Wise Childrenby Angela Carter
In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Noraunacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his daywere 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
In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Noraunacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his daywere 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.
The New York Times
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 tastesand a welcome occasion for reassessing the work of one of the most unusual writers of recent emergence.
- Little, Brown & Company
- Publication date:
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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What I had the biggest problem with was the author's tone throughout the book -- the irony and sarcasm, although often funny, became truly tiresome.
Excellent for any Carter fan. A laugh riot, not unlike Nights at the Circus. I've already read it twice. Definitely fun for the openminded.
I'd shied away from Carter before as I'd heard she was complicated and difficult...but if this book is any indication, that's nonsense. This is a wonderful book! There's a proper story with a beginning, a middle and an end (to quote my mum), fantastic characters (especially the main two, Nora and Dora, their mad old naturist guardian and doting uncle) and a lightness of touch that is simply delightful. I laughed loud at times, and at others was genuinely moved by the girls' resillience. This book was the product of a fine imagination and will, hopefully, fire many more. Read this book and let your faith in literature be restored.