I’ve been a fan of Angela Carter’s work since I discovered her as a teenager. She’s one of those rare writers and academics who are good at every genre they try. Novels, short stories, essays, plays, film scripts. And her prose is one of those I admire the most. I don’t know any other writer with such an astonishingly rich vocabulary, that is both exquisite and evocative.
I always wanted to host an Angela Carter Week but I was looking for the right moment and co-host. When I saw that Delia was planning on reading Carter’s fairy tale retellings The Bloody Chamber for Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge, I knew the moment had come. After all, Delia (Postcards from Asia) and I had hosted Dickens in December and it was great fun. Seeing that she was planning on reading Angela Carter was the final nudge I needed. Luckily, Delia was in and she designed two gorgeous badges.
Here are the details:
- The event runs from June 8 – 15 2014.
- You can read absolutely anything you like. One short story or essay, a book she has edited, a novel, a radio play. Anything goes. You could equally read books or essays about her.
- You can choose any of the two badges for your posts or side bar.
- You can join any time. As early as now, as late as June 15. If you’ve written a post, please leave a comment in the comment section.
Angela Carter was not only versatile but her writing proves how lucid, highly creative and intellectual she was. And provocative. She didn’t shy away from any topic, – be it sexuality, pornography, violence, torture, schizophrenia - or from any trope. She had a very unique esthetic; motives and themes like the circus, cabaret, artificial people, toys and angels are recurring. But she was also interested in cultural change, gender and various movements. Some of her books are exploring the culture and philosophy of the 60s.
Here are a few books you can choose from, (including the blurbs). There are many, many more.
Heroes and Villains
I’ve read a lot of Angela Carter’s short stories and some of her novels. The novel I liked by far the most was the critically acclaimed Heroes and Villains.
A modern fable, a post-apocalyptic romance, a gothic horror story; Angela Carter’s genre-defying fantasia Heroes and Villains includes an introduction by Robert Coover in Penguin Modern Classics.
Sharp-eyed Marianne lives in a white tower made of steel and concrete with her father and the other Professors. Outside, where the land is thickly wooded and wild beasts roam, live the Barbarians, who raid and pillage in order to survive. Marianne is strictly forbidden to leave her civilized world but, fascinated by these savage outsiders, decides to escape. There, beyond the wire fences, she will discover a decaying paradise, encounter the tattooed Barbarian boy Jewel and go beyond the darkest limits of her imagination. Playful, sensuous, violent and gripping,Heroes and Villains is an ambiguous and deliriously rich blend of post-apocalyptic fiction, gothic fantasy, literary allusion and twisted romance.
The Magic Toyshop
This crazy world whirled around her, men and women dwarfed by toys and puppets, where even the birds are mechanical and the few human figures went masked… She was in the night once again, and the doll was herself.’ Melanie walks in the midnight garden, wearing her mother’s wedding dress; naked she climbs the apple tree in the black of the moon. Omens of disaster, swiftly following, transport Melanie from rural comfort to London, to the Magic Toyshop. To the red-haired, dancing Finn, the gentle Francie, dumb Aunt Margaret and Uncle Phillip. Francie plays curious night music, Finn kisses fifteen-year-old Melanie in the mysterious ruins of the pleasure gardens. Brooding over all is Uncle Philip: Uncle Philip, with blank eyes the colour of wet newspaper, making puppets the size of men, and clockwork roses. He loves his magic puppets, but hates the love of man for woman, boy for girl, brother for sister…
Nights at the Circus
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe’s capitals, part swan…or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman
Desiderio, an employee of the city under a bizarre reality attack from Doctor Hoffman’s mysterious machines, has fallen in love with Albertina, the Doctor’s daughter. But Albertina, a beautiful woman made of glass, seems only to appear to him in his dreams. Meeting on his adventures a host of cannibals, centaurs and acrobats, Desiderio must battle against unreality and the warping of time and space to be with her, as the Doctor reduces Desiderio’s city to a chaotic state of emergency – one ridden with madness, crime and sexual excess.
A satirical tale of magic and sex, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman is a dazzling quest for truth, love and identity.
Centre stage in Angela Carter’s unruly tale of the Flower Power Generation is Joseph – a decadent, disorientated rebel without a cause. A self-styled nihilist whose girlfriend has abandoned him, Joseph has decided to give up existing. But his concerned friends and neighbours have other plans.
In an effort to join in the spirit of protest which motivates his contemporaries, Joseph frees a badger from the local zoo; sends a turd airmail to the President of the United States; falls in love with the mother of his best friend; and, accompanied by the strains of an old man’s violin, celebrates Christmas Eve in a bewildering state of sexual discovery. But has he found the Meaning of Life?
Love is Angela Carter’s fifth novel and was first published in 1971. With surgical precision it charts the destructive emotional war between a young woman, her husband and his disruptive brother as they move through a labyrinth of betrayal, alienation and lost connections. This revised edition has lost none of Angela Carter’s haunting power to evoke the ebb of the 1960s, and includes an afterword which describes the progress of the survivors into the anguish of middle age.
