Monday, 16 June 2014

The Company of Wolves

“Who’s your favourite author?” is one of those questions that, on first ask, seems like a good idea. An easy icebreaker surely, a quick way of chivvying along conversation until it gathers momentum… Well, sometimes it works. It can be just the nudge needed to prompt in-depth chat. Yet it can also be met with a string of oh’s and umm’s and ah’s and let me think’s. The open-endedness occasionally leads to a kind of blank space where answers should be; the mental bookshelf where writers and texts are usually stacked is suddenly empty.

There are tons of authors I love: Virginia Woolf, Laurie Lee, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Thomas Hardy, Jeanette Winterson, Oscar Wilde, Alan Garner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Helen Oyeyemi are just a few. Which one is ‘favourite’ will depend on the day, the mood, the last thing I read. But now in that first-flash instant answer there’s one I tend to reach for above the others – Angela Carter. It’s not that I value her work more than any other. She holds no favoured position at the top of some bullet point list. It just happens that her name is the one that floats up naturally: a ready-made response when on the spot.

So, why Carter? Let’s start with the style of writing. It can only really be captured in a rag-tag selection of adjectives: ‘crackling’ and ‘ornate’ and ‘dynamic’ and ‘sharp’ and ‘sumptuous’ and ‘bawdy’ and ‘disturbing’ and ‘inventive’. Sometimes it’s too rich, dripping with description after description until it’s heavy and hard to navigate. But mostly it’s a kind of playful delight – a space to revel in language and image.

Then there’s the fact that so many of the themes she explores and subverts – image, appearance, gender, sexuality, performance, the body, history, looking and being looked at – are ones I’m naturally interested in. Whether shaking up conventional male and female roles in The Bloody Chamber, suggesting that it matters little whether spectacular winged woman Fevvers is ‘genuine’ or ‘artificial’ in Nights at the Circus, raiding every Shakespeare play possible in Wise Children or writing with rich wit about fashion in her essays, her work remains always entertaining and provocative. There are fairytales and fantasies, mirrors and puppets and pretty dresses, circuses and Russian railways, twins and lovers  and marriage and family feuds.

Her books are also multi-layered. It’s almost impossible to write about her fiction without lapsing into academic speak: “inversion of the subject-object divide”, or ways in which “the female body itself becomes the site of a performance of femininity.”( Blame the fact that my exams begin the day after tomorrow). However, while her books always offer the challenge of a complex text to be unraveled, I think I cite her as favourite for a more simple reason: reading for sheer pleasure. 

I felt that this rather magnificent vintage 70s dress (bought from eBay by my mum) was appropriately Angela Carter-esque - complete with fairytale references, outlandish detail and some rather ominous looking trees across the skirt. Roses are a recurring motif in Carter's texts, so I thought I'd pay homage with some dried ones pinned in my hair. The jewellery is a mixture of second hand, vintage and Bill Skinner. 


Vix said...

Uncanny - your mum outbid me on eBay for that maxi!!!! xxx

Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

Beautiful and original as always! :) I'm so happy when you post something...

I didn't know Angela Carter but you really make me curious. I think that I will like her.
For me it is also difficult to choose a favourite writer. As you said, depend of the moment or the mood. I try to read everything that come to my hands and I finish the book if I discover something nice in it. I read great book and boring books. And sometimes I discovered really nice unknown novels.

In other post you talked about ecological conscience. Maybe your interested in my new post of today. Come to see it, I hope I made it in right english.

:) bye!

Jess said...

I'm reading 'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing' at the moment and I absolutely love it, it's so different from anything I've read before. Have yet to read any Angela Carter but her writing sounds amazing, definitely next on the the list. Good luck with your exams!

Anupriya DG said...

That dress is a story in itself! <3
And I love the roses strewn haphazardly in your romantic....sort of leaves so many questions in an onlooker's mind...

P.S.: I'm gonna email you soon! Need to talk!! :)

Lally said...

