Angela Carter: Writing from the Front Line

By Sarah Gamble | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

The chatty, colloquial tone which Carter employs in most of her autobiographical writings is deceptive, conning you into thinking that you're getting to know her. In fact, it is unclear as to how far such pieces can be used as a way of learning about the facts of their author's life, for her apparent disingenuousness functions as a strategy which allows for concealment and evasion. Carter chose to elaborate in detail only on certain episodes in her life: her childhood and her time in Japan – and those only to a certain extent. It is striking that, when questioned about her life, Carter tended to repeat almost word for word the content of the essays discussed here. Proclaiming, as she did in interview in 1984, that 'all attempts at autobiography are fraught with self-deceit and narcissism',1 it appears that she chose what she wished to make public with care, creating a carefully contrived story to which she did not add spontaneously, in interview or anywhere else.

I would therefore argue that Carter is no more and no less definitively 'present' in her supposedly 'autobiographical' writings than she is anywhere else in her fiction. Far from telling a straightforward account of her origins, these essays correspond to her authorial agenda as a whole; the creation of open-ended texts accessible to a multiplicity of readings within which the author no longer occupies a central position. Lorna Sage argues that the Barthesean concept of the 'Death of the Author' was very attractive to Carter for the precise reason that it renders the writer anonymous. 'Meaning' in the literary text is no longer tied down to the intentions of an implied author; it becomes 'an action in language, not an act of intended meaning … Its resources are a perpetual motion of signifying possibilities.'2

However, while Carter's autobiographical essays do not give us a great deal of reliable information about her life, they do relate direcdy to an understanding of her fiction. She herself maintained the existence

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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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