I stumbled across this little gem while I was browsing Goodreads. I thought it would be a great way to close my reading for Angela Carter Week, which was hosted by Caroline and Delia, and I was right. The book is short, with no definite chronology, but for me, who knows very little about Carter’s personal life, it was a compelling glimpse into her life.
The book was put together by Susannah Clapp, a close friend and the literary executor of Carter’s estate. Each chapter is based on a postcard that Angela sent to Susannah from various locations around the world and at different times in her life. Together, they gave me an idea of who Angela Carter was; they showed her outlook on life, her ideas, her passions, and her influences.
It is by no means a biography—and it is not meant as such—but throughout the book, I found little nuggets that helped me get to know Carter a little better. The fact that this book was written by a close friend adds a personal touch and little details that were entertaining and endearing.
A number of participants in the Angela Carter Week read and wrote about Carter’s versions of different fairy tales, and so I found this quote quite interesting:
“[Angela] liked to tell the story of how, when she was fifteen, her mother had found her reading a novel and had advised her to stop. ‘She told me to remember what had happened to Madame Bovary.’ Too good to be completely true, perhaps, but not quite as straightforward as it seems at first. Angela might not have shared her mother’s anxiety about moral waywardness but she did think that romantic victimhood was worth combating and she tackled it in her reimagining of fairy tales.”
I also found that Carter had a sense of humor that I would have enjoyed. When she became ill with cancer, she “cursed the illness but took satisfaction from the fact that just before her diagnosis she’d taken out a whopping insurance policy; she ‘thought it very funny,’ [Salman] Rushdie said, ‘that the insurance company was screwed.”
Her friendship with Rushdie is mentioned in several instances, and I liked the following anecdote:
“The previous year, when Angela was working on the strongly secular television documentary The Holy Family Album, Rushdie had offered her advice on how to deal with blasphemy. ‘I don’t think,’ she had gleefully retorted, ‘I need any help from you.’”
Overall, I got exactly what I had hoped from this book: a brief look at Angela Carter’s life, “a life of which, as she put it, ‘The fin has come a little early this siècle.’”