The story of how Angela Carter invented herself – as a new kind of woman and a new kind of writer – and how she came to write such seductive and distinctive masterworks as The Bloody Chamber, Nights at the Circus, and Wise Children.
This gripping biography, brimming with new material, comes 24 years after Carter’s death and is the first full account of her life...[Gordon] has undertaken feats of scholarship and written an admirably clear-sighted book ... The Invention of Angela Carter is much more about purposeful choices and intellectual energy than about sorcery or fairy charms. Carter’s gleeful whimsicality is here but it’s a grace note. Gordon mistrusts the tendency to mythologise Carter as a white witch of modern literature, and thinks the provocative, high-risk elements of her feminism have too often been flattened to fit political readings of her work ... There have been, and will be, more cracklingly brilliant discussions of Carter’s fiction than Gordon gives here. And if you want a biography like a Carter novel, with striking contrasts and luxuriant prose, all 'blood and brains,' flair and fiesta, you may need to look elsewhere. Gordon’s achievement, however, is tremendous. From baroque entanglements of material and controversy, he brings living contours into view.
Edmund Gordon has written a terrific book — judicious, warm, confident and casually witty. The ratio of insight to literary-world gossip, of white swan to black swan, is as well calibrated as one of Sara Mearns’s impossible balletic leaps ... This bio unfolds a bit like one of the fairy tales Carter shook to release its meaning. The pages turn themselves ...After her death, Rushdie wrote that 'English literature has lost its high sorceress, its benevolent white witch.' This biography is witchy, in the best sense, as well.
That word, invention, suits. Carter was a writer before all else, and her primary activity was sitting alone in a room and writing—inventing and, in many respects, reinventing … [Gordon’s] diligence is truly impressive, yet he makes no presumptions, especially about Carter’s process, no interpretive leaps from life to the bizarre art that emanated from it … Gordon, before this known primarily as a book critic, was appointed to his daunting task by Susannah Clapp, executor of Carter’s literary estate...What Gordon doesn’t have—because he didn’t know her, and/or didn’t spend his impressionable years idolizing her, mythologizing her, before coming to this project—is his own story about her, and that may be the implicit brilliance of Clapp’s choice of him for this task, this cornerstone of the cumulative biography to come.