Thursday, 15 April 2010

Several perceptions (Carter) 404

If it has escaped your attention somehow, then do visit my friend Claire's blog at Paperback Reader during April. Claire is holding an Angela Carter month during April to promote one of her favourite authors, with lots of posts about her books and some very generous giveaways. An astonishing number of bloggers around the world are joining in and Claire is putting up links to posts that have been written as part of the week. I have to say that I am Angela Carter-indifferent - whilst I loved The magic toyshop, I was repulsed by the Passion of New Eve and just not particularly gripped by Shadow Dance. But it is great to have the encouragement to read such an outstanding writer - I can certainly attest to the quality of her prose even if I have not always hugely enjoyed her books. Since several Angela Carter books have been published as Virago Modern Classics I felt that I should definitely participate in Claire's month!

Several perceptions is one of Carter's earlier novels. Set in the sixties, but written only in 1968, it is one of the earliest discussions the decade characterised by flower power and the hippies. It centres around the character of Joseph; unhappy with his life, he attempts suicide but when this fails he has to try to find a different way of living. And in weird event after weird event (sending an airmail to the US president which contains a turd, freeing a badger from a local zoo (using the very sixties item of wire cutters!)), Joseph, like others in the 1960s attempts to find out what the meaning of life is.

I think I enjoyed this more than some of her other books because it was one of her earliest novels and somehow easier to read. I could see her wonderful writing starting to develop, although it didn't quite have the richness of prose that some of her other books have, but she hadn't yet quite moved so much into the world of magic and the fantastic that seems to characterise much of her later work and which I seem to find inaccessible. There is a lovely review of the book by Another Cookie Crumbles here - do take a look.

It's been published twice by Virago, and I borrowed the more recent version from the library.

And I hope to get to the other Angela Carter VMC, Fireworks, which is a collection of short stories before the end of the month!


  1. I wasn't wildly impressed by some of the short stories of Carter's that I read in the past, but I am not a big short story person in general. I'm planning to read Wise Children and The Magic Toyshop, and hopefully that will cause me to love her. :)

  2. Thanks for the lovely post, Verity, and for giving Carter another go (although she is part of the venture). I think where you had more success here, and definitely with The Magic Toyshop, is because the novels are more plot-driven that The Passion of New Eve. PoNe was very experimental during the Seventies and Carter's work definitely took a departure during that decade. Although they are not VMCs I think you would enjoy Love especially (it's an historical era that interests you/very VMC-like i.e. Poor Cow) and possibly Nights at the Circus and Wise Children (even though you're not a Shakespeare fan).

  3. Jenny - I'll be interested to see how I get on with her short stories, hopefully next week.

    Claire - I think you're right, and as you know, I tend to prefer somehting a bit more plot driven. Nights at a circus sounds interesting so I might give that a go when I get through some of my other reading projects!