Extraordinary and diverse people inhabit this rich, ripe, occasionally raucous collection of short stories. Some are based on real people – Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s handsome and reluctant muse who never asked to be called the Black Venus, trapped in the terminal ennui of the poet’s passion, snatching at a little lifesaving respectability against all odds…Edgar Allen Poe, with his face of a actor, demonstrating in every thought and deed how right his friends were when they said ‘No man is safe who drinks before breakfast.’
And some of these people are totally imaginary. Such as the seventeenth century whore, transported to Virginia for thieving, who turns into a good woman in spite of herself among the Indians, who have nothing worth stealing. And a girl, suckled by wolves, strange and indifferent as nature, who will not tolerate returning to humanity.
Angela Carter wonderfully mingles history, fiction, invention, literary criticism, high drama and low comedy in a glorious collection of stories as full of contradictions and surprises as life itself.
American Ghosts and New World Wonders
A collection of short stories which tear through the archives of cinema, of art and of the subconscious. A young Lizzie Borden visits the circus; a pianist makes a Faustian pact in a fly-blown Southern brothel; and a transfigured Mary Magdalene steps out of the canvases of Donatello and de la Tour.
The Bloody Chamber
From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.
Books edited by Angela Carter
Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales
Once upon a time fairy tales weren’t meant just for children, and neither is Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales. This stunning collection contains lyrical tales, bloody tales and hilariously funny and ripely bawdy stories from countries all around the world- from the Arctic to Asia – and no dippy princesses or soppy fairies. Instead, we have pretty maids and old crones; crafty women and bad girls; enchantresses and midwives; rascal aunts and odd sisters.
This fabulous celebration of strong minds, low cunning, black arts and dirty tricks could only have been collected by the unique and much-missed Angela Carter. Illustrated throughout with original woodcuts.
Essays and Criticism
The Sadeian Woman
‘Sexuality is power’ – so says the Marquis de Sade, philosopher and pornographer extraordinaire. His virtuous Justine keeps to the rules laid down by men, her reward rape and humiliation; his Juliette, Justine’s triumphantly monstrous antithesis, viciously exploits her sexuality. In a world where all tenderness is false, all beds are minefields. But now Sade has met his match. With invention and genius, Angela Carter takes on these outrageous figments of his extreme imagination, and transforms them into symbols of our time – the Hollywood sex goddesses, mothers and daughters, pornography, even the sacred shrines of sex and marriage lie devastatingly exposed before our eyes. Angela Carter delves into the viscera of our distorted sexuality and reveals a dazzling vision of love which admits neither of conqueror nor of conquered.
Angela Carter was one of the most important and influential writers of our time: a novelist of extraordinary power and a searching critic and essayist.This selection of her writing, which she made herself, covers more than a decade of her thought and ranges over a diversity of subjects giving a true measure of the wide focus of her interests: the brothers Grimm; William Burroughs; food writing, Elizbaeth David; British writing: American writing; sexuality, from Josephine Baker to the history of the corset; and appreciations of the work of Joyce and Christina Stead.
Radio Plays and Scripts
The Curious Room
This one is only available in kindle format.
The Vintage Collected Edition of Angela Carter’s works continues with THE CURIOUS ROOM, which contains her dramatic writings, including several previously unpublished plays and screenplays. THE CURIOUS ROOM includes a radio play about the demented Victorian painter and parricide Richard Dadd; reworkings of Puss in Boots and the Dracula story; a draft for an opera of Virginia Woolf’s ORLANDO, as well as the film scripts of THE MAGIC TOYSHOP and THE COMPANY OF WOLVES. Revealing many of the enthusiasms and concerns which ignited Carter’s fiction. THE CURIOUS ROOM is full of magnificent and startling new material, charged with the range and power of Carter’s imagination and inventiveness.
Essays on Angela Carter
Flesh and the Mirror
Go out and get Carter. Get all her fiction, all her fact.’ Ali Smith
This distinguished volume of essays commemorates the work of Angela Carter. Here her fellow writers, along with an impressive company of critics, disuss the novels, stories and polemics that make her one of the most spellbinding authors of her generation. They trace out the signs of her originality, her daring and her wicked wit, as well as her charm, to produce an indispensable companion to her texts.
Contributors are: Guido Almansi, Isobel Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, Elaine Jordan, Ros Kaveney, Hermione Lee, Laura Mulvey, Marc O’Day, Sue Roe, Susan Rubin Suleiman, Nicole Ward Jouve, Marina Warner and Kate Webb.
A list with more titles and further details can be found on Delia’s blog here.
I hope that you will join Delia and me in celebrating this unique writer.
I’m looking forward to rediscover a favourite writer. I might read her novel Love, a radio play and hopefully some short stories.
Will you join us? Which books or stories will you read?