If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Femina lupa feminae Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter I do think, myself, I added, that a girl should shoot her own rapists In Nights at the Circus by Angela CarterThen I thought about it from a different angle This is a novel written by someone who very strongly holds political and social views, for sure, and a novel which reflects those views in its themes and story, but is it really a Political Novel in the didactic If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Femina lupa feminae Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter I do think, myself, I added, that a girl should shoot her own rapists In Nights at the Circus by Angela CarterThen I thought about it from a different angle This is a novel written by someone who very strongly holds political and social views, for sure, and a novel which reflects those views in its themes and story, but is it really a Political Novel in the didactic polemic instructional sense I believe a lot of Carter s writing draws on fantasy and horror traditions I first encountered her writing via a collection of fairy tales and folklore and coming in that way to her own fiction meant I was completely fine with abusive puppeteers, winged women and panopticons in the tundra.More stuff on the other side of the pond Prose 5 Awesome and fascinating If only I actually cared about what she was saying.Story 3 Strangely less interesting than one would expect winged Victorian harlots to be.Characters 2 Em Kudos for originality development, but aside from me caring not a jot about them they had a strangely constructed feel Aside from being extremely impressed by Carter s writing I didn t care for the book, but I m definitely willing to try something else of hers Prose 5 Awesome and fascinating If only I actually cared about what she was saying.Story 3 Strangely less interesting than one would expect winged Victorian harlots to be.Characters 2 Em Kudos for originality development, but aside from me caring not a jot about them they had a strangely constructed feel Aside from being extremely impressed by Carter s writing I didn t care for the book, but I m definitely willing to try something else of hers Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe s capitals, part swanor all fake Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney s circus She is also part woman, part swan Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn of the nineteenth century London, St Petersburg and Siberia Spoilers In the same fantastical circuit as the 1001 Arabian Nights, it is set in a real palette of colors it s like seeing a Toulouse Lautrec through tears Carter s brand of magic realism swirled in with comical, cheerful anecdotes is by and large delightful There is a woman trapeze artist that may be a swan, a tiger attack, and a train derailment That s the plot Also, I remember an atrociously charming story about a Thumbelina like creature with eyes for nipples Yup Call it, an adult Spoilers In the same fantastical circuit as the 1001 Arabian Nights, it is set in a real palette of colors it s like seeing a Toulouse Lautrec through tears Carter s brand of magic realism swirled in with comical, cheerful anecdotes is by and large delightful There is a woman trapeze artist that may be a swan, a tiger attack, and a train derailment That s the plot Also, I remember an atrociously charming story about a Thumbelina like creature with eyes for nipples Yup Call it, an adult Lewis Carroll And just like his fantasia, this one is one irrational mess that impresses but perhaps like the nature of the circus acts themselves doesn t remain with the spectator long after the show is all done Fabulous I d been expecting good things from this book, as everyone always tells me how wonderful Angela Carter is, and it certainly delivered It s a surreal, earthy kind of book, divided into three distinct parts, which largely focus on the introduction of Fevvers the fabulous cockney winged woman , the days at the circus, and the wilds of Siberia Hey, I did warn you it was surreal In this book, the reader encounters intelligent pigs I LOVED Sybil , brothel madams who like dressing up as Fabulous I d been expecting good things from this book, as everyone always tells me how wonderful Angela Carter is, and it certainly delivered It s a surreal, earthy kind of book, divided into three distinct parts, which largely focus on the introduction of Fevvers the fabulous cockney winged woman , the days at the circus, and the wilds of Siberia Hey, I did warn you it was surreal In this book, the reader encounters intelligent pigs I LOVED Sybil , brothel madams who like dressing up as Nelson, depressed clowns andIt s a weird, wonderful world that Carter conjures up, but a joy to immerse yourself in It s also great to read an author who is simultaneously so elegant with her language, and so brutally down to earth This echoes the main character in a way, who has the potential to soar to the sea or crash to the ground Definitely a must readI ve no doubt I ll be revisiting this book in the future Well this is probably as much fun as can be had reading, for me anyway I surrender utterly to the allure of Fevvers I believed every wonderful word of her story and every page of it yielded some new pleasure to my feminist consciousness The portrayal of a group of sex workers and ridicule of their would be self appointed saviours seemed particularly well observed to me On the level of the symbolic, fill yer boots On the level of prose, this is as extravagantly creative and exuberant as it Well this is probably as much fun