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Table of contents
- Angela Carter webchat with biographer Edmund Gordon – post your questions now
- This work has examples of:
- Nights at the Circus is feminist, but its 'psychedelic Dickens' is not a lecture
- Nights at the Circus - Wikipedia
Well I will now. This book is good! From the start you wonder if her story really is true when she claims to have been hatched but soon you realize there is something strange going on. Like the reporter, Jack Walser you could swear that you've been listening all night until the clock stri I'm surprised that I took no notes while reading this book. Like the reporter, Jack Walser you could swear that you've been listening all night until the clock strikes twelve and you're glad that you have all night to hear more although you swear more time has passed.
Once real time seems to catch up you're hooked and ready to go off and join the circus just like Jack and then the story begins in earnest. A lot of it seeming mundane till you really start falling for the star and seeing her as what she claims. A giant of a woman with real wings she uses on her trapeze act. You suddenly cant blame those that wanted to possess her as she is magnificent in body and in mind. Then the rest of the circus unfurls as a magical being in itself.
Angela Carter webchat with biographer Edmund Gordon – post your questions now
I could go on but don't worry I won't. I leave you to listen to Ms Fevvers story for yourself. See if you don't lose track of time as well. Oct 18, Chris rated it really liked it Shelves: Update - A story about stories and illusion. Magic and reading have something in common. With books, good ones at least, the trick is the writing taking you someplace else.
At first glance it seems as if Fevvers is the only character with this problem, but every character in the book comes into contact with this question. Even the tigers, which may or may not really be jealous lovers. In many ways, this is the human condition, the search for ourselves.
Is our work face our real face? It might not be the wings that Fevvers has, but the question of reality and fantasy is one we change and fight in some way every day. Evo ne znam - da li boca rakije ili psihijatar.
Uprkos tome, valjda imam elementarno poznavanje sopstvenog, maternjeg jezika, da mogu da vidim da je ovde neko debelo zasrao. Mada, nakon ovakvog silovanja jezika, upitno je da li vredi iznositi bilo kakve utiske. View all 12 comments. Three rings of fractured fairy tales, barely believable characters and fables fallen through the looking glass. The book begins with American reporter Jack interviewing Fevvers and her cohort Lizzie for his series on great big humbugs. Fevvers has just completed a triumphant circuit of Europe and now, after returning to home sweet London, she plan to set out with a circus run by Colonel Kearney, an OTT allegory of the capitalist dream who will no doubt go in to star in many a North Korean propaganda poster.
First through, she and Lizzie, for the benefit of a captivated Jack, relate her life story thus far. It is action packed, reference jammed, titillating, eerie and delightful. In Part II the action has shifted to St. Petersburg, stage one of the trans-Siberian circus. Jack has come along as a clown because he is now in love, apparently. It is all good fun for a while but then things begin to go wrong and I begin to wonder where we are going with all of this. Disaster strikes the circus. Lesbian relationships multiply at alarming rates.
Jack and Fevvers are separated and everyone goes through a spiritual awakening before coming back together for a happy ending.
This work has examples of:
I wrestled with my feelings on this book for a long time. I found my opinion locked up in a sort of logical conundrum. This chain of reasoning made sense to me and yet I could not swallow it. It ticked my boxes. I would have recommended it to myself. It just never sat right with me. It is an exciting book. The story is more along the lines of vignettes strung together, little or short stories if you will, or maybe a collection of fairy tales is closer the mark.
Your attention is constantly being caught and re-caught by new narrative threads and aptly circus-like imagery surrounding Wonderland parables. I liked the idea of Fevvers. Scratching 6 foot myself I like to see a big girl get the boy. Also it never got too vulgar or loose with life though the opportunities abounded.
I had no cause for frown here. Certainly high marks all around for originality. If you stumble across it, give it a try. If nothing else it passes the time like a dream. And yet it was not for me. It started strong, the middle was ripe for a splendid climax and conclusion but instead it all sort of petered out with a rather staid zen-like finding of self. And the root of the matter though, was that this novel spent too much time winking at me and this made it impossible to simply enjoy.
