Peter Carey: A Literary Companion

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Peter Carey: A Literary Companion

Peter Carey MCFARLAND LITERARY COMPANIONS BY MARY ELLEN SNODGRASS ¡. August Wilson (2004) 2. Barbara Kingsolver (2004)

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Peter Carey

MCFARLAND LITERARY COMPANIONS BY MARY ELLEN SNODGRASS ¡. August Wilson (2004) 2. Barbara Kingsolver (2004) 3. Amy Tan (2004) 4. Walter Dean Myers (2006) 5. Kaye Gibbons (2007) 6. Jamaica Kincaid (2008) 8. Peter Carey (2010)



7. Edward Albee (2010)



9. Cormac McCarthy (2010)

Peter Carey A Literary Companion MARY ELLEN SNODGRASS McFarland Literary Companions, 8

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Jefferson, North Carolina, and London


Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Peter Carey : a literary companion / Mary Ellen Snodgrass. p. cm. — (McFarland literary companions ; 8) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7864-4152-5 (softcover : 50# alkaline paper) 1. Carey, Peter, 1943 – — Criticism and interpretation. 2. Australia — In literature. I. Title. PR9619.3.C36Z85 2010 823'.914 — dc22 2009051317 British Library cataloguing data are available ©2010 Mary Ellen Snodgrass. All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. On the cover: Peter Carey; background ©2009 Shutterstock Manufactured in the United States of America

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Box 611, Je›erson, North Carolina 28640

Acknowledgments I acknowledge the advice and research assistance of the following people and institutions: Mary Burazer, reference, Abbot Vincent Taylor Library Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, North Carolina

Tom Foley, Russell Latham, Liz MacKenzie, and Pat Stracey, reference, National Library of Australia, Canberra

Sophie Cunningham, editor, Meanjin, Carlton, Victoria

Gabriel Packard, coordinator, Creative Writing MFA Program, Hunter College, New York City

Arpita Deb, reference, Melbourne Library, Melbourne, Victoria

Rebecca Pearson, publicity, Faber & Faber, London, England

Jeremy Fisher, executive director, Australian Society of Authors, Strawberry Hills, New South Wales

Kimberley Walsh, editorial business manager, Vogue, Australia, Alexandria, New South Wales

I owe special thanks to local reference librarians Burl McCuiston of the Lenoir Rhyne University Library, Martin Otts and Mary Sizemore of the Patrick Beaver Library, and Wanda Rozzelle of the Catawba County Library. My work gets a collegial boost from the advice of my press agent, Joan Lail.


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Table of Contents Acknowledgments Preface





Chronology of Carey’s Life and Works Carey Genealogy



Peter Carey: A Literary Companion 33 Glossary


Appendix A: Events in Carey’s History Appendix B: Writing and Research Topics Bibliography Index




308 313

I’d like to write for as broad an audience as possible.... I really believe very, very firmly in the possibility of popular art that’s good in anybody’s terms. Peter Carey (1981)

You make all these choices about how you will thread these little lumps of things made up of 26 letters. Peter Carey (2008)

Preface For readers seeking a greater knowledge or understanding of Peter Carey’s contributions to humanist, Australian, and world literature, Peter Carey: A Literary Companion offers an introduction and guided overview. The text equips the reader, feminist, linguist, student, researcher, teacher, reviewer, and librarian with analysis of characters, plots, humor, symbols, and classic themes from the works of a bestselling, reader-pleasing author. The text opens with an annotated chronology of Carey’s life, Anglo-Australian heritage, early career in advertising, canon, and honoraria, followed by a family tree. The 87 A-toZ entries combine analysis from literary historians, book reviewers, and critics along with generous citations from primary and secondary sources and comparisons to classic and popular literature. Each entry concludes with selected source material on such subjects as vulnerability, siblings, music, order, reading, food, writing, and wisdom. Annotated charts elucidate the convoluted genealogies of eleven fictional and historical clans, particularly the varied paternities in the Kelly-Quinn clan. In addition to clearing up dates and events, the family trees account for the relationships between Maria Takis and Jack Catchprice, gay and straight alliances in the Chubb-McCorkle-Slater-Wode-Douglass genealogy, and the convoluted surrogate parenting of Che David Selkirk and Tristan Smith. Generous cross references point to divergent strands of thought and guide the reader into peripheral territory, e.g., from vengeance to violence, from powerlessness to vulnerability, from women to wisdom, and from belonging to self-esteem. Back matter is designed to aid the student, reviewer, and researcher. A glossary of terms enlightens readers to the significance of transportation by ute, the games of knuckles and conkers, the Japanese publication of manga and anime, and “wog,” a racial slur against non-white people. Appendix A: Events in Carey’s History orients the beginner with a time line of historical events and their intertextual importance to crises in the lives of fictional and historical figures, for example, the arrival of prison transportees to New South Wales, the formation of the Students for Democratic Society during the 1960s, introduction of rabbits to Australian ecology, and the hanging of Ned Kelly for thievery, murder, and bank robbery. The entries feature references to the works from which each event derives. A second appendix provides 44 topics for group or individual projects, composition, analysis, background material, enactment, and improvisation, notably, themes of problem solving and community spirit, contrasts of male and female parenting, evidence of the supernatural, and shifts in the family power structure.




Back matter concludes with an exhaustive chronological listing of primary sources followed by general bibliography organized by each of the 18 Carey titles that the sources elucidate. Many entries derive from journal and periodical articles and reviews of Carey’s essays, novels, and short fiction in major newspapers from North America, Great Britain, and Australia. Secondary sources, particularly those by experienced reviewers, are useful for the study of works that have yet to merit thorough analysis in academic journals. A comprehensive index directs users of the literary companion to major and minor characters, events, historical eras and figures, movements, place names, Carey’s family and awards, published works, literary motifs, period terms, genres, and issues, e.g., Vance Joy and Yoshiyuki Tomino, Gallipoli and Tasmania’s Readers’ & Writers’ Festival, the Great Depression and Robert McNamara, “He Found Her in Late Summer” and “A Letter to Our Son,” Gothic and fable, education and dystopia, Cuchulainn and Bruder Mouse, and totalitarianism and World War II.

Introduction Peter Carey, a force for justice in world literature, directs the humanist’s crusade to uplift the humble and downtrodden. A native Australian, he fills his works with the perspective of an underappreciated South Pacific culture and its colonial history, from the threatened blackfellow Kumbaingiri Billy and his sexually abused aunt Mary to bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang of degraded Irish Catholic newcomers to New South Wales and the victims of a Queensland police raid on Crystal Community. Key to Carey’s canon are themes of industry, legitimacy, and achievement, the aims of the rejuvenated adman Harry Stanthorpe Joy, modernist painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, survivalist Trevor Dobbs, and the stage actors at the Feu Follet Theatre. Carey fleshes out his casts of characters with the ambitious and prosperous alongside the naive, defeated, and underprivileged, a pairing that allies landlady Nancy Bowlby with six obese renters, journal editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass with poet Christopher Chubb, contestant Sam Kellow with chicken pox victim Wilfred Mifflin, and Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos with Che David Selkirk, the child of anarchists. Carey’s protagonists profit from education and opportunity to adapt and achieve in fast-paced and often corrupt socioeconomic milieus, the situations in the “Best Pet Shop in the World,” at Rankin Downs prison, in a Sydney tax office, during late-night gambling at a fan-tan parlor, and within Randwick parish, Sydney. Those characters who come of age with moral encouragement benefit their families and communities, including entrepreneur Charles Badgery, World War II survivor Mr. Yazaki, and Carey’s son Sam, a student of Japan’s graphic novels. The author writes realistically about the vulnerable who grow up rejected and belittled. Bound to negative emotions, they gravitate toward spite and violence, such as 16-year-old psychopath Benny Catchprice and the gangs of Franklin Heights, poisoner Kangaratnam “K. G.” Chomley, kidnapped boys exploited by Bishop Kiernan, ridiculers of teacher Turk Kershaw, and Bob McCorkle, the fabricated monster who stalks a hoaxer and abducts his infant daughter. Avoiding romanticism and sentimentality, Carey salutes the struggles of those who flounder against racism, orphaning, and tyranny, notably, ex-con Jack Maggs, chambermaid Mercy Larkin, Anglican minister Oscar Hopkins, student Tina, the jobless Alexander “Teddy” Finch, and herbalist Goon Tse Ying. From a feminist perspective, Carey’s dramatis personae favor stout-souled mothers, wives, and sisters. He honors women like fostering socialite Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, surrogate mother Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson, widows Mrs. Lim and Miriam Mason Chad-




wick, abused housebreaker Sophina Smith, would-be country-western singer Cathy Catchprice McPherson, nurse Jacqui Lorraine, and Takashi’s grandmother for their maternal instincts. Other of his heroines shield the nuclear family from menace from without and dissension from within, the two-front battlefield surveyed by artist Vanessa Kellow, matriarch Rose Kaletsky, widow Molly McGrath, common-law wife Mary Hearn, and homebody Emma Badgery. His most admirable females possess the wisdom and agency to assert their aims, even in hopeless and corrupt milieus, such as art authenticator Marlene Cook Leibovitz, body swapper Carla, abortion technician Nile, and Mary Oates, wife of an adulterer and scoundrel. Carey’s tough women exert skills at healing and socialization and prepare the young through humor, example, and cautionary storytelling, a strength of widow Mrs. Gleason, housekeeper Mrs. Williams, and Ellen Quinn Kelly, a disseminator of Irish folklore and hero stories. Their contributions to dynasties invest society with perspective on past barbarity and hope for the powerless, the strengths of beekeeper Honey Barbara, tax auditor Maria Takis, self-martyred advertiser Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy, proto-feminist Elizabeth Fisher Leplastrier, and her industrialist daughter Lucinda, a champion of laborers’ rights. Through altruism and sisterhood, women like actor-troupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith, student Susan Selkirk, and self-starter Phoebe McGrath Badgery reclaim their birthright from a variety of assaults— imperialism, bondage, misogyny, and the male dominance for which Australia is noted. For these memorable creations, the response to Carey’s writings remains overwhelmingly positive. His penchant for irony and satire bemuses readers and stirs them to view the human situation as a kaleidoscopic series of misadventures and challenges, as with his glimpse of an abortive aircraft industry, the bankruptcy of the Prince Rupert Glassworks, the military guardianship of an American-Australian border, and the diminution of an Australian modernist painter. Carey’s promotion of integrity in the arts begins with his own respect for literature and extends to a range of creative endeavors, including Lilly Danko’s showcasing of an exotic bird, Felicity Smith’s run for public office, intercultural exchange in Tokyo, and Jack Maggs’ brick factory. Ambitious and imaginative, the author applies postmodern techniques and subtle nuance to expound on ordinary life, raising from ignominy the pathetic efforts of Tristan Smith to act, the fight of Oscar Hopkins for validation as an Anglican minister, the negotiations of Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass to save her literary journal, and the mystic comments of autistic observer Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone. From depictions of perverse situations, Carey instructs bibliophiles on farranging connections, from the pent-up rage of transported criminals and the frustrations of the learning disabled to the mad extremes of Harvard radicals during the Vietnam War era. For good reason, Carey has garnered extensive awards and honors for his unique surveys of humankind.

Chronology of Carey’s Life and Works Adept at fable, fantasy, satire, and irony, Peter Carey wields his scathing fiction against society’s ills, especially those that impact his homeland, Australia. In his words, “I have made a whole career out of making my anxieties get up and walk around” (Carey, 1994, 342). By subverting literary convention, he puts tone, atmosphere, image, diction, character, and action to new uses. Novelist John Updike lauded the expatriate writer for using his distance from Australia “to contemplate and reshape some notable legends of his homeland” (Harford, 2006, 118). For surrealism and post-colonial parody, Carey has earned comparison to Thomas Berger, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Charles Dickens, Gunter Grass, John Irving, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Salman Rushdie.

May 7, 1943 Australian writer Peter Philip “Pete” Carey is a native of Bacchus Marsh, a working-class rural town of 4,000 located 33 miles west of Melbourne, Victoria, near the island continent’s southeastern shore. He describes his grandparents as central to his life and as important as birth parents. His paternal grandmother, Edith Carey, won a beach contest for the shortest woman; her husband taught the author about chutzpah and showmanship. Aviation innovator Robert Graham “R. G.” Carey of Warrnambool, was an old-school islander descended from Irish horse traders and married to a Cockney from London. In addition to owning a stable and operating a taxi in Port Melbourne, R. G. held Australia’s first commercial flying permit, delivered the nation’s first airmail, and owned the island’s first airfield. He piloted a Bleriot XI monoplane from Adelaide to Gawler on November 23, 1917. The plane survives on display in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Carey cherished coddling from his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Ada Louisa Roberts Warriner of Warrnambool, was a rural schoolteacher of Welsh descent; his paternal grandfather, John Thomas Warriner, a teacher from Camperdown, thought of England as “home,” a sentiment shared with Lucinda Leplastrier, a co-protagonist of Carey’s neo-Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988, 168, 194) and the title figure in Jack Maggs (1997). Warriner disdained their daughter’s choice of a “bally little Irishman” for a husband (Blakeney, 2006). Of his grandfather’s affection, Carey remarked, “After school I’d spend a lot of time with him shooting rabbits and collecting cow shit to make fertiliser, getting kindling — and he loved me. Not that my parents didn’t, but there’s a really uncritical love that grandparents bestow,” a motif he creates in His Illegal Self (2008) (“Writer’s,” 2006). The author described his childhood in terms of opportunity: “The period that I grew up




in was really culturally impoverished, very insular, threatened” (Gourevitch, 2007, 528). He recalled an uncomplicated town: “one main street with the shops, a lot of farmers, a coal mine, a brick works, and a lot of the people were laborers for a living” (Polito, 1996). He described laboring-class classmates whose “fathers drove trucks, or worked in the coal mine or the Darley Brick Kiln” (Munro, 1976, 4). After working as a chauffeur for a Chinese herbalist named Goon, the model for Goon Tse Ying in Illywhacker (1985), Carey’s father managed P. S. Carey Motors, a dealer for General Motors that the couple cobbled together in their backyard during the Great Depression. The author credits his father for being “a wonderful, wonderful man who was kind and funny with a lot of courage and humor” despite a limited education (Koval, 1997, 675). The family — including Peter’s 11-year-old sister Patricia “Trish” and 10-year-old brother Paul — lived upstairs over the spare parts inventory, which his mother managed. Because of the age differences in siblings, Peter remarked, “In a sense I’m like an only child” (Blakeney, 2006). Peter’s father, Percival Stanley “Percy” Carey, who quit school at age 14, had limited reading skills. The author recalled, “My father would stand at the window in his pyjamas at 3 A.M., looking out the window and worrying about the cars he had to sell” (Taylor, 2008). Carey’s mother, Helen Jean “Nell” Warriner Carey, who completed one year at a private academy, was a strong, aggressive mother and a touchstone for Carey’s characters Felicity “Flick” Smith, Maria Takis, and Anna “Dial” Xenos. The Careys employed Peter’s brother, sister, and brotherin-law in a business promoted during pub meetings and on house calls. They were obsessed with autos and discussed them constantly. Because of his work milieu, Percy Carey became an alcoholic, a colorful local whom the author reprised in Little Titch, a character in Illywhacker. Carey remembers Percy fondly for sharing the family’s limited shelf of books, which included Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies (1862), Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1894) and JustSo Stories (1902), and Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding (1918). The author reminisced, “One of the great pleasures when on holiday was that my father would read Biggles books too,” a reference to a fictional British pilot and air fighter created by W. E. Johns (Wroe, 2008).

Mid–1940s Carey lived among people who gathered around the pianola to drink to Broadway show tunes until 3:00 A.M. and who, in more cerebral setting, discussed Australian history and legend. As he described in Wrong about Japan (2004), he grew up playing with Japanese occupation currency left over from World War II. Of his national pride, he divulged, “We were brought up to believe that there was something inherently vulgar and second rate in the Australian accent” (Polito, 1996). The slur on the national language influenced his themes, characterizations, and voicing.

1948 At age five, Carey entered Bacchus Marsh State School #28, Victoria’s oldest state school. He reminisced, “I was the happy camper: a lot of energy and enthusiasm and getting on with it” (Koval, 1997, 674). Gripping his imagination, the Lady Alice Northcote Farm School at Glenmore, a branch of Dr. Thomas John Barnardo’s Homes founded in 1937 by a Dublin-born philanthropist and physician, sheltered orphaned and destitute children transported from English cities. After Barnardo’s death in 1905, the orphanages rescued a total of 60,000 urban waifs and remained in use until the late 1960s. In the novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), the author reflected on Australia’s urchins and repined, “Our history is a history of orphans” (Carey, 1988, 329). In His Illegal Self (2008), he mentions Barnardo specifically in the reflections of orphaned hippie Trevor Dobbs, whom priests abduct from England to take to Dr. Barnardo’s Homes in Australia, a 20th-century kidnapping of children for press gangs on a par with the immuring of prisoners in Aussie penal colonies the previous century. Carey developed a local speech pattern that informed and cadenced his work, especially the outlaw dialogue from the 1870s in True History of the Kelly Gang. He came to admire the lore of outlaw Edward “Ned” Kelly (1854 –1880) along with the failed Gallipoli campaign from April 25, 1915, to January 9, 1916, and the death of race horse Phar Lap on April 5, 1932, as



Australia’s classic trio of stories about loss. He recalled as a sign of local culture regular visits to a display of Phar Lap stuffed and posed in a glass case.

