The Stitched-up Girl

I will start this new notebook with my all-times favourite author, the one whose books always stir something in me, summon a memory, and awaken a long-buried emotion: Angela Carter. She reminds me of my student days when I decided to analyse the Bakhtinian elements in her Nights at the Circus for my masters thesis and I had spent days at the university library poring over books and magazines, trying to scrap up enough material to complete my eighty-something page paper. Even though it was pretty hard toil, I enjoyed every moment of it. Carter’s works are imbued with lively, colourful, carnivalesque atmosphere and grotesque characters whom you cannot but embrace and learn to love. 

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Here I will focus on her novelistic debut, the Shadow Dance, where from the very first sentence she pulls the reader into her own unclassifiable world, neither realist, nor magical realist, nor stream of consciousness, but carnivalesque in its very unflinching depiction of the mess of the 1960s contemporary reality. We find ourselves in a bar that was ‘a mock-up, a forgery, a fake; an ad-man’s crazy dream of a Spanish patio,’ there are no hair-splitting descriptions of tables with chequered tablecloths, or old weirdos sitting somewhere in the corner, meditating over a bier and muttering to themselves, yet the atmosphere is there, almost palpable, while the bar walls ‘on which hung unplayable musical instruments and many bull-fight posters’ scream at us and enclose us within this typically Carterian place. The atmosphere is complemented by the arrival of Ghislaine, one of those doll-like girls whom ‘one cannot imagine sitting on the lavatory or shaving her armpits or picking her nose’ yet whom Carter has turned into a modern-day gothic heroine, a violated damsel in distress, patched and stitched up like Frankenstein’s bride, her pale, ghostly beauty scarred by eponymous Honeybuzzard. The entire story is brimming with 1960s details, mild horror, and just enough unease to stir the readers’ cauldron of imagination. 

© 2016 Erna G. – All Rights Reserved

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