Title: Burning Your Boats
Author: Angela Carter
Genre: Short stories
Read it if: You like dreamy, alluring, unnatural narratives
“The woods enclose. You step between fir trees and then you are no longer in open air; the woods swallow you up.”
Angela Carter’s Burning Your Boats is her entire collection of short stories. That means we see fragments of a winters day, a brief sojourn to Japan, the fatalistic love story of the Erl-King, an erotically charged twist on Shakespeare, a sociopath who carves flutes from the bones of her lovers.
Every line of Carter’s work – especially her subversive fairy tales – is poetic in a way that can only be defined as preternatural, and reading her work is like shedding the shackles of reality and slipping into a world of extraordinary beauty and quiet agitation. It’s like brushing up against silk while taking water into your lungs. There is no hesitancy in her writing, but a subtle conviction that produces a thick, intense need to read each story again, and again, and again.
I first read her short story, The Erl-King, on a blustery day dividing autumn and winter. Something about that day – the wind shaking the trees outside my window, the flicker of the fire in the grate – embedded in me a certain infatuation with her writing that I have yet to shed. Not that I’d want to.