Alluring, odd, fantastical- these are the words I would use to describe Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. The full anthology, a sampling of Carter’s folkloric short stories, came out in 1979, after she had just published her translation of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales; the similarity of the 10 stories to familiar fables are distinct. The titular Bloody Chamber tells the tale of the young bride of Bluebeard; others draw out their own kinds of Beauties, Beasts, Snow Whites, and Red Riding Hoods.
Of the collection Carter explained, “my intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories”.
There’s a folk-ness to her prose, an antique and strange familiarity that reads as a spoken hearth-side tale. She has a style that weaves baroque verse with coarse, unapologetic conversation- beauty and horror at once.
"... away from Paris, away from girlhood, away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother's apartment, into the unguessable country of marriage."
"And he kissed those blazing rubies, too. He kissed them before he kissed my mouth. Rapt, he intoned:' Of her apparel she retains/Only her sonorous jewellery.'"
"With trembling fingers, I prised open the front of the upright coffin, with its sculpted face caught in a rictus of pain. Then, overcome, I dropped the key I still held in my other hand. It dropped into the forming pool of her blood."
"You never saw such a wild thing as my mother... Now, without a moment's hesitation, she raised my father's gun, took aim and put a single, irreproachable bullet through my husband's head."
"I was unaccustomed to nakedness. I was so unused to my own skin that to take off all my clothes involved a kind of flaying."
"For all cats have this particularity, each and every one, from the meanest alley sneaker to the proudest, whitest she that ever graced a pontiff's pillow--we have our smiles, as it were, painted on."
"He lays upon me his irrevocable hand. His eyes are quite green, as if from too much looking at the wood. There are some eyes can eat you."
"Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors, each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful posthumous existence"
"of all the teeming perils of the night and the forest, ghosts, hobgoblins, ogres that grill babies upon gridirons, witches that fatten their captives in cages for cannibal tables, the wolf is worst for he cannot listen to reason."
"A lion is a lion and a man is a man... and, besides, they have no respect for us: why should they?"
"My father lost me to the Beast at cards"
"For what lady in all the world could say 'no' to the passionate yet toujours discret advances of a fine marmalade cat?"
"Everything in the wood is exactly as it seems."
'I wish I had a girl as white as snow,' says the Count.
"...the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and the maiden."
"When she heard that freezing howl of a wolf, she dropped her gifts, seized her knife and turned on the beast."
"Those are the voices of my brothers, darling; I love the company of wolves."
"Could this ragged girl with brindled lugs have spoken like we do she would have called herself a wolf"