True Love and How to Get It by Gerard Lee & Bliss by Peter Carey

Reviewed by
June 1982, no. 41
Graham Burns reviews 'True Love and How to Get It' by Gerard Lee and 'Bliss' by Peter Carey

True Love and How to Get It

by Gerard Lee

University of Queensland Press, 217 pp, $9.95 0 7022 1656 9

Book Cover 2 Small

Bliss

by Peter Carey

University of Queensland Press, 296 pp, $12.95 0 7022 1654 2

True Love and How to Get It by Gerard Lee & Bliss by Peter Carey

Reviewed by
June 1982, no. 41

Peter Carey’s first novel, Bliss, will be self-recommending to all admirers of his astonishing short stories. The Fat Man in History and the even better War Crimes mark Carey as the most genuinely original of our storytellers – a fabulist and, in some corners of his imagination, a surrealist of disturbing power. Part of his achievement and, arguably, a sign of his freshness of vision is that his fictions manage so adroitly to slip through the critic’s webs of explication. They tend to resist any simple yielding up of their inner meaning at the same time as they touch the nerves of our general experience and social fears. The central figures of his narratives are typically trapped in the labyrinths of their obsessions or delusions, they are solitaries, often, like the fat men in the title story, both victims and perpetrators of their condition.

These characteristics are again to be encountered in Bliss, and it is interesting to see them emerge in the extended novel form, sometimes to their disadvantage. Harry Joy, the central character and intended hero, ‘was to die three times, but it was his first death which was to have the greatest effect upon him’, we are told in the novel’s arresting opening sentence. He runs a moderately successful advertising agency, is offered as the average ‘Good Bloke’, and at thirty-nine has his first coronary. Before he is revived from this first medical death, he discovers in his bodiless state that there are many worlds ‘layer upon layer’ and that ‘bliss and punishment, Heaven and Hell ‘somehow exist simultaneously within reach. The moral allegory is deft enough, and for the succeeding 290 pages Harry Joy is offered as a kind of moral hero who discovers in his second lease of life that the material and spiritual conditions of his existence are to be identified as Hell, and that to counter Hell one must of course be Good.


Subscribe to ABR


Graham Burns reviews 'True Love and How to Get It' by Gerard Lee and 'Bliss' by Peter Carey

True Love and How to Get It

by Gerard Lee

University of Queensland Press, 217 pp, $9.95 0 7022 1656 9

Book Cover 2 Small

Bliss

by Peter Carey

University of Queensland Press, 296 pp, $12.95 0 7022 1654 2

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.