Monday, September 24, 2012

Back to Classics: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.*

As I read the reviews of this book, I came to the following conclusion - in popular YA books, girls aren't going after Prince Charming, but Bluebeard, and there was no better example for this than "The Bloody Chamber", the first story in this anthology.

Think about it - a man, with several complexes, probably impotent or in possession of some weird blood fetish, purposedly chooses a wife that is both curious and insecure. He presents her with a key, telling her not to go into the room, fully knowing that she would disobey, and then prepares to murder her because she went down the path of ruin he himself placed her on. By doing so, he restores his sense of superiority and for a while, his complexes are quelched. Try to put this theory to Edward Cullen, Daniel Grigori and Damen Auguste and tell me if you see the similarities - why do they choose a weak, insecure girl, starving for attention and understanding, if not to make themselves feel better?

This is not a book that you can understand in one sitting. You can read these stories again and again and find a new meaning to them. Also, please note that those aren't the stories sugar-coated to be made fit for mass consumption. Angela Carter writes her stories in the spirit of the original Grimm fairytales - real, raw, full of dark melancholy and, even at times, saucy adult humor. The focus is on the woman, even in Puss-in-boots, where the tom finds an ally in the face of an ingenious tabby.

The language in Carter's books has always been a delight, and in "The Bloody Chamber", she doesn't disappoint. The sentences are sophisticated, but elegant, and in no time do they sound even remotely clumsy. The story flows easily, and it could appeal both to someone who is studying it for purely academic purposes and to someone reading it just for fun. You'll find yourself easily lost in the imagery and might even feel the urge to paint the sentences on your walls. Here are a few lines from "The Lady of the House of Love":

"She is so beautiful she is unnatural; her beauty is an abnormality, a deformity, for none of her features exhibit any of those touching imperfections that reconcile us to the imperfection of the human condition. Her beauty is a simptom of her disorder, of her soullessness. "
- Angela Carter

This is not a book you can pick up, expecting a light, unengaging read. This is a book that will shake you, set your mind on fire and things will never be the same. I loved it.

*Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.

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