violently sexual

September 30, 2017

Sunday entertainment 3

Sex isn’t a subtext in “The Bloody Chamber,” but the text itself. (Angela Carter would explain that she was only making explicit a “latent content” that is “violently sexual.”) The title story is a version of “Bluebeard” in which a fin de siècle ingénue, the churchmouse-poor daughter of a widowed music teacher, weds an older, thrice-married marquis who is “the richest man in France.” He sweeps her off to his ancestral manse, where she gets a suite in a tower and where her curious wanderings unearth his collection of kinky books. Then he departs on a suspiciously timed business trip, leaving her with a ring of keys and permission to visit every room, except one.

Eroticism hangs heavy in the air here, as it does in much of “The Bloody Chamber,” like an expensive, drugging perfume. There is something vampiric about the marquis’ perversity, and about his “white, heavy flesh,” which the narrator repeated compares to lilies. Yet she is aroused to see him watching her in a mirror “with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh.” She believes he can see into her soul, perceiving “a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.” It’s not so much his power that entraps her, as her own longing for surrender.

Laura Miller
Fairy tales, fantasy and dangerous female desire

A werewolf

Carter was writing in the latter half of the twentieth century and well into the feminist era for the Western world. Sexuality and heterosexual relationships had become far more complex and nuanced than marriage was in the seventeenth century. By pulling out many of the metaphors from ‘The Company of Wolves’ it is possible to argue that Carter saw heterosexual relationships as equal. Not only that, but she saw both men and women as having strong sexual desires that might be seen as monstrous, but are perhaps more rightly called natural. Carter’s werewolf, as a metaphor for male sexuality, is rich and deep. The werewolf encountered by the young woman is a woodcutter, therefore spends time even in his human form in the wild woods. The reader is introduced to a handsome and friendly young man, though his eyes are the eyes of a wolf. Here is a wolf-man who has to hide his true nature behind a veneer of civility. His true nature is hungry and wild and violent. And, yet we know that “the beasts would love to be less beastly.” He meets his match in the young woman he attempts to seduce. She not only turns the tables by willingly kissing him and removing his clothes, she accepts his wolfish aspect by grooming him, comforting him and sleeping with him. In the young woman the reader is introduced to a very different Red Riding Hood than the one from Perrault’s tale. This woman goes into the woods with a knife, prepared for werewolves. She is confident and unafraid. She maybe virginal, perhaps a little naïve, but she is not stupid and she understands something of the relationship between men and women. She looks forward to losing her bet with the woodcutter and freely kisses him when the time comes to pay up. She realizes that fear of this wolf will not help her so she chooses not to be afraid of him. In fact she seems to pity him; at least she pities his cold hungry brothers singing outside. And, when informed that the wolf intends to eat her, this Red Riding Hood laughs in his face. She is so confident in herself that “she [is] nobody’s meat.” At this point the reader sees a young woman who is comfortable with her own sexuality. She removes the wolf’s clothing. “She will lay his fearful head on her lap and she will pick out the lice from his pelt and perhaps she will put the lice in her mouth and eat them, as he will bid her, as she would do in a savage marriage ceremony.” This young woman has clearly accepted the animal nature of her sexuality, that part of her that so many women are taught to believe is monstrous.

Laura McWriter
Angela Carter, Red Riding Hood, Werewolves and Sex

a wind up simulated girl

September 24, 2017

a wind up simulated girl

‘The Tiger’s Bride’, the second story in the collection that is based on Madame de Beaumont’s tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’, is narrated by Beauty, who is intelligent, considered and proud. She begins her narration with a pragmatic phrase that immediately indicates her awareness of her status as a commodity in a world dominated by men: ‘My father lost me to The Beast at cards’. When she begins to trust The Beast and does remove her clothes (notably, this is finally done by her own choice), she comments ‘I felt I was at liberty for the first time in my life’. Her femininity, which had previously cast her in a prescribed role as her father’s daughter, has been a repressive mask of its own. Beauty recognizes that in accepting this identity she has been merely performing the typical role of a woman in a society that does not value women. There is a particular emphasis on the burden of living as an object of the male gaze, a concept that has been extensively discussed by Laura Mulvey, as Beauty describes the world as ‘the market place, where the eyes that watch you take no account of your existence’. In an incredibly symbolic act of defiance that indicates both the miserably limited existence of women in such an oppressive society as well as the materialistic foolishness of the dominant patriarch, she uses a wind up simulated girl to take the place of her former self: ‘I will dress her in my own clothes, wind her up, send her back to perform the part of my father’s daughter’.

Samantha Halpin
How does Angela Carter deconstruct conventional and repressive gender identities in the Bloody Chamber

Jean-luc Godard - Alpherville

When most people are writing over a period of years, what they think they are writing about and what they believe in is a continuum; it’s not “specktic.” I’ve been publishing fiction since 1966, and I’ve changed a lot in the way I approach the world and in the way that I organize the world.

