Apr 10, 2010

'Angelology': A Novel

Other vogues evidently pale beside fusion in this day and age. On literature front it's this genre: fictional, theological, historical; all three in one. (EJ)

Angelology: Wings of Desire

By LEV GROSSMAN Monday, Mar. 15, 2010

Danielle Trussoni at home in the south of France.

Lately we've been fighting off an infestation of angels. Swarms of these winged pests have invaded the movie Legion, the video game Bayonetta and the TV series Supernatural, and now they've turned up in a book called Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. They're like cicadas. And these aren't the good kind of angel either. They're the fallen kind.

Trussoni is a bit of a fallen angel herself. In 2006 her memoir Falling Through the Earth put her in the upper echelons of the literary heavens, but with Angelology she has voluntarily consigned herself to the infernal realm of the commercial thriller. Angelology is based on a literal interpretation of a passage in Genesis that describes angels interbreeding with human women to produce powerful hybrid beings called Nephilim. Trussoni supposes — and why shouldn't she? — that the Nephilim are still among us, a wealthy, evil élite who secretly guide the affairs of men. It's a killer premise. That peal of thunder you just heard was the sound of Dan Brown smiting himself on the forehead for spending the past six years writing about Freemasons.(See the top 10 fiction books of 2009.)

Our hero is a graduate student in art history named Verlaine, who's doing research on behalf of a mysterious client. Said research takes him to a convent in upstate New York, where he meets Evangeline, a bookish young nun whose chaste habit conceals a passionate heart. Verlaine and Evangeline feel an unspoken connection. She's got the secret coded documents he's looking for. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

But Verlaine's employer is actually a powerful Nephilim (Trussoni uses this word as both singular and plural, which I'm not sure I buy) named Percival, who suffers from a disease that has rotted his once glorious wings into gross little stumps. He's searching for a divine lyre that could cure him. Evangeline, meanwhile, turns out to be from a family of angelologists, a secret order devoted to studying angels and opposing the Nephilim.

At times Angelology is little more than a light scaffolding built around the glittering edifice of its genuinely compelling premise. Trussoni's handling of action is not deft, and the romance between Verlaine and Evangeline makes you long for the raw erotic chemistry between Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu.(See pictures of Hollywood vampires.)

But at other times, Angelology finds an almost hallucinatory power. In a flashback, a 9-year-old Evangeline tails her mysterious father to a darkened warehouse in lower Manhattan. Inside, three cages hang from the ceiling. In each cage is a giant, resplendently winged angel. "One of them appeared to be nearly insane with rage," she recalls. "It clutched the bars and screamed obscenities at its captors standing below. The other two were listless, lying limp and sullen, as if drugged or beaten into submission."

It's about as compelling an image as you'll find in popular fiction, fusing the divine and the debased, the psychological and the theological, into a single rich, strange tableau that transmits a shock of truth. The institutions that we're used to thinking of as numinous and divine — churches, banks, governments, Tiger Woods — are showing disturbingly mortal tendencies. These days anyone can be dragged to earth, and when fools rush in, the angels are usually right behind them.

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Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1969720,00.html#ixzz0kYE5Iroj

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