will be tempted to set "The Gargoyle" down and walk away. But I'm begging you to come back. Your suffering will be rewarded.

This is what Marianne claims, as she enters the narrator's life in the gown of a psychiatric patient at the hospital. She is jealous of his pain, as she believes that it means God has not forgotten him. Marianne is 700 years old, born in the year 1300 and raised in a convent. She is overjoyed when she meets the scarred narrator, as she believes that he is her long-dead lover returned to her. She then must set about convincing him of her story: of how the two fell in love all those years ago and how they were separated, about her divine mission to set her hearts free by carving huge gargoyles out of stone, and about the redemptive powers of love, suffering, and sacrifice.

So much happens in this book I don't even know how to start describing it. Marianne takes the narrator in and begins telling him stories. Interspersed with the tale of her own past are four other short love stories, set in eras and locations as varied as feudal Japan, medieval Italy, Victorian England, and Viking Iceland.
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20 Comments 249 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing book. Rarely you come across a novel that opens up a whole new world. Davidson has earned my eternal gratitude. The writing is beautiful, the characters realistic, and the story kept me riveted. I began to care about the characters very quickly, and then I had to know what would happen to them. I love that in a novel.

One of the subplots concerns the lives and mystical writings of an obscure group of medieval Dominican nuns. That hardly seems like a spellbinding topic, but by page thirty I was searching the internet to find all I could about them. Davidson makes them come alive. The historical elements are accurate, as are some of the historical characters. There was no embellishing of the past here.

There is a gruesome crash at the beginning of the book, and a realistic medical description of burn treatments that may be too graphic for some readers. The main character begins as a very unlikeable character, and there is some description of his career as a pornographer. Nevertheless, the narrative does not descend into prurience.

The power of love suffuses this work, even though hate has its day. The protagonist must learn much about the cleansing power of penance. As he hears someone say to him in a dream, the world is nothing but a crucible. This is an amazing book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book's preview does give a very good sense of what it is about. This does lead you into the life of a man who does not have much of a moral compass. He is a pornographer, a drug user and quite full of himself, and his accidental burning dramatically changes his life. This is not a feel-good revelation of a bad man turned good. It is a more realistic and sometimes uncomfortable account of his terrible misfortune and all that encompasses it.

I give the author much credit for what seems to be very authentic accounts of the realities someone in this situation might face. That said, it may leave some people uncomfortable if they are squeamish about the subjects of medical procedures, religious faults (Dantes inferno plays a large part), frank sexual inclusions or if they have a dislike of medieval lore. If you happen to think these things are interesting, you will LOVE the book.

The author also weaves four completely separate stories into this one with the premise that those involved in the ancient stories are vaguely connected to him due to a past life (if the person telling him the stories is sane)and so you go on quite a journey to find out what lies at the end.

While I did enjoy the book and wanted to find out how it closed, it was a bit frustrating because there is a lot of detail that could have been edited out without changing the story and possibly made it a more enjoyable read. It sometimes felt like listening to a really good joke.................but wondering just how long until the punchline?

Underneath it all, the story itself is interesting and does leave you wanting to know more until it is finally revealed in a happily unpredictable way.
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