The Gargoyle

Some books trail just at the edge of my memory. Pieces of their plots or familiar characters are remembered when I read other stories, or I think about them when I’m having a conversation about a similar subject. The Gargoyle is one of those books for me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately–it sits at eye level on one of my shelves, and so it’s been peaking out at me. It’s also one of those books that encompasses so much legend that hints of it are everywhere. I knew I was going to have to read it again soon, and I am so glad I did. I forgot just how amazing it was.

2595138

At its core, The Gargoyle is a very realistic, detailed story about a burn victim. This isn’t come Hollywood version, though, where the person is horrifically burned, then walks out of the hospital scarred, but pain free in a week or so. The healing process in this book is excruciating, lengthy, and frustrating.

That is only the base of the story–in between the lines are other tales, as told by the narrator’s caregiver, a mysterious woman who comes into his life out of the past. This is where the legends come in. Medieval German Catholicism is heavy here, predating Luther. I may not be Catholic, but as I am fascinated by Western Medieval history…I can’t get far without finding the lore of Catholicism interesting as well. There is also Japanese, Norse, and Italian mythology wrapped up in Marianne Engel’s stories–especially Dante’s version of Hell.

Andrew Davidson is a genius, an artist. The Gargoyle is so well constructed that you’ll find yourself lost in the best possible manner. How often do you read a book with a nameless narrator, who is the main character, and come out on the other side completely transfixed? I could read this all over again right now and be completely happy.

But, alas, it goes back on the shelf for now…

Looky Look

We had book club last night and one of the guys in the group brought one of his prized possessions to show us. He had told us about it the week before and we were all drooling by the time he was done. I think I even told him, “You know I’m going to stick my nose in it, right?”

I still can’t believe he brought this out to the bar. If it were me, I would have this behind lock and key, in glass. He is getting it rebound soon, though, so he was happy to share with all of us book enthusiasts. And yes, I most definitely stuck my nose in and breathed in all those amaaaaaaaaaaaazing musty book smells. And it did not disappoint.

This my friends, is a gigantantic, gorgeous 1870ish copy of Dante’s Inferno.

inferno

 

I wish I would have snapped some pictures of the inside for you, because there are beautiful black and white print illustrations by Gustave Dore. The pages are gold embellished on the sides, and the covers have gold too, as you can see. The whole thing is just gorgeous. It’s a little beaten up…but it’s also 150 years old. It’s probably the oldest book I’ve ever held, flipped through, SMELLED. I felt guilty just touching it. And I wanted to keep going.

For those of you who wonder why us book addicts do what we do–hoard our collections, buy books that sit on our shelves for years before we read them, and…of course…sniff the pages at used book sales…THIS. THIS IS WHY. Because old books like this, there is just something magical about them, isn’t there? How many hands have held this? How many eyes have read these pages and interpreted this story? Not even this book specifically…but Dante’s Inferno itself. There is so much history here. So much beauty.

This is why the Book Community exists.