This is a smart book, Carter is a smart lady and by golly you are going to be reminded of it. As you read you are plainly told to examine the relationship between listener, teller and tale. Maybe this appeals to you, all the better, but for me it was exhausting and worse, it made me self conscious. Meticulously engineered and too clever by half it never let me enter into it no questions asked. For all the lights and colours and plots and characters it remains cold and distant. Like a snooty Discworld.
And there you have it. Knock those smart-alec kids down a peg or two. Uma assassina que aprisiona outras mulheres que, como ela, mataram os maridos. Recommended to Nate D by: Is this Angela Carter's epic? It's enormous, majestic, confounding even as fascinating, unwieldy with determination to fill in every backstory that would otherwise go overlooked, poised at the edge of the 20th century and so encompassing all of its bitter disillusion. The breadth of characters and otherwise passed-over stories-within-stories rivals Pynchon, as does the way that in which both interrogate reality in earnest through application of elaborate systems of meaning in whi Is this Angela Carter's epic?
The breadth of characters and otherwise passed-over stories-within-stories rivals Pynchon, as does the way that in which both interrogate reality in earnest through application of elaborate systems of meaning in which everything and everyone burns clear as an icon of itself, though not necessarily with a reductive singularity and determinism of meanings.
Angela Carter's trajectory as a writer and thinker is to some extent a dialogue with the idea of myth and its symbolic power. I think that at some point she found myth to have a useful clarity, one she later became more interested in deconstructing and complicating. Much discourse on her work is hung up on writer as mythologist, and given her subjects, it's a seductive notion.
But a very incomplete one. By the time Nights at the Circus was written, Carter described herself as a demythologizer, and her prime subject not fairy tales but social reality. Of course, aren't these always in conversation to some extent? I believe that this explains the continuing utility that the apparatuses of myth held for her even as she broke them down. In any event, there's an urgent warmth to this the convoluted three-part storyline of this novel, though it is sometimes obscured by the act of telling of story forms, and of voluptuously wrought sentences.
Ultimately, for all its ersatz construction, this is a very human story. Of course, Fevvers is always her own creation; it is just the reader who cannot initially see this. There's a bit towards the end which seems to suggest that Fevvers requires a certain other-gaze to hold her identity together that may seem regressive, but it seems instead that Carter ultimately sees even pure-self creation as limiting without the more holistic opening-up of allowing oneself to truly touch and be touched by another, a mutual act that breaks through all veneers and constructed narrative, opening up the truly revolutionary possibility incipient within every incid Like all epics, this is filled with digressions and asides not strictly essential to the prime trajectory, which might at times bog down, might seem to be unnecessary.
But each has its place in Carter's elaborately developed mirror-world at the cusp of and bleeding into the modern era. I wouldn't cut a thing. Wonderfully fitting for a novel which masks itself on the chaotic cusp of the twentieth-century, where time begins to fall into a state of gaudy entropy; thus Nights at the Circus reworks that elemental energy into prose that is richly dark, both sweeping like velvet and luxuriously dirty. The reader's experience is pure until he [or she] first reads Angela Carter and is tainted for the better.
In Carter's trademark rococo excess, there are so many things to be said about this gothic, exuberant novel, and yet nothing would be able to encompass the sheer vitality of the primal tug of the story which Carter enchants with. Right from the first line when we are introduced to Fevvers, the fin de siecle Cockney Venus, 'aerialiste extraordinare' and extraordinarily part swan and part woman [or is she? Taking centre stage then is the twice as large as life Fevvers, Carter's earthly and gloriously fleshly heroine; she is the embodiment of a post-feminist construction: Her great pair of wings are symbols of the age of the New Woman, but equally the novel - in typical postmodern unreliability - plays at this distance between fiction and fact, the animal and the human.
Is Fevvers an elaborate hoax, made of Indian rubber and automaton parts? Or is she an authentic miracle pretending to be a human fraud? It was as if Walser had become a prisoner of her voice, her cavernous, sombre voice, a voice made for shouting about the tempest, her voice of a celestial fishwife. Musical as it strangely was, yet not a voice for singing with; it comprised discords, her scale contained twelve tones. Her voice, with its warped, homely, Cockney vowels and random aspirates. The point is that Carter never pins onto Fevvers any one fantasised identity which might cloud her individualism.