Heroes and Villains was quite an important book for me. One of the quotations in the front is from the script of a film called Alphaville, made by Jean-Luc Godard. It was a favorite film of mine of the late sixties; there’s a computer in Alphaville that says the thing that’s quoted in the front. [“There are times when reality becomes too complex for Oral Communication. But Legend gives it a form by which it pervades the whole world.”] In these times myth gives history shape. When I wrote that novel in 1968, this was a very resonant theme that I am not so sure of now.

I think that Godard was using the word myth in the same way that Barthes is as well. The film Alphaville uses one of the greatest gangster heroes of French cinema, but it projects a sort of trench-coat, Philip Marlowe character into some sort of antiseptic city of the future, and I really think that he was meaning myth in the terms of somebody like Bogart or Philip Marlowe. You know, you try things out and you try things out, and you figure out after a while when they’re not working or they stop working or maybe you no longer think it’s true. I just became uninterested in these sort of semi-sacrilized ways of looking at the world. They didn’t seem to me to be any help.

Angela Carter
Interview with Anna Katsavos published in The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Fall 1994)

as if to smell my fear

September 22, 2017

a tiger's bride

I squatted on the wet straw and stretched out my hand. I was now within the field of force of his golden eyes. He growled at the back of his throat, lowered his head, sank on to his forepaws, snarled, showed me his red gullet, his yellow teeth. I never moved. He snuffed the air, as if to smell my fear; he could not.

Slowly, slowly he began to drag his heavy, gleaming weight across the floor towards me.

A tremendous throbbing, as of the engine that makes the earth turn, filled the little room; he had begun to purr. . . .

He dragged himself closer and closer to me, until I felt the harsh velvet of his head against my hand, then a tongue, abrasive as sandpaper. “He will lick the skin off me!”

And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shiny hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur.

Angela Carter
The Tiger’s Bride
The Bloody Chamber

face

We were shown into a room like a paper box. It contained nothing but a mattress spread on the floor. We lay down immediately and began to kiss one another. Then a maid soundlessly opened the sliding door and, stepping out of her slippers, crept in on stockinged feet, breathing apologies. She carried a tray which contained two cups of tea and a plate of candies. She put a tray down on the matted floor beside us and backed, bowing and apologizing, from the room whilst our uninterrupted kiss continued. He started to unfasten my shirt and then she came back again. This time, she carried an armful of towels. I was stripped stark naked when she returned for a third time to bring the receipt for his money.

Angela Carter
Souvenir of Japan
Fireworks

Diary 21st / 22nd March

Lots of criticism of the concept of grammar schools lately. They’ve always been anathema to the socialists. And yet an entire generation of writers passed through them: Angela Carter, Ted Hughes, William Golding, John Carey, Tony Harrison, Alan Bennett – Angela Carter even went so far as to suggest they helped create a genuine British intelligentsia: ‘’a class of people who didn’t believe they were born to rule, who had no stake in maintaining the class-bound structure of British society but who made their livings through dealing with ideas.’

Carter, unlike other socialists, didn’t believe in ‘throwing the educational baby out with the bathwater.’

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A weather forecast, or rather pastcast: rain, rain and more rain; mostly this miserable soaking drizzle. For two days last week the moor was clotted with fog (low cloud), its granite slopes melting into white; its ancient hidden secrets further obscured, and the sheep and cattle became simple shapes in the murk: bedraggled and pissed off, no doubt – probably suicidal, even: but of course lacking hands they cannot take a razor to their throats, unlike us.

Then, on Tuesday, a cold front rolled in off the Atlantic. The rain turned sleety. It’s s’posed to be the beginning of spring…!

On a more hopeful note, last Sunday I heard a lark singing. It probably wasn’t ascending, but the sound brought a smile to my face.

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Some people have desires that can only be hinted at…

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As I grow older I become more forgetful. I’d give you some examples but I’ve forgotten them already.

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Notable events over the past week: lunch at Notter Bridge last Friday (this after an unexpected telephone call from my sister which I finally, rather rudely had to interrupt after almost an hour’s conversation, saying: ‘must go, we’re meeting friends for lunch…’)

Drinks with Henry B Saturday. He has an unending repertoire of anecdotes and a spontaneous humour that is the envy of us all. He is also currently persona non grata with the local BDSM group after last Christmas, and that unfortunate experience with D F. Still, his shoulders are broad and he handles his ostracization with casual good humour. He is, in short, unrepentant and imperturbable. For my own part, I have this indelible memory of Henry two years ago in lurid lycra, being flagellated mercilessly by an Asian lady in John R’s sitting room at St Mabyn.

Sunday I became quite intoxicated by the end of day. I managed to prepare food for us all. But afterwards fell asleep on the living room sofa.

Monday I finished my short story “Rats”. It’s a tale of a woman with a deep-seated fear of rats. It has a very unhappy ending. In part, I s’pose (and this with hindsight), the idea behind the story originated with a news report two or three years ago which concerned a woman who had a terrible fear of monkeys. This phobia meant she could never visit a zoo, and never even watch a wild life documentary on television if monkeys were involved.

