In the last year of her life, Angela Carter was invited to appear on BBC Radio 4‘s programme Desert Island Discs.Carter was thrilled by the invitation. Back in 1985, she had written to Carmen Callil, her long-time friend and editor for many years at Virago, that she had “fantastised about being on Desert Island Discs for years”. Sadly, she never recorded a episode for the programme as her health was very poor at this time due to lung cancer, and the production team would not meet her at her home. According to her nurse at the time, Wendy Burford, she was furious at the BBC for this: “Fuck them, then” was apparently her response.
Although Carter was never to appear on Desert Island Discs – she died in February 1992 – she did draw up a list of the records that she would have chosen for the show. I have created a Playlist on YouTube of these records which you can listen to below.
All of this material is taken from Edmund Gordon‘s The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography, published by Chatto & Windus. Gordon notes Carter’s reasons for selecting these particular records: for example, Carter remembered her brother playing the Debussy piece on the piano, whilst Schummann’s Dichterliebe was the first LP she ever bought. He also adds that in addition to these records, Carter would have chosen Larousse Gastronomique for her book, a famous encyclopedia of gastronomy first published in 1938, and a zebra as her luxury item. It is a pity that Carter was never able to appear on Desert Island Discs but at least we have her selection to listen to and ponder over.