1949 Viewed in adulthood, school pictures returned Carey to his childhood milieu, where he once pumped gas for patrons of his father’s gas station. The portraiture reminded him of English children in the late 1940s: “Real working class kids: ill-fitting clothes, old, rumpled; but the faces, there are little men in there, staring out of children’s faces” (Polito, 1996). To reviewer Ken Brass, the author was “the ‘Noble Savage’ of Australian literature, a writer who “hadn’t read a book until he was eighteen” (Lamb, 1992, 3). 1952 –1953 In the post–World War II era, Carey developed peacetime notions of heroism. When he began reading on his own, he saved coins in a jar and accompanied his mother to Griffith’s Bookstore, a landmark on Ryrie Street in Geelong. He invested his savings in hardcover war stories such as Patrick Robert Reid’s The Colditz Story (1952) and Heinz Knoke’s I Flew for the Fuhrer (1953). 1954 At age 11, Carey boarded at Geelong Grammar School, a private co-educational academy 40 miles south of Bacchus Marsh where boys with hyphenated surnames read the works of William Shakespeare, John Milton, and D. H. Lawrence and performed Handel’s Messiah each year. Known as “little Athens” and Australia’s Eton, the elite campus opened in 1855 as a Church of England bastion for boys. Although the tuition was £600 per year, Nell Carey insisted on giving Peter a boost in society. He described her urge as “just really wanting to give everything to your child, being a working woman” (“Writer’s,” 2006). However, according to critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, a reviewer for the Financial Times, “everything” turned out to be a will-o-the-wisp: “Geelong was a place where teachers and pupils spoke in pastiche English home-county accents, as if repressing their true Australian selves. Carey’s sudden gentrification amplified his feelings of dislocation,” a rootlessness that he captures in the character of sevenyear-old Che Selkirk, protagonist of His Illegal Self (2008) (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). The student body, aged five to twelve, consisted of the children of prominent Australians and promoted British accents. Of the starchy atmosphere, the author remembered, “In the seven years I was there, no one ever called me Peter” (Wroe, 2001, 6). Carey hung out with boys from small towns rather than with the sons of gentry, whom he satirized as the “squatocracy”— a ruling class that flaunted itself as the island nation’s privileged landowners (Ibid.). A point in his favor was his cracking voice, evidence of early maturity. He became self-conscious about his Australian accent after a schoolmate informed him, “Only Americans say ‘cassel,’ we says ‘car-sul’” (Munro, 1976, 4). On return home, he felt bored and alienated from home and retreated into comic books. He compared his forebears to the lower class, a trait he has in common with Philip “Pip” Pirrip, the protagonist of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861). In retrospect, Carey gained a sense of island identity: “There was this weird sense of Australia’s place in the colonial pecking order. These Australians were acting like 19th century British snobs, looking down on Americans as vulgar colonials. It was grotesque” (Polito, 1996). From reflections on school trauma, the author outlined for his fiction a series of orphaned characters— Jack Maggs, Henry Phipps, Ned Kelly, Oscar Hopkins, Lucinda Leplastrier, Tristan Smith, Tina, Che David Selkirk — and a view of Australia as an orphaned country of convicts, indentured laborers, soldiers, and uprooted aborigines. He came to view his creation of parentless children as “a birthmark of a trauma,” a reference to the helter-skelter population of the island with British criminals and soldiers (Taylor, 2008). Initially, he chose not to seek psychotherapy “because it is better not to disturb the sediment that I feed on” (Wroe, 2001, 6). Later, he was more amenable to the subject of counseling to ease childhood hurts inflicted by snobs. 1959 To Carey’s claim that he failed English literature, his teacher, Michael Collins Perrse, attested that Peter was the only pupil who never received lower than an A during his junior



year. The next year, he wrote for the school review and surprised his friends by composing a parody from the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady (1956). School dabblings stirred no urge to write professionally. He left a coming-of-age experience he dismissed as a “rotten love affair” (Nicklin, 1975, 3).

1960 Carey graduated from high school with a yen to become a chemist. He explained, “What interested me was not only the rational structure of things and how they are made, but also their mystery” (Wroe, 2001, 6). He identified his curiosity about enigmas as a love of science rather than an incipient humanism.

Summer 1960 Carey described himself “an enthusiast, a compulsive talker, a would-be cartoonist” (Carey, 1995, 54). In Theft: A Love Story, he depicted his lack of education in the arts— “being so far outside the world of art or even knowing those possibilities exist” (“Writer’s,” 2006). He began writing poetry and reading the Faber Book of Modern Verse (1936), which featured late Victorian, Edwardian, and early modern poets W. H. Auden, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Dylan Thomas. His favorite works were T. S. Eliot’s modernist classic The Wasteland (1922) and the first published sections of Ezra Pound’s Cantos (1922–1945).

1961 Rather than follow friends to Melbourne University, the author studied organic chemistry and zoology at Monash University, a newly opened school accommodating 363 students in Clayton, a southeastern suburb of Melbourne. He pondered the uniqueness of the DNA double helix and “the sheer beautiful logic of the periodic table and the exceptions to its logic. That sense of structure determining behaviour was what I hoped to find in science and eventually did find in writing” (Wroe, 2008). While musing on a career as an organic chemist, he realized, “I didn’t understand anything about it and didn’t care” (Munro, 1976, 5). With pals from the zoology department, he “got pissed in the pub” and ventured into escapism through sex and alcohol (Ibid.) He faked physics experiments on gravitational force to give him more time with a girlfriend two years his senior — Leigh Weetman, a German and philosophy major from Dandenong, a community in southeastern Melbourne. She quit school to become a photographer’s assistant. An accident in Carey’s 1949 Armstrong Siddeley resulted in a torn scalp and broken front tooth and preceded his failure of all of his first term exams. The fiasco gave him an excuse for ending his schooling. He explained to Boris Kashka, interviewer for New York, “I was finished with college, and college was finished with me” (Kachka, 2005, 76). His father, a survivor of hard economic times, feared that his son would never earn a living. Influenced by Leigh’s brother, an advertiser, Carey abandoned plans for an education in zoology for a career in advertising, which critic Karen Lamb identified as “an industry of pseudo-creative and manipulative social strategists” (Lamb, 1992, 19). Along with news reportage, ads comprised most of the local contribution to Australian radio, television, and print media. He later identified innovative instincts and talents for compression from advertising that influenced his fiction. He described his specialty as the “sharp end of business” (Hassall, 1989, 637). At the time, Carey had “fuck-all political education, no reading, no nothing,” but the beginnings of self-invention (Munro, 1976, 11). He introduced himself at agencies with his portfolio of university newspaper articles, comic strips, and original verse. Although he left behind friends who disdained commerce, particularly tradesmen, he felt shame free: “I didn’t think there was any need to be guilty about selling anything to anyone” (Polito, 1996). Two decades later, he bandied with interviewer Philip Neilsen the public misperceptions of advertising as manipulation. Carey claimed that critics “overestimate its power and in doing this, mystify it” (Neilsen, 1981, 193). In a conservative era when “the bars closed at 6 P.M., there were three channels on TV, and the gas stations shut on Sunday,” Carey’s love life precipitated a choice that haunted him in adulthood (Carey, 2007). After four months of dating, Leigh realized she was two months pregnant. He consulted his family doctor for help and received a plain piece of paper with the



name of an abortifacient on it. When Carey presented the paper to a pharmacist in a large city, the man threatened to call the police. Carey fled under compulsion from “the feeling of panic, of wrong, of impending disaster” (Carey, 1995, 60). In secret, Carey accompanied Leigh to Melbourne to obtain an abortion at an illegal abortion clinic. The procedure, costing £50 and requiring her mother’s consent, aborted the fetus at three months. Carey obtained the money from a sympathetic zoology professor. With his future mother-in-law, he sat on a park bench while Leigh was in surgery. When she returned to the waiting room, he realized, “She was strangely unchanged and yet also changed absolutely. She was pale and shaky, lost in her own pain” (Carey, 1994). He revisited the subject in Jack Maggs in the character Sophina Smith, whose five-month fetus lies discarded in a cess pit with a cut on its face.

1962 At age 19, Carey lived at Oakleigh and began a five-year stint as office clerk and executive assistant for a Melbourne advertising agency, Walker Robertson Maguire. His first employer was a former Communist, who hired a stable of young leftist writers. As an apprentice copywriter, Carey wrote for 18 months before composing successful ads. Perhaps because of his father’s background in sales, Carey got a “certain sort of animal pleasure” out of formulating marketing jingles for Lindeman’s Winery and Volkswagen (Munro, 1976, 6). For the winery, he originated the slogan, “You make us smile, Dr. Lindeman,” a benign way to say “It gets you drunk” (Grimes, 1992, C11). The author began educating himself under the mentorship of comic novelist Morris Lurie and Barry Oakley, a 30-year-old English teacher and playwright who commuted to the office with Carey. The neophyte viewed the films of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman and a Melbourne exhibit of the landscapes of New Zealand painter Sidney Nolan at the Georges Gallery on Collins Street. For literary basics, the author, like the under-educated park gardener in his story “The Chance” (1974), gobbled up contemporary writers— Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, James Patrick Donleavy, Jean Genet, Graham Greene, Franz Kafka, and Jack Kerouac and the poetry of Ezra Pound. Contributing to his shelf were review copies of current literature. He also read the Jerilderie Letter, an historic text written by outlaw Ned Kelly that influenced the idiom and events of True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). The apologia so excited Carey that he archived it: “I typed out all 8,000 words and carried it around with me for years” (Bemrose, 2001, 2). Carey was awed by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). He gushed, “I remember reading these authors and thinking of it as the first week of my life” (Meyer, 1997, 83). He found great beauty in modernism, particularly James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930), an innovative family study that “burnt into” Carey (Gussow, 1998). He exulted, “To read Faulkner for the first time was for me like discovering another planet. The pleasure of that language, the politics of giving voice to the voiceless” (Wroe, 2001, 6). Book discussions began Carey’s readying for tackling the literary world one on one. He elaborated, “That’s the way it should be — you do it alone, you learn to endure loneliness.” He eventually made a pilgrimage to Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s home at Oxford, Mississippi. He later admitted in “The Book That Changed My Life” his reliance on reading: “We don’t come to these things without a history and Faulkner’s part of my history” (Carey, 2006, 52).

1963 Carey discovered Bob Dylan at Melbourne Town Hall, where folksinger Pete Seeger introduced Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” The music became Carey’s morning rejuvenator for its inventive style. 1964 Under the influence of Lurie and Oakley’s publishing efforts, Carey concluded, “If those buggers are doing it then I can do it too” (Munro, 1976, 6). He created cold fictional settings and assumed that readers felt the same empathy for characters that the author did. He identified himself as a writer and earned a first rejection slip from Evergreen Review. He admitted to



“something glorious and futile in attempting to make Australian literature when, as everybody in London knew, Australian literature did not exist” (Carey, 2007). He didn’t anticipate earning a living from royalties until after he won the first Booker Prize. He recalled, “People would say, ‘Have you published?’ and they’d look at me like one more scamming copywriter pretending I was going to do something that I’d never do, and it used to make me very angry. And finally the lie that I was telling came true” (“Writer’s,” 2006).

Spring–late fall 1964 Carey began living with Leigh. At the end of six months, his parents goaded him into a permanent commitment. He promised them that he would marry and begin writing a novel. He dismissed short fiction as insignificant: “A story wasn’t really a serious thing. A novel was” (Munro, 1976, 7). His earliest long works received critical identification as serialized novels or extended novellas.

November 7, 1964 At age 21, Carey wed Leigh and settled on three-quarters of an acre at Virginia Court in Montmorency. On the Olivetti Lettera 24 at his desk in the living room, he began his writing career with day, night, and weekend composition of short fiction and manuscripts three pages at a clip. The process required two or three revisions and no editing. The regimen was exhausting. He acknowledged the role of the subconscious mind in bursts of genius “that happened like that — quite intuitively.... No pre-planning at all” (Munro, 1976, 8). Of the choice of speculative fiction, the author characterized his concern for his own time period: “What you look at in the future is contained in the present” (Munro, 1976, 5). He approached the surreal by extending reality. For self-discipline, he drew on schoolboy work habits and chortled, “That’s the one great gift that I got from Geelong Grammar” (“Writer’s,” 2006). The stories tended toward contemporary science and followed Faulkner’s pattern of shifting points of view. Carey commented, “What interested me was not only the rational structure of things and how they are made, but also their mystery,” the focus that had originally drawn him to chemistry and zoology (Wroe, 2001, 6). Barry Oakley passed the stories to Australian Playboy, Granta, Manic Magazine, Meanjin, Nation Review, Overland, Stand, Sun News Pictorial, and Tabloid Story. 1965 –1968 Carey experienced a series of setbacks, including a failed competition for the Stanford Writing Scholarship. He began composing “Starts Here, Ends Here” and continued until 1967, when he published in Australian Letters a tense vignette, “She Wakes.” The shortshort portrait of exploitive romance derived from the unpublished manuscript Slides from a Magic Lantern Show. For three months, the author traveled Europe and the Middle East to escape Australia’s “self-hating environment” (Grimes, 1992, C15). 1966 Carey received rejections from Macmillan, Meanjin, Overland, and Paris Review. He contributed a sketch to director George Whaley’s anti–Vietnam War stage revue, and began writing The Futility Machine.

November 28, 1966 Undeterred, Carey submitted four short pieces to Paris Review. After two years’ work, he stowed Contacts, his apprentice novel, in a drawer. An extract, his first published story, reached print in Under Twenty-Five: An Anthology (1966).

1967 Australian arts maven Geoffrey Dutton considered publishing Carey’s second novel, The Futility Machine, but disappointed the author. Introduced to the vagaries of the print industry, Carey groused, “I was never, ever after that ever, ever excited, ever again, about being published” (Meyer, 1997, 83). He worked on undated stories “Separate,” “Shapes,” “Up and Down the Beach,” “A Man Needs His Dreams,” “One. Two,” and “Osmosis.” He issued a subtle short work, “She Wakes,” in the journal Australian Letters. He traveled France, Greece, Iran, Ireland, Italy, and Spain.

1969 The Careys expatriated to England, with what Peter described as “a certain degree of self-hatred” (Harford, 2006, 111). He returned to copywriting, first for the Design Group, then



a half year later for Colman Prentis & Varley, Great Britain’s largest global advertising agency. He later described such work in My Life as a Fake (2003) as “a hateful job, nagging and whining, threatening and pushing, like a parking cop” (Carey, 2003, 249). Settled in London and enrolled for six months in an alternative film school at Notting Hill, he produced three disjointed novels influenced by the idealism of Federico Fellini’s film 8 1 ⁄2. The Gollancz office returned Carey’s first submission unpublished. The next novel, Wog, also got a post-negotiation turndown for being too avant garde (Lamb, 1992, 8). His agent, Deborah Rogers, was so bewildered by the manuscript that she declared it unliterary. Carey later referred to his inauspicious literary beginnings as his “grubby past” (Coe, 1996). To journalist Sonia Harford, he enlarged on ancestors “who were ripped out and sent away, and we were in the second-best place, the worst place.... These anxieties are based in a historical trauma and a deep belief in a second-rateness which of course no one will own to” (Harford, 2006, 112). Although the preliminary works never made it into print, he exulted in what he had learned from writing them: “As a novelist, I can see into the souls of others ... that’s a gift we have. I can just look at people and know what it is they are feeling, and thinking” (Wagner, 2008). He enjoyed the moment of longer fiction, which opened his mind to creative invention.

1970 Despair and exhaustion sent Carey home to Australia. Of his first novel, he admitted, “I’m never going to do anything like that again” (Munro, 1976, 7). He returned to Virginia Court, where he began writing “what if ” plots, beginning with “Room No. 5 (Escribo)” and including the stories “Crabs,” “Joe,” and “Structure.” While Leigh worked for the Red Cross, he fashioned short pieces in the style of Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinths (1962) and Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan (1959). He produced stories at a rapid pace, but slowed to establish his own rhythm. He justified his need to pace himself: “Short stories sap you, they are very demanding” (Munro, 1976, 7). Nonetheless, he felt that he “could go on forever” (Ibid.). Carey suffered a second rejection for the Stanford Writing Scholarship. He took advertising jobs in Melbourne at Masius Wynne-Williams, the nation’s third largest advertiser, and at Strauss, Palmer and Single, McAllan (Spasm) and Mooney-Grey in Sydney and issued avantgarde short works—“Eight Parts of a Whole,” “Interview with Yourself,” and “Structure” in the first edition of Manic Magazine. His father declined to read the stories; his mother stopped reading after sampling the opening paragraphs. Of his two siblings, only his sister Trish plunged wholeheartedly into his works. Autumn 1970 In her fifth month of pregnancy, Leigh Weetman Carey went into labor after midnight and lost her first child, a stillborn daughter. The premature birth alerted the couple to cervical damage caused by Leigh’s abortion a decade earlier. Later their twins— a boy and girl — died shortly after birth. At the mortuary, his mother-in-law urged him to name the infants, but he chose not to. He later admitted, “I wish only that we had honoured those children with a plaque. I will always wish that, forever” (Taylor, 2008). He ended work on a fourth novel, Adventures Aboard the Marie Celeste, an episodic utopian fantasy that he polished for submission in 1974. In mid–February 1974, the editor rejected the manuscript. Carey concurred that “it was not (and never could be) a good book” (O’Donohue, 1985, 107).

1972 During the Malaysian rainy season, Carey and Leigh visited Kuala Lumpur, the eventual setting for My Life as a Fake. According to “Take My Word” (2005), an article for Budget Travel, in Penang, the couple stayed at a blue-walled atrium house, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, located in Georgetown. While he tried to get a job, they relaxed indoors amid palatial surroundings and 19th-century mosaics, tiling, objets d’art, and stained glass. The author reminisced about good food, likeable people, and a diverse, complex society and admitted, “It’s a place that I once wanted to live” (Murphy, 2003). Spring 1972 Peter sought a permit to work in Indonesia, but had to give up his ambition. He repatriated and returned to advertising. For Overland, he wrote “Crabs,” which he set in



Clayton, a southeastern community of Melbourne. The narrative retaliated against cop corruption by depicting a security guard at a drive-in supplementing his income by stealing a bumper bar from a car. The fictional motif exhibits elements of what analyst Peter Pierce calls a “lost child narrative,” a subgenre that dominates Carey’s fiction (Pierce, 2001, 74).

