Angela Carter on 'Narrative'?
The writer Angela Carter (1940-1992) thought fairy tales important in her identity and development as a writer of fiction, as Michael Schmidt informs us, basing his information on a remembrance by A. S. Byatt:
Carter talked about the centrality of fairy tales to her writing. Indeed, "she had realized that she was a writer because of fairy tales, because she was hooked on narrative as a child, not by realist novels about social behavior or how to be a good girl, but by these very primitive stories that go I think a lot deeper." (Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 905)Note the importance of narrative. But what is narrative? What did Carter mean by the term? Does Byatt's full remembrance offer more? Let's look at Schmidt's source, Philip Hensher's interview of Byatt for The Paris Review, "A. S. Byatt, The Art of Fiction No. 168" (Fall 2001):
The writer intervenes in the reader's memory as well, recasting stories, the fairy stories that shape our sense of narrative and of the potential roles of the heroes and villains that conventionally inhabit them. (Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 905-906)
I remember my first meeting with Angela Carter, with whom I became great friends later. We all went to hear Stevie Smith reading her poetry - lots of writers around her, rather like a bullring - and she stood in the middle and read. On the way out this very disagreeable woman stomped up to me, and she said, My name's Angela Carter. I recognized you and I wanted to stop and tell you that the sort of thing you're doing is no good at all, no good at all. There's nothing in it - that's not where literature is going. That sort of thing. And off she stomped. Then about five years ago she said that she had realized that she was a writer because of fairy tales, because she was hooked on narrative as a child, not by realist novels about social behavior or how to be a good girl, but by these very primitive stories that go I think a lot deeper. It wasn't until she said it that I felt empowered, which is why I have to acknowledge that she said it. As a little girl, I didn't like stories about little girls. I liked stories about dragons and beasts and princes and princesses and fear and terror and the four musketeers and almost anything other than nice little girls making moral decisions about whether to tell the teacher about what the other little girl did or did not do. My poor grandchildren live in a world where children's books are about how awful it is to live in horrible blocks of flats in deprived areas of cities, which they ought to know, but you can understand entirely why everybody fell upon Harry Potter, which is more grown-up also.Is "narrative" what we're talking about here, or fantasy? But enough inquiry for today . . .