Black Venus is a slim collection of short stories that appeared in various publications between 1977 and 1982. Although one of her lesser known works it, nonetheless, allows Angela Carter to display her usual expertise at playing the role of master entertainer pulling the strings on her bizarre, exotic and decadent characters. Her extravagant style is never allowed to drift into sentiment or excessive fantasy by her use of earthy metaphors, ancient bawdy humour and exploration of exotic and cruel desires.
Carter takes the reader straight into the world of Baudelaire's syphilis ridden mistress as she voluptuously and resentfully dances for her poet inspiring him to write his infamous Les Fleurs du Mal. Edgar Allan Poe waits for his bejewelled and theatrical mother to return from death as he sits plagued by the ghosts of his wife. The story of the Golden Herm, a hermaphrodite languishing in an English wood and lustfully pursued by the hairy and perverse Puck, is filled with dazzlingly images that flaunt Angela Carter's command of the English language and its literary traditions. Lizzie Borden restlessly sits in a house full of locked rooms, beset by shapeless terrors and the relentless Massachusetts summer and on the verge of committing murder.
There is an uneven quality in the overall collection as some of the stories are more in the vein of entertaining fables that can suffer from comparison with the richness and exquisite prose found in the best tales Black Venus has to offer. Nor does Black Venus quite reach the heights of more famous works such as Love or Nights at the Circus but the stories contain more than enough reading pleasure to satisfy and delight fans and newcomers alike.