Life Writing

Featured Content: A Card From Angela Carter by Susannah Clapp

I decided to head out the other night to write at a pub. It had been uncomfortably tropical in Melbourne, and my house is an old weatherboard, which is charming, but snug. This is brilliant in winter. In summer? Not so much. By the time I arrived at my venue of choice it became clear that a significant portion of the inner north had had a variation on the theme of my own idea. The pubs and beer-gardens were chockers, and this meant there was not really the space in which I could commandeer a table (annotated printout of article, reference books, iPad) and, perhaps more pressingly, my misanthropy went into overdrive. As it was 15 minutes before the tram that would take me home arrived, I decided to walk back along Brunswick st toward what I hoped would be a slightly less populated pub (spoiler alert: it was! yay!). On the way I called in to the usual suspects, the Brunswick St Bookstore and the Grub St Bookshop. As soon as I walked through the door of the latter, I saw A Card From Angela Carter

Having recently a taught a subject that focused on Angela Carter (and the Brontës, but shhhh) I have been on a bit of roll with her books: The Bloody Chamber, The Sadeian Woman, Nights at the Circus, The Passion of New Eve, Wise Children, The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hofmann. These are either on my “recently read”, my “currently reading” or my “to read” piles. So coming across this intimate little insight into life with Carter as a BFF felt too perfect. The book is easy to read, it took me the tram ride into and out of the city on a work day, and the language is evocative. Clapp offers insights into her friendship with Carter, particularly over the last years of Carter’s life, via the postcards that Carter sent to both Clapp and their other friends. The story of this friendship is lovingly told. It is clear that Clapp’s fondness for Carter is tempered by her deep respect, and there is an intimacy offered that makes it feel like Carter is still an immediate presence. In particular, Carter’s thoughts on socialism and class activism provided me with a salve during a time when I have felt overwhelmed by frustratingly neo-liberal, hyper-capitalist rhetoric. Reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder how Carter would respond to the wave of feminist discourse that is sweeping popular culture right now. I can’t help but think that she would be hopeful, but circumspect: she certainly wouldn’t have anytime for the commodifcation of feminism, but I hope she might enjoy the whimsy of home-made pink cat hats.

The book reminds me of the importance of being a reader. The best writers know other people’s stories, and know how to converse with, dance with those stories. Carter was a story-dancer par excellance, and Clapp has captured the vivacity that is expressed in Carter’s writing, both public and personal.

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