Blog – The Invention of Angela Carter? by Kate Fry

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Hearing that Edmund Gordon would be at this year’s LitFest with his biography The Invention of Angela Carter, I rushed out to get a copy, because I find the story of Angela Carter completely fascinating. When I first came across her work – actually through the Good Book debate at LitFest 2014 – I loved Wise Children and Nights at the Circus but was amazed I hadn’t heard of her before.

Gordon’s biography investigates this intelligent, critical, witty writer with great compassion and understanding.

Angela Carter was born in 1940. An only child, who clearly had high intelligence and deep sensibilities, she had an overly protective mother and eventually rebelled against her control. She married at 20 and started writing novels – Gordon suggests this was partly due to the boredom of being a housewife. She gained some success with her first book, Shadow Dance, but much more notice with her second, The Magic Toyshop.

After a few more novels she won a Somerset Maughan Award in 1969 and used the money to travel to Japan. This was a life changing experience for her, she found it incredibly exciting and inspiring. She had an affair with a Japanese man, and this led to her leaving her husband and spending two years in Japan.

She carried on travelling and working hard at writing during the seventies, developing a style which we’d now call magical realism. She also gained a reputation as a radical feminist with work such as The Bloody Chamber – short story reworkings of traditional fairy tales. However, as Gordon demonstrates, she didn’t seem to wholly agree with any specific political point of view, preferring her own ideas at all times.

She had a son with her second husband when she was 43, and shortly afterwards her most acclaimed novel, Nights at the Circus, was published. Her last was Wise Children, shortly before she died of cancer at the age of 51.

Gordon shows how her reputation grew following her death, and she was feted as a ‘fairy godmother’ of literature. Edmund Gordon has shown that she was no such thing – but she was a brilliant writer and I am looking forward to hearing his unique views on her life and her magical work.

Kate Fry

Edmund Gordon – The Invention of Angela Carter 30 September, 10.30am, Marlborough Town Hall.