Instead in Fevver's various incarnations, told via the novel's cacophony of voices, the novel's layers begin to peel back like Russian dolls to reveal a character far more complex. Nights at the Circus treats us to a banquet of stories intricately dyed in the unmistakable quality of Carter's startling prose; her descriptions point to an author who sees the world through a unique filter, but equally is able to, and unafraid to dive into the depths of precise truths and mingle it with art, history and myth. In another review of Angela Carter, I mention her as quintessentially English, and Nights at the Circus utilises her erudite understanding of the English canon so that the novel is laced with a refreshing esotericism that is hard to come by in contemporary fiction.
Reading Carter is masochistically realising your own inadequacy. All of the various myths in Nights at the Circus seem ancient: Fevvers as an orphan hatches out of an egg, and becomes the Winged Victory tableau vivant for a Victorian whorehouse; later, she becomes an exhibit in Madame Schreck's perverse Museum of Woman Monsters, sold as the Angel to Christian Roseuncreutz who plans to sacrifice her in exchange for immortality; until finally she finds fame working in the Le Cirque d'Hiver.
She has seen swans of ice with a thick encrustation of caviare between the wings; she has seen cut-glass and diamonds; she has seen all the luxurious, bright, transparent things, that make her blue eyes cross with greed. Many border on hilarity but often tinges of tragedy are overlaid on these luminous characters.
Nights at the Circus is feminist, but its 'psychedelic Dickens' is not a lecture
Unforgettable is the Sleeping Beauty in Madame Schreck's museum: Or the circus' mysterious group of abject clowns, led by the homicidal Buffo the Great; together they parody the martyred Jesus and his disciples, whilst their Bacchanal dances are violent to the point of disintegrating the very fabric of reality around them.
It did not so much run as flow, a questing sluice of brown and yellow, a hot and molten death. With intricate skill Carter reimagines the grotesque circus into a surreal panoply of creatures: In fact, if anything Nights at the Circus pits the fetishised commodification of outcast women with the inherent animalistic, carnal desires of their oppressors. There are few freedoms to be found in the cage-like tent of the circus.
The scene with the Duke's ever slowly melting to-size statue of Fevvers standing atop a pool of caviar, with a diamond chocker around her neck produces one of the most haunting scenes in the novel. The book is noticeably longer than many of Carter's other works, and in that sustaining of the vital literary force, the novel slips in a few places with regards to pacing. Nights at the Circus is not without its own flaws, and to place it on Carter's body of work as the head ignores the strength and greater complexity of some of her earlier work and stories.
However, here Carter creates a grand, narrative myth built out of the unheard female voice - a large task, but one that is accomplished with great insight and confidence. Take away the embellishments, the polyphonic structure of the novel, and therein lies a simpler message and goal, which as Fevvers metafictionally remarks herself, this story - her story - is one which must be told: Nights at the Circus is a dedication to 'all those whose tales we've yet to tell Sep 09, Rob rated it it was amazing Recommended to Rob by: There's an eccentric tone of fantasy, an unabashed outlandishness and roguish word-play; there's a thread of challenge running through the narrative, sometimes cleverly concealed and sometimes out in front like so much gaudy embroidery.
Carter is a master storyteller with a remarkable gift for language and a willingness to take risks on any front. But all of the above I already knew from my introducti When I read Angela Carter, I imagine her as the literary grandmother to someone like Kelly Link. It is more fantastic, more surreal, more political, more challenging, more graphic, and though more forceful also much more subtle. Carter cleverly leads the reader along her characters' paths via totems and proxies, and accelerates us through their worlds in crisis when those totems become threatened and lost.
This is one novel that is as brilliant as it is lyrical. Though I may perhaps be biased by the strength of the recommendation that J. Jul 27, Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly rated it really liked it. Usually, plots like this, including those in science fiction, would be too heavy a task for me to appreciate because I have this little devil inside my ear who, as I read, continuously whispers to me not true, invented, can't ever happen, just pulling your leg, you're wasting your time, better read others, etc.
Add to these is the fact that this novel has no heroes, only this winged 'aerialiste' and her coterie of equally memorable and heroic female characters. The men here are either just weak victims, freaks or ridiculous villains obviously doomed to fail. Angela Carter, however, was a great writer. For only great writers could describe an improbable creature, a 6-foot-2 woman with wings, who can hover at short diatances, and make me believe, despite the whispering devil in my ears, that she's describing something she had actually seen and not merely conjured.
