Bloomsbury, £12.99, 242pp. £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Angelica Lost and Found, By Russell Hoban
Friday 05 November 2010
It's a short, delicious book: consume it quickly. A number of ingredients seem contrived at the outset, but plunge into Hoban's ridiculously engrossing fiction and enjoy Angelica for what she is: a sexy, confident and audacious confection that should tickle the surliest of palates.
It's all about sex with a hippogriff. Volatore is the offspring of griffin and mare, and the winged steed of "valiant Ruggiero", a slightly rubbish knight who flies in to rescue Angelica. She is the naked damsel bound to a rock and menaced by a lusty sea monster in Ariosto's 16th-century poem Orlando Furioso. By dint of sorcery, Volatore manages to escape Ariosto's epic and emerge in San Francisco in 2008, in mutable hippogriff or human form, desperately seeking the Angelica after whom he now lusts. In short order he alights upon 30-old Angelica Greenberg moments after she has dismissed an eligible suitor. Announced by his strong pheromonal, horsey presence, Volatore wafts in through a third-floor window to cover Angelica's eager self, thus precipitating a metaphysical love affair that rattles the sanity of this sassy and adventurous Mission District art-gallery proprietress.
As Hoban aficionados might expect, Angelica is an impassioned and improbable love story with billets-doux of light opera and sporting metaphors thrown in to comic effect. If you're interested, chapter 70 (of 71) gives a neat summary of the plot, but of far greater interest is the verve with which Hoban has his principles conduct their metabestial trysting. Remarkably unfazed by her sexual encounter with a well-hung "poetic invention" who tantalisingly disappears, Angelica spends the novel trying to re-connect with "the funky animal smell of him".
Three shrinks, two cheesy art collectors and a couple of smelly painters later, she manages to have her cake, so to speak, and eat it. Hoban applies his own semantic sorcery to Volatore's plaintive suit. There's a playfulness to his imaginative drama of an "ontological outlaw... an existential desperado" scoring with a purveyor of figurative art.
Any admirer of the author's pidgin epic Riddley Walker will enjoy the linguistic drollery that fashions these brief chapters. Angelica's father, for example, a cartoonist who absconded with a lap dancer 15 years earlier, re-appears for lunch as a "graphically novel parent". This neatly catches the mischievous tone of Hoban's prose, which lies brazenly between A Wild Sheep Chase-era Haruki Murakami and the spirited wordplay of Italo Calvino's witty entertainments.
Serious art, sex and the blurring of reality with fantasy are well-trodden Hoban themes. But there is a refreshing lightness here that carries his material. Real life is hectic and complicated, this book seems to suggest, but little is more important than establishing how a girl can mate with a tumescent figment of her imagination.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Christmas 2014: The three most intriguing celebrity panto appearances
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyonce '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed and films daughter Blue Ivy in lo-fi homage to viral video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track