Losing my desire – Russell Hoban’s Angelica Lost and Found

Russell Hoban‘s Angelica Lost and Found is a quartet of stories which is underpinned by the rescue of Angelica by Volatore, the Hippogriff, in Ariosto‘s Orlando Furioso. Volatore rescues Angelica and then has sex with her, a pursuit that becomes the guiding principle of the chase.

Assuming human form, the creature comes to San Francisco seeking a new start, a new life. Searching for his Angelica, though not knowing what she looks like, he undergoes various encounters as a newcomer to the city.

Hoban dives into the way the stories and fables can be interpreted in this world. The Hippogriff moulds himself to the desires of the ‘Angelica’, the temporarily bound maiden, but speaks to a primal version of maleness. It is one driven by sexual desire, something that Hoban plays with when he suggests the Freudian desire for the father before dismissing it as nonsense.

This is interpretation not of dreams but poems, where the interpretation becomes more potent than the original text. Orlando Furioso becomes lost in this world of readerly rewriting,or retelling as Clute might have it. The world is not made strange but the interloping men and Angelicas are and become increasingly so until they recognise what they are and accept it.

Whilst slight, Angelica Lost and Found is a modern play around myth. It reminds me of Gregory Feeley’s Kentauros, an examination of the Centaur which I recently reviewed for Interzone. It might have had a deeper impact if I knew more about the original text, to which Hoban returns, but a book that makes me very curious.

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