Read Wise Children by Angela Carter Free Online
Book Title: Wise Children|
The author of the book: Angela Carter
Edition: Farrar Straus Giroux
Date of issue: November 1st 2000
ISBN 13: 9780374291334
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.54 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.9
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Ms. Flirtworthy, I Presume
At just under 240 pages, this isn't a long or difficult book, but it is hugely enjoyable and rewarding at multiple levels.
At one level, you can read it as a first person narration of a 75 year old woman (Dora Chance) that is hilarious, vulgar, witty and dynamic.
It's like sitting Mae West in front of a microphone and plying her with alcohol. The stories, street wisdom, wise-cracking, jokes and double entendres just pour out of her endlessly.
I've met this kind of woman before, at cocktail parties, a long time ago. If you enjoy flirtation, nobody in the room could possibly be more flirtworthy. (I don't mean flirtation in any way other than the sheer pleasure of good company and good conversation.)
At first, you approach them tentatively and gently, as if they might be quaint, thinking they'll only last one martini, and they'll want or need to catch a cab home. Then you realise that, as the twinkle surfaces and remains in their eye, they can handle their liquor better than you. They're the life of the party, not you. They're the speaker, you're just the listener. They're the author, you're just the reader.
They've had more practice, and besides, they have more and better stories to tell than you. Slowly, drink by drink, they better you. Without doubt, they've met better men than you, too. They might forget you, but you will never forget them.
I used to live next to two twins like this. We used to attend monthly Art Gallery functions, when the Gallery still paid for drinks and hors d'oeuvres. We always caught a cab home together, if I could handle the pace.
Brush Up on Your Shakespeare
At another level, this novel is an extremely sophisticated project. Its five chapters function like a five act play. It appropriates themes and tropes from just about every Shakespearean play in existence (except perhaps two?).
It really is an exercise that proves, if you brush up on your Shakespeare, you can achieve something breathtaking and remarkable. Well, at least Angela Carter could.
Shakespeare is the foundation upon which the novel is built. Well, his theatre is. As we fast-forward into the present, Dora reveals to us her life in theatre, music hall, song and dance, and ultimately film of the Hollywood variety.
Dora proves that all the world's a stage. I don't really know to whom the stage belonged in Shakespeare's age. It wasn't just Shakespeare and Co. However, increasingly, entertainment has been taken over by the supposed deal makers. The playwrights have been pushed into the background, as have the actors and actresses. In a way, Dora/Angela asserts the value of the person, the storyteller, the actor, the one who gets up on stage, the one who acts the part, the one who acts a goat, the one who entertains.
Doesn't Feel like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag
As narrated by a 75 year old woman, you have to wonder whether this is all nostalgia, a requiem for a time that has passed.
Yet Carter's prose beats with the biggest heart you can conceive. This is no "feels like I'm fixin' to die rag".
This is a tale told by someone who is determined to eke the most out of their life until the very last heartbeat.
What a Joy It Is!
I could tell you about the difference between a Hazard and a Chance. I could tell you that Dora has an identical twin, Nora, and I could tell you about all of the other twins and all of the scope for mistaken identity that this creates, not to mention the uncertainty about paternity (and maternity, believe it or not).
But what I really want to tell you about is the joy that runs through this novel, these five chapters, like a river.
"So Long as Men Can Breathe, or Eyes Can See, So Long Lives This, and This Gives Life to Thee"
After all is said and done, Dora proclaims:
"What a joy it is to dance and sing!"
She's right, of course. If you make the effort to dance and sing.
But isn't that what life is about?
When you read that last sentence, you look back on the novel in its entirety and you marvel at the effort that went into it. The effort that was required to be precisely this hilarious, this vulgar, this witty, this dynamic, this wise.
It's OK for a writer to be praised for the quality of their sentences. But here is someone who writes great sentences, great paragraphs, great chapters, great novels.
Angela Carter never relaxes the pressure on herself in this novel. Only the best will do.
Then you realise that for almost the whole time she was writing this novel, she knew that she had lung cancer and that it would take her life within 12 months.
There isn't one iota of self-pity in this novel. It asserts that tragedy is something that happens to other people (even if comedy might also be a tragedy that happens to someone else).
But most importantly, it asserts that tragedy isn't so much a life that ends (for this happens to us all), but a life that is wasted.
Angela Carter wrote to the very end, partly so that her two sons might have a better life, but so that we might too.
Ironically, or perhaps not, both Shakespeare and Carter died around the time of their 52nd birthdays.
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Read information about the authorBorn Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. As a teenager she battled anorexia. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.
She married twice, first in 1960 to Paul Carter. They divorced after twelve years. In 1969 Angela Carter used the proceeds of her Somerset Maugham Award to leave her husband and relocate for two years to Tokyo, Japan, where she claims in Nothing Sacred (1982) that she "learnt what it is to be a woman and became radicalised." She wrote about her experiences there in articles for New Society and a collection of short stories, Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974), and evidence of her experiences in Japan can also be seen in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972). She was there at the same time as Roland Barthes, who published his experiences in Empire of Signs (1970).
She then explored the United States, Asia, and Europe, helped by her fluency in French and German. She spent much of the late 1970s and 1980s as a writer in residence at universities, including the University of Sheffield, Brown University, the University of Adelaide, and the University of East Anglia. In 1977 Carter married Mark Pearce, with whom she had one son.
As well as being a prolific writer of fiction, Carter contributed many articles to The Guardian, The Independent and New Statesman, collected in Shaking a Leg. She adapted a number of her short stories for radio and wrote two original radio dramas on Richard Dadd and Ronald Firbank. Two of her fictions have been adapted for the silver screen: The Company of Wolves (1984) and The Magic Toyshop (1987). She was actively involved in both film adaptations, her screenplays are published in the collected dramatic writings, The Curious Room, together with her radio scripts, a libretto for an opera of Virginia Wolf's Orlando, an unproduced screenplay entitled The Christchurch Murders (based on the same true story as Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures) and other works. These neglected works, as well as her controversial television documentary, The Holy Family Album, are discussed in Charlotte Crofts' book, Anagrams of Desire (2003).
At the time of her death, Carter was embarking on a sequel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre based on the later life of Jane's stepdaughter, Adèle Varens. However, only a synopsis survives.
Her novel Nights at the Circus won the 1984 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for literature.
Angela Carter died aged 51 in 1992 at her home in London after developing lung cancer. Her obituary published in The Observer said, "She was the opposite of parochial. Nothing, for her, was outside the pale: she wanted to know about everything and everyone, and every place and every word. She relished life and language hugely, and reveled in the diverse."
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