cover image The Invention of Angela Carter

The Invention of Angela Carter

Edmund Gordon. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (504p) ISBN 978-0-19-062684-6

Few biographies are as consistently spot-on as this one of Angela Carter (1940-1992). Debut author Gordon, a lecturer in English at King’s College London who was officially authorized by Carter’s estate, uses a wealth of primary sources to trace the life and career of a daring, quirky, and preeminent writer of the late 20th century. As he shows, Carter, whose acclaimed works include the magic realist novel The Magic Toyshop and the retold-fairy-tale collection The Bloody Chamber, represents a distinct type in English history: a person from a modest class background whose innovative art was made possible by the country’s post-WWII socialist democratic consensus. After a brief career as a journalist, Carter not only attended university for free, but was paid a stipend. Gordon’s construction of Carter as a generous feminist who never lost the common touch comes alive on the page, and, beyond that, Gordon offers enough historic background to vividly evoke a mid- and late-20th-century world. This bio never flags, never condescends, and never loses its pace. One might not read this longish book in a single sitting, but it’s a page-turner highly recommended to anyone looking for an entertaining and intelligent read. (Mar.)