Biography of Angela Carter (1940-1992)
Author, journalist, and professor Angela Carter was born Angela Olive Stalker on May 7, 1940 in Sussex, England. When World War II broke out, she moved to her grandmother's house in Yorkshire, where she lived out the rest of the War. She married Paul Carter in 1960 at the age of twenty, after which she earned a degree in English with a specialty in medieval literature at the University of Bristol. In 1966, Carter published her first novel, Shadow Dance and a year later, won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize for her second novel, The Magic Toyshop. After publishing her third and fourth novels, Several Perceptions and Heroes and Villains, Carter worked as a reporter in Japan for three years. Her 1972 divorce from Paul Carter was bookended by Love (1971) and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. In 1974, Carter published her first collection of short stories, Fireworks, and a year later began to write regularly for the British political weekly magazine, New Society. Between 1977 and 1981, Carter wrote her critical work, The Sadeian Woman as well as The Bloody Chamber, and taught at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. During this time, she also settled down with Mark Pearce, with whom she had a child, Alexander, in 1983. A year earlier, in 1982, she published a collection of her journalism entitled Nothing Sacred. Then in 1984, Carter published Nights at the Circus, Black Venus, and Come unto These Yellow Sands: Four Radio Plays. She published The Virago Book of Fairy Tales in 1990 before publishing her last novel, Wise Children, in 1991, the same year she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Angela Carter died a year later in 1992 at the age of 52.
Carter, whom many critics describe as a "prolific" writer, is said by her friend Salman Rushdie to have died just as she was defining herself in the literary community. Lorna Sage concurs, but adds that had Carter not died so tragically early, "her canonization would have almost certainly been postponed." Because Carter's works were "orphaned," they drew a heightened interest from critics and academics. Carter's work, in Sage's words, is characterized by "its savage intelligence, its rich humor, and its bold inventiveness." Her work is distinctly postmodern in its reexamination of folklore and other traditional sources. It is also informed by feminism, although Carter has attributed her "feminist" status to the simple fact that, as a woman, she writes from female points of view. Carter is considered by many to be one of the most accomplished magical realists, and distinguished herself by using "intense" imagery, and decadent as well as obscene language. Fellow magical realist Salman Rushdie called Carter's work "without equal and without rival" and commemorated her as "First Wizard Deluxe" of writers.
Carter was intrigued by folk and fairy tales, which she both translated and reinterpreted. Carter is widely known for her fearless examination of 'forbidden' topics such as pornography, sexual fetish, rape, incest, and cannibalism. As Alison Lee explains, "Angela Carter is the child who sees that the emperor has no clothes," and as Roz Kaveney elaborates, she is unafraid to "scorn the powerful and cruel and thoughtless." Carter's work embraces anarchy and champions the weak and disadvantaged. Two of Carter's works, The Magic Toyshop and "The Company of Wolves," were made into films, and many of her short stories have been interpreted for the stage. Since her passing, Carter's work has been the frequent topic of academic and critical discussion and publication. As Kaveney puts it, Carter's ouvre is "a cabinet of bright curiosities ... a perpetual source of righteous thinking." Fifteen years after her untimely death, Angela Carter is "one of the most examined British writers."