As I mentioned last week, I was horrified to discover that the collected stories of Angela Carter includes at least one story that's been horrifically edited down. I went back to the original published collection that contains the edited story, which is Saints and Strangers.
It's a slim volume, only 125 pages. I can't say I liked it quite as well as The Bloody Chamber; there are a couple of stories in this volume that left me cold. That said, the ones I liked--hoo boy. Angela Carter was a most singular writer, and at her best, she was insanely good.
I talked last week about The Fall River Axe Murders, a look into the morning of the day Lizzie Borden did her business with said axe. It's a story that easily bears more than one reading. There's also the chilling Peter and the Wolf, the hallucinogenic The Cabinet of Edgar Allan Poe, and the sly The Kitchen Child. The final story is Black Venus (which is what this volume is titled in Britain), a melancholy story based on the true-life relationship between the poet Baudelaire and his Caribbean-Creole mistress, Jeanne Duval.
Overall, this collection has fewer stories of a fairy-tale, supernatural flavor, and I think maybe I missed that. The more realistic approach seems to have constrained Carter at times (although not in the Lizzie Borden story). Even one of the more fantastical pieces, Overture and Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, feels forced.
But in the stories that shine, Carter sails high. Look at this lovely description from The Kitchen Child:
"And, indeed, is there not something holy about a great kitchen? Those vaults of soot-darkened stone far above me, where the hams and strings of onions and bunches of dried herbs dangle, looking somewhat like the regimental banners that unfurl above the aisles of old churches. The cool, echoing flags scrubbed spotless twice a day by votive persons on their knees. The scoured gleam of row upon row of metal vessels dangling from hooks or reposing on their shelves till needed with the air of so many chalices waiting for the celebration of the sacrament of food. And the range like an altar, yes, an altar, before which my mother bowed in perpetual homage, a fringe of sweat upon her upper lip and fire glowing in her cheeks."
And then there was this, in the back of my library copy: