Interview with Angela Carter - review by John Haffenden

John Haffenden

Magical Mannerist

Interview with Angela Carter

 

Born in 1940, Angela Carter has published eight novels including The Magic Toyshop (1967, John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), Several Perceptions (1968, Somerset Maugham Award), Love (1971), The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972), and The Passion of New Eve (1977); two collections of short stories, Fireworks (1974) and The Bloody Chamber (1979, Cheltenham Festival of Literature Award). One of the stories in the second volume is ‘The Company of Wolves’, which she recently scripted for the movie directed by Neil Jordan – and two works of non-fiction, The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (1979) and Nothing Sacred (1982), a collection of her journalism. ‘Notes from the Front Line’, her essay on the cultural context of her work, appears in On Gender and Writing (Pandora Press, 1983).

Angela Carter lives in a rumpled terrace house to the north of Clapham in London. In the colourful kitchen-and-sitting-room a gaily-painted ex-fairground horse stands in for a fire-guard. She has just returned from giving 150 signatures at Mowbrays Bookshop, and settles down by the tape-recorder on the floor; her baby Alexander consumes the room and threatens the interview with healthy hubbub. ‘Shall we put him in his lobster pot?’ (the play-pen), she wonders. His father quietly and effectively takes control of the child. Alexander likes best of all to eat The Guardian, but come ‘tea-time’ he busies himself with better nourishment, and I retreat to the street.

Angela Carter's latest novel is the fabulous and critically acclaimed Nights at the Circus, published by Chatto & Windus (£8.95).

In the first autobiographical essay of Nothing Sacred you characterise your upbringing – first as an evacuee with your grandmother in Yorkshire, then as a child in Balham – in a

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