Monday, 13 October 2008

Short Stories: Angela Carter

I have just read 'The Courtship of Mr Lyon' from 'The Bloody Chamber' by Angela Carter.

Not a big fan, to be honest. Was immediately turned off by the prose, which somehow manages to be both incredibly pretentious and excruciatingly plain; "the hedgerow glistened as if the snow possessed a light of its own; when the sky darkened towards evening, an unearthly, reflected pallor remained behind upon the winter's landscape, while still the soft flakes floated down" ... I mean, what? People just don't think like that. I don't recognise any humanity in that at all. Bear in mind that the above sentence is describing a particular character's point of view as she looks out of the window; "Hmmm.. yes, that hedgerow is glistening rather a lot tonight; its almost as if the snow has a light of its own! And gosh, check out that unearthly, reflected pallor ... that's the unearthliest reflected pallor I've seen resting on a winter landscape in quite some time!"

Carter just about manages to trade on the magic of the original; her final sentence, leaping into present tense, effectively communicates blissful timelessness of a classic fairy tale ending: "Mr and Mrs Lyon walk in the garden; the old spaniel drowses on the grass, in a drift of fallen petals". However, she also drags a lot of the irritating traditional folksy moralising with it. The lion will die because the little girl is growing up vain and forgetting about him! Vanity = BAD. Love for weirdo possessive aristocrat = GOOD. And worse, Carter continues the age-old peddling of that superstitious myth that we must fear, and place out trust, in the law of nature and the spiritual powers that be. Yergh.

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