Angela Carter and Lascivious Scissors


The Pocket Book Club embarked on the strange journey that is The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter.

The Passion of New Eve sets up a dystopian world where civil war has broken out in the United States.  Evelyn, a male English professor travels from England to take up a position in New York, but his university is taken over my militant rebel black group. The book was born in the tumultuous 1970s and this must have seemed an imaginable near future.

I discovered by playing in Listopia on Goodreads that I have a thing for dystopian books. I really did not know it – many of my favourite books are in the top 20 dystopian books list. Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, McCarthy’s The Road, and  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I think Angela Carter was taken from this world much too soon. I am trying to imagine how extraordinary Carter’s gender-swapping and gender challenging characters must have seemed when the book was published in 1977.  There is nothing middle of the road about this book. It is quirky and eccentric and quite funny.

Carter writes beautifully. Evelyn imagines his new city will be peopled by

…loquacious cab-drivers black but beaming chambermaids and a special kind of crisp-edged girl with apple-crunching incisors and long, gleaming legs like lascivious scissors…

There is a disturbing undercurrent of violence in the relationships in the book. Evelyn falls in with a girl/woman who

…had something of the awful delicacy of those china ornaments that invite you to smash them, because they are so fragile.

He describes her as “dressed meat”.

Evelyn travels to the desert:

…I reached the desert, the abode of the enforced sterility, the dehydrated sea of infertility, the post-menopausal part of the earth.

Seriously, I read sentences like that an I just swoon and go all fan-girl.

Pocket Book club got a kick out reading this book. Groovy, funny, out there, gross (rats the size of pigs eating people). It was simultaneously compared to Alice in Wonderland and Barbarella.

But will it make it to the favourites list? Next post I will reveal the results of the 2017 vote and the favourite Pocket Book club book of all time!

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