Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon (2016


Angela Carter 1940 to 1992, England, died of lung cancer

I have read only a few of Angela Carter's dark and wonderful short stories, mostly from her now most read work, The Bloody Chamber (1979).

The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon is a first rate literary biography. As I read on I came to like both the book and Carter so much that I was sad upon completion, maybe my feelings were amplified by her way to early death at fifty two.

Gordon shows us at least three processes of invention.  We see Angela inventing her persona.  Gordon does a very good job detailing the people in Carter's life, starting with her parents and then her first husband, Paul Carter.  Carter was a musician, the marriage failed not due to any villainy on either side, he simply did not fulfill her needs and I think he came to bore her.

Angela won the Somerset Maugham award, a grant for travel expenses.  Angela decided  to go to Japan and this opened up her creativity and lead to two important romances, one with a Japanese man, one a Korean.  Carter had a very strong, by her own acknowledgement, sex drive and her relationships were strained at best. Carter struggled to make a living in Japan and eventually got homesick and accepted a secure job offer in England.  By age 32 she had written five novels.  She also wrote reviews and such for income.  As she became more famous she worked as a visiting professor in New York City, Adelaide Australia (which she loved) and several English schools.

Gordon spends a lot of time detailing Carter's life style at the time of writing of her more famous works, The Bloody Chamber (1979), Night at the Circus (1984), Wise Children (1991).  He shows how she employed her life experience and her extensive reading in her works.

A few years after divorcing Paul Carter, Angela fell in love with a man younger than her by a good bit who was doing some repair work on her house.  They married after few years, had a son, and he seems to have made her happy.  She was the primary earner in the family.

Gordon brings to life the many friends in Angela's life, from famous writers, publishers and intellectuals to ordinary people.

Gordon talks about how feminist and folk scholars approached her work.

We learn a lot about the business side of her publishing career.

There is a lot more in The Invention of Angela Carter than I have mentioned.  It for sure made me want to expand my reading of her work.  I greatly enjoyed this elegant insightful erudite biography.

Edmund Gordon studied philosophy at Trinity College Dublin and English literature at University College London, and since 2011 has been a lecturer in English at King's College London. A regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, he has also written for a variety of other publications in Britain and the US, including Bookforum and The Guardian.  The Invention of Angela Carter is his first book.

Mel u


Lisbeth said...

Sounds like a fascinating biography.

Suko said...

I agree with Lisbeth. Excellent review, Mel.