as can be had reading, for me anyway I surrender utterly to the allure of Fevvers I believed every wonderful word of her story and every page of it yielded some new pleasure to my feminist consciousness The portrayal of a group of sex workers and ridicule of their would be self appointed saviours seemed particularly well observed to me On the level of the symbolic, fill yer boots On the level of prose, this is as extravagantly creative and exuberant as it could possibly be Carter s style echoes Fevvers fetid dressing room, cluttered with nonchalently veiled and camouflaged magical amulets, almost animate animal like lingerie intimidating to the timid male guest snaky stockings seem to threaten and discomfort him , the debris of the star s ablutions and voracious consumption of decidedly local and humble refreshments such as eel pie and sugar loaded tea it is a divine, diabolical, vernacular, esoteric, ingenious, streetwise, starry eyed, audaciously feminine mess Take it as it comes or fuck off.Once the protagonists leave London there is a certain wild abandon, even chaos, about the flow of the story I couldn t really see how the section on the women s prison fit in to it all, except that Siberia was a good location for it, and perhaps that the frozen expanse existed to be open to creative possibilities, both for the author and for all women In any case, I found this section absolutely brilliant, particularly in realising the character of Olga who killed her abusive husband and delivers the verdict of self defense upon herself in the private court she shares with the author However, though she is thus absolved, Carter does not forget to realise her suffering mother and traumatised son The boy, Ivan, witness of so much violence, is appropriately drawn into the clan of clowns their diabolical capering and their nihilistic philosophy The scary clown trope is vividly, terrifyingly explored.I was amused and impressed by Carter s treatment of the black characters, Madame Schreck s servant Toussaint and the Princess Carter seems to be humorously castigating the poor representation of black people in white literature, since she exaggerates their silencing to the point of absurdity Toussaint has been born without a mouth Even so, he manages to be elegant and eloquent in writing, so much so that it is several times remarked on, thus, I think, mocking the well spoken cliche used as a respectability marker to help distinguish between people of colour who are acceptable to white supremacy and those who are not The Princess voluntarily refuses to speak, since black women cannot trust white women ie Carter, the author to represent them The inclusion of these characters as distanced from the text by their silence makes them especially the Princess critical witnesses, marking whiteness, including that of the author.Writing of female minor characters is lovingly thorough Perhaps the most developed, ubiquitous theme here is mutual support and care between women, and, apart from that between Fevvers and her informally adoptive mother Liz, the relationship between abuse survivor Mignon and the Princess is the most touching for me Brian pointed out to me in discussion how carefully written Mignon s story was The only subplot that I struggled with was Walser s amnesia driven sojourn with the shaman Here I felt Carter was projecting some ideas about mysticism onto uncolonised people in a potentially exploitative way.On the other hand, I generally loved Carter s treatment of animal characters the intellectual apes especially The elephants constantly rattling their chains were rightfully disturbing, and mirrored other unresolved agitations that Carter sets up to highlight other aspects of as yet unachieved liberation.I cannot resist drawing a parallel between Nights at the Circus and Terry Pratchett s Discworld Readers who enjoyed the latter as pre teens like me will probably find their sensibilities well attuned to this hearty and heartily satisfying feminist romp Spread your wings, women Is this Angela Carter s epic Quiet possibly It s enormous, majestic, confounding even as fascinating, unwieldy with determination to fill in every backstory that would otherwise go overlooked, poised at the edge of the 20th century and so encompassing all of its bitter disillusion The breadth of characters and otherwise passed over stories within stories rivals Pynchon, as does the way in which both interrogate reality in earnest through application of elaborate systems of meaning in which ev Is this Angela Carter s epic Quiet possibly It s enormous, majestic, confounding even as fascinating, unwieldy with determination to fill in every backstory that would otherwise go overlooked, poised at the edge of the 20th century and so encompassing all of its bitter disillusion The breadth of characters and otherwise passed over stories within stories rivals Pynchon, as does the way in which both interrogate reality in earnest through application of elaborate systems of meaning in which everything and everyone burns clear as an icon of itself, though not necessarily with a reductive singularity and determinism of meanings Angela Carter s trajectory as a writer and thinker is to some extent a dialogue with the idea of myth and its symbolic power I think that at some point she found myth to have a useful clarity, one she later becameinterested in deconstructing and complicating Much discourse on her work is hung up on writer as mythologist, and given her subjects, it s a seductive notion But a very incomplete one By the time Nights at the Circus was written, Carter described herself as a demythologizer, and her prime subject not