"tale of two people, of love and the Zodiac and the Cabbalah, of Transylvania and Mesopotamia converging at the Caucusus, of a mad Hungarian King...and of a woman's discovery of an initiatory code that leads to a Cyclopean obstacle, to love, self and awareness..."A crappy used acceptable copy is pricy enough to keep it out of my hands, but someone really ought to do a reprint version. With interest in Carrington's work starting to revive, it would be a worthy and most likely welcome endeavor.
"These stories are weird and jagged and enchanting, fragmented and strikingly visual, barely stories at all sometimes, but oddly compulsive. How else to describe a collection that includes a woman winning the corpse of Joseph Stalin in the lottery and using it to cure whooping cough and syphillis?"The bit about Joseph Stalin's corpse being used to treat diseases sounds off the wall and cryptic, but once you read the story ("How to Start a Pharmaceuticals Business"), it turns out to make a lot of sense. And this is just one part of the multi-faceted genius of Leonora Carrington's short stories -- they are put together with a logic that works in the worlds she creates, so much so that when a hostess of a party in "The House of Fear" wears a dress made of "live bats sewn together by their wings" and there is a group of horses playing a game where they
"simultaneously beat time to the tune of the 'Volga Boatmen' with your left foreleg, 'The Marseillaise' with your right foreleg, and 'Where have You Gone, My Last Rose of Summer' with your two back legs"it doesn't seem weird at all. These stories are more than fable, more than just weird tales, and as Kathryn Davis says about them, "Nothing is what it seems to be." The collection is beyond outstanding; I will say that I spent a lot of time reading about Carrington's life before reading her fiction, and it definitely provided some measure of insight into her work.
Exact Change, 1996
originally published 1974
"Not only will you be able to sit and listen to beautiful music and intelligent conversation but you will also have the privilege of being able to spy on what your whole family are saying about you, and that ought to be very amusing."What Marian hears is her family's plan to put her in an institution in Santa Brigada, which is run by the Well of Light Brotherhood and financed by "a prominent American cereal company." Once there, it doesn't take Marian too long to figure out that the place is a front for a strange cult, and among other things, she begins to have weird dreams and becomes obsessed with a strange portrait of a winking nun. And while all of this seems patently absurd, once again, there's a certain logic to it all, none the least of which is that in leaving the mundane world, Marian has crossed over into another. It is a great story, laugh-out-loud funny at times while deadly serious; it is cloaked in mythology and alchemical lore, and offers the story of a woman whose life begins to take on purpose at a ripe old age as she becomes initiated into a special world of secrets. It's so much more, but it is difficult to describe the indescribable, so we'll leave it there. I loved this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Both books are absolutely delightful to read -- as a writer, Carrington is out there but her work is not only gorgeous, it's positively genius.
I will say that the more potential readers know about her life before going into her fiction, the more you'll see it in these stories. I also want to mention a particularly excellent book on Carrington by Susan L. Aberth called Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art; another good source is Whitney Chadwick's Farewell to the Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism. Her cousin Joanna Moorhead wrote a biography entitled The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington -- this one is okay for facts but Moorhead sort of misses the boat in a lot of places otherwise. Still, it's a start.