Posted on | February 25, 2010 | 14 Comments
I discovered the wonderful world of Angela Carter only last year, and I’ve been trying to read all her works slowly, savouring every moment of it. Of course, the bonus is the gorgeous covers, which draws me to her books like a moth….
The thing with Several Perceptions is, it’s totally unlike anything I’ve read before. “Down the rabbit hole” would be one way to describe it, as we join Joseph, a disillusioned young man, in the 1960s, as he grapples with the meaning of life. Set in the Bohemian ‘flower power’ era, the people we meet fit some of the much talked about 1960s stereotypes: nature lovers, infrequent bathers, and people roaming the streets barefoot.
Joseph, it seems, is going through a very early midlife crisis. His girlfriend has moved on without him, and he’s just listless, as he sees some less than ideal things around him: Vietnam, children taunting an old man with an imaginary fiddle, the caged badger in the zoo…
After a failed suicide attempt, Joseph tries to return to life, pulling all kinds of crazy stunts – some hilarious, some psychotic. They seem equally balanced between being well thought out and impulsive, and one just wonders what unexpected event is going to occur next.
If Joseph’s adventures with his friends and neighbours isn’t addictive enough to read about, we also meet his psychiatrist, and gain some more insight into the way the mind works for some people!
“I bet those lepers hated St. Francis,” he added unexpectedly. “Fancy having a perfect stranger come up and kiss you just ‘coz you’ve got a skin infection, just to show off what a big heart he had, you never hear the leper’s side of the story. What if a leper out of the blue had jumped up and kissed St. Francis. I bet St. Francis would have been ever so affronted.”
While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as The Magic Toyshop, I still found it to be a witty fascinating book, and loved the characters – the fact that they all seemed polar opposites of one another. There are multifarious allusions to a myriad of things: from Alice In Wonderland, to Freud! It seems like a completely different world, with completely different rules, which change every moment of every day. In the words of Queen, “Easy come, easy go” just about sums up Joseph’s life.
Just discovered that this is Carter’s third book, and was written right after The Magic Toyshop. The subjects she deals with are so different, but, she still does an incredible job of holding the whole plot together, without overdoing the hyperbolism.