Friday, May 13, 2016

Angela Carter, Several Perceptions (1968)

When I see that title, I always think of the Leonard Cohen album Various Positions. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing!

Carter's third novel is a very different beast from The Magic Toyshop. Here, our protagonist is Joseph, a Young Person in London who mopes around about his girlfriend having left him, vaguely worries about the Vietnam War, and contemplates suicide. He has conversations with other Young People--notably his dandified friend Viv, who lives on the dole with his prostitute mother; and Anne, a plain, brusque young woman who saves him when he tries to blow himself up but generally doesn't care to be around him. He engages in the odd inchoate protest--sneaking into a zoo at night to free a badger, mailing a turd to LBJ--and there you have it, about.

I've realized that for most of the run time here this really, really reminded me of an early Godard movie, like Breathless or Masculin FĂ©minin--a lot of disaffected young people gnomically talking past one another. This was all reasonably entertaining, for what it was, but I am not sure it was exactly what I wanted from a Carter novel. While not without its charms, it seems to lack a lot of the explosive power that characterizes her best work, and I don't feel like there's that much to sink one's teeth into. I think The Magic Toyshop would be a great book to teach in a literature class; this one, less so.

HOWEVER, let us give credit where credit is due: the last chapter--where Joseph and Anne go to a Christmas party at a friend/acquaintance's house--is beautiful and luminous, and suddenly, bam, I'm in love all over again. On the whole, I still think this is minor Carter, but it's still Carter, and as long as it's not Shadow Dance, I've seen no evidence to date that that's ever a bad thing.


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