‘Flesh And The Mirror’ by Angela Carter

Flesh And The Mirror by Angela Carter, 1974

The magic trick:

Balancing plot with rich, lyrical writing

This is some serious writing. Carter evokes a Tokyo here that is both seductive and soulless. It reminds me some of Stuart Dybek (or vice versa) in that it balances a grand style of lyrical writing with an actual plot. There are also several asides where the narrator assesses her life and drops gems of wisdom.

This is such a smart story. “I was always imagining other things that could have been happening, instead,” she writes, “and so I always felt cheated, always dissatisfied.” One sentence, plenty to chew on.

It all suits the story’s mirror motif too. The narrator is so much in her own head that she writes about herself as two people – the one living the narrative, and the one watching herself live the narrative. That kind of thing just begs for rich, lyrical writing. And that’s quite a trick on Carter’s part. 

The selection:

The crowds lapped round me like waves full of eyes until I felt that I was walking through an ocean whose speechless and gesticulating inhabitants, like those with whom medieval philosophers peopled the countries of the deep, were methodical inversions or mirror images of the dwellers on dry land. And I moved through these expressionist perspectives in my black dress as though I was the creator of all and of myself, too, in a black dress, in love, crying, walking through the city in the third person singular, my own heroine, as though the world stretched out from my eye like spokes from a sensitized hub that galvanized all to life when I looked at it.

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