‘Who worked for Madame Schreck, sir? Why, prodigies of nature, such as I. Dear old Fanny Four-Eyes; and the Sleeping Beauty; and the Wiltshire Wonder, who was not three foot high; and Albert/Albertina, who was bipartite, that is to say, half and half and neither of either; and the girl we called Cobwebs.’ – Angela Carter, from Nights at the Circus, italics on my part.
Albertina, you say?
Any time you become enamored with an author’s work, you are bound to find similarities between their works. There are certain themes that appeal to them. There are certain settings they prefer over others. There are certain words – lugubrious, again (I love that word too). And as we all know, the more you read, the more you know. Of Angela Carter, I know more than I did than in 2009, when I was first introduced to her work through her second novel, The Magic Toyshop, in a course on literature about women in transition. (Short story, I learned I had to read it before the class started a week before, procrastinated, then sat down to read a library copy of it and spent the entire day glued to that seat until I turned the very last page).
And so much do I love Carter’s grotesque sense of humor, her vulgar approach to oft deified sexual acts, and her deconstruction of iconic female archetypes that I start to crave her work. There are very few writers out there who can make you laugh and then make you feel revulsion for the fact that you did laugh. But I get that certain feeling of meaning when I start to realize that each book has their own ambiguous catchphrase. For Nights at the Circus, there is Fevvers’ resounding cry of “Look at me!” as well as Nelson’s teachings to her of “Look, don’t touch.” In Love, brothers Lee and Buzz have to wear letters as children that spell out “DO RIGHT BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT.” And there are so many in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman that it would take too long to list them all, although my personal favorite is, “WHEN YOU BEGIN TO THINK, YOU LOSE THE POINT.”
So I decided that it would be in my best interests to list all of these similarities, as I will eventually write about Nights at the Circus and perhaps not have enough time to mention all of these. Granted, this is only what I’ve noticed in the first 90 pages of the book. But that is why I love Carter’s work so much – every sentence is brimming with ideas, thoughts, that can be extrapolated upon. Her books are like a candy shop for those who majored in English. So, onwards!
There will obviously be many Angela Carter spoilers after this cut. Proceed with caution. Continue reading “An Avenging Angel”