Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter


After a good month of struggling to read, I finally found a book that seems to have busted the Bookworm's Curse.

I don't remember exactly how many years Angela Carter's, The Bloody Chamber, has been lying unread on my stacks. I tried reading it a couple of times, but it never clicked. Carter's ornate language definitely requires a certain...lyrical mood? Yeah, that's it. It's lyrical, and I always have to be in the mood for lyrical.

I've read a huge amount of fairy tale retellings through the years
--it's my thing--so I've gotten to a point where very little seems new anymore. However, I'm tickled to say, Carter's writing and her unique take on great fairy tales really felt quite original, which is enough to make me dance with joy.

The title story is a great take on the story of Bluebeard, wherein the protagonist is married off to a rich man, taken to his castle, introduced to sex (ooh!) and he soon hands over the house keys, heads off on a journey, and she finds all the bodies of his former wives locked away in his private chamber. Nothing new there. However, Carter puts a decidedly feminist twist on her tales, and the young woman's savior takes a very distinct form compared to the other Bluebeard tales I've read.

Carter also tackles other well known tales like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast." At first I was a little put off by the recurring retellings. That is, included in The Bloody Chamber are multiple retellings of the Red Riding Hood story and Beauty and the Beast. At first I thought it would be quite repetitive, but I was delighted to find that Carter does a nice job individuating her tales and making multiple retellings feel very unique and fresh.

I'm certainly a convert now. I have another of Carter's works, the novella Heroes and Villains, on my stacks. I suspect I may revisit Carter before the end of the Once Upon a Time II challenge! What better way to celebrate fantasy writing than with a supreme artist like Carter?

Additionally, this is the first complete book of stories I've finished for the Short Story Challenge! I'm excited to be able to tick another completed book off of my sidebar. And what a rich, seductive experience it was!

2 comments:

No Answers said...

I also thought it was a fantastic book -- especially "Lady of the House of Love" and the title story itself. You mention Carter's lyricism: yes, I think you're exactly right. I've tried reading a lot of her other work, but somehow it's either too ornate or too -- well, ironic -- for my liking. In this particular collection, Carter seems to strike the balance just perfectly. FYI, I wondered exactly where I should go after this book, and I think I found a very good complement: Karen Blixen's "Seven Gothic Tales." Obviously, they're not quite fairy tales, but they have the same linguistic richness; they also have a mantle of philosophical preoccupation that (at least to my mind) sits beautifully with their Gothic subjects.

No Answers said...

I also thought it was a fantastic book -- especially "Lady of the House of Love" and the title story itself. You mention Carter's lyricism: yes, I think you're exactly right. I've tried reading a lot of her other work, but somehow it's either too ornate or too -- well, ironic -- for my liking. In this particular collection, Carter seems to strike the balance just perfectly. FYI, I wondered exactly where I should go after this book, and I think I found a very good complement: Karen Blixen's "Seven Gothic Tales." Obviously, they're not quite fairy tales, but they have the same linguistic richness; they also have a mantle of philosophical preoccupations that (at least to my mind) sits beautifully with their Gothic subjects.