Peter   Peter Carey
Photograph by Stuart Campbell

Brief Biography

Peter Carey was born in Bacchus Marsh in Victoria in 1943, and was later educated at Monash University, where he studied science. His early contact with the writers Barry Oakley and Morris Lurie turned him towards writing and advertising and he supported himself by writing advertising copy during the early part of his literary career (a trait he shares with Salman Rushdie).

Carey moved from Melbourne to London and then to Sydney before taking up residence in New York in the late 80s where he teaches creative writing at New York University.

His first three novels were all received to much acclaim though his fourth, The Tax Inspector, received more than its fair share of criticism in my view. Illywhacker was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1985 and Oscar and Lucinda won the award in 1988. It was considered, by many critics, a terrible oversight that his novel, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, was not even shortlisted.

Carey has also been successful on the prize front in Australia with Bliss, Oscar and Lucinda and Jack Maggs all winning the Miles Franklin Award. His novel True History of the Kelly Gang was shortlisted for the 2001 Miles Franklin Award, and My Life as a Fake was shortlisted for the 2004 Award. Illywhacker, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs all won The Age Book of the Year Award.

Although not considered a science fiction writer as such, Carey utilises some elements in his writing which have caught the eye of a number of science fiction readers in Australia and around the world. Illywhacker won the Ditmar Award for Best Australian Science Fiction Novel in 1986 and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in the same year.

In May 1998, it was announced that Jack Maggs had won the 1998 Commonwealth Writers Prize. As a result of this Carey appeared to get himself a bit of hot water due to him declining an invitation to meet the Queen - a standard invitation issued to all winners of the award. Carey cited family and personal reasons for his decision. Some members of the print media here in Australia and the UK read more into it than that, stating that Carey was swayed by his republican leanings. Peter Carey has made no secret of his feelings on the issue of an Australian Republic but I would have thought that his decision not to meet the Queen was a real storm in a teacup. I, for one, noticed that the sun rose the morning after I read this in the paper. Maybe Australian newspapers ran the story in response to its appearance in the British tabloids. Bigger fool them. This rates only slightly higher than media assumptions that Carey is some sort of "traitor to Australian Literature" (caps imperative) because he has made the decision to live in New York. Where he lives is his business. Criticising him for it is like objecting to him wearing glasses. Totally ridiculous.

With news that Peter Carey has won the Miles Franklin Award for the third time with Jack Maggs, is the indication that he would meet the Queen after all. It certainly appears that his previous decision was merely an attempt by him to postpone the meeting rather than putting it off completely. When invited by Buckingham Palace, Carey requested an adjournment so he could attend to some family business back in New York - it appears that he had been spending vast amounts of time flying in the previous few weeks and just needed to get back home for a while. The Palace decided to cancel his meeting rather than postponing it per se, which gave the tabloids all the ammunition they needed.

In 2001, Carey's novel True History of the Kelly Gang was shortlisted for the 2001 Miles Franklin Award - though it didn't win. It did, however, win the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the 2001 Man Booker Prize, making Carey only the second author, after J.M. Coetzee, to win the Man Booker prize twice..


Bliss 1981
Illywhacker 1985
Oscar and Lucinda 1988
The Tax Inspector 1991
The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith1994
Jack Maggs 1997
True History of the Kelly Gang 2000
My Life as a Fake 2003
Theft: A Love Story 2006

The Big Bazoohley 1995

Short Story Collections
The Fat Man in History 1974
War Crimes 1979
Exotic Pleasures 1990
Collected Stories 1994 - includes all of the first two collections plus three previously uncollected works.

Other Short Stories
"Room No. 5 (Escribo)" - appears in The Oxford Book of Australian Short Stories selected by Michael Wilding
"Report on the Shadow Industry" - appears in Mortal Fire: Best Australian SF presented by Terry Dowling and Van Ikin.

A Letter to Our Son 1994
30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account 2001
Wrong About Japan 2004

Until the End of the World 1992 - directed by Wim Wenders.

Film Adaptations
Bliss 1985 - directed by Ray Lawrence, from a screenplay by Peter Carey and Ray Lawrence, featuring Barry Otto. From the novel of the same name.
Dead End Drive-In 1986 - directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, from a screenplay by Peter Smalley, featuring Ned Manning.
Oscar and Lucinda 1997 - directed by Gillian Armstrong, from a screenplay by Laura Jones, featuring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett. From the novel of the same name.

Web Published Writing
Peter Carey's Letter from New York, Observer newspaper, 23 September 2001.

Interviews with Peter Carey on the Web
Powell's Bookshop - after the publication of Jack Maggs.
BoldType Magazine - after the publication of Jack Maggs.
BBC News - just prior to the announcement of Carey's 2001 Booker win for True History of the Kelly Gang - audio available.
BBCi website - after publication of True History of the Kelly Gang - video available. - after publication of True History of the Kelly Gang - audio available.
Book Page - after publication of My Life as a Fake.
The Atlantic Online - after publication of My Life as a Fake.
The Morning News - after publication of My Life as a Fake.
The Connection - after publication of My Life as a Fake - audio available.
The Daily Cardinal - after publication of Wrong About Japan.
The Bulletin - at the time of the publication of Theft

Other Web Pages
Peter Carey has his own website opening soon.
Probably the best of the other Peter Carey sites around is the one maintained by Rebecca J Vaughan from the Flinders University of South Australia. Lots of good interesting information here.
While not specifically about Carey the article titled 'Inside publishing: environments of the publishing house: publishers and the Australian Book Publishers Association' by Albert Moran in The Media of Publishing gives a few details about the reasons for the author's choice of publisher here in Australia.
Nicholas Dunlop maintains a Peter Carey Bibliography site which contains a long list of secondary references to Carey's work. Note, the site hasn't been updated in nearly ten years.
Of the web-based encyclopedias, Wikipedia maintains a comprehensive Peter carey entry, and Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia has a Peter Carey page which provides a biography and a note that Carey's style is "a mixture of realism and fantasy that has been compared to the work of American novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges."
The Guardian newspaper from the UK has a Peter Carey page containing links to stories and reviews from past issues of that paper.

Critical Appraisals
Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame Karen Lamb 1992
Dancing on Hot Macadam: Peter Carey's Fiction Anthony J Hassell 1994
Fabulating Beauty: Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey edited by Andreas Gaile 2005

This page and its contents are copyright © 1995-2007 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: December 16, 2007.