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Black Venus (Picador Books) by Angela Carter
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Black Venus (Picador Books) (original 1986; edition 1986)

by Angela Carter

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6221224,540 (3.98)42
A collection of short stories- 'BLACK VENUS' displays the superbly witchy Angela Carter at her best. Her fabulous fables all speak for themselves in tones so commanding you feel this must be Baudelaire's mistress, ageing, remembering, still spreading syphilis, or Lizzie Borden restless in the fatal and hot Massachusetts summer. Whatever her subject Miss Carter writes like a dream - sometimes a nightmare. And as the voices call out, the images blaze, one is saved from an excess of fantasy by earthy realism, a sudden bark of humour' - SUNDAY TELEGRAPH… (more)
Member:AlexDraven
Title:Black Venus (Picador Books)
Authors:Angela Carter
Info:Picador (1986), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 128 pages
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Saint and Strangers (Black Venus) by Angela Carter (1986)

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Nice collection of short stories by the journalis Angela Carter with deliriously delicious complex language and each story engaging in one or other form. Shows the power of female authors.

The strongest story is the titular one 'Black Venus' its a small personal history about Charles Baudelaires muse. An ingenious tale in which Carter masterfully weaves poems of Baudelaires 'les Fleurs du Mal.'
Favorite passage by this muse:
'Down there, far below, where the buttocks of the world slim down again, if you go far south enough you reach again the realm of perpetual cold that begins and ends our experience of this earth, those ranges of ice mountains where the bull-roaring winds bay and bellow and no people are, only the stately penguin in his frock coat not unlike yours, Daddy, the estimable but, unlike you uxorious penguin who balances the precious egg on his feet while his dear wife goes out and has a good time as the Antartic may afford.
If Daddy where like a penguin, how much more happy we should be, there isn't room for two albatrosses in this house.' ( )
  Nicolai-Michiel | Mar 2, 2019 |
Angela Carter's prose is mesmerising... an absolute pleasure to read. She straddles the dreamworld between myth and reality, and her writing matches her imagination. Apart from that, all the eight "pieces" (one cannot call them stories, I think) in this slim volume are delightfully unconventional: subversive, if you like.

The title story, written from the POV of Baudelier's mistress, portrays her as a simple girl, out to make a living on the mean streets. Whatever persona the poet imposes on her is his fantasy, a typical male fantasy which objectifies the female for the satisfaction of his desire. Similarly, in "Our Lady of the Massacre", a "victim" of Indian captivity provides a captivity narrative significantly different from the conventional ones.

But I think the gem of the collection is the last story, which delves into the mind of Lizzie Borden. It is almost like a script, and the story unfolds like a movie in the reader's mind.

If you love the English language, this is the book for you. ( )
  Nandakishore_Varma | Sep 28, 2013 |
500 Great Books by Women edited by ERica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen and Holly Smith says of Saints and Strangers,"Sometimes disquieting, sometimes funny, always thought-provoking, Angela Carter's stories offer a feminist revision of images that lie deep in our collective psyche." Elegantly said, but most of the review is made up of one line synopses of the short stories. If the reviewer had to write more that described the collection as a whole, I think she would feel as daunted by the task as I am.

Most of the stories are based on historic events such as Lizzie Borden's rampage or Edgar Allen Poe's relations with women. Yes some are tragic and some are humorous, but all are quite serious. Carter's intelligent, inquisitive mind is a clear driving force behind all these stories. They are not plot driven, not even character driven. Each story is thickly atmospheric, grounded in a specific place, sometimes described in such detail that it becomes dreamlike or hallucinatory. The people in these stories are both simply people and transcendent, sometimes at the same time. Definitely worth reading, but I'm not sure I can really tell you what you'll find. ( )
3 vote cammykitty | Feb 7, 2013 |
I would like to shout from the rooftop: Angela Carter is a genius! I am beside myself with enthusiasm for her imaginative, quirky, amazing stories. Most of the eight stories in this collection deal with a familiar topic but with either an odd twist or from an offbeat point of view. For example, the story called "The Fall River Axe Murders" concerns itself with the week leading up to that fatal day when

Lizzie Borden with an axe
Gave her father forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her mother forty one.

—Children's rhyme

No blood and gore here. Just an exploration of the life of the Borden family before Lizzie went on her rampage.

Carter has a unique way of setting the reader up with preconceptions of what a story might be about. The magic of this is that the title sets the synapses to work conjuring up a series of associated mental images. Some of these actually turn out to be relevant, but it's a marvelous trick to create an imaginary tapestry of sorts before you have even read a word.

For example, one story is called "Peter and the Wolf," and indeed it is a story about a boy named Peter and there are wolves, but this is not the story. But one files it away in a compartment of memory labeled "stories about Peter and wolves."

Another story is called "The Cabinet of Edgar Allan Poe," which weaves an imaginative tale about his birth and youth and his mother's short life. Immediately one thinks of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but that's just one of Carter's tricks. It has been too many years since I saw the movie, so I cannot say for certain whether there is any real connection, but that is almost beside the point.

Another story is a strange dreamlike reworking of parts of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which again is quite audacious in its ingenuity. And the final story is entitled "Black Venus," which is about Baudelaire and his mistress Jeanne Duval.

My favorite story is called "The Kitchen Child," which is about nobody in particular, but is told in first person by a boy who was born "downstairs" to the cook at the country house of an Edwardian couple. The story of how the boy is conceived right there in the kitchen while the cook was in the midst of whipping up a lobster souffle is masterful in its conception and delivery:

Then, just as she bent over the range to stir the flour into the butter, a pair of hands clasped tight around her waist. Thinking, at first, it was but kitchen horseplay, she twitched her ample hips to put him off as she slid the egg yolks into the roux. But as she mixed in the lobster meat, diced up, all nice, she felt those hands stray higher.

That was when too much cayenne went in. She always regretted that.

And as she was folding in the toppling contents of the bowl of beaten egg-white, God knows what it was he got up to but so much so she flings all into the white dish with abandon and:

'To hell with it!'

Into the oven goes the souffle; the oven door slams shut.

I draw a veil.


This collection of short stories is not to be missed, even if we are twenty-five years late! Five stars! ( )
12 vote Poquette | Sep 2, 2011 |
If Angela Carter weren't English, she would be a great author of American Southern gothic literature. The first short story in this collection, a re-imagining of Lizzie Borden in a sticky and oppressive (in more ways than one) atmosphere of summer heat and tension-laced household, sets the tone for the rest of the stories: the exaggerated and overwhelming made tangible. Carter writes wryly, like a story told when both the storyteller and listener are cynically, acutely aware that one shouldn't put faith in fairy tales, yet the stories insist on being told anyway. ( )
  the_awesome_opossum | Jun 12, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carter, Angelaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ambros, AleksandraTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lanati, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutton, Philipsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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