Introduction to FROM THE TEETH OF ANGELS
No matter how many books an author writes, there is at least one among them that is their signature work. There is no predicting when that book will arrive—at the beginning, middle or end of a career. It is often not even up to the writer—at some point it just comes out of them and defines or announces what the artist believes about life, death, love, God—all the big matters. Of course readers debate which it is—War and Peace or Anna Karenina? The Brothers Karamazov or The Possessed? The Great Gatsby or Tender is the Night? But what I find most interesting is which book an author thinks is their signature work. Which one they want carved on their gravestone as a summation not only of their career, but of what they have seen and come to believe about life and how it functions? The answers can be surprising. I once asked a very famous and prolific author what she thought was her signature book. She asked if I meant her favorite. I said no, the one that essentially combines everything you’ve been trying to say your whole career. To my surprise she immediately named an early novel most people hadn’t read and those that did weren’t very impressed. She went on to great fame and fortune but to this day in her mind, that rather short early novel says it all.
For many years I thought FROM THE TEETH OF ANGELS was my signature work. I rarely re-read my books but for a number of reasons I did ANGELS recently in two long intense sessions (I’m a slow reader). It’s been almost six thousand days since I wrote the novel but by and large, I still hold with what it says about life, love, and what we can do when death comes whispering. I’m not sure anymore if it will end up being my signature work –there are still a few things I would like to say about how the big clock ticks. But if for some reason I don’t wake up tomorrow and they decide to put “He wrote FROM THE TEETH OF ANGELS” on the stone, that’ll do.
— Jonathan Carroll / FROM THE TEETH OF ANGELS