March 1972 “Peeling,” a macabre gender study that appeared in Meanjin, was a two-stage project that Carey began the previous year and rushed to completion in a late-night intuitive flurry. Within months, editor Frank Moorhouse added the story to his collection, Coast to Coast (1973). December 1972 As a critique of the American military presence in Australia, Carey published “A Windmill in the West” in Meanjin. He based the story on a real account of a plane downed on a road in Central Australia, where an armed American sentry kept onlookers at bay.

December 29, 1972 “Room No. 5 (Escribo)” appeared in Tabloid Story. 1973 To avoid chronic unhappiness, Peter separated from Leigh, resided at Carlton in Melbourne, and twice traveled Indonesia, a source of his criticism of tourism in “American Dreams” (1974). He was bemused by seeing fat soldiers in uniform at the airport, the impetus to his first short fiction anthology. He realized, “I wasn’t trying to change the world, but my work was coming out of looking at the way things are and asking what if they were done differently” (Wroe, 2008). An imported copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), combined with a reading of avant-garde theories of French scenarist and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet, helped Carey sort out his apprehensions about plot and characters. He completed “Happy Story,” “The Mad Puzzle King,” “Around the Rugged Rocks the Ragged Rascal Ran,” and “Joe,” which first appeared in Australian New Writing (1973).

January 3, 1973 “Conversation with Unicorns” appeared in Sun News Pictorial, a morning daily tabloid in Melbourne issued from 1922 to 1990, and, three years later, in Damien Broderick’s collection The Zeitgeist Machine: A New Anthology of Science Fiction (1976). 1974 After Leigh and Peter Carey “just sort of grew slightly different ways,” they divorced (Coe, 1996). He resided at 9A Wharf Road in Balmain, an artsy waterfront suburb of West Sydney. He drove daily to North Sydney in his Jensen Healey. A quarter century later, he mused on the socio-economic makeup of “Le Ghetto de Balmain”—“vanilla slices in the bakers’ windows, bad restaurants, bleak beer-sour pubs patronised by dock workers, communists, crims, cops and the odd mythologiser” (Carey, 1989, 30). During his management of Grey’s Advertising Agency, he grumbled, “I worked like a maniac” (Blakeney, 2006). Carey supported the pacifist left and joined the Vietnam Moratorium Committee, a pacifist movement mentioned in his business satire “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” (1974). He later chuckled, “I was one of those idiots who thought the Cultural Revolution was a fantastic thing. It’s embarrassing” (Wroe, 2001, 6). In a period of anti-establishment angst, he published The Fat Man in History, a collection of 12 monochromatic conflict stories, which made him an immediate literary find. Fostering the project and other national ventures, the Australia Council promoted independent publishing and small presses. Critics wrangled over Carey’s vision and skill. Some found his stories sterile and passionless, his anger subverted, and his emotional energy repressed. In a critique for Overland, Rod McChonchie charged the author with a self-conscious trendiness. John Sutherland, a reviewer for TLS, described Carey as an angry, gloomy author who is “aggressively Australian” (Sutherland, 1976, 445). The ninth story, “American Dreams,” pictures the arrival of American tourists in an Australian hamlet. The story grazed fact so closely that Carey’s mother feared a public retaliation. In a public reading of the story in 2006 at a Barnes and Noble stage he shared with Colum McCann and Joyce Carol Oates, the author felt dissatisfied at word repetitions and



wished he could repair the original text. He later identified the story as one of his favorites, along with “Crabs,” “Peeling,” and the title story. Within two years, his stories found a place in English curricula at Australian colleges.

February 1, 1974 Carey also wrote “Life and Death in the Southside Pavilion,” “Report on the Shadow Industry,” “Withdrawal,” “Kristu-Du,” and “American Dreams,” which he published in Nation Review on February 1 as “The Wall That Gleason Built.” The latter story showcases the author’s boyhood memories of Mason’s Lane, Bald Hill, and Eleven Mile Creek and of Grant and Gell streets, parallel north-south thoroughfares in Bacchus Marsh.

1975 “Do You Love Me?” appeared in Tabloid Story and, two years later, in editor Brian Kiernan’s The Most Beautiful Lies (1977), which also anthologized “American Dreams,” “Crabs,” and “Roses.” “I Know You Can Talk” and “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” featured in Stand. Four years later, the latter was collected in War Crimes. November 11, 1975 Carey viewed the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s leftliberal Social Democratic government as the result of an American intrusion on Australian government. Because Australia recognized China’s sovereignty and abandoned the Vietnam War, the nation began to achieve its promise as an independent state. Carey returned to the issue of national autonomy while writing The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. December 18, 1975 Living Daylights published “The Mad Puzzle King.” December 31, 1975 Carey issued “A Million Dollars’ Worth of Amphetamines” in Nation Review. He refined his skill at naturalism in “In Loving Memory of Luke McClosky” as a composition exercise. He explained, “If I’m going to write a novel, I want to use naturalistic dialogue and that sort of thing plus all the other fantasy, fantastic stuff, and weld them all together into one beautiful great huge novel” (Munro, 1976, 10). 1976 After co-scripting “Happy Story” as the screenplay Low Flying with director Ray Lawrence, Carey moved from Birchgrove to Starlight, a commune outside Coolum in Yandina, north of Brisbane, Queensland. The setting offered Carey time and leisure to develop his talents. He chose to abandon conventional society at the urging of painter Margot Hutcheson, who conceived the idea after admiring a photograph of hut life in a health-food store in Sydney. In a pair of shacks in a grove of fruit trees, Carey enjoyed a tropical environment free of telephones and open to Hindu meditation, a detachment he later captured in the pot smoking of Daphne and Eddie Rayner during an apocalyptic end-time in “Withdrawal” (1974). He loved the terrain: “It’s just gorgeous. You live in this rainforest, in the afternoon you go to the beach” (Wagner, 2008). While the community bathed naked, locals hid in the brush and snickered, a gap in social class that he describes in His Illegal Self (2008), in which hardware store clerks, “those good daddies,” fantasize about “the naked bottoms of hippie women at the swimming hole” (Carey, 2008, 142). He reminisced, “Apart from the horrendous Queensland police, who were corrupt and venal, it really was like living in paradise” (Wiener, 2008). In Bliss (1981), Carey restated the charge that police officers “bust poor people” and “beat the shitter out of ” suspects without legitimate cause (Carey, 1981, 259, 263). Another scenario in Illywhacker dramatizes intimidation of Communists, whom the police force out of Bendigo within the hour. Among Maoist hippies who supported themselves on unemployment checks and one American pot grower, Carey learned carpentry and roofing, skills that he satirizes in “The Uses of Williamson Wood” (1979). During the writing of Illywhacker, he shared with protagonist Herbert Badgery a pleasure in building houses. Following early morning gardening, for three hours a day, he recalled, “Margot would paint in the bedroom hut and I would write in the living room hut” (Blakeney, 2006). After giving up a steady job, he commuted by plane only once a month to work for five days at a time at Grey advertising in Sydney. Carolyn See, a



reviewer for the Washington Post, joked, “He got flak for both those things—for being both a hippie and a capitalist” (See, 1995, F2). Along the highway, he saw hippie mothers and their protective sons trudging home from festivals: “They were tired. They didn’t have any money. There was something very touching about that” (Wiener, 2008). At age 65, he looked back on counterculture serenity: “People had simple needs. I used to write in the morning and read at night” (Freeman, 2008). He composed multi-dimensional short fiction for War Crimes and the novel Bliss, a masterwork of Juvenilian satire, 20th-century caricature, and haphazard escapism generated by the author’s involvement in anti–Vietnam radicalism. The effort left him dissatisfied and self-critical: “I can’t stand reading proofs. I can’t even stand reading a story after it’s been typed” (Munro, 1976, 11).

April 23, 1976 Carey’s “Roses” was issued in Nation Review, but later as “Fragrance of Roses” in War Crimes, a story of penance in the life of a torturer at Auschwitz. 1977 During a fertile period, Carey finished “The Chance,” which he began before 1970 and published in War Crimes. He later named “The Chance” and “War Crimes” as his favorites in the anthology.

September 8, 1977 Nation Review, a leftist weekly, issued “The Cosmic Pragmatist.” 1978 Carey published “War Crimes” and “Concerning the Greek Tyrant” in editor Michael Wilding’s anthology The Tabloid Story Pocket Book (1978). In a witty comment on the unnamed accountant in “War Crimes,” Carey joshed: “It’s important to draw the distinction between the psychotic personality of the narrator and the pleasantly neurotic character of the writer” (Neilsen, 181, 193).

1979 The anthology War Crimes earned Carey an initial critical regard for dark humor and for predicting global capitalism, the “me” generation, and the administrations of U. S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Among the featured stories were “American Dreams,” “The Chance,” “Do You Love Me?,” “Exotic Pleasures” “The Journey of a Lifetime,” “Kristu-Du,” “A Schoolboy Prank,” “Ultra-Violet Light,” “The Uses of Williamson Wood,” “War Crimes,” and “He Found Her in Late Summer,” which first appeared in Winter’s Tales (1979). Carey lauded expatriate Adelaide painter Jeffrey Smart for visualizing on the cover the author’s modernist intent. Carey and Lawrence wrote a screen version of “Happy Story” and adapted “Life and Death in the South Side Pavilion” into the film Dancing on the Water (1980).

September 1979 Australian Playboy published “Exotic Pleasures” as “The Pleasure Bird.” 1980 After Grey Advertising fired Carey and his partner Bani McSpedden, the two opened McSpedden Carey Advertising Consultants in Chippendale, a southern suburb of Sydney. Carey put in only two afternoons per week at the office and split the profits with McSpedden.

May 1980 The anthology War Crimes won Carey’s first New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award of $5,000. In an interview with Philip Neilsen, the author acknowledged his creation of a “[Monty] Python style of absurdist humour,” particularly the construction of pointless or ineffectual inventions and schemes (Nielsen, 1981, 191). In his self-deprecatory manner, Carey added that critical analysis tended to demote his writing to “a sort of ‘geewhiz,-isn’t-that-interesting’ state of idiocy” (Ibid.). The retort is typical of his reaction to academic deconstruction of his fiction. Summer 1980 Carey began his first novel, Bliss, a satire of consumerism originally titled Waiting for the Barbarians, then Knocking on Heaven’s Door and A Wonderful Fool. For background material, he drew on the practical, functional aspects of big business and deal making. In an interview with John Maddocks for Southerly, the author described his work as a naturalistic love story based on the blend of the real and the imaginary concocted by Gabriel



García Márquez. Carey’s motivation was a pervasive unease: “The world suddenly seemed a very terrifying and unsafe place” (Blakeney, 2006). He planned to fill a 200,000-word satire of the advertising profession with round characters and “a lot more humour (one of my great undiscovered talents)” (Neilsen, 1981, 193). On July 23, 1980, Carey’s editor, Craig Munro, lauded the first two-thirds of the text, but expressed doubts about the upbeat conclusion.

1981 The author settled in the Bellingen Valley at Gleniffer in northern New South Wales half way between Brisbane and Sydney, a bucolic site he revisits three times a year as a stress reliever. He abandoned earlier manuscripts as failures and, on a grant, rid himself of the need to work in advertising. He rationalized, “As long as the sugar industry gets a subsidy I don’t see why writers shouldn’t” (Neilsen, 1981, 193). On a net income of about $100 a week, he discovered that the writer’s career is “a lonely insular occupation, that I hated the idea of being locked up in a room by myself all day” (Ibid.). Reviewer John Ryle charged that a British compendium of Carey’s stories appeared under the title Exotic Pleasures to exploit “the perversity market” for “darkness, madness, dope, odd sex and dire futurity” (Ryle, 1981, 1350). Australian Literary Studies published Carey’s “Authors’ Statements.”

January 20, 1981 About the time the Iranian hostage crisis ended, after only one year of work, Carey felt an urgency to complete Bliss. For its extravagant parody, Bliss won the first of Carey’s three Miles Franklin Awards of $42,000 for its perusal of bourgeois complacency and capitalism, themes that the author had introduced in “Report on the Shadow Industry” (1974) and “Exotic Pleasures” (1979). Jill Neville, reviewing for the Sydney Morning Herald (10 October 1981), proclaimed the novel a tour de force. 1982 Bliss earned Carey’s second New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and his first National Book Council Banjo Award of $3,500. That year, Carey exulted that Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark won the Man Booker Prize. He had no inkling that Illywhacker, the book he began in 1980 under the title Pets, would be nominated for the same award and would boost his name recognition throughout the English-speaking world. In a flip comment to interviewers from Honi Soit, the University of Sydney magazine, he warned, “Be very careful about what you say you’re going to be because you’ll end up becoming it” (Castle & Butler, 1982, 8). 1984 At age 41, Carey was living with Margot Hutcheson in an artsy neighborhood in Bellingen. While working with performance artist Mike Mullins at the National Playwrights’ Conference in Canberra, Carey met Alison Margaret Summers, a 30-year-old writer and theater director who introduced Australian public school classes to little theater. While serving as the dramaturge at the Nimrod Theatre in Sydney, she organized an eco-political free-form rock musical.

May 1984 After the couple fell in love, Carey went to sleep smiling at their beach house at Louisa Road on Snails Bay. Alison became his best friend and best reader. To interviewer Lisa Meyer of Chicago Review, he explained their working method: “She writes notes and puts them in a drawer and, when I want to look at them, I open them up” (Meyer, 1997, 84).

July 1984 Carey and Alison Summers traveled Tokyo. March 16, 1985 Following Carey’s marriage to Alison, she encouraged his development of public speaking. Her flair for drama influenced his subsequent works with stage dynamics and costuming. The author crafted a retrospect on Australian lore in Illywhacker, a neo-historical fiction that features his absorption in architecture. He originally entitled it Pets and laced it with sight gags, fantasy structures, and exuberant Laurel-and-Hardy send-ups of the national psyche. While sitting in a doctor’s office awaiting treatment for bronchitis, he came up with a storytelling gimmick that allowed him access to both first and third person narrative. The novel featured the adventures of his grandfather, the island’s first air mail carrier. The pseudomemoir of Herbert Badgery, a reputedly 139-year-old con artist, merges Australian lore with



cultural themes to produce a passionate narrative filled with the ethnic diversity of Europeans, Chinese, and Jews. Carey narrowed his workday from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. and spent weekends at home. As a family man, he had difficulty depicting pedophilia and rape in Illywhacker. Despite the subject matter, the primary editor, Robert McCrum of Faber and Faber, was open to Carey’s innovative phrasing. Carey had his own opinion: “Illywhacker is the type of book you only write once. It’s a big, reckless sort of thing” (Wroe, 2001, 6). Howard Jacobson of the New York Times Book Review called Illywhacker garrulous, grumpy farce. Laurie Clancy, a critic for the Australian Book Review, proclaimed Carey Australia’s mythographer. In 2008, the author reflected, “Everything about the book — it’s 600 pages— is sheer cheek. Its mad ambition, everything good about it, is the work of a forty-year-old ... teetering on a parapet” (Bennett, 2008). It won a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award of $15,000.

May 8 –20, 1985 The Australian entry in the Cannes Film Festival was Bliss, a screenplay co-adapted by Carey and cinema director Ray Lawrence and shot by New South Wales Film Corporation at Iron Cove Bridge, Sydney. The movie varies from the print version by supplying protagonist Harry Joy with a voice-over that makes him “a bit ironic, and a bit superior to the characters” (Tausky, 1990, 30). Critic Margarete Rubik of the University of Vienna compared the challenges of representing visually the author’s surreal metaphors with playwright Harold Pinter’s framing of John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) for the 1981 cinema version. Told through Harry’s flashback, the 135-minute black comedy premiered in North America at the New York Film Festival on October 4, 1985, and also won the peerassessed Award for Excellence and a purse of $10,000 from the Australian Writers’ Guild (A. W. G. I. E.), and three Australian Film Institute (AFI) trophies, including best adapted screenplay and best feature. The published film script earned critical regard in academic studies. Nonetheless, Carey was disappointed in the moral and political misdirection of his original intent. He explained, “I shouldn’t have written it, I was so cavalier with it and finally there is nothing in that screenplay that says, You’re in Hell” (Coe, 1996). Ray Willbanks quotes the author’s complaint that the videography lacks poison: “There should have been crap pouring into the sky” (Willbanks, 1988, 48). September 30, 1985 When Illywhacker was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize along with novels by Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch, Carey’s novel was a long shot. In good company, he faced his first public reading, held at the London Guildhall, the city’s ceremonial center.

1986 At the World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island, Illywhacker was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The work also achieved his first The Age Book of the Year Award of $20,000, a Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction Victorian Premier’s Award of $30,000, nomination for a Booker Prize, a Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Barbara Ramsden Award of $500, and a National Science Fiction Convention Ditmar Trophy for Best Australian Science Fiction. After he received $6,000 from a second National Book Council Banjo Award for Australian Literature, he issued a formal two-page statement in National Book Council Newsletter. He summarized the layering of song, story, myth, and memory into Australian dialect as “insufficient for the celebration of a culture. We still do not have enough songs to sustain us in the difficult times ahead” (“Peter Carey,” 1986, 2). April 4, 1986 National Times published Carey’s essay “Of Coventry and Caring: Some Thoughts on Australian Publishing.” August 2, 1986 Film Director Brian Trenchard-Smith premiered the low-budget Australian thriller Dead-End Drive-in starring Ned Manning in the title role as a punk body builder. Writer Peter Smalley based the screenplay on Carey’s “Crabs” (1972), which he sets in post-apocalyp-



tic Australia among street toughs, corrupt cops, and Asian immigrants unwelcome to white racists in the park-prison. Filmed in a defunct Sydney drive-in, the set required graffiti by Australian artists and a fast-foot diner as backdrop. The director made a visual comment on Carey’s story by displaying on the drive-in screen his own violent movie Turkey Shoot (1981), set in a prison. The film debuted at the Melbourne International Film Festival to repetitive comparison to Mad Max (1979), starring Aussie actor Mel Gibson.

