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  1. That Bloody Book
  2. Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth
  3. That Bloody Book by Tony Flower
  4. Femme fatale: Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber

The stories in The Bloody Chamberare fired by the conviction that human nature is not immutable, that human beings are capable of change.

That Bloody Book

Some of their most brilliant passages are accounts of metamorphoses. Think of "The Courtship of Mr Lyon", which ends with Beast transformed by Beauty - "When her lips touched the meathook claws, they drew back into their pads and she saw how he had always kept his fists clenched, but now, painfully, tentatively, at last began to stretch his fingers"; or of the story with which it is twinned, "The Tiger's Bride", where this time Beauty is transformed by Beast - "And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shiny hairs.

My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur". The heroines of these stories are struggling out of the straitjackets of history and ideology and biological essentialism.

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And in the movie It's very important that if we haven't, we might as well stop now. The unnamed first-person heroine of The Bloody Chamber's title story appears at first to be a Justine-like sacrificial virgin in a white dress, routinely destined for immolation; however, she changes during the narrative, and finishes by escaping her inheritance - female masochism as a modus vivendi and morendi - after a full-scale survey of its temptations.

This story is also a version of the Bluebeard fairy tale that appeared in Perrault's collection, where a new bride unlocks the forbidden room in her husband's castle to find the murdered corpses of his former wives.

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Perrault drew the moral that female curiosity leads to retribution, though in the France of his time, where death in childbirth was commonplace and four-fifths of the resultant widowers remarried, the bloody chamber might surely have been seen as the womb. In Carter's 20th-century version, the menace is located not in the perils of childbirth, but in the darker side of hetero-sexuality, in sadomasochism and the idea of fatal passion.

As well as all this, The Bloody Chamber is a tour de force in its recreation of late- 19th-century France. Carter claimed the stories in this collection could not have existed the way they did without the example of Isak Dinesen - "because in a way they are imitation 19th-century stories, like hers"; such stories are she described elsewhere "highly structured artefacts with beginnings, middles, and ends and a schematic coherence of imagery".

Certainly this is an accurate description of The Bloody Chamber's title story, which, like each of the highly wrought stories in Isak Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales, reads almost like a novella.

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth

Nearly all her writing is strikingly full of cultural and intertextual references, but this story is extremely so. It is an artfully constructed edifice of signs and allusions and clues.

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On the walls of his castle hang paintings of dead women by Moreau, Ensor and Gauguin; he listens to Wagner specifically "Liebestod" - "love-death" - in Tristan und Isolde ; he smokes Romeo y Julieta cigars "fat as a baby's arm"; his library is stocked with graphically- described sadistic pornography and his dungeon chamber with mutilated corpses and itemised instruments of torture. In this heavily perfumed story, the Marquis' smell of spiced leather, Cuir de Russie, is referred to more than half a dozen times, reverting at the end "to the elements of flayed hide and excrement of which it was composed".

Descriptions of scented lilies, "cobraheaded, funereal", smelling of "pampered flesh", appear nine times, their fat stems like "dismembered arms". The words "immolation," "impalement", "martyr" and "sacrifice" occur, motif-like, at regular intervals but, abruptly - rather too abruptly for some critics - on the last two pages of this novella-length story the heroinevictim is rescued from decapitation by the sudden arrival of her pistol-toting maman, who puts a bullet through the Marquis' head. Her fate is not immutable after all; she discovers that her future looks quite different now that she has escaped from the old story and is learning to sing a new song.

There follow three cat tales. The first two are Beauty and the Beast transformations, as described earlier. Carter writes with tremendous relish when describing skin, fur, fabric and snowcovered landscapes.

That Bloody Book by Tony Flower

To say she is wonderful at surfaces sounds a little disparaging, as if to say she is superficial. No; she is good at surfaces as the Gawain poet is good at surfaces. The third cat story, "Puss-in-Boots", is utterly different from its predecessors. It is "the first story that I wrote that was supposed to be really funny, out-and-out funny", said Carter.

It is a precursor in its ribald cynical tone to her last two novels, Nights at the Circus and Wise Children, and in its turningaway from the Gothic mode towards the determinedly benign. The first-person narrator, the cat himself, is a witty raconteur and master of innuendo, proceeding mainly by rhetorical questions and exclamations.

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His language is a vivid mixture of Latinate elaboration and Anglo-saxon bluntness: The next three stories, at the centre of the book, fit less easily into this collection. In each one of them, lovers are lethal, traditional romantic patterns kill, and sex leads to death. It is based on a variant of "Snow White", which the brothers Grimm collected but chose not to publish, in which Snow White's birth is a result of her father's desire rather than her mother's, as in the more familiar version of the story. It started life as a radio play, Vampirella first broadcast in , so probably written well before the rest of this collection, which Carter said she wrote mostly during her time in Sheffield, where she was Arts Council Fellow from Carter, an avid reader of Anne Rice's vampire novels, said the idea for the radio play came to her when she was sitting idly trying to work and ran a pencil along the top of a radiator - "It was just the noise that a long, pointed fingernail might make if it were run along the bars of a birdcage.

Finally, three disparate werewolf tales work and rework the story of Red Riding Hood, borrowing variants from different centuries, compulsively circling the figures of the werewolf, the old woman and the young girl. The girl cuts off the wolf's paw, but finds that it is really her grandmother's hand. The old woman is stoned to death as a witch.

Its first pages are given to a zestful atmospheric essay on the wolf, "carnivore incarnate", with vivid werewolf anecdotes. Not until over a third of the way into the story does the Red Riding Hood narrative begin. The filmmaker Neil Jordan remembered: I suggested to her that we develop it into a Chinese box structure At the end of Perrault's familiar version of the story, she gets into bed with the wolf and is gobbled up.

We must learn to cope with the world before we can interpret it. Last of all, "Wolf-Alice" returns to Gothic territory and the gloomy mansion of a werewolf-duke. The story also borrows from an early medieval Red Riding Hood analogue, De puella a lupellis servata, which tells the story of a feral child suckled by wolves. Again, there is a lice-borne rejection of disgust at animal nature in an evocation of "the Eden of our first beginnings where Eve and grunting Adam squat on a daisy bank, picking the lice from one another's pelts".

Femme fatale: Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber

I loved the way it transformed from an unassuming simple white chair on stage to hidden surprises and gems being revealed throughout the show, complementing the sentiments in the foreground. And the use of a thrust stage heightened the rock concert-like atmosphere perfectly.

It would have been too easy to replace femininity with feminism and humanity with activism but instead the costuming, set and intelligent acting on stage supported the script beautifully in this respect. And this would not have happened without the astute direction of Kip Chapman. His ability to create a sensory feast for the audience of That Bloody Woman is unparalleled. However, having managed rock bands in a previous life, I Sharu felt the bass and drums should have been more a driving force, given that they are essentially the backbone of any band and even more so in a rock band arena. The technical choice to diminish the gutsiness of the bass and drum sound reduced their potentially powerful performance.

That Bloody Woman is a quintessentially Godzone show and the numerous references both contemporary and post could mean that an overseas audience would probably miss much of the in-jokes, asides and commentary. Details see AT C. The show is then heading down to the Court Theatre in Christchurch, and will play from the 2nd — 30th July.

That Bloody Woman - ENOUGH!

Hi Sharu- thank you- very much appreciated that you have so accurately expressed what we were trying portray with the costumes!