She decided to seek help. She attended sessions with a therapist weekly for most of that year. Then she visited the monkey house with her family at London zoo. All okay. Her fear was gone, dissipated. She was cured.

The following year she went on holiday to Kenya with her husband and children. On the second day of this vacation she was attacked and torn apart by a group of angry baboons.

Tuesday was a hospital appointment and then shopping. Sleeting like mad when we left the hospital; peeing down with rain at the supermarket; bright sunshine on arriving home. All the seasons in the one day.

Talking, too, about the moor: how it can give substance to your dreams and nightmares. Ghosts on the moor, for certain. But then who’s to say that one or more of the people standing with you at the bus stop aren’t ghosts? That woman in a white raincoat and headscarf, for example?

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I was reminded yesterday of a party in Hampshire ten years ago. A young man taking the part of Nijinsky, dressed as the faun in ‘L’Après-Midi’, dancing behind his shimmering gauze, cock stiff and swaying for the delectation of all. What a wild, unruly night that became.

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‘Real artists are not nice people,’ W H Auden once wrote. ‘All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue.’

So let that stand as a warning to us all.

BB

I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I’d never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before… When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror… I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.

Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber

vveil

She is not sleeping.

In death, she looked far older, less beautiful and so, for the first time, fully human.

I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness. And I leave you as a souvenir the dark, fanged rose I plucked from between my thighs, like a flower laid on a grave. On a grave.

Angela Carter
The Lady in the House of love

(Image  from Angela Chalmers
http://www.angelachalmers.com)

idrinkyourblood

Diary 8th March

As usual, there’s a great woman behind every idiot…
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Know what it means to come home after a hard day, to a woman who’ll give you a little love? A little tenderness, and affection?

It means you’re in the wrong house, that’s what it means…

(Cue laughter track)
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God made man in his own image…so therefore God, by definition, must be ravenous, cannibalistic, vicious, and an egocentric tyrant…Did I mention fecking murderous, too?
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Years ago I fell in love with Angela Carter. It was her photograph on the back of a Penguin book, “The Bloody Chamber” The stories and that photograph were all it took. Love at first sight…
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I read “Sadeian Woman” back at the dawn of time. Here Angela Carter becomes a rigid ideologue, fervidly feminist, furiously antireligious. She sings the song of Sade’s “Juliette”, created as a counterforce to the submissive woman of myth and actuality – unlike “Justine”, the submissive sexual stereotype, the natural victim, “Juliette” is masterful, brutal, delights in cruelty and corruption. She is de Sade’s blow at the notion of women as pure and meek, a notion that has done much to perpetuate the exploitation of women over the years.

It is unfortunate that despite a number of shrewd insights into his work, Angela Carter hardly touches on the political ideas of de Sade. Instead he must remain the popular bogeyman of legend, imprisoned under a lettre de cachet obtained from the king by the Marquis’s mother-in-law! “Sade, as Angela Carter vaguely and perplexedly recognizes, was anything but a monster in his life. She notes, for example, that after being released from prison during the Terror and appointed a judge, he was sent back to prison for his leniency toward the accused who came before him; but she doesn’t draw the right conclusions from this.”

The point is that there was a greatly significant gap between Sade’s sexual writings and his actual nature…

In many ways, Sade was a startlingly modern thinker. He despised the notion that women were merely vessels for procreation and celebrated their orgasmic potential. He exposed the institutional misogyny around him. His libertarian writings alienated two kings, a revolutionary tribunal and an emperor. He spent most of his adult life under lock and key: if they couldn’t get him for being bad, being mad would do.
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The Conservative party has a crick in its neck from looking backwards to a Churchillian- Thatcherite ideal. The Labour party, too, looks over its shoulder – the young and half-educated socialists permeate the internet with their dyslexic paroxysms of enthusiasm for their leader, an old man who stepped from the mists of neglect, his head filled to overflowing with nineteenth century class struggle, but who appears totally oblivious to modern society, with its consumer-based sexism, its exploitation of the vulnerable, and its rancid prejudice, now wonderfully window-dressed as nationalism…

And the Liberal party? What of them? I see them as a small group of nervous young men, half-afraid to have an erection…Ineffectual and lacking in identity.
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Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, one of the richest women in Britain, with a £467 million ($673.6 million) fortune, recently reported, “To the extent that business is not trusted by society, often with good reason, it is not good for capitalism. There is no excuse for that. A divided society against itself will not stand and it doesn’t matter if you’re in the top 1% or 0.001%. If the society around you is crumbling, you’re in a bad place.”

And that “bad” place may already be here.

According to an Oxfam report released in January, 62 billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the entire world’s population. The wealth of the poorest 50% fell by 41% between 2010 and 2015. During this same period, those 62 billionaires increased their worth by $500 billion to $1.76 trillion.
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