September 13, 1986 During the Careys’ residency at 118 Louisa Road, Birchgrove Park, Alison Carey wrote and directed for the Off Broadway stage. At the King George V Hospital at Camperdown, she gave birth by hypnotherapy to Samuel Summers “Sam” Carey. The author reprised the setting in Oscar and Lucinda (1988) in the 1860s by having Lucinda Leplastrier reside at a two-story stone house at Longnose Point north of Sydney and overlooking the Parramatta River. He dedicated the novel to Alison “with all my love.” It was Alison who urged Carey to change Lucinda’s name from the original “Hermione.” 1987 The airing of the cinema version of Bliss on ABC-TV incited viewer protests of decadence and terror. A 55-minute video, The Most Beautiful Lies, co-written by Don Featherstone and Joanne Penglase and produced by the Australia Council, summarized Carey’s mounting success at surrealistic glimpses of his native land.

September 15, 1987 The Melbourne Herald issued “Our Love Affair with Losers,” Carey’s retrospect on the Australian self-image generated by England’s transportation of convicts to the island. In describing his debt to the nation’s history, he described himself as a “professional dream,” a term linked to the aboriginal conception of the past as altjeringa (dreamtime), a sacred link with creation (Carey, 1987, 11). 1988 Carey published in Granta “A Letter to Our Son,” originally titled “Sam’s Birth” and “Sam’s Birthday,” and, with Bill Bennett, began scripting War Crimes for film.

January 17, 1988 Carey issued “Sydney Side Up,” a paean to home, in the Sunday Times Magazine. An excerpt appeared in New York Magazine on October 12. January 26, 1988 In Sydney, Aussies celebrated a bicentenary with fireworks to welcome the arrival of tall ships. Carey pondered how citizens could rejoice at ships bringing convicts in chains. More insidious, corrupt soldiers tortured inmates and undermined 40,000 years of aboriginal culture.

March 7, 1988 In the twelfth year of the Adelaide Writers’ Week, a major Australian arts festival, Carey drew 1,500 to his presentation. The speech was a first-time sellout by an Australian author. August, 1988 Vogue Australia published Carey’s essay “Am I Safe? Carey Takes a Walk on the Dark Side of the Street.” October 17, 1988 Against competition from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Bruce Chatwin’s Utz, Carey won a Miles Franklin Award of $42,000, a Torgi Talking Book of the Year citation from the Royal Blind Society, election to the Royal Society of Literature, a National Book Council Banjo Award, Townsville Foundation for Australian Literary Studies Colin Roderick Award of $2,000, a Time magazine “best book,” an honorary Ph. D. from the University of Queensland, and his first Booker Prize of $32,000 for Oscar and Lucinda, an historical allegory he originally titled Holy Ghosts. It was a unanimous selection arrived at in record time for the Booker committee. He built the narrative around a visual image of a floating glass church. Although an unbeliever, he valued churches as spiritual and cultural landmarks. He mused, “If white Australia had a ‘culture’ it was predominantly a Christian one — it had destroyed 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture to establish itself ” (Brown, 1995, 135). Writing in the expansive, digressive style of Dickensian fiction, the author turns the 111



chapters into tesserae to form a socio-religious mosaic. He had been “full of anxiety” about the project, fearing that a book about the Church of England would be of no interest to North American readers (Tausky, 1990, 29). His risk taking extends in chapter 68 to a skewer at the media. In accounting for the naming of the “Wednesday murders,” the author digresses with the observation that the killer struck on a Sunday and a Tuesday, but “Let this be a lesson to anyone dealing with the press— the name stuck” (Carey, 1988, 261). Published amid the nostalgia and self-affirmation that flourished during Australia’s bicentennial, the text ponders the Christianization of 19th-century Australia through an iconic folly, a glass church, a pinnacle of Carey’s fantasy structures. A controlling metaphor of parentlessness derives from Carey’s belief that “our history is a history of orphans” (Fitzgerald, 1997, 82). The author’s mother was only vaguely aware of the significance of her son’s views on Australia’s past, which had reporters pounding on his parents’ door. At a formal gathering, historian and judging chairman Michael Foot presented the author $26,250. Carey later found out a hard truth of notoriety: “A prize really does do something, and guarantees nothing” (Mudge, 2003). One result was a charge by critic C. Karl Stead that Carey violated history by focusing his retrospective on blacks and women, two mistreated populations whose championing appears out of chronological place. Stead maintained that questions of racism and sexism “destroy the credence on which the fiction depends” (Stead, 1989, 185). In March 2009, Carey explained why he chose not to speak for black Australians: “The indigenous people would prefer that I did not represent them” (Hyman, 2009). While collaborating with Wim Wenders on the screenplay Until the End of the World, Carey began collecting political, ethical, and personal angles for writing. With actor Willem Defoe, the author studied dramatic art from a practical perspective —“that notion of conflict; of this person wanting this and that person wanting that. This has certainly affected my work as a way of looking at transactions, a way of seeing dialogue as what springs up as a result of the pressure of the tectonic plates underneath, that dialogue is the thing that just flips up” (Blakeney, 2006). Carey liquidated his share of the McSpedden Carey agency and emigrated to New York City to swap residences with dramatist Israel Horowitz. Upon arriving at a townhouse he purchased in 1989 on Eighth Street in West Greenwich Village, Carey enjoyed relative anonymity. Already a Booker laureate, he exulted that he didn’t have to prove himself: “I arrived in the Village as if by C-section, having escaped the long birth trauma” (Carey, 2007). He noted a sense of displacement in the new land: “How strange and not me it is” (Woodward, 1995, 59). The oddness spurred him to view his own homeland as “uncharted, unmapped, unknown to itself, unknown to me” (Ibid.). He explained to interviewer Sonia Harford, “You don’t lose forty-five years of life just because you shift your bum somewhere else” (Harford, 2006, 118). Carey became a homebody by burrowing into an area the size of his hometown for its sense of community. In terms of family, Carey learned a truism about living in a foreign country: “What I hadn’t anticipated was how having children makes this move more permanent” (Polito, 1996). After selling his water-view home in Balmain, he gloried in anonymity that accompanied his escape from celebrity: “I don’t have to be a spokesperson for anything. No one knows who I am” (Tausky, 1990, 28). He denied that he expatriated for the sake of career or royalties. To interviewer Helen Dudar, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, he explained the logic of immigration to North America: “It’s interesting. If it’s interesting, it must be enriching. And if it’s enriching, then it must be good for my work” (Dudar, 1992, A10). To secure a green card and to pay his sons’ tuition to private school, he signed on as a creative writing teacher at New York University one night a week. He focused on the writer’s need to see characters as a body involved in dialogue.

1989 Carey’s acceptance speech of the Miles Franklin Award appeared in Australian Author as “The Thin Man Makes History, Biting the Imperial Hand.” With genuine gratitude before



an audience at Brisbane’s Fryer Library, he declared it “good to have one’s work celebrated in one’s own country” (Carey, 1989, 17). In defense of a “split-screen life,” he repudiated charges that he was too Americanized to write about his homeland (Harford, 2006, 113). In his words, his first 47 years produced “many, many years of sediment lying on the bed of my river.... You don’t lose forty-five years of life just because you shift your bum somewhere else” (Harford, 2006, 118). In support of fellow Australian writers, Carey delivered a diatribe against a change in laws governing importation of books. On October 30, the Sydney Morning Herald published his complaint that British publishers “get Australia on the cheap” (Ibid.).

1990 Carey wrote Exotic Pleasures and finished the last six of twelve drafts of The Tax Inspector, a bleak comic novel that seems like an alien invader of his canon. The motivation for a surreal exploration of tax evasion gripped Carey at a party in Sydney, where Sir Johannes BjelkePetersen, Queensland’s premier, expounded on his intent to cut taxes on the upper class. The author denounced “the complete ease with which [Australians] have accepted corruption since (and perhaps because of ) the first white settlement in Sydney Cove” (Stewart, 2003, 21). He divulged to writer Peter Craven that the plot grew out of his characterization of a heroic civil servant, Maria Takis. Carey confided to interviewer Helen Ifeka, a writer for Hermes, that he regretted not releasing an earthy smell after the gelignite explosion that removes concrete from Frieda Catchprice’s thwarted flower farm. Australians bridled at the implications of The Tax Inspector; Carey’s sister was embarrassed at slurs directed at the Carey family business. The author was chagrined at critics who impugned his patriotism: “They thought I didn’t like my country, because I said some things about Sydney being continually corrupt from its beginnings. It’s an edgy, unsettling sort of book” (Gourevitch, 2007, 528). One reviewer, Richard B. Woodward in a review for the Village Voice, called the novel “a lump of shit on a well-crafted plate” (Woodward, 1995, 59). The dramatic child abuse in the text spurred literary sleuths to investigate the author’s childhood for parallels. To Doug Aiton, a reviewer for The Age, the author declared himself a novelist for life: “I’m trapped in my own fantasy. That’s what I wanted” (Lamb, 1992, 1). After Charley Carey, his second son, was born, the author realized that the theme of incest was “a horrible whirlpool I was making for myself.... The investigation was not in any sense therapeutic” (Meyer, 1997, 86 –87). As though envisioning a vampire, he realized that a violent family coup d’état was the only force that could quell a self-perpetuating perversion. After replacing Thomas Keneally as writing teacher at Hunter College in Manhattan, Carey began teaching a dozen students around a table in Room 1243 every Tuesday night. His method was Socratic: “We talk about their work, or the sentences of Bruno Schulz or Henry James, and we try to figure out how it all works, not the business of the business, but the business of this sentence, this story, in language I do not doubt I would have once judged pretentious” (Carey, 2007). He decided to offer the city’s best MFA program. He found the project demanding: “It takes a great faculty, enormous energy, and a crazy belief that you can build the best program in the country.... Today it is clear that something great is happening on the corner of Lex and 68th” (Jarvis, 2008). Carey paired with an aggressive faculty and ambitious students who came from varied backgrounds. He joked, “What a crazy, courageous, harebrained thing for them to be doing — and they’re here” (Jarvis, 2008). He took classroom work seriously and noted its effect on his self-perception: “There is a particular immigrant experience that an Australian has that really applies very fruitfully to the lives and work of many of the students at Hunter College. That is, as an Australian writing in English, the first thing you go to do is discover your own country and present your own country in a way that it’s not been presented before to your people” (Birnbaum, 2003).

April 7, 1990 During an annual conference of the American Association for Australian Literary Studies, Carey took three-year-old Sam to Disney World to see Pirates of the Caribbean,



which the author compared to the “death, destruction, rape, murder, torture” of Vietnam, which he labeled “totally amoral thrill-seeking” (Tausky, 1990, 27).

1991 With the publication of the nihilistic Gothic saga The Tax Inspector, Carey incurred heavy criticism from Australians for composing so grim a dystopia about his homeland’s working class. Some accused him of being an anti–Australian Jeremiah. Bill Marx, in a review for The Nation, found the text dreary, “like an apocalypse on cruise control ... an overwrought daydream” (Marx, 1992, 348). Malcolm Jones, Jr., a critic for Newsweek, declared the novel a “shambles” that the author blows up just to be rid of it (Jones, 1992, 60). The uproar constituted what Nicholas Hasluck called “Bouquets abroad; brickbats at home” (Hasluck, 1993, 114). The following year, in an interview with Ray Willbanks, the author restated his intent to temper realism with compassion: “The writer has a responsibility to tell the truth, not to shy away from the world as it is; and at the same time the writer has a responsibility to celebrate the potential of the human spirit” (Willbanks, 1992, 51 –52). The editor of the Sydney Morning Herald declared Carey an offshore “national conscience” (“Literary,” 1992). Analyst Karen Lamb remarked on a growing ambiguity reflected in Australian resentment and acclaim — an “anti-intellectualism and reverence for a successful public figure” (Lamb, 1992, 3). In 1994, Helen Daniel, a reviewer for The Age, declared the novel “at once vintage Carey and yet new Carey, a fabulous venture into new territories” (Daniel, 1994, 7). Edmund White, in a review for the Times Literary Supplement, saw the novel as a breakthrough “destined to make him one of the most widely read and admired writers working in English” (White, 1991, 21).

December 25, 1991 For Warner Brothers, over a two-year period, Carey and German director Wim Wenders co-authored the futuristic CIA chase film Until the End of the World. The story of global destruction in 1991 by Solveig Dommartin and Wenders stars Dommartin, William Hurt, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow, and Jeanne Moreau.

1993 Carey entertained his sons by making up a pseudo-autobiographical child’s book, Wart, Fart, and Bathroom Man. Before writing The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Carey conceived the plot while attending the American Association for the Study of Australian Literature in Orlando, Florida. True to family commitments, he toured Disney World with Alison and Sam. Upon viewing Mickey and Minnie Mouse as animated royalty, he saw them as imitation royalty, “like Ron and Nancy,” a reference to the Reagans (Woodward, 1995, 59). From interpreting Mickey and Minnie as holy icons, he developed an historical irony: “I started to imagine a country where figures like Mickey and Minnie were the decadent flowering of a heretical Protestant sect” (Polito, 1996). The writing progressed when he stayed at a Jamaican resort with his family. He based the fictional Feu Follet Theatre at Chemin Rouge, Efica, on a radical Melbourne collective called the Pram Factory. For background, he read Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, who described Abel Magwitch, the convict from Great Expectations, as an Australian prototype. A transportee to New South Wales, Abel served seven years, then chose to return to England, the country that had exiled him. To Canadian interviewer Eleanor Watchel, the author confided, “I seem incapable of ever creating a happy ending” (Watchel, 1993, 103). Carey’s friend author Michael Heyward published a nonfiction account of a hoax, The Ern Malley Affair, an overview that Carey advised. At the same time, he maintained that fiction could give a better history than fact by making the character come alive in the imagination. After two years of reworking his initial manuscript, Carey discovered a way to compose the hoax as fiction on a par with the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). He worked at a visual image: “Once I had three or four pages I knew I had something. I have three or four people telling the story so it is constructed like a Russian doll” (Wyndham, 2003).

February 15, 1993 Carey issued “Dear Salman” in the London Sunday Times, an epistolary essay consoling Salman Rushdie, a hunted writer. Carey admired Rushdie’s courage in



breaking house arrest to appear in New York City at Columbia University despite a death warrant from Islamic fanatics.

Fall 1993 Carey published “From an Alien to His Second Son” in HQ Magazine. 1994 With the issuance of the ambitious novel The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Carey illustrated the split consciousness of life in contrasting cultures, the satellite Efica and Voorstand, its Machiavellian colonizer. Analyst David Griffin, in a review for the New York Review of Science Fiction, dismisses the efforts as “a lecture disguised as the lab sequence of a Frankenstein sequel” (Griffin, 1996, 15). In the critique of Marie Maclean, a reviewer for Australian Book Review, the book emulates the chutzpah of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy (1759): “He entertains, he shocks, and he makes enormous demands ... [jumping] from mind to mind and from the seemingly real to the frankly incredible” (Maclean, 1994, 10). Jonathan Coe, in a critique for the London Review of Books, interpreted Carey’s whimsical parallel worlds as an attempt “to resolve his own very contradictory feelings about America” (Coe, 1994, 5). Critic Carolyn See identifies the novel as homage to Alison Summer. He tapped his American experiences to describe false consciousness, his term for a lack of true self-perception. A mix of critical commentary described the work as perplexing, brutal, and abhorrent. A naysayer, reviewer Melissa Bellanta, dismissed the novel as Carey’s “least successful endeavour” (Bellanta, 2003). Sean Buffington envisions a double-sided stunt —“A high pastiche — a Frankenstein of stitched-together tones, figurations, themes and style. And at the end of it all, some unseen mischief-maker pulls the loose thread that sends it falling to the floor, a crumpled mess of skin and parts” (Buffington, 1995). From a more positive perspective, Analyst Carol Shields asserted, “[Carey] is at heart an old-fashioned utopian trapped in a dystopian universe. The elaborate phantasmagoria of his narrative chess game clears again and again to reveal the hard emotional truth that neither the weak nor the strong have been able to make themselves a safe home in the world” (Shields, 1995). Claire Messud, in a review for the Independent, connected the novel to the author’s entire canon, which “has always been both inventive and about invention, at once a manifestation of imaginative power and a comment upon it” (Messud, 1994). Although the novel was his least comprehensible fantasy, it won Carey’s third Miles Franklin Award of $42,000, short-listing for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, an Australian Book Seller’s Association Book of the Year, and a second The Age Book of the Year Award of $20,000. Rejection for a Booker Prize may have resulted because of the fantasy settings, which fail to identify Efica with Australia. Carey followed with A Letter to Our Son and Collected Stories, an expanded edition of War Crimes.

