Angela Carter – Fireworks

27Sep09

After being absolutely delighted with The Magic Toyshop, which has probably been my favourite book this year, I picked up Fireworks, a collection of short stories by Angela Carter. At the very outset, I should say this: I’m not the biggest fan of short stories. Sure, there are exceptions, but, more often than not, I don’t like them. Character build-ups aren’t great, the plots are predictable, and the last grasp plot twists sometimes make me cringe.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this collection, but I decided to give it a fair shot. After all, no point having preconceived notions, right?

Fireworks is a collection of nine bizarre short stories, all of which belong to the ‘magical realism’ genre. There are surreal stories about reflections, and mirrors, a freakish story about puppets (reminiscent of The Magic Toyshop), a scary story about children in a forest, where the plants are carnivorous. The stories touch upon topics, like incest, rape, loneliness and estrangement. The writing, as expected, is beautiful:

She sprang towards the exquisite, odoriferous tree which, at the moment, suffused in failing yet hallucinatory light the tone and intensity of liquefied amber, seemed to her brother a perfect equivalent of his sister’s amazing beauty, a beauty he had never seen before that filled him, now, with ecstasy. The dark pool reflected her darkly, like an antique mirror. She raised her hand to part the leaves in search of a ripe fruit but the greenish skin seemed to warm and glow under her fingers so the first one she touched came as easily off the stem as if it had been brought to perfection by her touch.

However, I found myself reading a lot of the stories, and thinking, “what’s the point of this, if any?” I can’t really pinpoint what was missing, but, I just didn’t enjoy this book. I am going to attribute it to the fact that short stories aren’t my cup of tea. However, if you like short stories, gothic magical surrealism, and parallelisms drawn with things you identify (e.g. The Original Sin), am sure you’ll like it.

Rating: 3

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23 Responses to “Angela Carter – Fireworks”

  1. Oh wow I think I’ll like this one…magic toyshop i didn’t like so much.

    have you read the bloody chamber? what did you think?

    – Aimee
    http://www.myflutteringheart.blogspot.com

  2. arrrgh my comment got lost, i think.

    basically i thought magic toyshop was a bit ‘meh’ but this looks good.

    then i asked you if you’d read the bloody chamber and what did you think of it?

    hehe

    – Aimee
    http://www.myflutteringheart.blogspot.com

    • Sorry, think it was awaiting moderation. Thanks for commenting on my blog for the first time :)

      Not read Bloody Chamber yet, but I intend to.

      Hope you like this, if and when you pick it up.

  3. I’m so glad you reviewed this. Was going over Angela Carter titles in The Book Dep, as Claire recommended her (and I also remember your glowing review of The Magic Toyshop). Anyway, this looked so appealing because of the cover, but I was hesitant as I wasn’t too keen on the subject matter. Now I’m pretty sure this isn’t the one of hers I’ll try.

    • The covers on Angela Carters are amazing, right? I’m actually really glad I read The Magic Toyshop first. Claire says it’s not her best as well, which makes me more willing to try her other works.

      If I’d started with Fireworks, I don’t think I would’ve picked up another book by her in a hurry. But, keeping The Magic Toyshop in mind, I already have another book by her in the pipelines!

  4. 6 Pam

    I too was never a fan of short stories, until I read Olive Kitteridge – it’s just GREAT! Will definitely keep an eye out for Ms Carter now too…

    • I haven’t read any Olive Kitteridge, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for her. I hope you try reading a book by Carter… :)

      • 8 Pam

        Sorry, that was a little cryptic – Olive Kitteridge is the name of the book, the author is Elizabeth Strout – she won the Pulitzer Prize this year.

  5. I bought a copy of The Magic Toyshop after seeing your review, but I think I’ll give this one a miss – I don’t understand the point of most short stories either.

    • Yay! I can’t wait to see what you think about it. I really really really hope you like it.

      I read your post on short stories, and I agree with you – there are a couple of short stories that I’ve absolutely loved though: Gift of the Magi and Jimmy Valentine coming to mind straightaway.

