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Carter knew they weren’t compatible, she told a friend, when she made him take her to a fireworks display and he was bored by it. (Carter later said that she wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom with the door closed until she was a teenager.) Food was rationed in postwar Britain, but Carter’s mother set aside her own portions of sugar, butter, and milk for her daughter until Carter was, according to a family friend, “enormous.” When she was 17, in a dramatic assertion of autonomy, Carter began dieting ruthlessly.Within the span of a few months, she lost more than 40 pounds, took up smoking, and adopted a wardrobe calculated to shock her mother: tight black skirts, black stockings, black buckled boots, black fox-fur collars.
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“one of the greatest, if not the greatest, love stories ever written,” and in her fiction the male romantic leads tend to be feral, violent, and encrusted with dirt.
Paul, by contrast, had the soul of a record-store clerk.
In the 17-century version of the fairy tale by Charles Perrault, the bride is saved by her brothers-in-law; in Carter’s, it’s her mother, a military widow who comes galloping up the causeway, armed and dangerous, just as the killer is about to cut off the young wife’s head.
Carter narrates his reaction with a typical flourish: “The puppet master, open-mouthed, wide-eyed, impotent at the last, saw his dolls break free of their strings, abandon the rituals he had ordained for them since time began and start to live for themselves; the king, aghast, witnesses the revolt of his pawns.” His authority shattered, the husband is reduced to “one of those clockwork tableaux of Bluebeard that you see in glass cases at fairs.” Variations on this scene—the moment when the strings are cut and a familiar story suddenly veers off course—recur throughout Carter’s fiction.
They were enthusiastic members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which had strong ties to the folk scene.
Some of Carter’s “most moving and beautiful memories” were of going on the annual antinuclear Aldermaston March with him.The strongest emotions in her work are elicited by the prospect of a leap into the unknown, the event that could not be predicted or controlled.Unlike many writers shaped by the upheaval of the 1960s, Carter never disavowed the politics of that period or treated them as a temporary madness; she remained committed, throughout her life, to the possibility of radical change.Set in the “semi-criminal, semi-beatnik fringe” of a provincial city, it told the story of a bohemian junk dealer named Honeybuzzard who strangles a woman and then lays out her corpse with gold coins covering the eyes.Reviewers praised the book for its “strangeness.” Although anchored in the social realism that was the dominant literary style of the early ’60s, This savagery seemed to slip into her home life.Self-enclosed and painfully serious, he was described by Carter after they first met as a “simple, artsy Soho fifties beatnik”; one of her friends called him “an amiable teddy bear.” In her later years, Carter tended to downplay the importance of the marriage (she claimed to have had “more meaningful relationships with people I’ve sat next to on aeroplanes”), but Gordon makes it clear that Paul influenced her considerably.