fairy tales but social reality Of course, aren t these always in conversation to some extent I believe that this explains the continuing utility that the apparatuses of myth held for her even as she broke them down In any event, there s an urgent warmth to this the convoluted three part storyline of this novel, though it is sometimes obscured by the act of telling of story forms, and of voluptuously wrought sentences Ultimately, for all its ersatz construction, this is a very human story Other readers noted feeling a distance from the characters, but I was entirely won over by Fevvers, and her arc from object of interview, and of public interest speculation to subject of her own essential narrative is what holds all of these otherwise meandering threads together for me Of course, Fevvers is always her own creation it is just the reader who cannot initially see this There s a bit towards the end which seems to suggest that Fevvers requires a certain other gaze to hold her identity together that may seem regressive, but it seems to me instead that Carter ultimately sees even pure self creation as limiting without theholistic opening up of allowing oneself to truly touch and be touched by another, a mutual act that breaks through all veneers and constructed narrative, opening up the truly revolutionary possibility incipient within every human connection.Like all epics, this is filled with digressions and asides not strictly essential to the prime trajectory, which might at times bog down, might seem to be unnecessary But each has its place in Carter s elaborately developed mirror world at the cusp of and bleeding into the modern era I wouldn t cut a thing My God What a breathtaking journey.Does Angela Carter write fantasy or magical realism It s very difficult to say It starts off in a mundane enough setting, in the dressing room of a famous aerialiste or trapeze artist, in common English , Sophie Fevvers, where she, in the company of her foster mother Lizzie, is being interviewed by the young journalist Jack Walser, in the waning days of the nineteenth century There is nothing remarkable about Sophie other than the fact that she sports a pa My God What a breathtaking journey.Does Angela Carter write fantasy or magical realism It s very difficult to say It starts off in a mundane enough setting, in the dressing room of a famous aerialiste or trapeze artist, in common English , Sophie Fevvers, where she, in the company of her foster mother Lizzie, is being interviewed by the young journalist Jack Walser, in the waning days of the nineteenth century There is nothing remarkable about Sophie other than the fact that she sports a pair of wings in addition to arms a sort of human bird hybrid Walser is sure that this is a fraud, and he is determined to prove it that is one of the reasons for the exclusive interview he has obtained with the girl However, as the evening progresses and time stands still literally in the tiny dressing room, Fevvers narrates a story that gets increasingly bizarre Starting from her appearance at a brothel as a newly hatched foundling, through her incarceration in a house of freaks, and ultimate escape from the clutches of a fatally lecherous gentleman, the story holds the young journalist spellbound so much so that he decides to follow Sophie on her tour with a circus, in Russia and Japan, as a clown.The second part of the book is about the circus and its performance in St Petersburg, in a Russia standing practically at the door of revolution Now we see things getting seriously weird The circus, run by Colonel Kearney and his pet pig Sybil endowed with the gift of prophecy , is a surrealist s delight, like something imagined by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel while tripping seriously on acid We have the mute princess of Abyssinia and her dancing tigers the Ape Man and his team of intelligent apes the troupe of clowns led by the Great Buffo with routines resembling a schizophrenic s dream and of course, the feathered flying artist Fevvers In this section, the author treats us to surreal vignettes one after the other Reality, which was present at least as a backdrop in the previous section, takes a backseat as the circus rumbles on to its disastrous last performance and Sophie escapes from yet another lecher by the skin of her teeth.The third part takes place in Siberia, in a trans Siberian express taking the circus across to Japan it being the colonel s dream to do something which no one has so far succeeded in doing transport elephants across the Urals However, the journey comes to grief with the train being held up by brigands and all the members of the circus being kidnapped In the frozen wastes, the narrative takes dizzying turns until the denouement at the turn of the twentieth century Angela Carter writes lush prose, and her characters are all symbols for something which she tries to say the only thing is, we are never able to put our finger on it, quite The myth of Leda and the Swan seems to be an enduring theme with her we encounter it in The Magic Toyshop also , as Sophie Fevvers is an obvious metaphor for a swan maiden However, Carter demythifies her, making her a coarse cockney who does not mind openly belching and farting, and whose dressing room is something of a pig sty with unwashed clothes and refuse strewn all around and a chamber pot concealed behind a screen The lady herself is no ethereal beauty At close quarters, it must be said that she lookedlike a dray mare than an angel At six feet two in her stockings, she would have to give Walser a couple of inches in order to match him and, though they said she was divinely