A recent Sunday Times puff for a new biography of Angela Carter suggests her fervent sexual appetites and unconventional thoughts on feminism contributed to her legendary reputation, and even quotes Salmon Rushdie’s generous description of Carter as a ‘benevolent witch queen.’ My memories of her are somewhat more guarded.
Quartet had just published her short story collection Fireworks in 1974, a few months before I bought the then struggling publisher and though I had little to do with her at the time, the sales staff told me of how shabbily she had treated them. She had even stubbed out a cigarette onto the back seat of Quartet’s sales manager’s company car! She had few friends and supporters in the company that was for sure, and when she opted to join the trendy Virago feminist publisher, then at the height of their fame and influence, no tears were shed at Quartet.
Later, I would interview her for my book Women and found her unsympathetic, not especially pleasant, lacking any intelligent insight and frankly, conventional to a fault. To her credit, she never tried to seduce me. Perhaps she found me lacking in that department.
Her only interesting if somewhat bizarre observation was when I asked her about her sexuality she retorted:
One of the big reports from Masters and Johnson said it is just as well that women have never culturally realized their full sexual potential, because men would never be able to cope, and I’m sure it’s true.
I have never understood why she retains such a reputation amongst a certain strata of the metropolitan elite and is even taught in secondary schools, but that may well be my loss.
I can’t help feeling, however, that the fairy story she most represents would be The Empresses’ Clothes.