Peter Carey

Ten years after the first ABR FAN Poll, the second one was limited to Australian novels published since 2000 (though we received votes for recent classics such as 1984, Voss, and Monkey Grip). When voting closed in mid-September, Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North emerged ...

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On learning that the premise of Peter Carey’s new novel involved a test of automobile reliability on a round trip across Australia, my first response was to dismiss it as a thin conceit for encompassing the country’s remoter landscape within a work of the imagination. The internet, however, quickly delivered old Pathé newsreels ...

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It’s always dangerous, I believe, to have heroes, but I do admire the author who gave us the wonders of Anna Karenina, say, and to come back to Conrad, how about this first paragraph of Lord Jim? ‘He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop to the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a barging bull’. I am in awe of Jim, with his ‘ability in the abstract’.

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Peter Carey’s new novel, Amnesia, is an odd-shaped – but not misshaped – tale about power and, more particularly, resistance to power. When the veteran leftist journalist Felix Moore writes the story of Gaby Baillieux, a young Australian cyber-activist, he finds himself, like Gaby, a fugitive. As if by magic, Gaby has unlocked Australian and US prison d ...

 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 write ...

Andreas Gaile presents his Rewriting History as Peter Carey’s biography of Australia. Before he gives us the facts of that biography, however, he suggests why Carey cannot write a biography of Australia: ‘there is no “real” Australia waiting to be uncovered. A national identity is an invention ...

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In the last essay in this collection, Robert Macfarlane touches on the main reasons why Peter Carey’s novels ‘have proved so very attractive to academic exegetes’, in their combination of the postmodern and the postcolonial. Just how attractive is demonstrated in the sixty-page bibliography, which is sure to be one of the most used parts of Fabulating Beauty, especially by overseas readers without access to the invaluable AustLit. Editor Andreas Gaile, a young German academic, notes in his introduction that Carey is now ‘the most widely commented-on living Australian author’. While Patrick White is currently well ahead, with more than twice as many critical items published on his work, Carey is catching up fast. Visit any bookshop, whether in Melbourne, London, or New York, and you will of course find many more titles by Carey than by White. If, as Simon During has argued, White was the perfect novelist for those wishing to argue for the academic significance of Australian literature in the 1950s and 1960s, then Carey has just as obviously caught the dominant theoretical currents of the past thirty years. While Tim Winton may sell just as well and, if ‘favourite book’ polls are any guide, be more loved, no one has yet published a major critical study of his work.

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Sometimes the best place to get a true picture of what Peter Carey is really thinking about his writing is in the international press coverage, in the slipstream of a book’s reception, when he is at least partly preoccupied with the next writing challenge. At such times, Carey’s sensitivities are vulnerable to exposure, as they were in an interview with Robert Birnbaum in an American regional newspaper after he won his second Booker Prize, for True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). Carey is speaking about readers and reviewers (whom he reluctantly acknowledges are also readers). Australian reviewers, he explains to his interviewer, are usually just journalists and therefore subject to literalness and plot summary, an approach that doesn’t work with his fiction.

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Theft by Peter Carey

by
April 2006, no. 280

Sometimes the best place to get a true picture of what Peter Carey is really thinking about his writing is in the international press coverage, in the slipstream of a book’s reception, when he is at least partly preoccupied with the next writing challenge. At such times, Carey’s sensitivities are vulnerable to exposure ...

... (read more)

To an outside observer of the Australian literary and cultural scene, the Ern Malley hoax is one of those spin-offs in the Australian experience that keep on conjuring up Mark Twain’s famous dictum of the nature of the country’s history: ‘It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies ... 

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