Pleasure machines

Carter’s excellent fugue on Shakespearean themes is lifted towards brilliance by her exposition if the difference between [A Midsummer Night’s] Dream’s wood and the ‘dark necromantic forest’ of the Grimms. The forest, [Carter] finely reminds us, is a scary place; to be lost in it is to fall prey to monsters and witches. But in the wood, ‘you purposely mislay your way’; there are no wolves, and the wood ‘is kind to lovers’. Here is the difference between the English and the European fairytale precisely and unforgettably defined.

– Salman Rushdie on Angela Carter.

This quote, read on a train to London, made me think of how safe and earthy I always feel traveling England, contrasting sharply with my ad hoc and idiosyncratic forays across the continent a year or two back.

I’ve been reading a lot of Carter in recent years. She’s effortlessly my favourite practitioner of what publishing houses dub “magical realism”. Sometimes her prose can be a bit of a failed souffle, but it’s never unambitious and, when it matches that ambition, there’s no finer post-war British stylist. Her work feels like the great flowering of the sweet melancholy lurking beneath the Medieval romance or dark folk tale.


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