Flights of fancy

Flights of fancy

The Chemistry of Tears

by Peter Carey

Hamish Hamilton, $39.95 hb, 288 pp, 9781926428154

 In his closing address to the 2010 Sydney Writers’ Festival, Peter Carey made a plea on behalf of the fading ‘cult’ of serious reading. This prompted a fierce riposte from Bryce Courtenay: ‘There’s no such thing as popular writing versus literary writing. If I’m a popular writer then Peter Carey is an unpopular writer. If I’m a best-selling writer then he’s a worst-selling writer’ (Crikey, 9 June 2010). Courtenay’s full comments were somewhat more nuanced than the ensuing newspaper headlines suggested. He challenged the creators of Australian ‘literary fiction’ to acknowledge how many readers are – that is, aren’t – attracted to their output. But Courtenay’s suggestion that Carey is ‘unpopular’ is only true if we compare Carey to an author such as Matthew Reilly (using Courtenay’s example), or to Courtenay himself. While I am not privy to Carey’s global sales figures, I would wager that a hefty majority of Australian novelists would envy his readership.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in February 2012 no. 338
Patrick Allington

Patrick Allington

Patrick Allington was the recipient of the inaugural ABR Patrons’ Fellowship, worth $5000. His novel, Figurehead (Black Inc. 2009), was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. His short fiction and book criticism appears in Australian newspapers, magazines, and journals, including regularly in ABR.

Leave a comment

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

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login 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 comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.