I’m reading Angela Carter right now, and she’s proving deleterious to my writing efforts. She’s bloody brilliant, see, and when I sit down to type I end up just staring at my sentences and thinking, ‘I’m a clod. This is not good enough. This isn’t lyrical or suggestive or anything.’ And I’ll delete and start again.

Because Angela Carter writes incredibly lucid, beautiful prose, filled with cunning and wonderful words and with the most startlingly vivid images and colors. She might be a bit of a writer’s writer though, because you have to love language to read her, to savor her talent and skill with words. One reads Angela Carter best if one reads her slowly, perhaps even out loud, allowing each sentence to build upon the other, teasing out the fullness of what she’s describing and allowing her to overwhelm your senses. For example, from The Erl-King:

The lucidity, the clarity of the light that afternoon was sufficient to itself; perfect transparency must be impenetrable, these vertical bars of a brass-coloured distillation of light coming down from sulphur-yellow interstices in a sky hunkered with grey clouds that bulge with more rain.

She prefigures something I was trying to describe the other day, how cloud cover can be marbled with seams of light where the clumps of cloud touch but are insufficiently thick to block out the light altogether. But she does it better, using words I love like interstices. She’s like Michael Chabon in that one feels both inspired by their marvelous, almost overwhelming skill with language, and despair at ever being able to measure up.

But what can you do? You read, you savor and marvel and shake your head, and then turn to your own work and take a deep breath and do your best.

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