Witch Week 2015: Readalong of The Bloody Chamber

This post is part of Witch Week, an annual celebration of fantasy books and authors. This year’s theme is New Tales from Old, focusing on fiction based in fairy tale, folklore, and myth. For more about Witch Week, see the Master Post.

Please don’t miss the chance to enter the giveaway for a gorgeous Folio Society edition of The Bloody Chamber, open through November 7.

© Igor Karash, 2012 - The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
From the Folio Society edition of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, © Igor Karash, 2012

Today, we’re discussing Angela Carter’s landmark 1979 collection of dark, sensuous variations on the fairy tale theme. If you’ve read the book, either now or at any time in the past, please share your thoughts in the comments. You can also post on Twitter using the hashtag #WitchWeekECBR.

My own first impression was of how vividly Angela Carter evokes the sensory world with her lush, baroque language. I loved her unusual turns of phrase, and her musical sense of sound and rhythm. Occasionally it could be a bit too much, but overall I enjoyed the word-painting. The stories are very simple in terms of character and plot, so this elaborate language forms an essential element of their structure.

Although various traditional tales are invoked as sources, they seemed to me to be all a variation on Beauty and the Beast. And there is beauty and beastliness within each of us, male and female, human and animal. The emphasis on sexuality can be wearying, ground-breaking though it must have been at the time. I felt like saying “Yes, but what else?” There’s more to human beings than genitalia and lust.

The stories have the weakness of most short stories in my experience: they don’t go on long enough to develop the themes or characters much. The images are powerful and rich, but they pass too soon and too simply.  I enjoyed the narrative voice in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride” in particular, and would love to have seen these developed with more complexity into a novel.

I was struck by this quotation from “The Company of Wolves”: “There is a vast melancholy in the canticles of the wolves, melancholy infinite as the forest, endless as those long nights of winter and yet that ghastly sadness, that mourning for their own, irremediable appetites, can never move the heart for not one phrase in it hints at the possibility of redemption…” How do the stories play on these “irremediable appetites,” and is there any hint of redemption to be found in any of them? Can Beauty ever overcome the Beast? Or is there beauty within beastliness?

Have you read The Bloody Chamber? What do you think about how Angela Carter twists and transforms familiar tales? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

© Igor Karash, 2012 - The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
From the Folio Society edition of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, © Igor Karash, 2012

 

Witch Week 2015 Giveaway

This post is part of Witch Week, an annual celebration of fantasy books and authors. This year’s theme is New Tales from Old, focusing on fiction based in fairy tale, folklore, and myth. For more about Witch Week, see the Master Post.

Welcome, Witch Week participants! I’m SO thrilled to have two wonderful books to offer this year, thanks to the generosity of their publishers.

BitterGreens smallBitter Greens by Kate Forsyth was one of my favorite reads in 2015, a lush, opulent retelling of the Rapunzel story that also illuminates the life of a long-forgotten storyteller, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. I loved how Forsyth intertwined history and legend together in such a compelling and dramatic way, and I hope you will too. Thanks to Thomas Dunne Books for offering a paperback copy to one lucky entrant, and to Kate Forsyth for kindly answering some questions about her books and writing process. The interview will appear on November 4. This giveaway is international (Book Depository must ship to your country).

BloodyCFolioThe Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter is our reader-chosen readalong book this year, a dark and sensuous retelling of traditional tales that influenced many later writers. The Folio Society, publishers of beautiful illustrated editions of classic and contemporary literature, is offering their gorgeous version illustrated by Igor Karash and introduced by Marina Warner. This copy is also signed by the award-winning illustrator! Please check out more images from the book at the link, and peruse the Folio catalog while you’re at it. Don’t forget to come back for the readalong on November 5, though. This giveaway is US only.

If you have a US address, you may enter one or both of the giveaways. Two different winners will be chosen. Both giveaways will close at 12 a.m. Eastern Time on November 8. Good luck!

Bitter Greens cover courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books
Bloody Chamber cover courtesy of the Folio Society, copyright 2012 by Igor Karash

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