As it is Halloween, here are a few ways to celebrate this festive occasion with Angela Carter.
1. The Company of Wolves (1984), dir. Neil Jordan.
Jordan’s 1984 film was both critically and commercially successful upon its release. It took $4 million worldwide at the box office and was nominated for four BAFTA awards. The following year, Neil Jordan was named Director of the Year at the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards. Both Jordan and Carter worked on the screenplay, adapting it from not on ‘The Company of Wolves’, but also incorporating elements from other stories in The Bloody Chamber collection. The film stars Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Terence Stamp, Stephen Rea, and Sarah Patterson. Carter was mostly pleased with the final result of their collaboration, though she was very disappointed with the ending, telling Jordan that he’d “ruined it”. It’s a strange, surreal film, held together by a series of related stories but with no central narrative, and featuring some disturbing animatronics. Remember Granny’s sage advice: the most dangerous men are those who are hairy on the inside!
2. An article on Angela Carter’s “wolf tales” over at The British Library.
In an excellent article for The British Library, Bidisha looks at the three “wolf tales” in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories: ‘The Werewolf’, ‘The Company of Wolves’ and ‘Wolf-Alice’. As well as a great overview and analysis of these three tales, the article draws on a number of resources held at The British Library, including Carter’s manuscript notes and drafts, and stills from Neil Jordan’s cinematic adaptation of ‘The Company of Wolves’.
3. Art Macabre Drawing Salons’ event ‘Angela Carter: How We Heart Her’.
Back in March 2013, Art Macabre Drawing Salons collaborated with For Books’ Sake to produce an event to celebrate the life and legacy of Angela Carter for International Women’s Day. The event involved recreating scenes from a number of works by Carter, including ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and ‘The Lady of the House of Love’, as well as the character Fevvers from her novel Nights at the Circus. Take a look at some photos taken from the event here.
4. Georgia Evans’ Prosthetic Performance inspired by Angela Carter.
In Apirl 2015, London College Fashion News went behind the scenes to talk with student Georgia Evans about a project she had created and which was inspired by Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. In interview, Evan explained that:
“The idea behind my work for this project was based on a book called the Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. This is a book of short stories and I chose to focus on The Lady of the House of Love. It’s about a vampire who plays her life through tarot cards until one young man who visits the castle changes around the tarot cards, catching her out and causing her to die. In the story, Carter describes the vampire rotting away, and this gave me the idea for my work.”
5. Angela Carter appears on Literary Hub’s ’12 Chilling Books to Read for Halloween’.
In a piece for Literary Hub, Gabrielle Bellot has included Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories on her list of books to read this Halloween. She writes:
“By turns twisted, charming, and perverse, The Bloody Chamber, which is a decadent and disturbing reworking of a number of fairytales, is one of those books that, to me, shows the many-sided mirror of Halloween. Angela Carter—who Salman Rushdie called English literature’s “high sorceress, its benevolent witch-queen”—wrote that she wished “to extract the latent content from the traditional stories and to use it as the beginning of new stories.” Carter had long been drawn, in her own words, to “Gothic tales, cruel tales, tales of wonder, tales of terror, fabulous narratives that deal directly with the imagery of the unconscious.” If you like Carter’s short stories, you may also enjoy Steven Millhauser’s marvelous and disquieting tales in The Knife Thrower and The Barnum Museum.”
6. Granta Reads Halloween Special: Angela Carter’s ‘Cousins’.
I’ve already mentioned this one in a separate post, but it seems only fitting to include Granta’s Halloween Special podcast on this list. Head over to Granta to listen to a reading of Carter’s 1980 story ‘Cousins’, a story was later published as ‘Peter and the Wolf’ in the collection Black Venus and forms part of her ‘Wolf Quartet’.
7. Christopher Frayling’s Inside The Bloody Chamber.
If you are curious to find out more about Carter’s relationship to the Gothic, then you could read Christopher Frayling’s 2015 book Inside the Bloody Chamber: On Angela Carter, the Gothic and other weird tales, published by Oberon Books. The book is composed of a fascinating set of essays and public lectures by Frayling from the last thirty years, all centred on the Gothic. However, as Kate Webb puts it, “[r]eaders may be disappointed to find, however, that of the nine pieces in his collection, only the first essay, ‘Angela and me – a literary friendship’ is about Carter.” Despite this and other weaknesses with the book, it does provide another interesting angle on Angela Carter’s life and works.
