Peter Carey Interviews

I'm not sure when Peter Carey's new novel His Illegal Self, was due to hit the bookshelves here in Australia, but I saw it over the weekend and purchased a copy today. Not surprisingly the reviews are rolling in thick and fast, and there are a couple of interviews out there as well - expect more to follow.

In "The Canberra Times", Gillian Lord discusses Heath Ledger, New York, his children, Australian politics, his niece, his new book, and literary styles with the author:

The language Carey uses in this book is different. "As I've got older, specially from the [True History of the] Kelly Gang on, I've started to do the things I've really wanted to do. It's not just the voices, but looking at sentences and trying to join words together in ways that are at once true and together, that makes it a poetry of sorts, that are true to character. I think I managed to do it in [Illegal Self], and in the next one I hope to do it better.

"It's about the texture of words, you make all these choices about how you will thread these little lumps of things made up of 26 letters."

He's quiet for a minute.

"I used to think people who talked about sentences were a lot of wankers actually," he adds cheerfully.

In "The Times" from London, Erica Wagner gets straight to the point:
Peter Carey, your new book is entitled His Illegal Self. Before that there was My Life as a Fake; and then, three years later, Theft: A Love Story. What's that all about?

Carey's usual ebullience suddenly seems muted. "I know, it's a shame," he says, not exactly joking. Sitting across from him in the cosy environs of Lupa, a trendy Italian place in Greenwich Village, New York, I persist. Are the books a kind of trilogy?

"No." There's a pause. "I don't know. I don't think it's something I want to address, I think it's kind of unfortunate..." Another, very long pause. "What are we going to put that down to? The convict system? I don't know. The illegal thing comes from a subject, a very personal thing between my youngest son and I, being in the country and Charley being worried about 'illegal' drivers... there were the rednecks and the illegal drivers, so it's some kind of tribute to Charley, a little joke."

Just an accident, then? "Yes, and it's why I was very clear about the jacket and why it had to be a little kid's face, because it makes sense of the understanding of illegality, his illegal self. But the repetition of theft, fake, illegal is rather unfortunate ... in the sense that it suggests something much stronger than I feel. On the other hand who's making these patterns, Doctor? It's me." And he grins, at last, the wicked Carey grin, its slight goofiness an effective screen for the remarkable perception and imagination that hallmarks his work.

At first glance I can see how you can make a connection between his latest three novels, but Carey has been writing about lying and fakery since the beginning. Take the first couple of sentences of Illywhacker (1985): "My name is Herbert Badgery. I am a hundred and thirty-nine years old and something of a celebrity. They come and look at me and wonder how I do it...I am a terrible liar and I have always been a liar. I say that early to set things straight. Caveat emptor."

All novelists are "liars", it's the nature of the beast. Carey is just a bit more up-front about it.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 4, 2008 3:58 PM.

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