Fireworks is a very apt name for this collection of stories: like fireworks, they are short, sharp bursts of concentrated but brief beauty, all with an underlying element of danger. However, while Angela Carter always writes excellently and has an amazing way with words, this was definitely not my favourite of her short story collections. Although her prose is rich and full it sometimes feels a little stifling in this book and I often caught myself committing the sacrilege of wishing for fewer words and more plot.
In the story `A Souvenier of Japan' Angela Carter's fictional self says: "But I do not want to paint our circumstantial portraits so that we emerge with enough well-rounded, spuriously detailed actuality that you are forced to believe in us. I do not want to practise such sleight of hand. You must be content only with glimpses of our outlines, as if you had caught sight of our reflections in the looking-glass of somebody else's house as you passed by the window." (p. 10) This is a fair illustration of how these stories work: they don't provide full narratives with fleshed out characters, but give tantalising glimpses into worlds where you can never be quite certain of anything. There is a dream-like quality to the stories which makes them feel uncanny and remote and just a little bit too odd for me, I think. Carter's epilogue explains exactly what she was doing in this collection and I found that very helpful, illuminating some of the more bizarre elements of these madcap stories (particularly the incest; I swear incest has been a theme in almost everything I've read by Carter now). I always enjoy it when an author decides to let their readers in on their thought processes, particularly when they are as patently oddball as Carter's, so this provided a welcome opportunity to help untangle some of my thoughts on the book.