ANGELA CARTER – UNCOLLECTED STORIES – BURNING YOUR BOOKS 1995 Vintage Press
Carter’s three previously uncollected stories had been in anthologies and general books, but never before presented as part of the canon of her main work. The first, and best, THE SCARLET HOUSE tells of a woman trapped in the clutches of a terrible Count, a mid vampire, who likes to erase the memories of his victims as a vampire drains human blood. His victim struggles to retain something of her identity and memory, and realizes that while she cannot keep her memories as a literal memory, she can retain symbolic images just as the Count and his wife, the horrifying Countess Shreck, keep a setoff symbolic tarot cards. The victim thinks of how refugees often keep minor mementoes of their former lives ad countries, such as fading train tickets or other meaningless bric-a-brac. She knows that her story will never be pieced together again as a historic record of her life, but a story could still come of it, so she knows she has beaten the Count’s cruel plans.
THE SNOW PAVILLION is a fairly straight forward ghost story. A wealthy womaniser plans to seduce his latest girlfriend at a rich society party, but his car breaks down in a blizzard on route and he seeks shelter and assistance at a nearby pavilion house, which seems initially deserted but well kept. He eventually finds a room full of life-like dolls, one of who even seems to cry real tears. He also finds a sleeping, but sickly looking child, but as he tries to touch her, he is knocked out and captured by a sinister witch, who makes it clear to him that he is as trapped as any of the dolls.
THE QUILT MAKER – A middle aged woman makes a patch-work quilt, and thinks back on her own life, as well as that of an elderly neighbour, a woman seen descending into senility, who was taken away to a nursing home, and near to death, but who seemed to recover and come home to look after her cats again. The quilt maker considers that every day is a reprieve from her own death, and each stitch of the quilt a reflection of that too.
It’s good that these stories have been recovered for a wider audience than might have initially enjoyed them.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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