PETER CAREY interviewed by EVAN SOLOMON at the Premiere Dance Theatre, tonight (Thursday, October 23), 9 pm.
PETER CAREY reading with Douglas Glover and Ali SMITH at the Premiere Dance Theatre, Friday (October 24), 8 pm.
My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey, 304 pages. $35.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Australian author peter carey tells a fantastic tale in his latest novel, My Life As A Fake. In real life, in the 1940s, James McCauley and Harold Stewart created hoax poet Ern Malley as a means of ridiculing Modernist poetry. McCauley and Stewart sent Malley's poems to Max Harris, a magazine editor who'd previously rejected their work, who proceeded to publish them.
In My Life As A Fake, which is loosely based on this incident, sham poet Bob McCorkle comes to life - like Mary Shelley's monster or Alasdair Grey's Bella Baxter - appearing out of nowhere to pursue and torment his unfortunate creator, Christopher Chubb. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein or Godwin Baxter, however, Chubb takes a little while to convince himself that his bane is no actual madman but the freakish creation of his own mind.
Chubb is an intriguing and lovable character, his supreme life-giving powers amusingly offset by his pathetic wretchedness. McCorkle is a multi-layered creation, monstrous yet surprisingly human, energetic and larger than life.
The author completely eschews quotation marks, much as he did commas in True History Of The Kelly Gang. This makes the narrative a tad confusing in the beginning, but the fact that things do eventually flow smoothly once the reader's mind becomes accustomed to the prose style is quite a testament to Carey's skill.
And since the narrative shifts so often between two characters and so much of it is narrative-within-narrative, you can see that the use of quotation marks would probably, in fact, have been terribly problematic.
My Life As A Fake is a gripping story and clever exploration of reality and fakery, truth and lies. So clever, indeed, that through the entire thing you never know who or what to believe.
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