Monday, June 14, 2010

I ♥ Angela Carter, part 2

(I ♥ Angela Carter, part 1.)

At midnight, especially on Walpurgisnacht, the Devil holds picnics in the graveyards and invites the witches; then they dig up fresh corpses, and eat them. Anyone will tell you that.

(from 'The Werewolf')


This is the most beautiful book I own.

It's the first U.S. edition of The Bloody Chamber (published in 1977), a collection of deliciously creepy retellings of classic fairy tales and legends like Bluebeard's Chamber, the Erlking, and Beauty and the Beast. The heroines of these stories are brave and sensuous and morbid; the collection's usually pegged as 'feminist fairy tales' but they're so much more fun than that label lets on.

One of my favorite stories is 'The Lady of the House of Love'; as you read it you can totally imagine yourself as the 'beautiful queen of the vampires', alone in the gloom of her ruined chateau:
Closely barred shutters and heavy velvet curtains keep out every leak of natural light. There is a round table on a single leg covered with a red plush cloth on which she lays out her inevitable tarot; this room is never more than faintly illuminated by a heavily shaded lamp on the mantelpiece and the dark-red figured wallpaper is obscurely, distressingly patterned by the rain that drives in through the neglected roof and leaves behind it random areas of staining, ominous marks like those left on the sheets by dead lovers. Depredations of rot and fungus everywhere. The unlit chandelier is so heavy with dust the individual prisms no longer show any shapes; industrious spiders have woven canopies in the corners of this ornate and rotting place, have trapped the porcelain vases on the mantelpiece in soft gray nets. But the mistress of all this disintegration notices nothing...
The prose throughout is beautiful and evocative and pleasantly disturbing. There's an awful lot of romanticization of death in popular culture these days—(enough already with all these cheesy vampire sagas!)—and while the stories in The Bloody Chamber are often preoccupied with sex, death, and decay, this is not at all the indulgence of some teenybopper goth fantasy. Her beauty is a symptom of her disorder, of her soullessness.

Like I said, I am rationing the oeuvre of Angela Carter, although I suspect I have already read her best novel—Wise Children, her last, published in 1991. If you've never read her, The Bloody Chamber might be a good place to start.

2 comments:

Pare said...

How very Grey Gardens...

Kate said...

That cover is pretty awesome! I'm sure the stories aren't bad either ;)