  6. I once stated that I didn’t like short stories, and received a somewhat disdainful response. I do read them now, and avoid making sweeping statements either way! I agree that some short stories do seem to lack an ending. (With the exception of Edgar Allen Poe, who never misses.)

    There was a discussion, of sorts, on twitter last week, regarding the short story. It’s a generalisation, but it seems that men like short stories more than women do.

    • Is it because men, in general, have a shorter attention span? ;)

      Bizarre, but I actually flew through a couple of collections of short stories by Jeffrey Archer. I don’t seek his books out anymore, as I once did, but his short stories always had a “twist in the tale” (see what I did there?) and I was quite impressed.

      Not read any Edgar Allen Poe since I was twelve, and I think I might have been too young to appreciate him then. Must change that.

  7. This isn’t my favourite Carter by any means and I was curious how you would find it. It is also one of her earlier works, which I think is important to note. I would urge you to read The Bloody Chamber to see how you find those short stories. I re-read Fireworks earlier this year and I couldn’t find much cohesion in the grouping of stories but could definitely trace her common themes of puppets, incest, mirrors, and the absence of mothers. My favourite story from the collection is “The Loves of Lady Purple”

    • To be fair, you did warn me that this wasn’t great. I am glad that I read it though, but it does mean I’ll be putting off The Bloody Chamber ’til next year. Not to worry – I just went ahead and bought The Passion Of New Eve, so… that should be coming up soon(ish).

      I really enjoyed The Loves Of Lady Purple, although the ending was kind-of predictable. I also liked Penetrating The Heart Of The Forest – carnivorous flowers did the trick! I do love the way she uses puppets in her stories though – well, in the two works I’ve read!

  8. I used to have aversions to short stories too before I started writing them. You should try Roald Dahl’s short stories. They’re very good! Maybe they might convert you. :-) Or give Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ a go. If it doesn’t work, hey, you won’t have wasted much time!

    I love Angela Carter though but I still have to go through more of her stuff. Have you read ‘The Bloody Chamber’?

    • I love Roald Dahl, and I did pick up The Great Automatic Grammatizator a few years back. However, a couple of stories in, and I was just skim-reading… the plots rarely get *deep* enough for you to get into the story, and lose yourself in its world.

      I’d actually like to try out Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party, simply because of her “legacy” as a brilliant short story teller.

      Haven’t read The Bloody Chamber though – this is only my second book by her. It’s there on the TBR, and hopefully, I’ll get to it soon… I love her writing, I really do.

  9. I LOVE the cover of this book. Sorry the book was only so so.

  10. I’m an avid reader of short stories, so much so I joined a challenge to read 100 of ’em. Once I finish a current anthology, I’ll only need 7 more shorts to finish.

    Shorts are more difficult to pull off because of having to build-up characters and plots rather quickly. I have a lot of respect for writers who can write them well and good novelists don’t necessarily make good shortists. There are a lot of excellent shorts out there, but a lot more that are poorly written. As Sarah said, Poe had the knack. I’ve taken in two by Gaiman that were really good and I’d like to read more. If you can spare 10-15 minutes, I’m curious what you think of Seanan McGuire’s “Knives”, which can be read at Book View Cafe. I really like her so I’m already biased, but it was good.

    • Wow! That’s pretty impressive.

      I think short stories, in general, suffer from being disregarded, due to the amount of tripe out there. I really should look into getting some books by Edgar Allen Poe, and after finishing Coraline, Gaiman’s definitely making it back to my TBR.

      I’ll bookmark Knives for the weekend – thanks for the recommendation. :)

      • Kinda yes, kinda no. I’m on my 6th anthology for the year.

        Tripe, yep.

        No problem, any time. Now I hope you like it.

      • I’ll let you know either way :)

        Six anthologies sounds pretty impressive to me, but then again, I don’t really do short stories, so maybe I shouldn’t comment……


  1. 1 Fireworks by Angela Carter | Paperback Reader

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