Angela Carter – Several Perceptions


I discovered the wonderful world of Angela Carter only last year, and I’ve been trying to read all her works slowly, savouring every moment of it. Of course, the bonus is the gorgeous covers, which draws me to her books like a moth….

The thing with Several Perceptions is, it’s totally unlike anything I’ve read before. “Down the rabbit hole” would be one way to describe it, as we join Joseph, a disillusioned young man, in the 1960s, as he grapples with the meaning of life. Set in the Bohemian ‘flower power’ era, the people we meet fit some of the much talked about 1960s stereotypes: nature lovers, infrequent bathers, and people roaming the streets barefoot.

Joseph, it seems, is going through a very early midlife crisis. His girlfriend has moved on without him, and he’s just listless, as he sees some less than ideal things around him: Vietnam, children taunting an old man with an imaginary fiddle, the caged badger in the zoo…

After a failed suicide attempt, Joseph tries to return to life, pulling all kinds of crazy stunts – some hilarious, some psychotic. They seem equally balanced between being well thought out and impulsive, and one just wonders what unexpected event is going to occur next.

If Joseph’s adventures with his friends and neighbours isn’t addictive enough to read about, we also meet his psychiatrist, and gain some more insight into the way the mind works for some people!

“I bet those lepers hated St. Francis,” he added unexpectedly. “Fancy having a perfect stranger come up and kiss you just ‘coz you’ve got a skin infection, just to show off what a big heart he had, you never hear the leper’s side of the story. What if a leper out of the blue had jumped up and kissed St. Francis. I bet St. Francis would have been ever so affronted.”

While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as The Magic Toyshop, I still found it to be a witty fascinating book, and loved the characters – the fact that they all seemed polar opposites of one another. There are multifarious allusions to a myriad of things: from Alice In Wonderland, to Freud! It seems like a completely different world, with completely different rules, which change every moment of every day. In the words of Queen, “Easy come, easy go” just about sums up Joseph’s life.

Just discovered that this is Carter’s third book, and was written right after The Magic Toyshop. The subjects she deals with are so different, but, she still does an incredible job of holding the whole plot together, without overdoing the hyperbolism.

14 Responses to “Angela Carter – Several Perceptions”

  1. “Down the rabbit hole” is such a wonderful way of describing it, especially with the Alice in Wonderland references throughout the book! Angela Carter employs a lot of literary allusion (and popular culture and Freud etc.) throughout her work, making it so much the richer; I want to be able to recognise all of her allusions and be able to peel back layer after layer of the wonderful and hyperbolic writing.

    I want to reread Several Perceptions (it’s been four years) as I remember some wonderful observations and the cat :).

    I hope that you love The Bloody Chamber and enjoy Angela Carter month in April. If you think that this is unlike anything you have ever read before then wait until you read The Passion of New Eve and Nights at the Circus (both completely different from each other and incredibly unique)…

    • I know what you mean when you say you want to recognise all her allusions – would make the book(s) so much richer than they already are. I’m also quite curious to read Essays on the Art of Angela Carter, which I don’t possess yet, but in due course of time, I’d like to.

      I’m looking forward to April, and the Angela Carter month. Surprise, surprise, I’ll be reading The Bloody Chamber then, but also The Book Of Fairy Tales. My copy of The Passion Of New Eve is at my parents, so, it might be a while yet before I read that. I’m also holding off on reading more of her works as, like you, I’d like to spread it out over time. Don’t want to imagine not having any more of her works to read…

  2. I haven’t heard of Angela Carter but that seems really intriguing! I think I will add it to my wish list with a link to your review

  3. Interesting – I’ve never heard of this writer but she sounds gifted. I might have to check the series out…

  4. I need to read Angela Carter. I’ve recently bought for myself her collection of short stories The Bloody Chamber, which I saw you won a copy of from Claire at Paperback Reader (Yay! for you!). I’ve not read any of her yet, and your reviews of her books so far are very convincing. Sad thing for me is that it seems the only way I get to read any Angela Carter would be to buy her books. There are none at the libraries, which seems very sad.

    • Thank you! At least, even when you buy her books, the covers you get are absolutely stunning! It helps :)

      I hope you enjoy The Bloody Chamber, and maybe, come April, will get to exchange notes with you.

  5. I have my first Angela Carter on my shelf! Haven’t read it yet, though. I have Nights at the Circus. I hope I enjoy it and that I can then delve into her whole list of books afterwards.

    • Claire recommends Nights At A Circus very highly – unfortunately, I haven’t read it yet. Will be keeping an eye out for your thoughts on the book, and hopefully, it’ll convince you to read the whole book list!

  6. I have two Angela Carter books on my To be read pile waiting to be read. I’m hoping Claire’s (at Paperback Reader) Angela Carter month will make me finally read them. Great review! I love your descriptions of it….’down the rabbit hole,’ that’s a good one!

    • Thank you. I’m quite excited about the Angela Carter month as well, and can’t wait to see how everyone gets on with Angela Carter. Really hope you end up enjoying her works as much as I do!

  7. I like the idea of “down the rabbit hole”…I struggle with carter to be honest – I liked the Magic Toyshop but have found her other books really hard to get to grips with.

    • I loved The Magic Toyshop, but didn’t really think the world of Fireworks. Conveniently, I attributed that to not being a big fan of short stories (thank you Alice Munro for proving me wrong).

      Which other books by her have you read? I saw your thoughts on Passion of New Eve some time back…

      I think this was relatively “easy” to read, as the book doesn’t go “beyond surrealism” – I don’t know if you know what I mean?

      PS : Sorry for the really badly phrased sentence.

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