The first good thing

The idea for this blog is to create a space where I can remind myself of the good , useful, interesting and generally useful things that make my life a better place. I particularly want it to be a space where I can feel good and positive about something, just one thing,  even during those times when events at home or abroad might make that a difficult thing to do. Just ‘One good thing’ that you may or may not want to read about, but makes me smile, be thankful or both. I have had a few troubles in getting started, until tonight someone reminded me of a book I had not read in a long time and that brings me to my first good thing. Bear with me, the intro does not sound promising

I was pregnant and hospitalized with Pre – Eclampsia and I was not allowed out of bed. I was worried, grouchy, missed my eldest kid, my husband  and was homesick. My good friend was not allowed to visit me because she had a cold. What she did instead was send  me half a dozen books to read and while away the time. Two of those books were by an author I had not yet read but was making a few waves in the literary supplements. Her name was Angela Carter and to me she was, and is a very good thing indeed.

Those first two books I read were Heroes and Villains and The Bloody Chamber, the latter being a collection of dark and sometimes comic retelling of fairy tales ‘exposing their latent content’ as she put it. The Company of Wolves was one of the stories, later to be made into a film, with another splendid Angela ( Lansbury),  that can still captivate me on a dark afternoon off when a DVD and the sofa are the only thing that calls me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In that hospital room I read the books and fell head over heels with her wonderful storytelling and it was the start of a real love of her work that has never diminished. Over the years I read everything she published, going back to her earlier work and looking forward to the new work as it emerged.

I don’t propose to post a mini biography of Angela Carter here. There are search engines and resources for you to do that if you wish but it is enough to know that in her too short time in this world she wove magic in her words that drew me into worlds where there were fascinating people, including  a raucous, enigmatic and winged music hall artiste called ‘Fevvers – AKA The Cockney Venus’ in Nights At The Circus and in her final novel, Wise Children, a whole cast of characters headed by the dancing ‘Lucky’ Chance sisters Nora & Dora,  on the day of their eightieth birthday. I waited for the bookshop to open so I could buy that one and I took it to the blustery beach to start to read it in peace.

I have read and re read these books so many times and loved them but it is her short stories that really make my heart leap. A setting for Midsummer Night’s dream where the characters are in a drizzly english forest and all the fairies have colds, a ribald telling of Puss in Boots,  The terrifying Lady Purple, Two stories of Lizzie Borden which made me want more.

It is known that when Angela Carter died she left notes for a novel about  Lizzie who ‘Took an axe…’ and I can’t begin to tell you what I’d have given to have been able to read that one if she’d lived to write it. I don’t want to leave on a sad note. I just want to say that I’m grateful to the friend who gave me those first books, my world is a better place for it. Angela Carter was and still is one very good thing in my life.


6 responses to “The first good thing

  1. Oooooh! A shiny new blog! And considering you’ve as yet to ever say anything that *isn’t* a good thing for me, I’m excited about it. 🙂 I’ve not ever read or heard of this author. I think a trip to the library is in order. IRT fairy tale retellings highlighting “latent content” have you ever read the series of comic books (ooh, sorry, they’re called “graphic novels” these days. Much cooler.) called “Fables”. If that sort of thing interests you, check into them. You won’t be sorry. They’re a Vertigo (DC imprint) title, written by Bill Willingham.

  2. Thanks, that’s really good to know and big thanks for the recommendation on the comics ( now that’s the much cooler name I think)
    Angela Carter is darkly wonderful, earthy is a word often applied to her works but it’s proper rooty forest earth – full of bugs and beasts. When she died I thought she would remain a huge name in literature and it saddens me that she is most commonly known among A level literature students who sometimes get to study a short story or two of hers. Not that I begrudge them, but I do find that formal study can be a surefire way to suck the life out of a good book at times. I like to think had I been in my teens I’d have hidden The Bloody Chamber under my pillow rather than discussed it in a class but that’s just my thing I guess.

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