Literature: The Gargoyle

"Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."

A 2008 historical/fantasy/romance novel by Andrew Davidson about a porn actor/drug addict burn victim who meets an eccentric artist who claims to know him from another life—several, actually—and spins him endless yarns of their lives together as he slowly recovers. Eventually, she takes him back to her home, where she works obsessively on her art, endlessly carving grotesques out of stone for days and weeks on end, as she believes it to be her mission. Soon, it's not clear who is caring for whom. Is Marianne Engel just harmlessly loony, or perhaps dangerously unhinged, or is there something real within her stories? Relies heavily on Classical Mythology, all sorts of issues of Heaven and Hell, as well as ample Fun with Foreign Languages as she tells The Narrator stories from throughout the ages.

Compare to: American Gods, Divine Comedy. Not to be confused with Gargoyles the series.

  • Alternate History
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Marianne Engel has a rather grand, flowery way of speaking.
  • Arranged Marriage: More like "forced"—attemped by the daimyo on Sei. It doesn't really work out.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted with The Narrator—he was beautiful before, but he eventually feels that he only becomes a good person after being horribly disfigured.
  • Big Fancy House: Castle, actually
  • Bittersweet Ending: Marianne Engel, claiming that her hearts are all gone, commits suicide by walking into the ocean. The Narrator, while heartbroken, carries on with his physical therapy, and chips away at a sculpture she made of him to remind himself of their love.
  • The Black Death: Kills Francesco and Graziana
  • Body Horror: One word: penectomy Not to mention the rest of the burns.
    • The Narrator's "snake," a.k.a. his horrendous morphine addiction.
  • Briefcase Full of Money
  • Buried Alive: Sei and The Narrator, briefly, in the beginning of his vision of Hell
  • Burn Your Gays: Siguršr
  • Call a Grotesque a "Gargoyle": There's a difference, you know.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Well, not in this life.
  • Christmas Cake: Referenced by name in relation to Sayuri.
  • Church Militant: Agletrudis.
  • Circles of Hell: Literally.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Marianne Engel. Even if her stories are completely true, she's still quite weird - and she herself acknowledges this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Narrator
  • Death by Childbirth: The Narrator's mother
  • Disabled Snarker: The Narrator, post-accident
  • Driven to Suicide: The Narrator fantasizes about a ridiculously elaborate suicide whilst in the hospital
  • Drugs Are Bad: In a way—they cause The Narrator's car crash, but he eventually considers that to have been a good thing, and when he detoxes from the morphine, he goes on an epic journey of self-discovery through Hell. So, not entirely bad...
    • But they're certainly bad in the case of The Narrator's adoptive "parents," who eventually die in a meth lab explosion and are seen in Hell
  • Fancy Dinner: Marianne Engel organizes many of these.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Played with. In the hospital, Marianne Engel doesn't do anything directly medical for The Narrator, she just provides him with friendship and distraction. Later, at her home, though, she does care for her. Played straight in the 13-century storyline.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Marianne Engel drags the Narrator to a Halloween party, dressing him up as a angel. He gets compliments from fellow partygoers on the amazing scar makeup.
  • Framing Device: The book is written like a memoir of The Narrator and Marianne Engel's relationship and the circumstances that drew them together.
  • Foreign-Looking Font: Used all over the place.
  • Full-Name Basis: Marianne Engel is almost always referred to by her full name. Though it may or may not be her real name; she just started calling herself that at some point
  • Gender-Blender Name: Jack, Marianne Engel's manager and art dealer. It's short for Jacqueline, but never call her that.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Avoided. The Narrator states early on that he doesn't believe in God, and while he certainly becomes more interested in theology and even goes to Hell, sort of, he doesn't change his mind.
    • And his reasons for not believing in God aren't anything as simple as Evil Stole My Faith or his traumatic childhood.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Siguršr and Einarr.
  • Karma: Subverted—The Narrator's injuries sure seem like poetic justice, especially losing his penis when he was practically a sex addict, but he states that since he's an atheist, he doesn't believe God or anything else was out to get him, his accident was just chance.
  • Littlest Burn Victim: Thérčse
  • Love Hurts: The image on that page is freakishly accurate.
  • Mad Artist: Marianne Engel and then some.
  • Mad Oracle
  • Man on Fire: Played REALLY, REALLY straight.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: To the extreme.
