Angela Carter was a larger than life character, with a talent for writing which challenged as well as entertained. She may have possessed innate talent, but one of the key drivers for her expansive imagination and passion to write may have been her over-possessive mother. So Edmund Gordon’s thorough depiction of Angela Carter’s early years to adulthood sets the scene nicely for what is to come.
But writing a biography of a character as colorful as Angela Carter is no easy task, because it runs the risk of doing little more than trade on sensational revelations or, at the other extreme, become a dry academic tome which meticulously analyses Carter’s work. The latter might be the safer option because, as Edmund Gordon points out, memory is very untrustworthy and recollections of close friends, or even Carter herself, might not be as reliable as they would like to think. For such a larger than life personality and extraordinary fabulist as Angela Carter the truth is likely to be complex.
In writing The Invention of Angela Carter, Gordon has successfully unpicked Carters’ life and navigated between the two extremes of relating it, which allows Carter’s character to come to the fore in all its quirks and foibles, while using her colourful life experience to explain her writing in a way that makes a re-reading of her stories even more interesting.
Many people think that all critically acclaimed writers live in an environment where there is little in the way of distractions and they can just get on with weaving their craft. Gordon really brings home the message that this could not be further from the truth and really makes clear the type of dedication and discipline required. For anyone wanting to get to grips with the difficulties writers face professionally and creatively The Invention of Angela Carter really does take you through the process as if you are leaning over Carter’s shoulder, and gives you a great sense of the striving which has to take place, even when the writer becomes successful.
The Invention of Angela Carter was courtesy of Oxford University Press via NetGalley