Selected Bibliography

Angela Carter

Angela Carter liked ‘to write about books that give me pleasure,’ she wrote in her preface to Expletives Deleted, the collection of her journalism that would be published posthumously, in 1992. ‘I also like to argue,’ she continued. ‘A day without argument is like an egg without salt.’

Between 1980 and 1991, Carter wrote some of her finest tributes to other writers for the LRB: Grace Paley, Colette, Christina Stead and Iain Sinclair. But the pieces that really leap at you from the archive are three from the middle 1980s about food and foodies, or as Carter called it, ‘conspicuous gluttony’ and ‘piggery triumphant,’ and how ‘genuinely decadent’ she found the foodie search for the perfect melon, ‘as if it were a piece of the True Cross.’ The letter-writers went into spasm. ‘I see small reason to entrust the review of three cookery books to … a woman who obviously has a Puritanical contempt for decently prepared food,’ wrote one. But Carter’s interest is in the way fashions in food connect to deep concerns about sex, status, death, religion.

Of other LRB writers reviewing Carter, Tom Paulin’s take on Nothing Sacred (1983), a collection of her early journalism, is particularly worth a look. It’s interesting to see that Paulin, more than 30 years ago, was already floating an idea now coming up in discussions of the Carter oeuvre more and more: that the journalism and essays are maybe lasting better than the fiction. When I read my favourites among Carter’s essays, I find myself agreeing with Paulin; until I read certain stories and bits of novels, and then I don’t. On screens and goddesses, for example, the pieces Carter wrote about Louise Brooks and Bertolucci’s La Luna certainly do form pieces of the crazy jigsaw. But the picture really comes together in ‘The Merchant of Shadows’, a story the LRB published in 1989: ‘the priest is he who prints the anagrams of desire upon the stock, but whom does he project upon the universe? Another? Or, himself?’ – Jenny Turner


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