  • Meaningful Rename: Einarr and Frišleifr rename their child after Siguršr, after he dies saving them
  • Mercy Kill: A few times: Francesco asks his brother to do this when he's dying of the plague and his wife has already died, and he does, with an arrow to the heart. This is then echoed when Marianne kills her husband this way when he's been slowly tortured to death by Kuonrat
  • Mission from God: Marianne Engel believes that she has been told to give away her thousands of hearts, and so she "frees" gargoyles from their stone and gives them hearts
  • Near-Death Experience
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Wildly subverted with The Narrator, who claims to be a book lover
  • Never Found the Body: Marianne Engel, after she walks into the sea, and Tom
  • No Fourth Wall: The Narrator regularly refers to "this story" and "this book" and addresses the reader directly, often acknowledging things that seem unbelievable or speculating about the reader's reaction to certain things.
  • No Name Given: We are never told the narrator's name, not even when Marianne Engel carves it into her chest with a chisel
  • Nun Too Holy: Marianne Engel, in her 13th-century version.
  • Off with His Head!: The fate of Brandeis
  • Omniglot: Marianne Engel.
  • Pair the Spares: Gregor and Sayuri
  • Parental Neglect: The Graces are drug addicts and basically do nothing to raise The Narrator
  • Power Tattoo: Marianne Engel is covered in 'em
  • Really 700 Years Old: Played with. Marianne Engel claims to be this, but everyone is skeptical of the claim. After her death, the Narrator discovers two previously unknown and carefully preserved German and Italian translations of The Inferno in her safe deposit box. They were also scientifically dated to the time period that Marianne Engel claims to have first met the Narrator...meaning her initial story may or may not be true. He ultimately decides to keep both copies, while giving a nudge to the researchers on where to continue their research.
  • Religious Horror: Lots, mostly in Hell
  • Reincarnation Romance: Maybe. Marianne Engel claims that she has been waiting for centuries for the Narrator to resurface. She also vaguely implies that each of the stories she tells him are actually of their previous lives together.
  • Rescue Romance: On several levels.
  • Ret Gone: An in-universe example—Marianne's 13th-century work translating the Inferno was erased from history because she left the convent and got married.
  • Scars Are Forever: The Narrator's burns, to be sure, but before that, the mysterious scar on his chest, which is later revealed to be from being shot with an arrow in his past life—twice. Maybe.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: Used a few times in the 13th century plot.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Sayuri and Gregor, although her parents aren't actually all that mad.
  • Shout-Out: Marianne Engel has sold her gargoyles to "one writer who is almost universally recognized as the king of the horror genre," as well as a "director known for his highly poetic films about outcasts" who has "a mop of wild dark hair" that resembles Marianne Engel's.
  • Shown Their Work: Davidson clearly did a shit-ton of research about burns and burn treatment.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: In the 13th-century story—subverted, kind of, because the baby dies, or is 'taken' from her by God somehow
  • Switching P.O.V.: The modern-day story is told by the unnamed burned man; the other stories are told by Marianne Engel, in the second person when she's telling him what she believes to be their story from another time. The "bitchsnake" (i.e., the evil part of the narrator's mind) also pops in with commentary now and again.
  • The Pornomancer: The Narrator is this before his accident, rather literally
  • The Power of Love: The running theme of the novel. No matter what happens, Marianne Engel and the Narrator belong together and love gives them the will the live after tragedy.
  • The Storyteller: Marianne Engel. Good grief.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Narrator's planned suicide is decidedly over-the-top, and his death in the 13th century: beaten, shot at, nailed to a wall and slowly burned alive is also rather elaborate and agonizing, leading to Marianne's Mercy Kill
  • To Hell and Back: Literally...well, sort of. He's detoxing from morphine and debates internally about whether he's hallucinating, but then eventually decides not. The experience is highly meaningful, anyway.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The burned man believes Marianne Engel to be this for a while, but...it's debatable
  • Widow Woman: Vicky
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: The Narrator says this to the eternally cheerful Sayuri, complete with racist slur. (He apologizes, though.)
    • Funny thing was he WASN'T racist. Considering just how much the Narrator knows about Japan, it implies he's very interested in the Japanese culture. He just wanted to piss her off and thought that was the best way. (It wasn't.)