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Behind it all stands Doctor Hoffman, whose gigantic generators crack the immutable surfaces of time and space ...
Behind it all stands Doctor Hoffman, whose gigantic generators crack the immutable surfaces of time and space and plunge civilization into a world without the chains – or structures – of reason. Only Desiderio, immune to mirages and fantasy, can defeat him. But Desiderio's battle will take him to the very brink of undeniable, irresistible desire.
Dora and Nora Chance are a famous song-and-dance team of the British music halls. Billed as The Lucky Chances, the sisters are the illegitimate and unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchoir Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day. At once ribald and sentimental, glittery and tender, this rambunctious family saga is Angela Carter at her bewitching best.
Carter's impertinent revisions of cherished conventions and beloved traditional stories do not elicit mild or neutral reactions from readers. As her friend Salman Rushdie suggests in his warm introduction to this rich collection of 42 stories (spanning the years 196293), one is either pleasurably seduced by her languorous imagery and overripe vocabulary, or made slightly ill by her intemperate romantic sensuality: you love her or you hate her. Even those attuned to Carter's perfervid imagination will have to pick and choose their way through a minefield of knotty prose and naughtier conceits, from several decidedly precious early tales through the contents of her acclaimed story volumes (such as The Bloody Chamber and Saints and Strangers) to a final three uncollected pieces that are even more hothouse-baroque than her usual work. If you can bypass the gamy contes cruels that show Carter at her worst, there's much to enjoy in her wry feminist response to the smug mandates of sexism, racism . . . come to think of it, most -isms. "The Bloody Chamber" amusingly reinvents the Bluebeard legend, featuring a virginal bride reluctant to become yet another passive victim; "The Fall River Axe Murders" examines Lizzie Borden from a sardonic female perspective; "Overture and Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream" retells Shakespeare's comedy from the viewpoint of the changeling child for whom fairy rulers Oberon and Titania contend. And in the amazing "Our Lady of the Massacre," Carter employs the familiar narrative of (American) Indian captivity to create in a mere 14 pages a brilliantly compact near-novella.
A book of wonders, then, even if too cloying for some tastes—and a welcome occasion for reassessing the work of one of the most unusual writers of recent emergence.
Posted February 9, 2010
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