Angela Carter: Writing from the Front Line

By Sarah Gamble | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

In this chapter, I will begin to consider part of Angela Carter's literary output during the decade leading up to her departure for Japan in 1969; the period in which she published Shadow Dance (1966), The Magic Toyshop (1967), Several Perceptions (1968), and Heroes and Villains (1969). I am also including Love in my analysis of Carter's novels of the sixties, for although it was not published until 1971, Carter herself was explicit about the fact that it was written in 1969, and the characters in it 'the pure, perfect products of those days of social mobility and sexual licence'.1 It certainly, as Marc O'Day has already observed, shares many similarities with the rest of Carter's output during this period.2 However, while O'Day seems to have no difficulty linking Love to Shadow Dance and Several Perceptions, making it the third element in what he terms Carter's 'Bristol Trilogy', I wish to argue that it also has much in common, both thematically and stylistically, with Heroes and Villains.

The liberal and experimental atmosphere of the sixties undoubtedly suited Angela Carter. It was the decade in which she launched her writing career, and its mood and mores — as well as its contradictions remained an indelible influence on her work. The fiction she wrote during this period is extremely varied, in terms of both tone and quality. Although she built up a repertoire of ideas and techniques which run throughout the novels she was writing at this time, it is difficult to analyse these texts in chronological order, as the greatest similarities appear between books which were not written sequentially. I have therefore chosen to begin with a discussion of Shadow Dance and Several Perceptions, both texts which draw overtly on the concept of a counterculture, and which celebrate the decade's devotion to narcissistic spectacle — a movement otherwise known as 'camp'. Camp had an undoubted appeal for Carter, as Lorna Sage says, 'because it represented a kind of fault-line running through contemporary culture, where the

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Angela Carter: Writing from the Front Line
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Angela Carter: Writing from the Front Line iii
  • In Memory of Mark iv
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Autobiography and Anonymity 11
  • Chapter 1 13
  • II - Living on a Demolition Site 37
  • Chapter 2 39
  • Chapter 3 66
  • III - Mad Scientists, Drag Queens and Fairy Godmothers 91
  • Chapter 4 93
  • Chapter 5 118
  • IV - Flying the Patriarchal Coop 143
  • Chapter 6 145
  • Chapter 7 168
  • Epilogue 190
  • Select Bibliography 192
  • Index 197
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