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the Complete Review
the complete review - essays

Shaking a Leg

Angela Carter

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To purchase Shaking a Leg

Title: Shaking a Leg
Author: Angela Carter
Genre: Essays
Written: 1964-92
Length: 606 pages
Availability: Shaking a Leg - US
Shaking a Leg - UK
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Our Assessment:

B : short journalistic pieces, on all sorts of subjects -- very readable, very well written.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 10/7/1997 Veronica Horwell
The NY Times Book Rev. . 27/12/1998 Wendy Steiner
Times Ed. Supp. . 3/7/1998 Adam Lively
Times Ed. Supp. . 18/7/1997 Michele Roberts
TLS . 15/8/1997 Melanie Phillips
World Lit. Today A- Summer/1998 Elin Elgaard

  From the Reviews:
  • "I have never read sequences of sentences whose trajectory is so utterly unpredictable. Carter gives and gives and then snatches away before you know what hit you. (...) It may be puzzling to consider Angela Carter's charms as a writer: her irreverence and rock-bottom good sense; her petulance and surprising erudition; her willful self-contradiction and sense of moral responsibility. Add it up and you have something like Enobarbus' verdict on Cleopatra: custom cannot stale her infinite variety -- a male take on feminine perfection if ever there was one." - Wendy Steiner, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       These so-called Collected Writings of Angela Carter bring together many of her smaller pieces -- book reviews and short articles, most written for New Society. Ordered not directly chronologically, but rather divided up thematically by editor Jenny Uglow, they provide a broad view of Carter's interests and abilities. Most famous for her fiction, Carter's style and curiosity also make her non-fiction of interest. The Sadeian Woman is an absolutely brilliant piece on one subject. Here we are introduced to a broader palette of subjects and themes, some of which will be familiar to readers of the earlier collection, Nothing Sacred.
       Carter writes comfortably and cleverly on any number of subjects. Some will be of greater interest to certain readers than others, but the book allows one to readily shift focus. Carter goes all over the place: fashion, cooking, foreign (and domestic) places, her family, and of course books. She expresses herself well, and even when she has little to say (as occasionally happens) she gets away with it. She is willing to write about most anything, and again she gets away with it. Particularly surprising to us is how little of the material seems dated: though there are pieces from the 60's and 70's here, specifically devoted to aspects of those eras, Carter is always very modern. Some of the names were long ago forgotten, but her refreshing style still captures our interest.
       Ms. Uglow has done a good job of presenting the pieces. There is little repetition, and the sections are short enough not to be overwhelming. We were, however, shocked that in our paperback edition Edvard Munch's name is spelt Münch at one point (p.451) and that J.M.Coetzee's novel is given as The Life and Times of Malcolm K. (p.554) (it is, of course, in Kleistian allusion, Michael K.). That is just shoddy editing, and for a book that had a Research Assistant's help in its preparation (Charlotte Croft) and has gone through a hardcover printing it is completely unacceptable.

       This is a book of incidental pieces. Written for magazines and newspapers the pieces are not major statements or elaborate essays. But they are exceptionally good for what they are. It is not a book to read through at one go, but like leafing through a magazine one can pick and choose what might be of interest. Carter is an excellent writer, and her style is suited to such small pieces. Recommended, quite highly, for anyone interested in that sort of thing.

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Shaking a Leg: Reviews: Angela Carter: Other books by Angela Carter under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Angela Carter (1940-1992) is best known for her fiction. She is the winner of numerous literary awards, including the John Llwellyn Rhys Prize (1967), the Somereset Maugham Award (1968), and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1984).

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