September 10, 1994 Carey’s essay “Home” appeared in the Courier-Mail. October 14, 1994 In the article “My Lasting Wish” for The Australian Magazine, Carey regretted that only two of his six children survived: “Those other children I have spent a long time trying to forget. These are the children from my first marriage, children a long time dead” (Carey, 1994). His grief found favor with anti-choice forces, who published his misgivings as testimonials to post-abortion trauma in fathers. September 25, 1995 Carey made changes in his writing style by abandoning the short story, even though Bill Burford, editor of the New Yorker, tempted him with a cash commission for more short works. The author realized, “I had become addicted to the dangers and pleasures of the novel.” Instead, for the magazine’s September 25 edition, Carey wrote “A Small Memorial: To the Children the Author Tried to Forget,” a memoir about his first wife’s abortion and two subsequent miscarriages, one of twins. The cause was an incompetent cervix, which resulted in premature deliveries. At his unnamed twins’ cremation, he declared himself an atheist, but he acknowledged that his lifeless babes were human lives. He admitted that “Emotionally it is wrenching to write, but technically it is so much easier than writing fiction,” but



he took pride in a week’s work that produced a confessional essay from a grieving father (Polito, 1996). Carey served in the writing department of Princeton University. He entered the children’s market with The Big Bazoohley, a comic fantasy based on Sam Carey’s sleepwalking experience at a Toronto hotel. In what reviewer Susan L. Rogers calls a “breezy contemporary adventure” of gambler Earl Kellow and his artist wife Vanessa, Carey expressed his risk-taking by moving the family from Australia to New York. The author reflects the mindset of a former advertiser by examining the term “Perfecto Kiddo” and declaring it a typical slogan for a “nonsensible situation” (Carey, 1995, 23). The book was named a Young Readers Honor Book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and appeared on the Publishers Weekly list of the year’s best children’s fiction. More important to the author was his son Sam’s response. After hovering over the boy during his read, Carey received a top award from a child’s perspective: “Not bad” (Koval, 1997, 679).

1996 The author left Princeton to teach writing at Columbia University’s M. F. A. Program. He laughed at his donation as a tax deduction of old manuscripts to the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland. Among the collections were undated stories: “The Dream of the World’s Greatest Architect,” “A Fear of High Places,” “Feet,” “Fire Dreams,” “The Last Great Optimist,” “Learn to Grow Roses,” “In Loving Memory of Luke McClosky,” “A Man Needs His Dreams,” “Marvin Gnash Is Really Weird,” “Mayfair,” “Rousseau Set Upon by His Tigers,” “Saturday,” “Ten to Twelve Something Like This,” and “Winnegan’s Fake.”

October 1996 Carey enjoyed the stir that Australian scenarist and novelist Frank Moorhouse created at a literary luncheon by lambasting expatriate Aussies as cultural traitors. During a visit to the 92nd Street Y in West Greenwich Village, Carey showed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro around the neighborhood. In a reflection on literary taste, Carey declared that he preferred recklessness in classic fiction, such as Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1615), Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1767), and Charles Dickens’s novels. His maturity as a writer inspired reviewer David Griffin, a critic for the New York Review of Science Fiction, to remark, “If Peter Carey isn’t the most gifted writer Australia has produced in some time, he may yet be the most energetic,” a reference to the success of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (Griffin, 1996, 14). Griffin extolled the epic quality of Carey’s canon and applauded “a loose-limbed fragmentary anticism ... pinwheeling pace and frantic chatter” that fuels them (Ibid.).

1997 At the Perch Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Noble Rot Theatre Company, directed by David George, premiered an adaptation of two stories from The Fat Man in History: “Do You Love Me?” and “Peeling.” Overland published “An Abandoned Chapter.” January 1, 1997 Contemporary with Prime Minister John Howard’s Reconciliation Convention, an attempt to make amends with Australia’s aboriginal population, Carey wrote Jack Maggs, a myth of origin about a British outcast. After reading Edward Said’s critique of Great Expectations in Culture and Imperialism, Carey described Charles Dickens’s classic as “an Aussie story” (Koval, 1997, 669). He seized on Dickens’s orphan stories and extended the original themes with late 20th-century contemplations of justice, patriotism, respectability, poverty, welfare, and female reproduction rights. He confided to journalist Bron Sibree of the Canberra Times his composition of a “complicated homesickness,” perhaps a parallel to his own (Sibree, 1997, 22). Karl Miller, in an article for New Republic, declared the author’s impetus was “a nostalgia for the primitive virtue of his ancestors, bless their broad beams” (Miller, 1998, 40). Another reason was more visceral — a rage “at Dickens for giving my imaginary ancestor a bad rap” (Gussow, 1998). Carey’s success with Jack Maggs resulted from what reviewer D. J. Taylor called “[weaving] all manner of devious patterns from the fog of early Victorian London” (Taylor, 2001). Through what novelist John Updike termed “hectic fullness and fond cruelty,” Carey achieved



his intent to shift Australian identity from flogger to floggee (Updike, 2007, 354). For the sake of the title character’s salvation, the text demands an about-face of colonial loyalties from the poseurs of the motherland to the foster country frontiersmen. As justification for abandoning England, Carey explained to interviewer Susan Wyndham that Jack Maggs was “the first Australian to go back to London and not be wanted” (Wyndham, 1994, 45). Suzie McKenzie, a writer for the London Guardian, captured the author’s determination to retrieve Maggs from ignominy. Claiming the transported convict as an ancestor, the author rhapsodized, “I wanted to reinvent him, to possess him” (McKenzie, 1997, T33). Composing for a broad audience of Australians and British, Carey based the neo-Victorian pastiche on Abel Magwitch, the convict and stockman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861). The parallel novel coincides with a period when natives negotiated rights to ancestral lands. The author focused on the fictional character on the assumption that Charles Dickens knew a real felon like Abel Magwitch. Carey took his cue from missing information about the convict: “I thought it would be interesting to give this convict character some of the care and sympathy that Dickens gives to Pip,” Magwitch’s imaginary foster son (Gussow, 1998). To commiserate more thoroughly with the transported criminal, Carey recasts Pip as Henry Phipps, a self-absorbed rounder and social climber. The narrative navigates the same London social settings described in the popular works of William Makepeace Thackeray and Wilkie Collins. For historical accuracy and a sense of authority, Carey read travelogues by outsiders who visited London in 1837.

December 31, 1997 Laura Jones, scenarist for The Portrait of a Lady (1996) and Angela’s Ashes (1999), completed the screen adaptation of Oscar and Lucinda, filmed by Gillian Armstrong and starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett in the title roles. Shot in Cornwall, Sydney, and Hobart, Tasmania, the heavily plotted story captures a series of paradoxes, “new opportunities and a wasteland of exile” and “great passion, mistaken and displaced” (Mayer and Beattie, 2007, 167). The film won American Film Institute Awards for cinematography, costume, production, sound, and music. Laura Jones was nominated for screen adaptation; Cate Blanchett, for best actor. Janet Patterson received an Oscar nod for costume. Additional awards accrued for dialogue editing and sound mixing.

1998 In partnership with Frederick Alan Schepisi, a Melbourne-born scenarist, Carey adapted Jack Maggs for film to be aired in 1999. February 1998 After winning a third The Age Book of the Year Award of $20,000, a nomination for the W. H. Smith Award, and a third Miles Franklin Award of $42,000, Carey declined an audience with Queen Elizabeth II to receive the first of his two Commonwealth Writers Prizes of £10,000 for Jack Maggs. Critics interpreted the insult as evidence of his promotion of Australian statehood. A decade later, the author substantiated that claim by complaining, “We have much less independence than we imagine, and it’s a damned shame” (Lord, 2008). He visited with other postcolonial Commonwealth authors and experienced kinship: “What surprised me was how strongly connected we all felt ... to experience a sense of cultural connection” (Maver, 2006, 156). He won an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from New School University, New York. August 1998 Jack Maggs earned a nomination for Scotland’s prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize of £10,000. December 16, 1998 When the U. S. military bombed Iraq, Carey regretted the public distrust of fiction in a time when journalistic reports on the Clinton administration contained less truth than the novelist’s imagination. His son’s response to the invasion surprised his father: “I said, hang on a minute —‘they’ bombed Iraq, not us. But it made me think. I have two American kids” (Wroe, 2001, 6).



1999 At the Melbourne Public Library archives, Carey researched the background of the Kelly Gang through letters and historic photographs. He previously acknowledged his discomfort with primary documents: “I hate being in libraries, because I always feel there’s something I’m missing” (Grimes, 1992, C11). During a month-long horseback tour of Victoria, he funneled money into his work while scrimping on home finances. He refused to follow Alison to Brisbane, where she sought the artistic directorship of the Queensland Theatre Company. Mid-January 1999 At the Seymour Centre, director Kim Carpenter led Sydney’s Theatre of Image in a dance-cinema-puppet montage of Exotic Pleasures, an innovative stage adaptation of stories by Peter Carey and David Malouf.

January 2000 With True History of the Kelly Gang, Carey rewrote crime history for Australians. After telling and retelling the story of outlaw Ned Kelly to American friends viewing exhibits of works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Australian artist Sidney Nolan, Carey remarked, “In a city where the art world is so full of theory and bullshit and statue, these paintings looked like things that just had to be made” (Bemrose, 2001, 49). He resolved to inform the world of a national hero. He determined to write it in novel form: “And there was only one way that I really wanted to approach it — to write it in his voice” (Bond & Sheedy, 235). He admitted that the plan was a long shot: “The minute you start messing with a national story you know you are doing something a little risky” (O’Reilly, 2002, 164). Carey reprised the picaresque legend from the perspective of contemporary psychology of the roots of criminality. His wife Alison suggested he enlarge on compassion for characters and that he remove punctuation. The result was semiliterate prose that reads like visceral poetry. Like Captain Moonlight and Ben Hall, Kelly satisfied the public’s yen to read bushranger fiction. Carey muttered, “There was some bullshit controversy about me glorifying a murderer. But it is bullshit. Most people don’t feel that.... Only official Australia has always hated him” (Wroe, 2001, 6). For the author’s bold defense of homelanders, he was nominated for Australian of the Year 2001. June 30, 2000 Carey issued “Come Back” in the Courier-Mail. September 15, 2000 Flying from Los Angeles to the Sydney Olympic Games, Carey discovered an inordinate fondness for “that vulgar crooked convict town” (Carey, 1989, 28). During the opening ceremony, he regretted the adulation for Ned Kelly, a gallows bird and Australia’s legendary icon still idolized in Ireland and England. Already involved in research on Kelly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the author was startled by the brash Olympic showing. Critic Robert Ross described the “strange spectacle” of myth —“a dance troupe wearing costumes inspired by his armor and waving sparklers to represent gunfire” (Ross, 2001, 251). Carey bemoaned, “What is it about us Australians, eh? What is wrong with us? Do we not have a Jefferson? A Disraeli? Might not we find someone better to admire? ... But I then saw the real point. So many Australians were pleased to see him there as part of the story” (Wroe, 2001, 6). With Ned-ophilia on the rise, Carey chose to abandon a novel about the United States and mythologize about Kelly, a cultural antihero on a par with the American bank robber Jesse James. As he assembled historical episodes, he jokingly referred to them as “stations of the cross,” a salute to the enduring folk tradition honoring an underclass martyr (Seaman, 2005, 55). Critic Barry Oakley validated the novel’s glamour, which “snaps shut like a handcuff ” (Oakley, 2000, 5). D. J. Taylor, a reviewer for the New Statesman went one better, declaring, “Few English language novelists of the past 20 years have played such dramatic and energetic games with history” (Taylor, 2001, 42). November 28, 2000 The author mesmerized listeners at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival by reading sections of Kelly’s postcolonial myth, which earned the publisher a record $350,000 profit. He admitted the toil of piecing together his outback chronicle, for which he “almost



drowned in the research” (Morgan, 2001, 71). The energized glimpses of Aussie history sold 2,000,000 copies in five years, 250,000 of those in Australia. The narrative won Carey an Economist, Courier-Mail, and a Time Magazine Book of the Year as well as comparisons to Kenyan mythographer Chinua Achebe, American realist Cormac McCarthy, innovative Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and West Indian epicist Derek Walcott.

January 10, 2001 Kelly business continued to monopolize Carey’s time. Irish film director Neil Jordan of Scala Productions optioned the book for cinema and offered the writer an opportunity to write the screenplay, which Carey declined. At the time, the novel stood at position eight on the New York Times bestseller roster. August 6, 2001 Carey issued 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account, a personal description of his home turf that aroused the ire of Australian critics and readers. At the height of the vigorous, subjective study of Australia’s port is an eyewitness account of the 54th annual Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race in 1998, when a cyclone capsized six boats and drowned five racers. September 11, 2001 Carey sensed pride in his adopted home and felt like a native: “I have a lot of friends here who I would sorely miss if I went back to Australia. And at the same time, I miss Australia” (Mudge, 2003). The demands of two loyalties created a tension that informed his writing with both immediacy and distancing. He heard the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and was glad that his sons attended schools in Brooklyn. He learned of his wife’s escape from Century 21, a discount clothing store across from the North Tower, where she was accessing a cash machine. That night, he and his son Charley walked around Union Square to observe the reactions of New Yorkers and to cheer the firefighters and volunteers. The scene — “that perilous pile of deadly pick-up sticks”— reminded the author of Dunkirk (Carey, 2001, 24). The loss to New Yorkers aroused deep waves of belonging in Carey, who snarled, “I want to strike back, pulverise, kill, obliterate anyone who has caused this harm to my city” (Carey, 2001, 24). He observed, “People have realised, I think, what deep, deep shit this country is in” (Balogh, 2007).

September 18, 2001 True History of the Kelly Gang was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award of $180,000, the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction of $30,000, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award, The Age Fiction Book of the Year of $10,000, and a second Commonwealth Booker Prize of £21,000. For the first time, he enjoyed success: “I learned to celebrate the moment. And I did. It was great” (Birnbaum, 2003). Although Alison advised him for three years on the narrative, Carey credited his editor, Gary Fisketjon, for supporting the work.

September 23, 2001 In a letter to editor Robert McCrum at the Observer, published the previous day in The Age as “I Still Love New York,” Carey detailed his panic while trying to assemble his family as the World Trade Center crumbled and burned. In the streets, he studied eyewitnesses fleeing along Bedford Street, “the stark, seared horror in their eyes, the blankness, but also sometimes the frank appeals for human contact” (Carey, 2001, 24). He admired Alison’s memory of the disaster: “Only when I read her own account do I appreciate the extraordinary escape she has made, how lucky we are to have her alive” (Carey, 2001, 24). Late September 2001 After dedicating the Ned Kelly novel to his wife “whose clear literary intelligence and flawless dramatic instinct illuminated and clarified a work that at times threatened to swamp and drown me,” Carey separated from her and sought marriage counseling (Wyndham, 2006). She charged that he allowed his career to overshadow concern for her and their boys. Resettled in Tribeca, he saw himself as “a refugee from a marriage” (Harford, 2006, 114).

October 23, 2001 In Melbourne, the auction of Carey’s notebooks, correspondence, and manuscripts from 1969 to 1988 netted $80,000. Because the State Library of Victoria bought



the author’s unpublished manuscripts, literary historians were pleased that the works remained in country.

2002 Carey’s impressions of 9/11 appeared in “Union Square,” a short story collected in 110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11. That same year, 3,000 members of the Australian Society of Authors selected True History of the Kelly Gang for inclusion on the roster of Australia’s top 40 books of all time.

January 25, 2002 Carey delivered the John Batman Australia Day oration at a luncheon in the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

August 2002 Carey accepted the title of Honorary Ambassador for Queensland for introducing the world to Ned Kelly and for promoting Australia’s literary traditions. At 32 libraries, the Brisbane City Council launched a ten-week community read of True History of the Kelly Gang. Carey traveled from New York to read at the city writers’ festival and to address issues of Australian genealogy and socio-economic identity. October 2002 Another prize awaited Carey for True History of the Kelly Gang, the International Ennio Flaiano Prize for Literature and a purse of 5,000 Euros. The author anticipated that an Italian prize for La Ballata di Ned Kelly might increase his share of the fiction market in Italy. December 6, 2002 When long-time editor Laurie Muller retired from the University of Queensland Press, after 28 years, Carey followed marketing director Carol Davidson to Random House and signed a three-book deal with a $2 million advance. Ironically, about this time, he gained dual Australian-United States citizenship. January 1, 2003 On an advance of $350,000, Carey published My Life As a Fake, a fiction version of the Ern Malley hoax and literary scandal in Australia in the 1940s. Nick Groom, a reviewer for the Independent, found the galloping quest story “precise and beautifully intense” (Groom, 2003, 32). Of his background work for “opportunistic storytelling,” Carey joked, “I am an appalling researcher with a very short attention span. So I read a lot” (Birnbaum, 2003). He focused on a Malaysian setting in Penang, which he had visited several times, and received tips on details from Malaysian journalist Rehman Rashid, author of Malaysian Journey (1993). Autobiographical details link the author to his characters, particularly fashion copywriter Bob McCorkle, who chooses advertising as “a perfect hiding place for such a High Art character” (Carey, 2003, 85). For the female protagonist, editor Sarah Wode-Douglas, the novelist modeled her after Dublin-born actor-director Maria Aitken. He chuckled, “One of the scariest moments when I’d finished the book was showing it to her. She read it and she really loved it” (Wyndham, 2003). Carey received mixed responses to his novel. Philip Hensher of the London Times thought the novelist as boldly excursive as the work of Robert Louis Stevenson; John Updike gushed in the New Yorker review over Carey’s brilliance, his economy of language, and the startling turns of plot. Helen Brown, in a review for the Daily Telegraph, elevated the “addictively gnarled tale” to a reminder that “all creations stagger uncertain from their clinging creators, to burn on in the brains of strangers” (Brown, 2003, 8). Ron Charles, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, proclaimed Carey “a literary Robin Hood, stealing from rich moments of history or literature and giving to poor readers” (Charles, 2003, 14). Hollywood film agents were puzzled how to turn the narrative into cinema. Carey was amused that Terrence Rafferty, a reviewer for the New York Times, overrated the narrative: “He attributes to me great, complicated artistry, which I don’t have, and making allusions which would never even occur to me to make” (Birnbaum, 2003). Carey acknowledged, “There’s readers who have relaxed into it and enjoyed it and then there are readers who have just fretted at it” (Ibid.). He suggested that readers should absorb the storytelling without too much analysis.



