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Angelica's Grotto (Novel, 1999)

Angelica's Grotto is a pornographic website into which seventy-two-year-old art historian Harold Klein wanders one evening. Klein, a walking catalogue of infirmities, known to medical consultants as ‘he who declines to hop the twig', may not be up to much physically but there's a lot of sex going on in his head. ‘You're a tiger from the neck up, Professor,' says Melissa, the brains behind the website, when at last Klein faces the object of his desire. Harold first visits Angelica's Grotto after losing his ‘inner voice', that censoring mechanism that keeps us from blurting out the first thing that pops into our heads and finding ourselves in Casualty as a result of it. Harold consults a therapist about this new lack of mental privacy and also has one-to-one onscreen dialogue in the Grotto. ‘If I had an inner voice I wouldn't be telling you all this,' he explains to the as-yet-unmet Melissa. But when the flesh-and-blood Melissa and her large and well-hung colleague Leslie enter his life he finds it's good to keep the angina medicine at the ready. Harold Klein's odyssey takes him not only through erogenous zones but into various corners of the London art world, down the underground and up the buses.

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Review quotes: 

"Brilliantly funny...wonderfully imagined...the story is furthermore studded (as it were) with wry observations that season the erotic detail with rich insight...superb fiction, and a powerful argument for making the complete oeuvre of this remarkable expatriate available in this country."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An intensely conceived coda to the verities of desire and fulfillment not to mention trust, honesty and pornography and Klein is a sharp, funny and intelligent protagonist whom readers will find it hard not to like."
—Publisher's Weekly

"An innately intelligent, highly original pondering of some of today's newly pressing problems of communication and interiority in a world committed to surfing, where 'intimacy' means one-on-one-on-line."
—Alan Stewart, Amazon UK

"When the noise of the psychobabble, art criticism and soft and hard porn that Hoban has fun with in this novel has subsided, the spectacle of Klein and his dialogue with death remains. Hoban's ability to evoke a simultaneous yearning for life and the encroachment of a future without form, language or sight is quite remarkable, whispering ceaselessly at the edges of the novel while the reader is distracted with jokes and baubles. To render the imminent end of consciousness and of subjectivity amongst a series of narrative devices is an extraordinary act of creativity, and confirms Hoban as an avatar of the strangeness of reality."
—Alex Clark, The Guardian

"Angelica's Grotto is sharp, funny, up-to-the minute, and raises fascinating questions about male sexuality, the link between art and pornography and the nature of the unconscious. The portrait of Klein is beautifully observed...when he asserts that 'Being an old fool is the most fun I've had in a long time,' the reader can only concur."
—Michael Arditti, The Times

Hoban's research for the novel included taking Rorshach and Bender tests on behalf of his protagonist. (The Head of Orpheus: http://www.ocelotfactory.com/hoban/grotto.html)
To the memory of Leon Garfield

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