If only Angela Carter had written a werewolf novel. She intended to – until cancer took her from us on February 16th 1992. Salmon Rushdie, a personal friend of Angela Carter’s wrote: ‘To watch The Company of Wolves, the film Angela Carter made with Neil Jordan, weaving together several of her wolf-narratives, is to long for the full-scale wolf-novel she never wrote.’
Circuses, fairgrounds, freaks, mannequins, wolves, shape-shifters, Erl-kings, murderers, ghost trains, toyshops, castles, fairy tales, myths, legends, enchanted woods and mysterious forests – these are Angela Carter’s literary currency. In many ways she’s an English female version of Ray Bradbury; her writing is infused with a sense of wonder; a bitter-sweet nostalgia for what never was, and an ability to recast the modern as the mythological.
Her book, The Company of Wolves is packed with twisted, post-modern fairy tales, and contains enough howling wolves, spooky forests, haunted castles, mountain paths, psychopaths, woodcutters and shape-shifters to fill a book of Transylvanian folk tales. And every story has a powerful message that is delivered in an entertaining way. Serious stuff then, but also funny, tragic, comic, insightful, profound, hilarious, unsettling and powerful.
Her other books, particularly Nights at the Circus, Wise Children, Black Venus, Fireworks, and The Magic Toyshop are exceptional works. Her radio plays, collected as Come Unto These Yellow Sands are worth reading too.
In fact here’s a list of her books:
Shadow Dance (1965)
The Magic Toyshop (1967)
Several Perceptions (1968)
Heroes and Villains (1969)
The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman (1972)
Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974)
The Passion of New Eve (1977)
The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (1979)
The Bloody Chamber (1979)
Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings (1982)
Come Unto These Yellow Sands: Four Radio Plays (1985)
Black Venus (1985)
Nights at the Circus (1985)
Wise Children (1991)
Expletives Deleted (1992)
The Virago Book of Fairy tales (Editor) (1992)
The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (Editor) (1992)
Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (Editor) 1993)
American Ghosts and Old World Wonders (1993)
Burning Your Boats: Collected Short Stories (1995)
Shaking a Leg: Collected Writings (1996)
The Curious Room: Collected Dramatic Works (1997)
Angela Carter’s writing, like Anna Kavan’s, does not fit into an easy category. Hers is a unique voice, one that should be heard/read by more people. Start with The Company of Wolves and go on from there. Angela Carter’s books are worth reading: she’ll take you on a long, strange, and wonderful trip.
© R J Dent (2009)