04. Nights At The Circus was my introduction to the writing of Angela Carter. I started reading it on the very day I moved to Brooklyn, which feels somehow momentous. I began reading it on the subway, from my parents house to my sublet in Windsor Terrace. Ms. Carter was a rare genius, taken from us far too soon. Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago:
"It begins at the cusp of the 20th century in London. Jack, an American reporter sits in Sophie Fevver’s dressing room as she tells him her extraordinary life story. Fevvers is the toast of Europe, the greatest aerialist alive - billed as "The Cockney Venus" she has two wings on her back, and may be part swan, part clockwork or a complete hoax. Her tag line is , "Is she fact or is she fiction?" and it’s really the question of the book. In all Angela Carter’s books and stories, people are always changeable, nothing is carved in stone. Women turn into tigers, men wake up women, you name it. But in her last two great novels, this mutability, her obsession with facades and performance is self-consciously theatrical. She achieves the tone in Circus of a gritty, music hall, magic realism, burlesque that is quite literally completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Little Fevvers was found as an infant on the doorstep of a London brothel just beginning to sprout little tufts of down on her shoulder blades ("Looks like the little thing is going to sprout fevvers!"), was raised there, eventually finding herself in a freak brothel run by an evil, tiny dried up puppet of a woman (who may actually be a puppet). The old whore who raised Fevvers may be an anarchist (the kind that blows things up), and the reporter wonders if Fevvers is actually a man, and if anything he is told is true."
You can read the rest of my post here.
4/40 in my Literary Lent Series.