March 2003 Carey joined authors Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton in opting out of Tasmania’s annual Readers’ & Writers’ Festival because the sponsor, the Gund lumber company, despoiled ancient forests for wood chips. The withdrawal cost Carey a literary prize, but, he beamed, “It gave the real workers in the front line a little bit of strength” (Birnbaum, 2003).

May 7, 2003 Carey acknowledged to John Freeman, an interviewer for The Australian, the qualms of facing his 60th birthday: “I was miserable for a long time. I just thought, the kids will grow up and I will die. Then I turned 60 and I was suddenly amazingly happy.”

June 1, 2003 Following 15 years of wedlock, Carey’s separation from his second wife produced “the most horrible time in my life” (Wagner, 2008). In court, Alison charged him with non-support over the previous nine months in a year when he earned $840,000. He lost custody of sons Charley and Sam, who settled with their mother at a one-bedroom flat near Ground Zero. January 2004 The author became the program director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Hunter College, a position that he described as keeping him out of pool rooms. He bolstered the literary reading series with works he wanted to hear and selected 12 students for coaching from a field of 100 applicants. His methodology involved analyzing classic works and current fiction and peer-editing student fiction. Key to his pedagogy lay a balance between teaching the wisdom of writing and the tricks of narrative without damaging their natural voice and flow. His students characterize Carey’s classroom quips as “random and sardonic and not at all what you expected” (Jarvis, 2008).

March 26, 2004 Filmed on location in Victoria, Neil Jordan’s biopic Ned Kelly stirred controversy by retelling the story from Robert Drewe’s Our Sunshine (1999) rather than from Carey’s book. The film featured Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom alongside Geoffrey Rush and Naomi Watts. Critics referred to the efforts of Working Title Films as an Aussie equivalent of Braveheart (1995), Mel Gibson’s tribute to 13th-century Scots outlaw William Wallace. Ned Kelly won AFI awards for costume and production and nominations for best actor, supporting actor, cinematography, direction, edition, adapted screenplay, and sound. July 23, 2004 The Canberra Times named Carey among its 40 “movers and shakers” and specified him as the only “opposing voice” among entertainment figures.

November 15, 2004 For the National Geographic Society, Carey negotiated to write a book on a drug rehab program for felons in the Australian desert. Instead, he published Wrong about Japan, a metafictional father-son travelogue about his 2003 tour of Tokyo with Charley, a 12year-old immersed in light and animation shows, video arcades, and manga comics. Critics charged the author with stereotyping islanders as deliberately obtuse. Carey replied, “The Japanese are particularly dedicated to the idea that outsiders can’t understand them” (Bethune, 2005, 52). Because the author created conflict by inventing a teenaged character named Takashi, National Geographic refused to print the narrative. Random House picked up the contract. February 2005 Except for the Weather Channel and Friends, Carey retreated from television. For camaraderie with Sam, the author listened to his son’s band, Corporate Burnings, and to the political music of Anti-Flag and Rancid. June 2005 After a four-year separation, Carey’s divorce became final. Alison, declaring herself a victim of emotional terrorism, described her ex-husband as a narcissist — a vampire feeding off her life. She began writing Mrs. Jekyll, a novel spotlighting the theme of deception. October 2005 Carey sold his 1,400 square-foot brownstone duplex on Bedford Street for $2.45 million. Abandoning three bedrooms, a fireplace, home office with a Macintosh on the desk, and a rooftop getaway, he remained in Greenwich Village at a spare two-room walk-up.



2006 The author told interviewer Sally Blakeney, “The last six years of my life have been completely in all sorts of misery, turmoil, and conflict” (Blakeney, 2006). At an upturn, he established a relationship with Frances Coady, the British-born publisher of Granta and Picador USA whom he met in 1985. He chuckled, “It took me two years to call her. She was always so full of life and energy, and with somebody. And then she wasn’t” (Freeman, 2008). They moved to a SoHo loft on Broadway. Of their relationship, he admired her skill at reviewing his work: “She can echo things back to me that are tremendous. And she’ll tell me when things aren’t working” (Freeman, 2008).

April 30, 2006 Theft: A Love Story, one of his less toilsome projects, took two years to write. Lionel Shriver, a reviewer for the London Telegraph acclaimed the work “a big, brave bastard of a book, its characters so outsized that they should barely have been able to button their shirts” (Shriver, 2008). As in earlier works, the author focuses on what critic Donna Seaman terms “the demonic side of creativity and questions of authenticity and fakery” (Seaman, 2006, 5). He takes a swipe at his first career by consigning the “German Bachelor” to a job teaching “ADVERTISING GRAPHICS at the Tech” in Footscray (Carey, 2006, 122). The novel received a four-city book tour and earned nomination for the Commonwealth Writers Prize of $1,000, short-listing for the Miles Franklin Award, a best of 2006 listing from the Rocky Mountain News, the Vance Palmer Prize of $180,000, and the New South Wales Premier’s Christina Stead Prize for Fiction purse of $20,000 for its command of milieu. Of its success, he admitted, “I had much better memory for place than I thought. And part of writing this book was about writing that place in Queensland” (Wroe, 2008). The semi-autobiographical plot prompted a public squabble between Carey and Summers, who claimed that he settled old scores by airing marital grievances and by referring to a greedy ex-wife as an “alimony whore”— a term that Alison characterized as a “nasty stereotype of a gold-digging, shoe-obsessed bimbo” (“ExWife,” 2006).

2007 At age 64, Carey advanced to executive director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Hunter College. From classroom experience, he refuted claims of the death of fiction: “We are living in the middle of a roar of literature” (Carey, 2007). The author began to ponder returning to Australia, which he had revisited the previous year to experience the atmosphere of Morton Bay on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. He characterized the draw of the mother country as a force of nature: “Salmon return to the rivers they were born in, you know, it is that feel of place, it’s the strongest thing” (Balogh, 2007). He expounded on his yearning for a sense of belonging: “There is a basic thing which is just called home which all of your musculature and everything in you feels when you get off an aeroplane and there’s a certain sort of air, a certain sort of light, humidity, and you feel different because you are in your place” (Ibid.).

January 28, 2008 For his dedication to classroom work, Carey earned the title of CUNY Distinguished Professor by unanimous vote. His honoraria included three honorary doctorates and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Contributing to his notoriety was the selection of his writing program as the best master of fine arts in New York City by Village Voice.

February 29, 2008 For the writing of the road novel His Illegal Self, the author drew on inner understandings of childhood for voicing. The thriller/love story, which sets its action in the protest movement of radical Harvard Students for a Democratic Society members in the 1960s and ’70s, debuted at the biennial Adelaide Writers Week Festival. John Freeman, president of the National Book Critics Circle, noted a change in the author and “the beginnings of a new stage in Carey’s career, marked by momentum and tidier, snappier sentences” (Freeman, 2008). In a review for the Sydney Morning Herald, critic Andrew Riemer acclaimed the author’s storytelling wizardry: “His narrative twists and turns are spectacular, often outra-



geous and shameless— but that seems to be the point: a dazzling display of sleight-of-hand with a devil-may-care disregard for what some might regard as literary good manners” (Riemer, 2008). In this era, Carey took pride in his son Sam’s extensive reading and Charley’s poetry and sculpture and his performance in three bands.

November 18, 2008 At the demise of government funding for the Australian National Academy of Music in South Melbourne town, Carey joined 759 artists in sending a letter of complaint simultaneously with a petition signed by 10,000 disgruntled citizens. He and others accused federal arts minister Peter Garrett of being anti-art and anti-performer. As of December, the academy continued to offer its 2009 slate of events. December 1, 2008 Composer Brett Dean began orchestrating the opera version of Carey’s Bliss, to be staged in March 2010 by Opera Australia.

December 31, 2008 His Illegal Self won a New York Times Notable Book of the Year citation and a Providence (Rhode Island) Journal Best Book of 2008. January 7, 2009 David Fennessy and Nicholas Bone readied the opera Happy Story for presentation by the Scottish Opera in February. March 18, 2009 Novelist Jane Smiley, chair of judges for the Booker Prize, announced Carey’s short-listing for His Illegal Self. At stake was a purse of £60,000.

May 2009 After contracting with Penguin Australia, Carey announced that his next novel, Parrot and Olivier in America, would appear in November.

July 14, 2009 Peter Carey joined Thomas Kenneally in protesting loss of Australian control of copyrighted books, the source of the nation’s literary culture. • Sources Baker, John F. “PW Interviews: Peter Carey,” Publishers Weekly 238, no. 54 (13 December 1991): 37–38. Balogh, Stefanie. “Peter Carey Yearns for Oz,” Courier-Mail (28 October 2007). Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003). Bemrose, John. “Dialogue with a Desperado,” MacLean’s 114, no. 13 (26 March 2001): 48 –49. Bennett, Ronni. “His Illegal Self by Peter Carey,” As Time Goes By, 02/peter-carey.html, accessed on November 26, 2008. Bethune, Brian. “Father and Son Take on Tokyo,” Maclean’s 118, no. 5 (31 January 2005): 52. Birnbaum, Robert. “Birnbaum v. Peter Carey,” Morning News, December 16, 2003, www.themorning, accessed on November 20, 2008. Blakeney, Sally. “A Writer’s Life: Peter Carey,” Bulletin (15 April 2006). Bone, Jenny, and Chris Sheedy. Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara? The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World’s Best-Loved Books. New York: Penguin, 2008. Boswell. “Interview: Peter Carey,”, accessed on November 25, 2008. Brown, Helen. “The Tangled Tale of a Bloodthirsty Bard and His Dr. Frankenstein,” Daily Telegraph (8 September 2003): 8. Brown, Ruth. “English Heritage and Australian Culture: The Church and Literature of England in Oscar and Lucinda,” Australian Literary Studies 17 (1995): 135 –140. Carey, Peter. The Big Bazoohley. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1995. _____. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. “The Book That Changed My Life,” Best Life 3, no. 5 (June 2006): 52. _____. Collected Stories. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. “Letter to Robert McCrum,” Observer (23 September 2001): 24. _____. “My Lasting Wish,” The Australian Magazine (14 –15 October 1994): 10, 13 –14, 16 –18. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. “A New York Writer’s Catch-22,” New York Magazine (28 May 2007). _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988.



_____. “Our Love Affair with Losers,” (Melbourne) Herald (15 September 1987): 11. _____. “Peter Carey Accepts NBC Award,” National Book Council Newsletter 13, no. 2 (1986): 2–3. _____. “A Small Memorial,” New Yorker (25 September 1995): 54, 59 –63. _____. “The Thin Man Makes History, Biting the Imperial Hand,” Australian Author 21, no. 3 (1989): 17. _____. “When the Living Is Easy,” New Statesman (20 August 2001): 28 –29. Castle, Claudia, and Rex Butler. “Your A-Z Guide to Peter Carey,” Honi Soit (7 June 1982): 8 –9. Charles, Ron. “Pay No Attention to the Poet Behind The Mask,” Christian Science Monitor (23 October 2003): 14. Coe, Jonathan. “The Inspector of Oz,” The Guardian (5 September 1991). _____. “Principia Efica,” London Review of Books 16, no. 18 (22 September 1994): 5. Craven, Peter. “Doubting Peter,” Business Review Weekly Spring Supplement (spring 1991): 47. Daniel, Helen. “A Dazzling Sleight of Hand,” The Age Books Extra (20 August 1994): 7. Doolan, Robert. “Creation Ex Nihilo,” Answers in Genesis 18, no. 1 (December 1995 –February 1996): 4. Dudar, Helen. “An Aussie Writer at Home in the Village,” Wall Street Journal (15 January 1992): A10. “Ex-Wife Comes Out Swinging,” Sydney Morning Herald (13 May 2006). Fitzgerald, Michael. “Changed Expectations,” Time South Pacific 32 (11 August 1997): 82. Freeman, John. “Home Thoughts from Abroad,” The Australian (26 January 2008). _____. “Sphere of Influence,”, accessed on November 26, 2008. Gourevitch, Philip, ed. The Paris Review Interview, II. New York: Picador, 2007. Griffin, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 97 (1996): 14 –17. Grimes, William. “An Australian Novelist with a Full-Tilt Pace and Ferocious Humor,” New York Times (28 January 1992): C11, C15. Groom, Nick. “Beyond a Joke,” Independent (13 September 2003): 32. Gussow, Mel. “An Australian Novelist Takes Another Look at Dickens’ Inimitable Convict,” New York Times (25 May 1998). Harford, Sonia. Leaving Paradise: My Expat Adventure and Other Stories. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2006. Hasluck, Nicholas. Offcuts: From a Legal Literary Life. Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1993. Hassall, Anthony J. “Telling Lies and Stories: Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Modern Fiction Studies 35, no. 4 (1989): 637–653. Hawley, Janet. “How an Ad Man Found Bliss,” The Age 26 (September1981): 26. Holtsberry, Kevin. “Atlantic Unbound Interview with Peter Carey,” 2003/10/30/atlantic-unbound-interview-with-peter-carey/, accessed on November 26, 2008. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008). Hyman, Ben. “Novelist Reads to Intimate Crowd,” (Providence, R. I.) Brown Daily Herald (19 March 2009). Ifeka, Helena. “Peter Carey,” Hermes 8 (1992): 14 –23. “Interview with Peter Carey,” 95, accessed on November 26, 2008. Jarvis, Jill. “CUNY Distinguished Professors: Peter Carey,”, accessed on November 26, 2008. Jones, Malcolm. “The Down-Under Car Dealers from Hell,” Newsweek 119, no. 4 (27 January 1992): 60. Jones, Rhadika. “Interview,” Paris Review in The Paris Review Interview, II. New York: Macmillan, 2007. Kachka, Boris. “Influences: Peter Carey,” New York 38, no. 6 (21 February 2005): 76. Koval, Ramona. “The Unexamined Life: Peter Carey Interviewed,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 667–682. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. “Literary Matters,” Sydney Morning Herald (30 January 1992). Lord, Gillian. “True History of Peter Carey,” Canberra Times (26 January 2008). Lyons, Charles. “Jordan, Scala Shell Out ‘Kelly’ Green for Novel,” Daily Variety 270, no. 27 (10 January 2001): 5. Maclean, Marie. “Carey Goes Cybersurfing,” Australian Book Review 164 (19 September 1994): 8 –10. Maddocks, John. “Bizarre Realities: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Southerly 41 (1981): 27–40. Markus, Andrew. Building a New Community. Crows News, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2001. Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –348. Maver, Igor. Critics and Writers Speak: Revisioning Post-Colonial Studies. Oxford: Lexington, 2006. Mayer, Geoff, and Keith Beattie. The Cinema of Australia and New Zealand. London: Wallflower, 2007. McChonchie, Rod. “The Trendy and the True,” Overland 60 (1975): 83. McKenzie, Suzie. “Convicts Redeemed,” Guardian (13 September 1997): T30, T33. Messud, Claire. “The Robbers of Bruder Mouse,” Independent (17 September 1994). Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 83 –84.



Miller, Karl. “Late Expectations,” New Republic 218, no. 16 (20 April 1998): 40 –41. Morgan, Wendy. “Treading a Fine Line? Carey’s Kelly,” Social Alternatives 20, no. 1 (January 2001): 71 –72. Mudge, Alan. “The Seduction of the Scam: A Literary Imposter Comes Alice in Peter Carey’s ‘Fake,’” Book Page, 2003,, accessed on November 20, 2008. Munro, Craig. “Building the Fabulist Extensions: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Makar 12, no. 1 (1976): 3 –12. Murphy, Jessica. “A Living, Breathing Hoax,” Atlantic Unbound (22 October 2003). Murray, Scott, ed. Australian Film: 1978 –1992: A Survey of Theatrical Features. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993. Nicklin, Lenore. “Peter Carey an Ad-Man,” Sydney Morning Herald (13 February 1975): 3. Nielsen, Philip. “Authors’ Statements,” Australian Literary Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 191 –193. Oakley, Barry. “Review: True History of the Kelly Gang,” Australian’s Review of Books (November 2000): 5. O’Donohue, Barry. “Write and Person,” Arts National 3, no. 2 (December 1985): 106 –107. O’Reilly, Nathanael. “The Voice of the Teller: A Conversation with Peter Carey,” Antipodes 16, no. 2 (December 2002): 164. Petersen, Kirsten Holst. “Gambling on Reality,” Australian Literary Studies 15 (1991): 107–116. Pierce, Peter. “The Problem of Consolation in the Country of Lost Children,” Society for Studies in Religion, Literature and the Arts (2001): 73 –86. Polito, Robert. “Peter Carey,” Bomb no. 54 (winter 1996): 1. Riemer, Andrew. “Review: His Illegal Self,” Sydney Morning Herald (4 February 2008). Rogers, Susan L. “Review: The Big Bazoohley,” School Library Journal 41, no. 10 (1995): 132. Ross, Bruce Clunies. “Some Developments in Short Fiction 1969 –1980,” Australian Literary Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 165 –180. Rubbo, Mark. “Interview: Peter Carey,”, accessed on November 26, 2008. Ryle, John. “Magic and Poison,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1981): 1350. Schillinger, Liesl. “Child of the Revolution,” New York Times Boook Review (10 February 2008). Seaman, Donna. “Review: Theft: A Love Story,” Booklist 102, no. 14 (15 March 2006): 5. _____. Writers on the Air. Philadelphia: Paul Dry, 2005. See, Carolyn. “A Magic Tale of Spectacle,” Washington Post 118, no. 74 (17 February 1995): F2. Shields, Carol. “Voorstand, Go Home!,” New York Times (12 February 1995). Shriver, Lionel. “Flashes of Mastery from Peter Carey,” London Telegraph (10 February 2008). Sibree, Bron. “Peter Carey Rechards His Sense of History,” Canberra Times (21 September 1997): 22. Stead, C. K. Answering to the Language: Essays on Modern Writers. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1989. Stewart, Miranda. “Australian Stories of Tax and Fairness: A Feminist Reading of Peter Carey’s The Tax Inspector,” Australian Feminist Law Journal 18 (June 2003): 1 –25. Sutherland, John. “Division Street,” Times Literary Supplement (9 April 1976): 445. Tausky, Thomas E. “Getting the Corner Right,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 4 (1990): 27–38. Taylor, Alan. “Peter Carey: In Exile from His Own Life,” Sunday Herald (17 February 2008). Taylor, D. J. “A Ventriloquist’s Tale,” New Statesman 130, no. 4519 (8 January 2001): 42. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007. Wagner, Erica. “Peter Carey Talks about Prose, Politics, and His Passion for Australia,” London Times (1 February 2008). Watchel, Eleanor. “‘We Really Can Make Ourselves Up’: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 9 (1993): 103 –105. White, Edmund. “Recognizing Jack,” Times Literary Supplement (30 August 1991): 21. Wiener, Jon. “Growing Up Radical: An Interview with Peter Carey,” php?id=57, accessed on November 26, 2008. Willbanks, Ray. Speaking Volumes: Australian Writers and Their Work. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1992. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59. Wroe, Nicholas. “Between Two Worlds,” Guardian (19 January 2008), jan/19/fiction.petercarey, accessed on November 20, 2008. _____. “Fiction’s Great Outlaw,” Guardian (6 January 2001): 6. Wyndham, Susan. “For My Next Trick,”, accessed on November 25, 2008. _____. “A Love-Hate story,” Sydney Morning Herald (1 April 2006). _____. “Peter Carey: An Unusual Life,” Australian Magazine (20 August 1994): 42–46, 48.

