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Pooka

Frank Kermode, 16 October 1997

Jack Maggs 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 328 pp., £15.99, September 1997, 9780571190881
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... darker and less furiously though still adequately inventive. Its economy may shock some folk, for Peter Carey is known to be an exuberant novelist, copious, various and fantastic. It is possible to admire his books for their lack of respect for boundaries, for the qualities they share with the work of modern Latin American novelists. However, they are ...

Knowing

Frank Kermode, 3 December 1981

Bliss 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 296 pp., £6.50, November 1981, 0 571 11769 4
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Exotic Pleasures 
by Peter Carey.
Picador, 192 pp., £1.95, October 1981, 0 330 26550 4
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... When I started reading Bliss I hadn’t read Mr Carey’s first book, The Fat Man in History, though like everybody else I had heard the stories acclaimed in terms which made the prospect of his first novel very attractive. It is therefore both surprising and regrettable that I have to say that Bliss is a bad novel, though by a talented author ...

Phattbookia Stupenda

Nicholas Spice, 18 April 1985

Illywhacker 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 600 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 571 13207 3
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... proportionate and proving again that longueurs have less to do with length than with pace, which Peter Carey controls like a master, thwacking his prose along with all the exuberant free energy of a boy thwacking a hoop with a stick. To Herbert Badgery – funny man, raconteur and compère extraordinary of Illywhacker – the notion that a book ...

Principia Efica

Jonathan Coe, 22 September 1994

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 422 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 571 17197 4
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... Like his near-namesake, Tristram Shandy, the unlikely hero of Peter Carey’s new novel begins the story of his life at the very beginning. While he doesn’t go into quite as much detail about the moment of his conception, he appears to have a very clear memory of the minutes leading up to his delivery. As his mother leaves her theatre (where she has been rehearsing the Scottish Play) and sets out for the hospital, things started happening faster than she had expected ...

Feral Hippies

Theo Tait: Peter Carey goes astray, 6 March 2008

His Illegal Self 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 0 571 23151 5
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... Queensland in the early 1970s was, according to the narrator of Peter Carey’s new novel, ‘a police state run by men who never finished high school’. This intriguing throwaway remark turns out to be not much of an exaggeration. For twenty years from 1968, Queensland was controlled by the corrupt, gerrymandering state governor Joh Bjelke-Petersen, variously described as the Hillbilly Dictator, a ‘bible-bashing bastard’ and – by himself – as ‘a bushfire raging out of control ...

Gravel in Jakarta’s Shoes

Benedict Anderson, 2 November 1995

Generations of Resistance 
by Steve Cox and Peter Carey.
Cassell, 120 pp., £55, November 1995, 9780304332502
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... Governments of the big EEC states, Japan and Australia. The course of events is ably outlined by Peter Carey in the tightly-packed text that accompanies the grim pictures taken in 1991 by the courageous British photographer Steve Cox. No anti-colonial guerrilla resistance had developed in this remote outpost of empire when the Salazarist dictatorship ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’, 8 June 2006

Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... who in a Stanley Fishy way has simply asserted his right to authenticate? Floreat emptor. Or as Peter Carey ends his new novel, ‘How do you know how much to pay if you don’t know what it’s worth?’ Theft: A Love Story, is about just such issues of authenticity and fraudulence in the international art world. As he did in his last novel, My ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Darwinians & Creationists, 1 November 2001

... one demands cause, the other demands purpose; both recoil from the random and the accidental. Peter Carey has deservedly won the Booker Prize for True History of the Kelly Gang. The WHSmith Book Award, continuing its flight from elitism, has renamed itself ‘The People’s Choice’. To have a go at being the people’s Kenneth Baker, all you need ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... Council. Behind established international figures such as Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and now Peter Carey crowds a small army – a second wave, as it were – of grant-garlanded and prize-bedecked novelists and storytellers, many of whom, especially those whose reputations derive initially from short fiction, have benefited from the Board’s ...

Full Tilt

Thomas Jones: Peter Carey, 8 February 2001

True History of the Kelly Gang 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, January 2001, 0 571 20987 4
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... and made him welcome. We all do that, all the colony over.’ It is in pursuit of such myths that Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda set out for the promised land; they learn the realities of life in the colony the hard way. Carey set himself against Dickens more explicitly nine years later, in Jack Maggs (1997), an ...

Australian Circles

Jonathan Coe, 12 September 1991

The Tax Inspector 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 279 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 16297 5
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The Second Bridegroom 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 214 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 9780571164820
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... Both of these Australian novels describe circles. Carey, forsaking the confident historical sweep of Oscar and Lucinda and Illywhacker to focus once again on the horrors of modern suburbia, traces the vicious circles of a family history in which successive generations are debilitated by a legacy of abuse. Rodney Hall tells of a convict at large in New South Wales in 1838, caught up in larger, even more powerful cycles of captivity and exploitation, until he finds temporary sanctuary with an Aboriginal tribe and becomes ‘the very centre of their circle ...

Forged, Forger, Forget

Nicholas Spice: Peter Carey, 5 August 2010

Parrot and Olivier in America 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 451 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 571 25329 6
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... Olivier, a life crisis that pushes his intellectual concerns into second place. One can see why Carey had to ditch Beaumont. In background, temperament and intellect, Tocqueville’s friend was too close to him to be much use to a novelist. Two broadly similar characters in the same novel won’t work. So Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville becomes ...

You bet your life

Margaret Walters, 21 April 1988

Oscar and Lucinda 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 512 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 571 14812 3
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The Fifth Child 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 131 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02553 8
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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 299 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 670 82117 9
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... Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda is a tall story, as elaborate and fantastical as any of the yarns spun by the trickster hero of his last novel Illywhacker. For one thing, it’s a family history, and we’re all of us secretly stunned by the coincidences which have resulted, against the odds, in our existence ...

Humiliations

Michael Irwin, 4 December 1980

Collected Short Stories 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 303 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 09 143430 0
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World’s End 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 211 pp., £6.50, October 1980, 0 241 10447 5
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Packages 
by Richard Stern.
Sidgwick, 151 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 283 98689 1
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Oxbridge Blues 
by Frederic Raphael.
Cape, 213 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 9780224018715
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The Fat Man in History 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 186 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 571 11619 1
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... unless the vision is interinfused with common experience. In a sufficient number of these stories Carey achieves this delicate adjustment, notably in ‘Exotic Pleasures’ and ‘The Puzzling Nature of Blue’, but most notably in ‘The Chance’. The future in which this story is set allows people, for a fee, to enter, and if they so please re-enter, a ...

Happy Few

Patricia Beer, 23 May 1991

Told in Gath 
by Max Wright.
Blackstaff, 177 pp., £11.95, January 1991, 0 85640 449 7
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... of course been exploited by writers in all genres, but seldom with much credibility; the picture Peter Carey gives of them in Oscar and Lucinda, for example, is what might politely be called a travesty. Edmund Gosse is the nearest to an exception. In Father and Son he does not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, for though the book was not ...

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