Thursday, 7 April 2016

30 Blogs of Night: The Passion of New Eve

Day 7

The Passion of New Eve is a novel by Angela Carter, a Feminist view of a potential end of the world. It acts as a critique of male power and the role of women in not only allowing it but what the alternatives would be to patriarchy, and the mutability of gender.

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The protagonist, Evelyn, is a typical young man in a 1970s where the issues of the day, especially with regards to feminism and racial equality movements have boiled over, turning the USA into a war zone as it tears itself apart. Radical armies of women and blacks run riot, New York is a divided city as gangs seize control of different parts. As an Englishman in New York (he's an alien, an illegal alien) he is a stranger to the conflict, one who becomes entranced by a young black woman and begins a relationship with her. The way that falls out is symptomatic of the issues Carter is discussing and eventually leads to Evelyn fleeing New York, out into the rest of war torn America.

From here the story focuses on how Evelyn changes. Captured and operated upon by a militant goddess cult, he is transformed into a messianic woman, who the cult plan to impregnate with his own sperm to produce a new saviour. When this fails, Eve fleeing again, she is captured by Zero, a psychotic poet, a rapist and one of those figures who believes that dirt is holy.  He has an obsession with Tristessa, an aging film star who he believes stole his 'mojo' after a sexual encounter that happened before the world fell into the mad situation Carter conjures up.

Tristessa is a figure who appears continuously throughout the story, Evelyn too was obsessed with her, watching her films obsessively, having his first erotic thoughts because of her. The path that she takes, as Eve, with Zero inevitably leads to Tristessa, and the hideaway, come castle she has constructed for herself in the desert. A place of mirrors, statues and waxworks. As in The Lady of the House of Love, this Gothic presented as a tawdry, cheap experience. Reading it I wondered again, if it was a comment on the nascent subculture. It predates what I think of as the start of Goth by a few years, so it might be more a comment on cinema or other Gothic novels. It shares that decayed, fake opulence of Otranto and Udolpho, the spark of genius here is the commentary on sexism and gender, especially when Tristessa's secret is revealed.

Ultimately the novel is about womanhood, and how constructed it is, that even a man can become a woman. It also illustrates the destructiveness of male attitudes towards women, often in the most brutal ways. It's a good read, but not one for the faint hearted.

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