The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter

There are times when you read or see something and all of a sudden it connects with every thing that follows.

I dyed my hair, again. While I was in the store figuring out the right shade of teenage rebellion sehnsucht I was distracted by groups of teenagers, who were anxiously trying on fake plugs or picking out a piercing with jittery fingers trying to say something vaguely cool in front of their friends (and failing), who were equally anxious, and excited all at the same time.

In a different way, like I have been connecting everything this past week or so, this reminded me of Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop. I cannot say I loved it all too much, but it’s been lingering in my consciousness. The story itself is unimportant in this but the more symbolic narrative, reinforced by the drugged atmospheric writing sticks in a sort of frightening way.

The book begins with the most sensuous description of a girl’s discovery of one’s own body, the part where you’re that special kind of young where you still love yourself and touch yourself and look at yourself in such beautiful anticipation. But then abruptly stops.

From thereon the story becomes gradually violent, confusing and so smothering, always in that same little dark building with those creepy dolls hovering over you with their weird allegories. With that huge phallic symbol of a ghost man that makes you afraid to breathe. The highlight when Melanie is physically but, I guess, mostly symbolically confronted with a man’s desire was gross and scary and violent and you felt like suffocating, losing your childhood and facing something of an inhibitive stoic adulthood. At the same time your face flushed and your shaking hands were waiting to embrace (sexual) maturity while being too afraid to touch it. But longing anyway. And it only culminated in destruction, however small or however big it seemed. And disappointment, too, but it’s the good kind somehow, and you’re left with a comparative calmness and a stillness so foreign you could never have imagined it. And some zit scars.