Peter Carey Watch #5

Reviews of His Illegal Self

Theo Tait in the "London Review of Books": "Carey writes fiction on the grand, nation-building scale: by his own admission, nearly everything he has ever written has 'been concerned with questions of national identity'. As a rule, he presents Australia, if not Australians, in a very unflattering light. The country comes across as a rough, small-minded, land-grabbing settler culture, based on self-serving fictions and violence, forever dogged by feelings of inferiority towards Europe and America. As one of the characters in his last novel, Theft (2006), concisely puts it, 'We Australians are really shit. We know nothing. We are so bloody ugly.' Carey likes to blow the whistle on his country's hidden historical crimes (Ned Kelly begins his account by announcing that he knows 'what it is to be raised on lies and silence', and intends to defy them). He has specialised in creating disreputable Australian heroes -- convicts made good, bushrangers, self-inventing fraudsters -- who tend both to embody and to transcend the small, bigoted towns and 'hateful and life-denying' suburbs they come from. To quote from My Life as a Fake, he sings 'the song of the autodidact, the colonial, the damaged beast of the antipodes'."

Corey Redekop on his weblog, "Shelf Monkey", and previously in the "Winnipeg Free Press": "His Illegal Self is a wonderful novel, Carey's best since The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. If, as hinted throughout the pages, there is more to tell about Che's life, Carey had best take his time on the sequel. His Illegal Self is too good to soil with a lesser follow-up."

Terry Pender in "Guelph
: "The social ferment of the 1960s produced the peace movement, second wave feminism and the environmental movement. Almost all of the underground militants had surfaced by the 1980s and most were quickly integrated into mainstream America. Not a bad legacy by any measure...So it shouldn't be too much to ask of a writer such as Carey to have more sympathetic characters from the New Left. After all, these people didn't carpet bomb Vietnam and kill millions of civilians."

Reviews of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith

Gillian Fulcher in "Eureka Street": "Throughout the novel Carey uses language which could offend people with disabilities. Neither Australian nor British reviewers of The Unusual Life, which was published in 1994, appeared to ponder these matters. It was not, said the London Review of Books, a novel about disability. Maybe not, but disability is the vehicle for something else ... By writing the central character as disabled, the broader world is starkly shown as increasingly oppressive of those whom Tristan, as archetype, represents. But as archetype he also represents the increasing scrutiny we are all under. This world exacerbates earlier oppressions of conformity, appearance, image, and performance."


Jon Weiner in "Dissent" magazine.

Jon Wiener: In His Illegal Self, the year is 1972 and the characters are set in motion by the Weather Underground. I'm reluctant to talk about the plot because one of the pleasures of the book, especially at the beginning, is figuring out the plot--told mostly from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy. Could you explain what you want people to know about it?
B>Peter Carey: This is the number one issue for me at the moment. I spent two years building this book, which really depends on withholding information. It delivers a whole series of surprises and thrills for the reader, I hope, which was not easy to achieve. But we live in a culture where people confuse "story" and "art," and where reviewers are called upon by their editors to report the story. So while they are praising this book, they are sort of destroying it -- by giving away all these things.

Jim H. uses his reading of True History of the Kelly Gang to riff on a number of novels, from Nabakov to Lasdun, which he puts into a "psychological realism X" (for X-treme) genre.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 17, 2008 1:47 PM.

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