Even this floating girl's name, "Fevvers," is a credible progeny of a seemingly actual event: Then, of course, Carter's unbelievably fresh and unforgettable images, metaphors and similes. I recall having a brief intake of air when, describing a character, she writes something like that the character "is as sad as a continent" or "has the sadness of a continent"? Until then, I have never seen, or thought it possible, sadness being equated with a continent.
Then I realized why not, indeed. A continent is huge and some sadness can feel like a giant smothering the life in you; or that a continent had existed, almost inert, for millions of years, forced to watch the comings and goings of centuries, seeing and remembering men and the great creatures of the world live, die and disappear forever. There's humor Fevvers giving a loud fart then mischievously turning her head to check the reaction of the journalist interviewing her , pathos the unforgettable Mignon, poor girl, abused like the worst of all the downtrodden Dickens could conceive, with her box of chocolates and rollicking adventure they ended up in Siberia, of all places.
Feb 03, Elise rated it it was ok. In typical Angela Carter fashion, "Nights at the Circus" appeals to our baser human instincts by attempting to shock us with freaks, incest, cannibalism, and excrement. The whole time I was reading it, I called it my albatross. Since I had gotten past page 50 every book gets a 50 page chance from me due to the book's, at times, lyrical and surreal beauty, I felt violated by so much ugliness in the book's second half. But by then, I had to finish it. The concept of time is hazy throughout this novel, beginning when Walser finds himself transfixed by Fevvers' narrative and hears the clock striking midnight three times within one night.
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How could it have, sir? Oh, dear, no, sir! It was as if Walser had become a prisoner of her voice, her cavernous, sombre voice, a voice made for shouting about the tempest, her voice of a celestial fishwife. This blurred sense of time represents the difference between narrative time and story time. Fevvers' hold on Walser reveals the true power of narrative and its influence on an audience.
Initially, it is through her narrative that Fevvers wields power over Walser. Carter emphasizes that the women in the novel are able to step outside of conventional nineteenth century gender roles, but only through the use of enchantment. Indeed, as Fevvers and Lizzie reveal in the Envoi, they had previously tricked Walser and purposefully played with his perception of time using Ma Nelson's clock.
Nights at the Circus can be categorized as a postmodern novel for its complexity of language and the inclusion of magical elements. The story itself is as intricate as the structure of the novel. The mystery surrounding Fevvers and the reality or otherwise of her wings drives the story and is reminiscent of many ambiguous postmodern pieces. The novel's turn-of-the-century setting is fitting, as modernism is generally acknowledged as encompassing the literature, music, arts and movements that occurred before As the characters make the transition into a new century, they begin to embrace new ideas and ways of life.
This transition towards the new is reflected in every aspect of the novel, as the story itself is a new and unique concept. Walser's initial skepticism regarding Fevvers' wings is reflective of postmodern thought. The women in the novel embody postmodern thought in their questioning of patriarchal social norms.
Despite Angela Carter's reputation for feminist rhetoric, many feminists remain disappointed with this novel, arguing that it in fact promotes post-feminism. Many argue that the seemingly crude language used to describe women throughout the novel is anti-feminist. My how her bodice strains! You'd think her tits were going to pop right out. What a sensation that would cause The fact that women are depicted as strong, forward thinkers that can remain outside of restrictive gender roles is reflective of post-feminist thought, in which women are not seen as victims and traditional feminism is no longer relevant within a modern society.
This claim is backed by the fact that Carter's novel was penned and published during the s, when post-feminism was really beginning to emerge. The argument for feminism may equally be justified through elements of the novel. Fevvers' wings might be a symbol of liberation, enabling her to escape an oppressive patriarchal society and progress into a twentieth century of feminist freedom. The women in the novel may ultimately represent suffragists and the entire Women's suffrage movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Fevvers, Lizzie and the rest of the female characters represent the idea of the New Woman and a new way of thinking entirely. Even the innocent and vulnerable Mignon is able to escape her abusive husband and past life of oppression for an empowering existence outside of social norms. Like many of Carter's earlier works, Nights at the Circus contains elements of magical realism. In this novel, Carter combines the mythical with the realistic, creating a playful, whirlwind adventure for the reader that is often as chaotic and lively as a real circus. In adding this magical, playful element to the novel, Carter is able to infuse the story with underlying political and social messages.
