Weekend Round-Up 2006 #15

The reviews of Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey are starting to roll in with James Bradley - taking time off from promoting his own new novel - having an appreciative look at the novel in "The Age".

'Am I to be a king, or just a pig?' demands the epigraph to Peter Carey's new novel. The question is Flaubert's, but the raging, almost scatological grandiloquence of its egotism, misanthropy and self-doubt are all Carey's, and cut to the core of Theft, fuelling the fury, verbal energy and coruscating humour of a book that is at once cruelly levelling, darkly witty and unsettlingly personal.
You might recall that last week, when the Carey interviews were being published, I mentioned that this new novel continues Carey's interest, some might say obsession, with fakery. Bradley takes up the idea, which would be hard to avoid, but provides some critical reasons for considering it:
In its focus on questions of authenticity, and the uncanny and unsettling nature of the forgery, it is difficult not to read Theft as a companion piece of sorts to Carey's last novel, My Life as a Fake, which took his longstanding interest in the idea of fakery and gave it human form in Bob McCorkle, the Ern Malley-esque monster poet...But despite the obvious correlations, Theft's roots run deeper than Fake. Its verbal energy owes more to the liberating voice of Carey's Ned Kelly, its breakneck alliteration and zigs and zags lending the novel a sense of play that was missing from its surprisingly claustrophobic predecessor; while the world of the novel's foreground, the Australia of the early '80s, seems somehow closer to Carey's heart than the milieu of Fake's unlikeable McAuley surrogate, Christopher Chubb.

There seems to be something innate in the human psyche that basically states: "If you ignore something nasty for long enough, it'll just go away." Be nice if it were true. But it isn't; not for individuals and certainly not for large companies. In Asbestos House, Gideon Haigh has chronicled the way James Hardie Industries attempted to ignore the dire warnings about the long-term effects of asbestos, and failed miserably. The unfortunate aspect is that a large number of people had to die before they got the hint, and started to get their act together. As Leon Gettler puts it in his review: "In the end, Hardie's errors had real and human outcomes. Haigh's achievement is letting us see the human side on both sides of the equation. In this age of rigorous compliance and corporate governance rules, it is a lesson for all companies: not breaking the law is not the same as morally acceptable behaviour."

Other reviews are given to: How to Kill Your Husband (and other household hints) by Kathy Lette: "Sometimes I think Lette only writes her books as vehicles for her wordplay - she will divert from any key plot point or watershed moment to write another one-liner"; 1606: An Epic Adventure by Evan McHugh: "...a useful and lively copendium for general readers interested in the first European sightings of Australia and its navigation"; The Champions: Conversations with Great Players & Coaches of Australian Football by Ben Collins: "A great half-time read"; Geodesica: Descent by Sean Williams and Shane Dix: "a racy, well-written and ornately imagined genre epic"; The Wings of Kitty St Clair by James Aldridge: an "idiosyncratic young adult novel"; The Murrumbidgee Kid by Peter Yeldham: "a strong and entertaining story".

In "The Australian" Rosemary Neill interviews Les Murray about poetry, childhood, depression ("the black dog"), race, republicanism, and the Nobel: "not a thing you really think about. It would make you so damn famous if you did [win a Nobel prize] your life wouldn't be your own any more." Murray thinks he's writing better and better.

Peter Craven looks at Carey's Theft in this paper, and while he's full of praise you get the feeling he doesn't think Carey's quite made his masterpiece yet: "Carey has never been afraid of writing out of the darkest kinds of materials and he could never be accused of being afraid of ugliness. Indeed his novels play on grotesquerie as a kind of passion and part of their unmistakable vaunted Australianness comes from the author's willingness to rub the reader's nose in the drek and muck and madness of a very localised apprehension of what the world is...For all its instability and disconcerting shifts of register, it is the work of a novelist willing his way into greatness minute by gritty minute."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 10, 2006 2:57 PM.

Review of Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #7 - Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller is the next entry in this blog.

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