Wordsmith Wednesday: Angela Carter’s “The Loves of Lady Purple”

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This week’s Wordsmith comes from the short story “The Loves of Lady Purple” from Angela Carter’s collection entitled Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces. It reads:

“The puppeteer speculates in a no-man’s-limbo between the real and that which, although we know very well it is not, nevertheless seems to be real. He is the intermediary between us, his audience, the living, and they, the dolls, the undead, who cannot live at all and yet who mimic the living in every detail since, though they cannot speak or weep, still they project those signals of signification we instantly recognize as language.

The master of marionettes vitalizes inert stuff with the dynamics of his self. The sticks dance, make love, pretend to speak and, finally, personate death; yet, so many Lazaruses out of their graves they spring again in time for the next performance and no worms drip from their noses nor dust clogs their eyes. All complete, they once again offer their brief imitations of men and women with an exquisite precision which is all the more disturbing because we know it to be false; and so this art, if viewed theologically, may, perhaps, be subtly blasphemous.”

Acting as a preface to the story, these two paragraphs attempt to encapsulate the art of the puppeteer, detailing all the precision, care, and realism that must go into these marionettes. But if we go ahead and replace each puppeteer with author, and marionette with character, Carter gives us a beautiful and complex demonstration of what it means to be a writer who must create these characters from the two-dimensionality of pen and paper, moving thought to words. The impersonation of life and death and the whirlwind that happens in-between. This is what writers must make real, believable, and empathetic. This is what they must create anew with each story they write or each character they create. The struggles must be real. The death must make us cry. And the love must imitate that which we have felt before.

– KK

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