Book of a lifetime: Shaking a Leg

Susannah Clapp warmly remembers her wild and imperious friend through her collected journalism – struck by its forthrightness, imagination, unpredictability, ferocity and exactitude

It is her fairy stories that are credited with changing people’s lives. It is her novels for which her prose gets most praise. Angela Carter refashioned the docility of fairytale heroines – Sleeping Beauty, she observed, did not have much “get up and go” – and invented creatures who were wild and wilful.

She gave fictional prose a good going-over with her rich swerves between fantasy and realism. Yet it is her journalism, collected in the 1997 volume Shaking a Leg, to which I find myself returning again and again, struck freshly by its forthrightness, its imagination, its unpredictability – and by the sheer range of subjects on which she was fluent.

She wrote with dashing erudition and explosive force on psychoanalysis, on Christina Stead and on the importance of the potato. She told us that DH Lawrence was “a stocking man, not a leg man”, that her grandmother had something of St Pancras station about her, and that Cagney and Lacey was “propaganda, not for the police but for women as free, equal citizens”. She made you feel she was always speaking her own truth. (read the full article here)