cover image Possibility of Angels

Possibility of Angels

Chronicle Books, Sophie Biriotti, Peter Malone. Chronicle Books, $24.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1530-7

""We're just another army. We all look alike,"" confesses the angel in Allan Gurganus's ""It Had Wings."" But they don't--not in the 31 stories and poems of this quirky, very literate anthology (illustrated in glowing colors and in a pleasing diversity of styles by New Yorker cartoonist Malone). All the entries selected by Biriotti, a documentary filmmaker, capture our fascination with angelic innocence and otherness. But they are a diverse bunch. In Tolstoy's majestic ""What Men Live By,"" the angel Michael is banished to earth to learn a new respect for humanity, while in Bernard Malamud's wonderful ""Angel Levine,"" a beleaguered New York City tailor struggles to recognize a Jewish angel sent in the guise of an African American Harlemite. Mark Twain's wry ""Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven"" wonders just how long anyone could stand singing in a heavenly choir. Like Twain, the poets tend to be skeptics (what else do Blake, Dickinson, Stevens and Plath have in common?), but Biriotti also includes more orthodox biblical accounts and legends. Taken together, these gems make this a stylish and sophisticated new addition to the crowded shelf on angels. (Oct.)