14 January 2012

'I can be cruel'

Eating Chinese takeout and watching Labyrinth with housemates in my bedroom is the greatest thing anybody can do mid-week. Cotes du Rhone, prawn crackers and fairy tales set in the 80s: a holy trinity. Labyrinth is an all-time favourite film of mine, and mostly stars Jennifer Connelly's covetable waistcoat/billowing white shirt combo and David Bowie's crotch. The ball scene is such fantasy, and is my fancy-dress theme of choice, and a black and white still of Sarah in her Princess dress among the masked guests is my desktop background. Jareth the Goblin King has an absurd mullet, indecently revealing leggings, a beautifully painted face with wicked eyebrows, and is oh so seductive. Classic villain material. 'I have been generous until now and I can be cruel' he tells the wide-eyed, desperate Sarah as he teases and dominates. Yet he is ultimately weakened by her. 'I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave'. David Bowie as one's slave, imagine that.

I have a thing for fairy tales. A somewhat unbridled thing. I grew up with so many old and dusty, embellished and illustrated compendiums, filled with stories from all traditions, folklores and far-flung lands. Tom Tit Tot and Mossycoat and endless old crones. Tomes of dark, dark imaginings. Of course there have been whole libraries written on the histories and psychological meanings of fairy tales, not to mention the many variations of the many tales, so I won't blather on like a wild bore. Suffice to say that Angela Carter is the Mistress of the genre. I reckon she probably loved Labyrinth too. Though that film does have a sense of the ridiculous, and for all that Angela can be over the top and grabbing of the juggernaut, she is never ridiculous. All is carnal and pure guts with Angela. Her stories are blood and moons and wolves and whole histories of storytelling.

'A dozen husbands impaled a dozen birds while the mewing of gulls swung on invisible trapezes in the empty air outside'

The Bloody Chamber, the title story of my favourite Carter collection, is set on Mont St Michel, that fated fateful place. My family and I would visit nigh on every year when I was younger. Castles and cobbled streets. It became mythic as the years went on and I was for a time less blood and guts, more disappearing flesh. Like something Angela would have conjured, vampiric appetites were sucking away happiness and histories so I was skinny and sad wandering along cobbles in a straw hat. [Angela was anorexic as a teenager, leaving a legacy of appetites and hungers and, especially in her novels, most excellent descriptions of foodstuffs. At one point in a short story she describes a vision of 'anorexic trees', which is a beautiful evocation of winter I think.] My brother bought a t-shirt bearing the island's image the last time we were in Mont St Michel. It is one of the few t-shirts I didn't steal. Mont St Michel was a little too close to the bone, so I felt weird about having it close to my actual bones.

I have been loaned a book entitled The Uses of Enchantment: The Meanings and Importance of Fairy Tales by the fairytale-named Bruno Bettelheim. I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into it.

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