The whimsy in her novel is a tool that enables Carter to address pertinent social issues such as patriarchy and individual rights. Furthermore, in the two main characters, Fevvers and Walser, she illustrates the contrast between the magical and the believable. Fevvers' status as half swan and half woman remains questionable and surreal while Walser's role as the pragmatic journalist looking for the facts grounds the story in reality. Through magical realism, Carter is able to address everyday concerns through an engaging and playful form. Though the syntax in this novel is often as intricate and bustling as a circus itself, the novel itself is carefully structured.
The story alternates back and forth from order to chaos, often when the narrative voice switches between Fevvers and Walser. While Fevvers remains hypnotizing in her narrative, she is also disorganized and bounces back and forth in time during her tales. Walser, on the other hand, is pragmatic and grounds the reader in reality as he searches for the facts. Fevvers represents the chaotic element of life while Walser represents the orderly. Together, they are an embodiment of our world and how order and chaos cannot exist without the other as a balancing force.
Fevvers represents the indulgences that Walser will never allow himself to have and similarly, he is the force that grounds Fevvers, who is constantly trying to escape reality and the roles and rules of her society. This novel itself is a proponent for individualism , as it is a fantastically inventive fusion of various genres.
Many of the characters defy the conventional gender and social roles of their century and remain true to their individual selves. The women in the novel do not stick to their oppressive nineteenth century gender roles nor do the animals stick to their standard roles. Carter puts a magical twist on most aspects of her book, making it difficult for any object or person to remain conventional. Just as Mignon eventually discovers her strengths and escapes her abusive past, Walser finds himself through his journey in examining the phenomenon that is the aerialiste. Additionally, Fevvers' image as half swan and half human is ambiguous throughout the novel and Walser's quest for the truth behind her famous wings further emphasizes the value of true identity and self-reliance over facades and the dependence upon any external forces.
Lizzie and the other women in the brothel support the concept of individualism, as they remain self-reliant and look down upon marriage as a social impediment. The idea of appearance versus reality is found throughout the whole story. The truth about Fevvers' wings is the crux of this concept in the novel, although further doubts are raised by Fevvers' final celebratory cry.
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The reader is left questioning whether the real deception relates to Fevvers' wings or to her much-lauded virginity. Though Fevvers appears human, she claims to in fact carry the wings of her avian ancestors. Similarly, though the women in the brothel work as prostitutes, they are simultaneously self-sufficient, forward thinking women whom Lizzie compares to suffragists.
Nothing is as it seems in this novel, as even the animals are endowed with magical features and are taken out of their conventional boxes. Through these magical elements, Carter is able to test the reader's perception of reality and challenges all to question their surroundings. The issue of social class is also apparent in Nights at the Circus. Fevvers, Lizzie and even Walser are in a no man's land of celebrity and performance, outside traditional class structures, and Fevvers' recent wealth is rendered tawdry through its ostentation. The remaining characters, such as the prostitutes and circus performers, have no such pretensions and firmly inhabit a lower tier of society.
Carter draws particular attention to the class dynamics in Chapter Five of Book Two where she describes the poor living conditions of the clowns in the circus. It is apparent that only wealth wields much power, because while Fevvers has many opportunities in London, once she is stranded in Siberia she loses all access to power and not even her previous celebrity can help her. Similarly, Walser loses his social power when he becomes a clown in the travelling circus. In Nights at the Circus she has invented a new, raunchy, raucous, Cockney voice for her heroine Fevvers, taking us back into a rich, turn-of-theth-century world, which reeks of human and animal variety.
But an enchantment which is rooted in an earthy, rich and powerful language … It is a spell-binding achievement.
Nights at the Circus - Wikipedia
The narrative has a splendid ripe momentum, and each descriptive touch contributes a pang of vividness. By doing possible things impossibly well, the book achieves a major enchantment. This is a big, superlatively imagined novel. Here at the Guardian, meanwhile, Robert Nye called the book: Nights at the Circus should also provide fertile territory for discussion this month, with its powerful and sometimes controversial feminist messages, with its formal daring and idiosyncratic postmodernism and magical realism, and with its rich, fascinating allusions.