Monday, August 29, 2016

Angela Carter, Wise Children (1991)

Right, so I have a shameful confession to make to you good people: in that last entry, I feel like I tried to create the impression that I liked Nights at the Circus more than I actually did. Don't get me wrong: I did like it. It's a very good novel. But my overwhelming desire for Carter's last few books to be totally brilliant masterpieces made me overstate the case for it. Did I REALLY suggest that it's arguably better than The Passion of New Eve? Tidak tidak tidak. In truth, I'd say Nights at the Circus ranks right smack in the middle of Carter's novels, qualitywise. Given the high esteem in which I hold her, that is NO SMALL THING. But at the same time, it's not the GREATEST thing. I don't know that I would've been determined to read her entire output had I started there. So mea maxima culpa.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984)

Nights at the Circus! It's 1899. There is a woman named Fevvers (dialect for "feathers"), "the Cockney Venus," a large, beautiful, coarse, and intensely mercenary woman who has--or appears to have--a pair of large wings growing out of her back (which indeed allow her to fly). She's been killing it for huge, awestruck audiences all over Europe. For the first third of the novel, she relates her life story (with the help of her foster mother, Lizzie) to Jack Walser, a bemused and skeptical American journalist. It's a digressive, hallucinatory story in which she lives in two separate brothels (although she maintains her virginity throughout), one a combination freak show, until...well, there's no use spoiling the twists and turns.
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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979)

I was surprised by the first few stories here, and not in a way I expected to be surprised: no, I was surprised by how...conventional they seemed. Very straightforward takes on faerie tales, reworked, true, but not notably deconstructing or subversive. The title story (by far the longest one here) comes first, and it's a very faithful retelling of "Bluebeard." Is it set in the twentieth century? Yes. Does it have a straightforward (though admittedly kinda badass) feminist twist in the end? It does. Still. Nothing that amazing. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but...I dunno, if she were a musician, this is the kind of thing about which you'd accuse her of having watered down her sound a bit in a bid for mass-market appeal. Not that I'm accusing Carter of that, probably. But it is surprising. "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" is a Beauty and the Beast story with a happily-ever-after ending. "Puss-in-Boots" is a bawdy, Boccacchio-esque take on the story that likewise ends surprisingly sweetly, that. Huh, I thought. Not that any of this is in any way bad, but it's not exactly amazing either.
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