Who could be a better narrator than a former porn-star drug addict, severely and horribly burnt over the majority of his body, who may or may not have had a former life hundreds of years ago? I can’t think of anyone. The narrator was once beautiful and empty, existing on one-night conquests and a alcohol haze. That was until he was burnt to a crisp while driving strung out and drunk. Whether he was lucky or not to survive the crash is up for debate, but he did, and we watch his first months struggling against the pain, and demons within himself deeper than singed skin. Along comes Marianne, a mysterious woman (who is 700 years old) willing to take care of the narrator. She claims they are former lovers, lifetimes ago, and she has come to tell him their story and keep him alive. The narrator, always a cynic, decides she is either bipolar or schizophrenic, but either-way is beginning to think that surviving the crash may have been worth something.
I know it sounds weird. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is strange. But is also very lyrical and Gothic. Marianne tells the narrator these beautiful, heartbreaking short stories. And their story is quite profound too. The reader is never convinced how much is true, but you definitely hope that it could all be true. I was also fascinated by the experience of a patient in a burn-ward (since I am always science-minded). The xenografts and autografts, the painful cutting away of dead skin to get to the deeper layers where nerve endings still exist, the bandages and the scars, the morphine and the physical therapy. This book is dark, and sometimes gruesome, but it is also powerful and poetic and lovely and tragic and all-things good books are.