Wise Children by Angela Carter, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Wise Children

Wise Children

4.5 4
by Angela Carter
     
 

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In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Nora—unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day—were known as the Lucky Chances, with private lives as colorful and erratic as their careers. But now, at age 75, Dora is typing up their life story, and

Overview

In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Nora—unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day—were known as the Lucky Chances, with private lives as colorful and erratic as their careers. But now, at age 75, Dora is typing up their life story, and it is a tale indeed that Angela Carter tells. A writer known for the richness of her imagination and wit as well as her feminist insights into matters large and small, she created in Wise Children an effervescent family saga that manages to celebrate the lore and magic of show business while also exploring the connections between parent and child, the transitory and the immortal, authenticity and falsehood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Carter, a splendid British writer (The Magic Toyshop; Nights at the Circus) all too little known here, has a real winner in this giddy tale of a highly eccentric British theatrical family. Nora and Dora Chance are twin sisters, former vaudeville dancers not beyond some high-stepping sex even at age 75, living in a once rundown but newly smart area of South London. Dora tells their tale, and her narrative voice is a triumph: deeply feminine, ribald, self-deprecating (on their birth: "We came bursting out on a Monday morning, on a day of sunshine and high wind when the Zeppelins were falling''). Their mother, seduced by the legendary actor Sir Melchior Hazard, dies giving birth; the girls are brought up by the landlady, and eventually come to nurture one of Melchior's several cast-off wives. Meanwhile, his brother Peregrine, who once set off to wander the world. . . . The extravagant family comes together for a lavish 100th birthday party for British institution Sir Melchior, at which skeletons galore clatter out in full view of a national TV audience. The party is one magnificently unforgettable set-piece. The other is the filming, in Hollywood in the late '30s, of a terrible version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, by a culture-mad producer--one of the funniest and most deadly portraits of moviedom ever penned. But the whole book is comic writing of the highest order: spry, witty, earthy and oddly touching at times. It was a large success in Britain, and deserves to do as well here. (Jan.)
Joyce Carol Oates
"Wise Children inhabits its own manic universe and would probably translate into a spirited, bawdy musical comedy-farce of the kind in which the Chance sisters themselves performed, long ago." -- New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
Dazzling…The culmination of Angela Carter's prolific and inventive career.
The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Historical events and personages viewed as in a distorting mirror, and beasts of prey endangered by encounters with their chosen quarry, are representative of the charmingly deranged fiction of the late Carter (194093).

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140175301
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
01/28/1993
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Angela Carter (1940 -1992) wrote nine novels and numerous short stories, as well as nonfiction, radio plays, and the screenplay for Neil Jordan's 1984 movie The Company of Wolves, based on her story. She won numerous literary awards, traveled and taught widely in the United States, and lived in London.

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