Angela Carter is great, that skirt is certainly befitting of a post dedicated to her! I love Nights at the Circus, it conjures up such vivid images! I'm working around to reading Bloody Chamber this summer, I've been recommend it so many times!
Lally XX

Lally said...

Angela Carter is great, that skirt is certainly befitting of a post dedicated to her! I love Nights at the Circus, it conjures up such vivid images! I'm working around to reading Bloody Chamber this summer, I've been recommend it so many times!
Lally XX

Ivana Split said...

reading for sheer pleasure---there is nothing quite like it!

I must say that the outfit goes so well with your text...from the moment I saw it I was curious where you have found being that fabulous dress! It is not only eye-catching it is really beautiful in every way....and I do like the flowers in your hair...and the way you so brilliantly connect the visual and written part of your blog.

Sacramento Amate said...

Your story is better than mine, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh
Wonderful skirt, wonderful you, my dearest Rosalind
Mil besos siempre

Sacramento Amate said...

Your story is better than mine, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh
Wonderful skirt, wonderful you, my dearest Rosalind
Mil besos siempre


This was delightful to read, and I agree, there are authors that are my favourite merely for style of writing, and then others for sheer reading enjoyment. You look beatuiful! Your skirt has such a marvellous look with your floral hair embellishments. I am always enthralled by the details when it comes to fashion. :)

OrigamiGirl said...

It's embarrassing to admit this, but the only Angel Carter I've read and own is her book of fairy tales. I've always meant to, but just never got round to it! I'm sure I'd love her as I really do love fairy stories. Bit into Jeanette Winterson though. Have you seen that she has been in the news this week for eating rabbit? Yes. Bizarre story. :)

Mei-li said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog Rosalind !

Thank you for sharing your opinion about your favorites writers. I do read a lot myself, not quick enough to my liking.

A questio; do you buy your books in a book shop ? or on internet, on website like Amazone ? or do you rent them at the library ? What do you think about Amazone ? It's so convenient to shop there, but I do think it kills bookshop, bet then, it is the way it has to be ? The way forward,its just cheaper, and well, I don't know ! ;)



Anova said...

Your style is so special and unique! I like it <3

Philippa Rose said...

Just found your blog and I've become quite obsessed haha! I think it would be such an interesting concept to recreate Melanie's various looks from The Magic Toyshop-just have to find an old wedding dress first ;)

Izzy DM said...

I was just discussing this issue the past two previous nights with first an opera singer/ philosopher friend who made a strong case for Joyce, and then an author friend who made more of your/ our case that it's too hard to pick one, and I ended up saying it really depends on my mood as well. However, you make a pretty compelling case for Angela as your favorite writer! I need to reread her work; it's been a while, but I was happy to see we share so many favorites in common.

I've been taking an internet break, but it's lovely to see you looking so "rosey" and pretty as usual. I'll have to catch up with more of your writing soon. Like Carter, I always find you inspirational.

Flippant Poet said...

You must read some P G Wodehouse, Roz (if I may). His works induce always and indubitably sheer delight. He is one of those rare things in life for whose immense success you can vouch for with an easy heart and with much pleasure.

I like how the words you use to describe Angela Carter's books are so succinct and on point, but also how you finish up with an admittance that in the end it is indeed only the fact that you genuinely like her work, all diplomacy aside for which she holds a ~special~ place on your list of favourites. It's the same way with P G Wodehouse - you can find a million fitting words for his writing, but in the end you'll love it not for the words that describe his writing but simply for the writing itself. x

Melanie said...

One can never go wrong with a smattering of roses through one's hair. And a quilted skirt, so thrilling. It's like being wound up in a comfy blanket, you can't help but surrender to its warmth and heft. I just love everything about this. Another award for you mum too and her keen eye.
I'm always tongue-tied when asked my favourite writer. They change on a regular basis. I'm reading Douglas Coupland at the moment but I must dip into some Carter, clearly.

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