American Ghosts and Old World Wonders by Angela Carter

By Angela Carter

A suite of brief tales which tear throughout the data of cinema, of paintings and of the unconscious. a tender Lizzie Borden visits the circus; a pianist makes a Faustian pact in a fly-blown Southern brothel; and a transfigured Mary Magdalene steps out of the canvases of Donatello and de los angeles journey.

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That had now become the situation in science fiction, as well, and with various ups and downs, that is the situation today. In all, it took the major houses about five years, from 1950 to 1955, to make it so. After ten years, this pendulum may now be getting ready to swing back the other way. Too many new "novels" are not former magazine serials--however arrived at--but puffed-up novelettes. Some of them were books all along, cut down for magazine use. But by far the greater percentage are not--they are padded, patched together or published in a design form that makes a lousy forty thousand words stretch across too many pages which are mostly margin and elephantiasical type.

Consider that he has to please himself; he may claim he does not care what he writes or how, but he must write to sell, and that elementary need alone operates to shape his choice of word-arrangements. He may claim that he does not care if he sells . . but you can see where that leads. The writer who doesn't care is the least free of all writers, and often a suffering slave to his own notions of excellence. Then he has to get past an editor, who is in turn conscious of his publisher. To an at least appropriate degree, and often to a point of paranoia, the three of them are conscious of what they believe the reader wants.

Some of them were books all along, cut down for magazine use. But by far the greater percentage are not--they are padded, patched together or published in a design form that makes a lousy forty thousand words stretch across too many pages which are mostly margin and elephantiasical type. They are sometimes written by third-rate writers who are being overpaid in compensation for missing the apprenticeship that magazine work forces on its steady practitioners. These flat souffles are in turn subjected to the attentions of blurb writers and sales promotion directors who describe and package them to be more attractive and rewarding than they really are.

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