Carey Genealogy Edith Carey=Robert Graham Ada Louisa Roberts=John Thomas from | Carey Welsh teacher | Warriner London | Irish pilot | teacher from | (1874 –1959) | Camperdown -----------------------------------------------| | | | | Edith 4 more Percival Stanley=Helen Jean Warriner brother Martin “Percy” Carey | Carey amputee d. 1985 | -------------------------------------------------------| | | Patricia Paul Leigh=Peter Philip=Alison Margaret Summers “Trish” b. 1933 Weetman | Carey | b. 1951 b. 1932 b. 1941 | b. 1943 | m. 3/16/1985 m. 11/7/1964 | | div. 6/2005 div. 1974 | | ----------------------------------------------------------------| | | | stillborn daughter twin boy and girl Sam Summers Charley fall 1971 died at birth b. 9/13/1986 b. 1990


Peter Carey: A Literary Companion abortion Carey speaks knowledgeably, but not patriarchally on the subject of female reproduction rights and responsibilities. He lists abortion among the survival needs of the mouette bird and satirizes the concern of Phoebe Selkirk for her pregnant 16-year-old daughter Susan, a freshman at Radcliffe. To Phoebe, the “condition,” a little “bump,” requires “tidying up,” a euphemism for an abortion that Susan rejects (Carey, 2008, 130). In The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), the author describes the plight of parturient women like actortheater manager Felicity “Flick” Smith, who patronizes the Mater Hospital to assure her son’s survival in morally perilous times. Although the hospital carries the Latin word for “mother” in its title, Felicity’s doctors propose euthanizing her pitifully handicapped son Tristan. Carey’s sympathy for women trapped in unfulfilling marriage and coercive motherhood takes dramatic form in Illywhacker (1985), his story of the life and loves of liar and drifter Herbert Peter Badgery. Besotted with Phoebe McGrath, his second wife, Herbert smothers her spirit in a house that becomes a metaphoric parrot cage. After she births son Charles, the prospect of bearing more children drives her to attempt an illegal abortion, a form of self-liberation from husband, home, and maternity. Carey acknowledges through the advice of poet Horace Dunlop the danger of a felony at a time when “the press was in a hysteria about abortion and did not hesitate to report what grisly details came its way” (Carey, 1985, 168). Because of his pity for Phoebe, Horace clenches his thighs “in sympathetic agony” and imagines “bloody instruments and tearing life,” but admits that the lot of the reluctant pregnant woman is “monstrously unfair” (ibid., 169). Out of self-preservation, Phoebe attempts to end a second pregnancy by swallowing an abortifacient, probably ergot, a fungus containing alkaloids that expel the fetus from the uterus. To cushion the father’s shock and outrage, Dr. Ernest Henderson takes on the unaccustomed job of prevaricator by producing “such a dazzling thread of pure invention and looped it back and forth so many times that I could not work out where anything started or stopped” (Carey, 1985, 186). Ironically, the doctor surpasses Badgery himself at verbal chicanery. Crucial to the humbuggery is Herbert’s willingness to exonerate Phoebe and his gratitude for a lie that comforts him in the face of his wife’s treachery.




THE UN-MOTHER For Jack Maggs (1997), Carey returns to the issue of terminated pregnancy by picturing the title character as the foster son of “Ma” Mary Britten, a faux healer and abortionist in the London slums. To criminalize her inability to love, the author names her for the iconic Catholic madonna and equips her with the viciousness and rapacity of a crime boss. Supplied with trainees by partner Silas Smith, she coaches her son Tom, daughter Sophina, and the orphan Maggs in housebreaking and selecting high quality silver for resale. To feed the family, Ma Britten works her own form of housewrecking, the luring of unsuspecting girls and wives into taking crude abortifacients. She boldly advertises her wares with a “puff in the newspaper” and arms herself against the police with a “Bilboa,” a Spanish thrusting sword (Carey, 1997, 5). To coarsen the scenario, Carey refers to pharmaceutical stock as “belly-ache sausages” and “Dr Britten’s Cock Spur Pills for Female Disorders,” two womb cleansers sporting penile, macho designations on a par with the Bilboa for imagery merging male penetration with the cutting edge of a surgeon’s curette (Carey, 1997, 209). Profit controls the workings of the mother’s conscience. To ensure loot from the children’s burgling, she subjects Maggs’s beloved Sophina to a home abortion that ejects a damaged love child that Ma abandons in a sewer. Like a mother bird, Maggs recoils from the violation of the unborn. Because of his lashing 20 times with a strop, he believes himself “assaulted for being the father of an unborn babe” (ibid., 261). He determines to “weave [his foster son] a nest so strong that no one would ever hurt his goodness” (ibid., 287). The strengthening of the nest implies a fortification of the womb against the machinations of unmotherly women like Ma Britten. Choking on the words, Maggs writes of the loss in a letter to Henry Phipps: “There lay our son — the poor dead mite was such a tiny thing” (ibid., 241). Enhancing the squalid rejection of the fetus is a slash on the baby’s face, a symbol of the indiscriminate slicing of new life from Sophina’s uterus. Through hypnosis induced by writer Tobias Oates, Maggs relives the horror, wailing, “My babe. My babe is dead” (ibid., 204). A token of England’s rejection of its orphaned expatriates through expedient transportation of convicts to the colonies, the memory of the tiny corpse goads the would-be father into returning to the place of incarceration, an ironic venture that allows him the safety and serenity to sire a healthy family by wife Mercy Larkin Maggs, the literary foil of the Un-Mother.

THE UNWED MOTHER Compounding the view of Ma Britten as a monster, the obverse of the English gentlewoman, Carey embroiders the death of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Warriner, writer Tobias “Toby” Oates’s sister-in-law and lover, with a lingering demise brought on by an overdose of abortion pills. Oates’s wife Mary snips Ma’s advertisement from the newspaper with sewing scissors, a subversion of a domestic tool for nefarious purpose. The trip to Ma’s office takes Mary to 4 Cecil Street, a thoroughfare bearing the name of Robert Cecil, spymaster for Elizabeth I, England’s childless queen. Carey extends the concept of stunted motherhood by describing Ma as severe and starchy like a portrait of a “Dutch nun” (Carey, 1997, 288). The abortionist takes the proffered advertisement in her fingers just as Mary’s grandfather once “squashed caterpillars in his garden,” an image that envisions the fetus as vermin (ibid., 289). Carey’s tone builds on Victorian melodrama enhanced by the pathetic fallacy. Ma, a



chameleon capable of both cruelty and solace, warns Mary of the danger of swallowing pills “if she is gestational,” a professional term that strips her of fault (Carey, 1997, 289). On a stormy night at winsomely named Lamb’s Conduit Street, Lizzie pictures her “homunculus ... at least dimly aware of its fate” and “[waiting] in dread” (ibid., 305). Pulled between passion for Oates and love for “that little mound, that soft roundness of her stomach,” Lizzie faces five hours of agony brought on by bitter tea that Mary laces with Ma’s pills (ibid., 307). As though purifying the scene of his evil in-house debauchery of his wife’s sister, Oates thrusts the bloodied bedclothes in the fire, a symbol of eternal damnation. A grisly feminine image dances before his eyes of “the wraith of their dead child folding and unfolding in the skirts of fire” (ibid., 326). The jettisoning of the unborn love child on May 7, “the darkest night of his life,” sets Oates to framing a criminal fiction demonizing Maggs, upon whom he projects blame (ibid.). At the same time that Carey yokes the two men with grief for aborted children, the scenario suggests the author’s view of writing as empowerment to ensnare and avenge. See also female persona; mothering; women

• Further readings Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Dellapenna, Joseph W. Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic, 2006. Mukherjee, Ankhi. “Missed Encounters: Repetition, Rewriting, and Contemporary Returns to Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations,” Contemporary Literature 46, no. 1 (spring 2005): 108 –133. Pell, George. Issues of Faith and Morals. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999. Wroe, Nicholas. “Fiction’s Great Outlaw,” Guardian (6 January 2001): 6.

achievement World reception of expatriate author Peter Carey’s fiction is most enigmatic in his motherland. In the opinion of analyst Karen Lamb, the fault lies in Australians who have “always had [difficulty] in recognising creative achievement,” especially when accompanied by wealth, prestige, and awards to an “infant prodige”(Lamb, 1992, 3, 4). Early in his career, he toyed with questions of success in characters from short works in his first collections, The Fat Man in History (1974) and War Crimes (1979): character Anna commandant Gerrard Haflinger Gleason husband Lilly Darko mime Paul soldier Teddy Finch Turk Kershaw Vincent

story “He Found Her in Late Summer” “Fragrance of Roses” “Kristu-Du” “American Dreams” “Happy Story” “Exotic Pleasures” “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” “The Chance” “A Windmill in the West” “The Fat Man in History” “A Schoolboy Prank” “The Puzzling Nature of Blue”

achievement monogamous relationship hybrid rose domed assembly hall miniature city flying recovery from unemployment stage stardom risking love for a woman military obedience replacing Fantoni mentorship of young boys righting a moral wrong

The quirks of Carey’s dramatis personae suit his attitude toward his homeland, a twosided viewpoint he explored in the 54th annual Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race of Decem-



ber 1998, a vigorous episode of 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). He explained, “In Australia we trust loss and we are very suspicious of success. We have an affection for outcasts and oddballs,” a belief that empowers My Life as a Fake (2003) and Theft: A Love Story (2006) as well as his historical portrait of Ned Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) (Jarvis 2008). Of his initial notoriety, he questions his countrymen’s diffidence and their inability to judge accomplishment: “We’ve continually set ourselves up, and been set up, to be judged by outside experts: What do they think in London? What do they think in New York? How do you like it here? All that stuff we crave and resent” (Wyndham, 2006). In his second published novel, Illywhacker (1985), Carey explains the failure of Australians in a simple comparison with Americans. Unlike United States citizens, who are “never hesitant about expressing an opinion,” Australians remain diffident, often selfsilencing (Carey, 1985, 346). Carey emphasizes that capitalistic success is less influential on the island nation than national identity: “It is this, not steel mills or oilwells, that is the difference between the two nations” (ibid.). The author challenges the Australian selfrecrimination as a nation of losers by creating fictional casts of risk-takers and outsiders, such as storyteller Harry Stanthorpe Joy and his hippie second wife, Honey Barbara Harrison, in Bliss (1981); car salesman Herbert Peter Badgery and his son Charles in Illywhacker; single mother Maria Takis in The Tax Inspector (1991); the title character and his mother, actor and troup manager Felicity “Flick” Smith in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994); and Takashi, the enigmatic tour guide in Wrong about Japan (2005). Amid his novels and stories, Carey halted to pose a different view of achievement through subversion in The Big Bazoohley (1995), a children’s satire on the commercial use of children and their ingenuous appeal in advertising. Through initiative and self-assertion, nineyear-old protagonist Sam Kellow manages to win a contest that saves his family from financial ruin. The emergence of a child hero implies the author’s faith in the upcoming generation, particularly in his two sons, Sam and Charley, who were the sources of the story.

DARING FOR EXCELLENCE In his Booker Prize winner, the neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey examines the challenge of a daring project with winner-take-all ramifications. He depicts the title pairing as a loser, the Oxford-trained Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, yoked to a dreamer, glass manufacturer and labor leader Lucinda Leplastrier. During her in-home rehabilitation of Hopkins from scandal and defrocking by the Church of England, she relishes a platonic relationship as close as siblings. While controlling their mutual compulsion to gamble, she fantasizes the realization of an industrial challenge —“to build something Extraordinary and Fine from glass and cast-iron” (Carey, 1988, 305). Some 15 years after the completion of London’s Crystal Palace, she imagines the spinning of a weblike metal frame to hold glass— a “bat-boned glass castle” that pounds her brain with an ache to see it built (ibid., 306). The concept enhances the author’s depiction of Lucinda as the daughter of Elizabeth Fisher Leplastrier, a liberated women who rears her daughter to respect work and to value its profits. The concept of achievement in Oscar and Lucinda requires two participants, the designer and the deliverer. At a moment of miscommunication and spiritual letdown, Lucinda shares her aspiration with Oscar, who glimpses the glass prototype as “light, ice, spectra,” a diametric contrast to his own career prospects, which indiscretion has shat-



tered (ibid., 317). To a man reared in a fanatic fundamentalist household, glass equates with the soul for its freedom from blemish, vanity, dust, and corruption. To him, a glass castle is “an avenue for glory,” a parody of the 19th-century intent to Christianize the world’s colonial hinterlands (ibid.). His failure to deliver Lucinda’s sparkling chapel to the Australian outback is the product of the venality and racism of the expeditioner Jeffris and the terror of water that swamps and drowns Oscar. Irony shifts the story to success in the survival of Oscar’s great-grandson, the teller of family history who reclaims the failed prelate from ignominy. In an off hand comment on Lucinda, the unmarried, childless industrialist, Carey pictures a variant form of achievement in her contributions to the labor movement. Her success echoes the claims of the “New Woman,” the aggressive, careerminded, go-getter who needs neither husband nor offspring to fulfill her promise.

OVERCOMING DISABILITY Achievement takes a problematic turn in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, a combination Bildungsroman and Künstlerroman that poses a protagonist more indelibly marred than Oscar Hopkins. The plot follows the title figure, a freakish seeker-hero, from birth through adaptation to physical handicap and public rejection for his unsightly body, uncontrolled twitches, and indecipherable speech. In the view of critic Brian Edwards, the coming-of-age of a disabled boy passes through the “instabilities, uncertainties, needs, and small triumphs of individuals” more in need of acceptance than the “odd bod” Oscar (Edwards, 1998, 268). By surviving a twisted digestive tract that spews green vomit, the infant escapes the unspoken proposal of pediatrician Marc Laroche and Dr. Eisner that Felicity “Flick” Smith euthanize her newborn. Instead of rejecting a nightmare that “she might expect to stay forever hidden in the entrails of her consciousness,” Felicity makes “mummy-noises,” a tender expression of love and acceptance (Carey, 1994, 17). With the support of her acting troupe and a triad of fathers, Tristan survives tortuous medical treatments. Carey validates the marginal lives of surrogate parents who include “men with tattooed fingers, women with tinted leg hair ... ornamental face scars” (ibid., 66). Under their tutelage, Tristan, “their emblem, their mascot” progresses to eating, talking, walking, learning acrobatics, and living like a near-normal child (ibid.). Limitations become Tristan’s impetus to greater achievement. Felicity nurtures his brilliance by buying him dictionaries and reading aloud from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), England’s literary epic. To prove his dexterity as an acrobat, Tristan climbs a tree and returns to the ground bearing an unbroken egg in his mouth, a symbol of his advancement from fetus to the promise of youth. Throughout the quest for normalcy, he relies on the expertise of the mélange of actors and circus performers led by his adoring mother, an actor and theater manager of the radical Feu Follet in Chemin Rouge, Efica. He longs to play the lead in William Shakespeare’s King Lear (ca. 1603). To develop stagecraft, the boy practices dramatic dialogue by delivering lines from Richard III (ca. 1589), Julius Caesar (ca. 1599), and The Tempest (ca. 1610), plays based on Elizabethan concepts of human foible and ruin. Tristan’s advance from the tragedy of a Plantagenet warrior-king and a doomed Roman titan to the romance of castaways in the New World predicts the boy’s censure of his mother’s imperious homeland and his readying for combat against Voorstand in the art wars of Efica, his colonial island home. At stake is the colony’s self-esteem and pride in accomplishment. Carey illustrates that Tristan’s extreme idealism carries mortal costs. The assassination of Felicity by agents of the Voorstand Intelligence Agency thrusts Tristan into an



emotional spiral. A symbolic pupa stage sends him to a cubby below the Feu Follet platform to read banned radical works and to write populist tracts. His emergence from the emotional chrysalis requires a grab bag of circus tricks: after his migration from Efica to Voorstand, he acquires the seedy costume of a robotic Bruder Mouse and the voice modulator used in Saarlim City’s Water Sirkus. Like Australia itself, the microcosm of Tristan’s coming of age requires spunk and spare parts, which he must dump to escape a charge of treason. At his most resilient, he emerges from his pupa to claim his actual body and voice. The final vault into the future requires an ad hoc family — acrobat Bill Millefleur, Tristan’s biological father, and surrogate mother Jacqui Lorraine. Bill’s rescue of Tristan and Jacqui down the 20-story banister of a fire escape at Demos Platz takes on a Spiderman aura and precedes the trio’s trek north to the Arctic before eluding a team of assassins by deflecting their route to Bergen, Norway. Just as Carey leaves the new frontiers of Harry Joy, Maria Takis, Lucinda Leplastrier, and Ned Kelly’s daughter open to the imagination, he closes on Tristan’s new horizons with faith in the future.