tall , there was, off stage, not much of divine about her unless there were gin palaces in heaven where she might preside behind the bar Her face, broad and oval as a meat dish, had been thrown on a common wheel out of coarse clay nothing subtle about her appeal, which was just as well if she were to function as the democratically elected divinity of the imminent century of the Common Man This inversion of the fairy tale, bringing the celestial princess down to sordid earth, is the author s way of imposing the enchanted on the mundane and vice versa we are having our heads among the stars, but our feet are firmly planted in the soil.The circus, with its surreal vignettes, again unravels the vision of a world where the sacred shares a wafer thin boundary with the profane or rather, the vulgar I was especially impressed by the sequence where the intelligent apes undress Walser while the strong man copulates with the ape trainer s wife nearby, the whole thing interrupted by the tigress s entrance also the bacchanalia of the clowns under Buffo, slowly increasing in weirdness leading to its explosive climax We are on the verge of creative madness here the bubble of storytelling sanity can break any time and fall into incoherent babble.Because the world is on a cusp here as suggested in the quote above, one century is moulting into another Nothing is going to be the same any The journey into the trackless wastes of Siberia, with its brigands, convicts and aboriginal shamans is a journey into the collective unconscious of a human race about to die and be born again, like the phoenix For we are at the fag end, the smouldering cigar butt, of a nineteenth century which is just about to be ground out in the ashtray of history Yes indeed And we are lucky to be there along with Angela Carter and her motley crew Angela Carter s world is, as always, a dirty, earthy, erotic, yet soaringly ethereal place to spend one s time It is as hard to capture the essence of her tone and her outlook as it is to exactly pin down all of her insightful commentary, as wrapped up in velvet and hidden by veils of fairy dust as they can be Her earthy, body based, yet highly intellectual feminism is my favorite Carter makes me feel the pain of and rejoice in the awesomeness of being a woman all at once, and I really connec Angela Carter s world is, as always, a dirty, earthy, erotic, yet soaringly ethereal place to spend one s time It is as hard to capture the essence of her tone and her outlook as it is to exactly pin down all of her insightful commentary, as wrapped up in velvet and hidden by veils of fairy dust as they can be Her earthy, body based, yet highly intellectual feminism is my favorite Carter makes me feel the pain of and rejoice in the awesomeness of being a woman all at once, and I really connect to her outlook on feminist identity, relations between the sexes, and what is and what is not nonsense when it comes to living up to what one is could be or is supposed to be Her Circus is littered with beautiful references and quotations, pulled and shaped and and redone for her own purposes from Michelangelo, Dickens, Shakespeare Hamlet s what a piece of work is man speech, in particular, is used over and over to gorgeous effect and so many manythat I feel that I missed that coat the atmosphere with a kind of dreamy, half sane brilliance that exists alongside sharp reminders of the layers of piss and dirt that it all rises up out of And Carter seems to just glory in this dichotomy over and over again, to its bitter, ridiculous, painfully lovely end.Yeah I just adore Angela Carter That is all Reviewed in September 2012There are many aspects of the bizarre world of this book that I admire even though it took me a while to get hooked by the story I was ready to abandon it anytime during the first fifty pages until I came across a remark to the effect that for those who have never seen a match, striking one must seem like magic Then I understood something of what Carter was trying to do She implies that since we don t know everything about the mysteries of the natural world, a lot of Reviewed in September 2012There are many aspects of the bizarre world of this book that I admire even though it took me a while to get hooked by the story I was ready to abandon it anytime during the first fifty pages until I came across a remark to the effect that for those who have never seen a match, striking one must seem like magic Then I understood something of what Carter was trying to do She implies that since we don t know everything about the mysteries of the natural world, a lot of things are possibly possible She sets out to examine some of these possibilities a woman with wings, hatched from an egg another who can stop time and conjure the weather with her handbag chimpanzees that can read and write a pig that can spell These variations from the normal serve to make Carter s storyinteresting and help her to make her points with a brilliant flourish She has no qualms either about borrowing phrases and images from the bible as well as from Shakespeare, Joyce, Yeats, Sendak and probably from many other sources that I failed to recognise Basically, she disregards conventions and makes sure that her characters do likewise And if the natural order must be upended, isn t it fitting that it will be upended by women So, all in all, reading Nights at the Circus turned out to be a satisfying and rewarding experience but I couldn t help wondering if Lizzie s famous handbag, with which she d conjured many a mysterious feat, didn t contain the iPhone 5.Edit I wrote this back in 2012 when the magical iPhone 5 was still amystery