Saturday, June 27, 2015

Russell Hoban: Eau de Hippogriff

Russell Hoban
Angelica Lost and Found

Warning:  Spoilers Present

 Roger délivrant Angélique (1824) by Louis-Édouard Rioult depicts the scene of Orlando Furioso where Ruggiero rescues Angelique while riding on a hippogriff. 

Russell Hoban has fun with the medieval romance in general and Ludovico Ariosto's poem, Orlando Furioso, in particular.  Angelica Lost and Found  takes off from a subplot of Orlando Furioso and the subject of a painting by Girolamo da Carpi which depicts a young woman, Angelica, chained naked to a cliff on a small island as a sacrifice to a sea monster.  Ruggiero, a secondary character, aboard a hippogriff, comes to rescue her. 

Volatore, the hippogriff, having once seen all of Angelica's maidenly charms then falls madly in love with her.   He somehow manages to break free of the literary world and the painting and emerges in the 21st century, where he meets Angelica Greenberg, the owner of an art gallery in (where else) San Francisco.

As is typical of the medieval romance, the young lovers (well, for convention's sake they are the young lovers)  meet early in the work, plight their everlasting love for each other (well, sort of anyway), and then are separated for the rest of the novel.   Most of the novel, therefore, consists of a series of Angelica's adventures, many of which are brought about by Volatore as he strives to be reunited with her.  Volatore is seen only in very brief chapters from this point on. 

Angelica's adventures are rather unique.  She is searched out by a number of men, all of whom have, to a greater or lesser degree, the distinct hippogriff odor.  Volatore, now trapped in between the real world and the literary world, desperately searches for Angelica by tapping into the psyche of  males in her vicinity.   Unaware of  the source of their motivation, they respond by seeking her out.  But, the chemistry is not right, and Volatore must again look for another male who would be a perfect fit for a lovesick hippogriff.  

Medieval romances have happy endings, so you can guess how this one will end.  

I would rank this an interesting and enjoyable and a not-too-heavy read. 

On the other hand, there may be something going on here that I'm missing.  One should always be careful when reading anything by Hoban.  Consequently, Angelica Lost and Found is on the "must read again" list, just to see if I take a different view the second time around.

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