8. Angela Carter’s journalism.
As well as publishing novels and short stories, Carter was a prolific journalist, writing for a number of journals and magazines. One publication she wrote for a great deal was New Society and in 1975 she published a piece called ‘The Art of Horrorzines’. Carter’s article considers the phenomenon of magazines and comics that centre on Gothic figures such as the vampire and devil, figures which are often feminised as in Vampirella and Devilina.
As usual, Carter’s wit is on fine display as she considers the kitsch and camp aesthetic of these comics, as well as the writing style that emulates French 19th-century decadent prose. Carter also notes the roles such figures like Vampirella play. One female vampire, Angel O’Hara, “personifies righteous indignation” through hunting down criminals of various kinds. However, she is subject to temporary bouts of amnesia so that she forgets these acts of violence justice. As Carter observes, it is ‘as if the notion of woman-as-aggressor can’t be quite tolerated yet”.
Another article worth reading at Halloween is ‘Through a Text Backwards: The Resurrection of the House of Usher’, a piece published in 1988 in Metaphores. This brilliantly inventive piece retells Edgar Allan Poe’s story backwards, “as one can play a movie backwards”, in order to make sense of the “over-determined” elements and “slippery quality” of the tale: Poe’s stories “are and […] are not what they claim to be.” By reading the tale backwards, Carter is able to unearth some of the strange meanings at work, including the idea of the vampire as a “tacky theatrical device”, the story as a “self-defensive strategy” and Poe’s claim in ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ that “the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world”.
9. Scholarly writings on Angela Carter, the Gothic, and Horror.
If you’re also interested in seeing what critics have written about Carter’s relationship to the Gothic and to Horror, there are many great books and articles available. In addition to Frayling’s book mentioned above, there is Rebecca Munford’s excellent Decadent Daughters and Monstrous Mothers: Angela Carter and European Gothic, published by Manchester University Press. This wide-ranging study traces Carter’s Gothic and European influences from writers such as Poe, Baudelaire, de Sade, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Villiers de L’Isle Adam, and considers how they inform her controversial feminist politics. You can read a review of this book by Donna Mitchell over at The Gothic Imagination.
There are also a number of scholarly articles on this aspect of Carter’s work. I’ll mention just three here though: Gina Wisker’s ‘Revenge of the Living Doll: Angela Carter’s horror writing’, which appears in The Infernal Desires of Angela Carter, an essay collection edited by Joseph Bristow and Trev Lynn Broughton, and published by Routledge; Carole Zucker’s ‘Sweetest Tongue Has Sharpest Tooth: The Dangers of Dreaming in Neil Jordan’s the Company of Wolves’, published in Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 28, issue 1; and Lorna Jowett’s ‘Between the Paws of the Tender Wolf: Authorship, Adaptation and Audience’, which appears in Angela Carter: New Critical Readings, edited by Sonya Andermahr and Lawrence Phillips, and published by Bloomsbury. Articles such as these explore the complex relationships between Carter’s interests in sexual politics, horror films, the Gothic and feminism.
10. Anything else?
There is a lot more one could say about Carter’s relationship to the Gothic and to Horror which would be relevant for Halloween. Here are a few smaller details with which to end. Firstly, there is an allusion to classic Hollywood horror in Carter’s first novel, Shadow Dance, when Ghislaine is likened to the “bride of Frankenstein”. Secondly, Carter’s relationship to Poe also appears in her short story ‘The Cabinet of Edgar Allan Poe’ from the collection Black Venus. Lastly, in Susannah Clapp’s A Card from Angela Carter, published by Bloomsbury, there is a reference to an adaptation of The Bloody Chamber with puppets for “a Halloween show in Atlanta”.
So that’s my top ten things to do with Angela Carter this Halloween. Let me know if you can think of things I missed out or if you have any other suggestions. I’ll end now by noting that Carter’s relationship to the Gothic and to Horror continues to live on today, her work remixed and reanimated like an undead monster. Happy Halloween!