Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-The Gargoyle

Cover of "The Gargoyle"Cover of The Gargoyle
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson-What can I say about The Gargoyle? I'd heard so many good things about it, but I was so disappointed by it. The funny thing is, I don't necessarily think it was a bad book, I think it just suffered some timing issues. Here's a rough breakdown of my reading timeline:

Week 1: Reading The Gargoyle
Week 2-3: Reading The Sparrow (which I loved!) because my conscience finally kicked in and made me return The Gargoyle to the library.
Week 4-5: Slogging through the rest of my re-checked-out copy of The Gargoyle.

During Week 1, I was really enjoying The Gargoyle-I thought it was interesting and that the narrator was funny in a dark, cynical kind of way. He's been badly burned in a car accident, and his ensuing hospital recovery is filled with his wry acceptance of the fact that he will probably not be able to return to his career as a porn star as well as lots of interesting medical facts. For instance, did you know that burn victims go through a period of hypermetabolism when they're healing, thus "...a body that normally requires two thousand calories a day can consume seven thousand after a severe burn."? I didn't either!

So, this book is filled with interesting little tidbits like that along with some pretty gruesome narration about the things that happen to a burned body, both during the actual burning of the flesh as well as during the recovery period. The book is also full of stories told by Marianne Engel, the seemingly crazy woman who comes to visit our narrator in the hospital. She claims that they have known each other in previous lives and proceeds to tell him all of their fateful love stories, trying to convince him that she is, in fact, not crazy and that they do really know each other. I didn't really care one way or the other. It's not that the stories were bad--in fact I rather liked some of them--or that I couldn't suspend my disbelief for this possibility, but I kept thinking how much I liked The Sparrow and how much this paled in comparison. The writing seemed flat and I didn't particularly care about any of the characters, but, oddly enough, there were a lot of things that both books had in common.

-They both had main characters for whom words are their life. In The Sparrow, Father Emilio Sandoz is a linguist and in The Gargolye the narrator is a writer and a smooth-talker of women. At some point in each of their stories, their words, the one thing that they have always been able to count on, fail them miserably.

-In The Gargoyle, Marianne's 14th-century self discovers at an early age that she has a gift for translation, much like The Sparrow's Sandoz for whom languages come easy.

-Both The Gargoyle and The Sparrow address suffering as it pertains to religion. The Sparrow brings up questions of how God can allow so much suffering and The Gargoyle discusses suffering as a way to become closer to God.

-Both books have characters that are described as resembling Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls. That's kind of weird, right?

-Both books have characters who question celibacy and the church-is it right and/or necessary to deny the love of and for another of God's children in order to serve God?

So, while you would think it might be good to have a lot of things in common with something that I enjoyed so'd be wrong. I felt like The Sparrow was what The Gargoyle wanted to be when it grew up; but, as I said earlier, I think this mostly just suffered from timing issues. I think if I'd read it at another time, I might have liked it better. The Gargoyle suffered the fate of many a rebound relationship. No matter how good it is, it's going to suffer strain under the constant comparison to your last relationship. That said, The Gargoyle seems like a perfectly nice guy. He's had a bit of a sordid history, but he's cleaned up his act, and he's got a good sense of humor. He just wasn't right for me. But you might like him!

Random favorite quote that I was too lazy to couldn't fit in anywhere else: "...against stupidity even the gods struggle in vain." See what I mean? Good sense of humor!

Reviews and other stuff:
Ann at Books on the Nightstand (podcast portion starts around 3:29) gives us some interesting background on the book.
Joanne at The Book Zombie tells us about a song that reminds her of The Gargoyle.
Jessica at Both Eyes Book Blog examines some of the historical aspects of the book.
Ali at Worducopia gave us some thoughts during her read as well as a final mini review.
Fond of Snape loved it!

Did you review The Gargoyle? Let me know, and I'll add a link to your review.


Wendy said...

I read The Gargoyle recently. I did enjoy it overall. It was entertaining, and a page turner. I guess once one starts to take a more critical look at this book, things start to fall apart quickly! I thought the author sort of tried too hard. Lots of contrived parts,some holes in the story, but ultimately, I didn't think it was a waste of time or anything. Many parts are still in my memory (like the debridement part!)

I'm leaving you an Honest Scrap award on my blog. No pressure to do!

Florinda said...

I haven't read The Gargoyle, but I have read The Sparrow, and I totally understand why your next read after it wouldn't measure up. Timing does make a difference in how you respond to a book.

Dreamybee said...

Wendy-I agree that it wasn't a waste of time, but there were some contrivances and plot holes. The debridement-eeeee! Wasn't that awful?? Thanks for the award!

Florinda-I hope I haven't totally turned you off from reading it if it was something you were interested in. Maybe just wait until you've read something mediocre and then follow it up with The Gargoyle, that way I'm sure it will shine!

Ann Kingman said...

Thanks for the link!

I *love* your comparison of The Gargoyle to The Sparrow. I read both several years apart, and never made the connection, but now I see it. Since The Sparrow is one of my favorite books of all time, I'm afraid that anything would suffer in comparison, but I think you did an excellent job of pointing out the specifics. Thanks!!

(Are you planning on reading Children of God, the sequel to The Sparrow? Some people think it clears up too many of the questions in The Sparrow, but I loved it, too).

Dreamybee said...

Ann-You're welcome. I love listening to your podcast! I am currently reading Children of God, and I am having a harder time getting into it. Too many characters and separate story lines, but I'm still enjoying it.

Heather J. said...

How funny is it that we both posted today about books where the timing was off and therefore we didn't really enjoy them?!

I agree that few books can compare to THE SPARROW, but I sill want to read this one. Since my read of SPARROW was a few years ago hopefully I won't be comparing them as much as you were though.

Dreamybee said...

Heather J-AND we both compared them relationships that didn't work out. Weird. I think your reading of The Sparrow should be distant enough as to not cause problems. I was so fresh off that reading that I was like, "Hey! They both have 'The' in the title! And black words on white pages! And chapters!"

Ali said...

I loved The Sparrow and its sequel, so I totally get how another book would pale in comparison. And I was definitely more into The Gargoyle in the beginning. As soon as it switched to the other storyline, I sort of fell away from it every time.

Hope your next one is another winner!

Dreamybee said...

Ali-Same here. I was way more into the medical/hospital stay part than the love story part...I wonder what that says about me...