QUESTIONING CRITERIA For Theft: A Love Story, Carey turns from questions of achievement to matters of evaluation. For egotistic painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, the question of who defines artistic achievement plunges him into a four-continent tangle of critics, galleries, dealers, and investors. His success in Australia precedes a sell-out showing in Tokyo, which plunges him into the doldrums at the sale of his two masterworks, I, the Speaker and If You Have Ever Seen a Man Die, titles implying the ephemeral nature of human actions. He snarls, “It is very bloody unpleasant to have all your paintings hoovered out of you by strangers” (Carey, 2006, 165). He differentiates between monetary reward from “a corporate Japanese” and the thrill of being displayed in a museum (ibid.). Butcher belabors the problems of artistic longevity. Because his work lies in the hands of an acquisitive investor, he fears the worst — his erasure from history. Carey broadens the satire of his novel by concluding with the success of Le Golem Électrique, Butcher’s forged Leibovitz worth $3.2 million. Ironically, it may be Butcher’s greatest achievement and certainly the top monetary success. The coming to knowledge dumbfounds the artist, who, according to his retarded brother Hugh, looks “like Melbourne weather, rain, sunshine, hail, smile, frown, scowl, blow the schnozzle, bless me, what will happen next” (ibid., 268). In the final line, the artist falls back on laughter, the human outlet for frustration. The fade-out stresses the novel’s survivalist theme. By empowering Butcher to laugh at his own foibles, Carey crowns him with the achiever’s ability to accept himself, his art, and a skewed critical audience as ineluctable topics for humor. See also powerlessness; reclamation

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Edwards, Brian. Theories of Play and Postmodern Fiction. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1998. Fiander, Lisa M. “Writing in “A Fairy Story Landscape”: Fairy Tales and Contemporary Australian Fiction,” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian 2 (2003): 157–166. Jarvis, Jill. “CUNY Distinguished Professors: Peter Carey,”, accessed on November 26, 2008. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992.



Wyndham, Susan. “For My Next Trick,”, accessed on November 25, 2008.

adaptation Essential to survival and achievement in Peter Carey’s fiction is the individual’s willingness to accommodate unforeseen demands and challenges that range from a near-death experience and the birth of a crippled son to the persecution of the Irish by Australia’s Victorian police, the nettling of an autistic man for sitting on a New York City sidewalk, and the kidnap of a poor little rich boy from Manhattan to a commune south of Yandina, Queensland. In his first published novel, Bliss (1981), a satire on capitalism, Carey twice thrusts advertising magnate Harry Stanthorpe Joy to the edge of death and forces him to examine the realities of family life. The miseries of marriage to adulterer Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy and fatherhood to drug dealer David Joy and Marxist Lucy Joy help Harry accept the loss of prestige as a top salesman that accompanies his escape into atonement and a new self. On his flight from a life of dishonesty and from incarceration at the Merry Lands asylum, Harry flees into the soul-reviving wilds of Bog Onion Road. Among pantheistic commune dwellers, Harry acclimates to the forest by planting trees and by building his own shelter. While sowing vegetable seeds, he experiences an epiphany of change: “At the age of forty he is reduced to open-mouthed amazement by the sight of a pea he has planted uncurling through the soil,” an image of newness and promise (Carey, 1981, 284). He reaches back to his father, American storyteller Vance Joy, for a ready-made source of community. By becoming a storykeeper and culture conveyor to spiritually jangled forest dwellers, Harry discovers not only trust and friendship but family cohesion and purpose: “He was not only liked, he was also necessary,” Carey’s definition of the reciprocity of giving and receiving from the community (ibid., 290). To a fellow salesman, Herbert Peter Badgery, the roguish idea man in Illywhacker (1985), adaptation evolves from periodic failures and heartbreak. The abandonment by wife Phoebe McGrath Badgery and the disappearance of their 14-year-old daughter, Sonia “Sonny” Badgery, down a mineshaft jolt Badgery into new patterns of survival. He deserts his job as seller of T Model Fords and, during a decade of cell time at Rankin Downs Gaol, turns to literacy for salvation. With a history degree from the University of Sydney, he begins researching the question of the lies at the basis of Australia’s self-perception. Like Harry Joy, Badgery gives to get. His compassion for displaced Aboriginals and for persecuted Asian laborers eases his need to outwit and dupe. Long into old age, he fits his feeble frame to adversity like a weary back to a hammock. Rather than fight the notion of advancing frailty and death, amid bouts of vertigo, psoriasis, nausea, and incontinence, he delights in being a poster boy for longevity. With a touch of his former egotism, he boasts, “Naturally they come to see me, not just the men with calipers and bottlers, but the ordinary visitors” (Carey, 1985, 598).

YOUTH’S ADJUSTMENTS In the title figures in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), the Booker Prize–winning neo–Victorian novel of two mismated gamblers, Carey examines shifts in belief and outlook. In childhood, Lucinda Leplastrier grows up under the guidance of Elizabeth Fisher Leplastrier, her liberated mother. Early widowhood forces the mother to rear Lucinda under a regimen of hard farm work and the appreciation of the profits of labor. The mother urges



Lucinda to avoid grief: “We are not going to leave this country to the Irish ... so look smart, my girl, and help me here” (Carey, 1988, 72). Upon receipt of her inheritance on May 10, 1859, 18-year-old Lucinda is familiar with cycles of change and with the adaptation necessary to her purchase of Sydney’s Prince Rupert’s Glassworks, her venture into industrialism in a male-dominated metropolis. Simultaneous with Lucinda’s cutting and shaping of a career to suit her style, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins prepares for the colonial mission fields. Oddly, his self-readying leads him to gambling and to a system of charting horses and races with remarkable predictive success. Upon his arrival from England to Randwick, his assigned vicarage in Sydney, Australia, his naiveté costs him his post and dignity after he disgraces himself by playing cards with a single woman unchaperoned in his own parlor. Rescued from penury by Lucinda, he adjusts to a platonic relationship in the country at her Balmain cottage at Whitfield’s Farm on the Parramatta River and to the extremes of her plan to ship a glass chapel up the Bellinger River to the Reverend Dennis Hasset at Boat Harbour. Adaptability fails Oscar in the clutches of Mr. Jeffris, a self-glorying explorer who subdues Oscar’s fear of water with regular doses of laudanum. Oscar’s inability to cope with Lucinda’s bold plan leads to death in the water, the terror that wraps the former minister like chains. At the ends of his courage, he pleads, “Oh Lord, I am alive in the midst of Thy dreadful river. All Thy glory surrounds me, but I am afraid” (Carey, 1988, 416). With a blend of pity and ridicule, the text sets Oscar on his last venture, the siring of a son and a patriarchal line that keeps his story alive through four generations.

TORMENT AND SURVIVAL Carey’s sharp downturn to sexual hurt and psychic pain in children for The Tax Inspector (1991) generated negative critiques as well as qualms in the author. In the Catchprice family, parental incest against offspring has a three-generation history. The plot depicts the rationalization of Jack about his father Cacka’s molestations of him, brother Mort, and sister Cathy of Mort’s perpetuation of the crime on his children, Johnny and Benny. Tacitly approved by his wife Frieda, Cacka summons family tradition as a lame excuse for squalor, moral degeneracy, and carnal opportunism. Cathy turns her brain power to the running of Catchprice Motors; 18-year-old Johnny, in need of structure and nurture, adapts to the demands of vegetarianism among Hare Krishnas and alters his name to Vishnu, the all-pervasive deity of Hinduism. The deviance in the Catchprice family tree creeps down to the basement lair of Benny, Vish’s 16-year-old brother, a psychopathic stalker looking for a new source of prey like the bestial title character in John Gardner’s Grendel (1971). Upon Benny’s seizure of tax inspector Maria Takis at gunpoint, Carey reveals an adjustment to a perverse childhood that turns the twisted teen into a skulking rodent. Maria sniffs fetid air “like a subway tunnel” and perceives the basement milieu like a “coldness, the cold hurting emptiness” of a subhuman reject (Carey, 1991, 277). Because Benny lies beyond reclamation and his family past salvation, Carey ends the novel with a burst of explosives that wipes the landscape clean of Catchprices. Another type of survivalism rescues the title character in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), a dystopic view of a colonial hinterland. At the Feu Follet, a radical theatrical collective in Efica, Tristan enters life too misshapen and distorted for Doctor Marc Laroche to rectify. Tristan’s mother, actor and troupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith, insists on rearing her son amid an extended family of stage players, tumblers, and a triad of fathers. Carey’s tribute to human flexibility, the novel echoes with rejection and disgust



at the sight of a drooling, toddling humanoid. Tristan opts for acting as a career, a choice his mother recognizes as hopeless for a boy who walks on his ankles and struggles to ungarble his words. After her murder, 23-year-old Tristan rouses to the challenge and accidentally latches on to a solution, disguise as Bruder Mouse with a robot suit and voice modulator. Although he could net a jail term for blasphemy against Voorstand’s Sirkus icon, Tristan learns, “You take the risk, you get the reward” (Carey, 1991, 286). In the interim of Tristan’s adjustment to posing as Bruder Mouse, Carey characterizes the huge change in the handicapped 23-year-old, who manages to turn himself into an actor and to a sexually experienced male. Freed from the infantilism of constant appeasement and nurse care, Tristan transforms himself into a saintly icon “[walking] in bowlegged majesty” and receiving nose kisses from investor Peggy Kram, his benefactor and lover (Carey, 1994, 381). The dual nature of his disguise liberates him from public revulsion, but imprisons him in a hot, prickly mouse suit and comic persona. On his flight from unmasking, he accepts an unremitting physical fact: “I was accustomed to pain, that it was, in my case, almost synonymous with pleasure” (ibid., 414). That said, he adapts to a circumscribed existence that allows him to feel truly alive.

OUTSIDE THE LAW Like Tristan, Ned Kelly, Australia’s frontier rogue, adapts to situations not of his making or liking. In the fictional memoir True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), he fails to understand the Celtic tradition of rebelling and transvestism that conceals the identity of his father, John “Red” Kelly of Tipperary, Ireland. Upon assuming the role of male head of household at John’s death, Ned adapts to the demands of felling trees and clearing land for horse breeding. His intent to farm and to protect his mother and siblings runs afoul of Ellen Quinn Kelly’s decision to apprentice him at age 14 to highwayman Harry Power, an accomplished thief. Ned’s gallops south over Victoria’s rough terrain introduce him to a lifestyle of day and night ducking and hiding from the law. He appreciates Harry’s many bolt holes, the forest spots where both men can breathe easy and rest up from running. At first, he suffers homesickness for his siblings and wants “to be back up in his crib breathing that warm familiar fug” (Carey, 2000, 68). Although robbing and killing are averse to Ned’s nature, he develops a skill at life in the saddle amid the natural beauty of Australia’s southeastern wilds in the Warbies and Wombat Ranges. He rhapsodizes, “The Warbies folded themselves around us like a mother and we slept protected” (ibid., 367). On his cyclical visits to Ellen at Eleven Mile Creek, Carey’s fictional Ned reaches manhood through a complicated process of surviving treachery and of dodging pursuers. Central to Ned’s motivation is his refusal to fault her for a profligate life of lovers and a growing family fathered by boundary rider Bill Frost and George King, an American outlaw. Ned’s own common-law relationship with Mary Hearn and the conception of their daughter coincides with his respect for struggling Irish Catholic immigrants and selection farmers. Among them, he enjoys “the celebration which now spread like yellow gorse across the hills ... [among] the good people of Greta & Moyhu & Euroa & Benalla,” who revere Ned with “no taint we was of true bone blood and beauty born” (ibid., 337). Allied with their grievances and their disdain for the corrupt law, he identifies himself at last as a Celto-Australian. On behalf of the underclass, he shoots police, robs the Euroa bank, and takes to the back country on a reckless spree. Adaptation to the rootlessness and disorder of outlawry forces him into a defensive mindset. To protect the unborn generation from shame and ostracism, he writes his apologia explaining all to his infant daughter, an



American born in San Francisco. The resultant 13 letters speak for the marginalized Irish the constant shift in fortunes and the unending clashes with predatory police and politicians.

LIFE OBSTACLES In Theft: A Love Story (2006), Carey perpetuates his system of heaping enough frustration on a Job-like character to push the beleaguered mind to despair. For Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, birth to a family of slaughterers and meat sellers threatens to force him into a detested apprenticeship. To achieve a career in art, he must abandon the village of Bacchus Marsh and find means to paint for his life’s work. The continuum of his success is a slash of peaks and valleys, some low enough to doom his efforts. After the failure of his marriage, he loses custody of son Billy Bones and possession of his early canvases, which a divorce court awards his ex-wife, humorously dismissed as the “Plaintiff.” Carey lines up like pins in a bowling alley the erosion of self from loss of mate, house, offspring, and life’s work. Pushed over the edge of discretion, Butcher risks arrest and four years in Long Bay Prison at Malabar, New South Wales, for his rebellion. Adaptation to life’s inconveniences requires another six years of compromises. Carey dramatizes Butcher’s extremes— tantrums over betrayal by his patron, Jean-Paul Milan, and by a neighbor, Dozy Boylan. Complicating his life is an overlay of daily encumbrance with his autistic younger brother, 34-year-old Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, who behaves like a small boy. An uptick of fortune that allies Butcher with Marlene Cook Leibovitz, the love of his life, proves more treacherous than his past associations. Beaten, tricked, spiritually eviscerated, Butcher retreats from pursuing greatness in the world’s art salons and begins a lawn-mowing business as an antidote to “a ROUGH PATCH at various addresses in Sydney” (Carey, 2006, 265). Accompanied by his brother, Butcher spends five years of normalcy, during which he cherishes memories of father and love for Marlene. Carey avoids happily-ever-after exaggeration by rewarding the has-been painter with a late adulation at “MoMa, the Museum Ludwig, the Tate,” world-class venues for Butcher’s art (ibid., 269). See also achievement

• Further readings Barfoot, C. C., and Theo d’Haen. Shades of Empire in Colonial and Post-colonial Literatures. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993. Blaber, Ronald, and Marvin Gilman. Roguery: The Picaresque Tradition in Australian, Canadian and Indian Fiction. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly, 1990. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994.

ambition Carey’s interest in human yearnings extends from unrealistic anticipations of a male commune in The Fat Man in History (1974) to the marketing chicanery in The Big Bazoohley (1995) and the builders of ugly housing overlooking Bondi Beach and the competition



of sailors in the 54th annual Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race of December 1998 in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). At his best, the author pities the disillusion in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) of the outlaw Ned Kelly, who, in boyhood, yearns to be class ink monitor. The text of Theft: A Love Story (2006) is less empathetic with a painter so full of self that he jeopardizes life and career by becoming a criminal. In the parable “Report on the Shadow Industry” (1974), a commentary on the writing process, the author focuses on unidentified products built by shadow factories in Topanga, California, and marketed in boxes at grocery stores. The mystery of the contents enhances the allegory, which charges shopaholics with an addiction to seductive marketing. The narrator, who sees his family shattered by disappointment, admits that he perpetuates the household penchant for searching for joy in perpetual shopping hauls. Rather than blame clever packagers and merchandisers, the story finds fault with adults who live in infantile hope of the ultimate marketable satisfaction. In a clever reworking of Jonathan Swift’s Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), the first person narrative “American Dreams” (1974) examines ambition from a retaliatory angle. In a rural region north of the author’s birthplace in Victoria, Australia, Mr. Gleason tricks inquisitive residents by retreating to Bald Hill to wall in a secret project, his erection of a scale model of the town, a hobby construction that anticipates Hissao Badgery’s steel-andglass aerie in Illywhacker (1985) and Lucinda Leplastrier’s glass-and-cast iron chapel in Oscar and Lucinda (1988). At Gleason’s death, the removal of the wall reveals his knowledge of local vice and pettiness in the accuracy of tiny portrait models of townspeople. The town’s reaction to its notoriety, like Australia’s desire to woo North American tourism, results in a limitation on growth and expansion. Carey twists ambition into an obstacle as unyielding as prison bars. The speaker repines, “We spent six long months doing nothing more with our lives than waiting for the Americans,” an ennui parodying world market dominance by United States wealth and artistic taste (Carey, 1974, 156). Locked into replications of daily activity during Gleason’s lifetime, the citizens regret their envy of American materialism and their greed for big cars and television sets. Gleason’s legacy, a backlash against snoopy small-mindedness, thwarts anticipations of fame and money. In a book by the same title, “War Crimes” (1978), Carey’s most powerful denunciation of ambition, sets a satire of demonic American corporations north of Nebraska at a repulsive plant manufacturing TV dinners, an emblem of United States vapidity and sloth. Wasted on the board of directors, the talents of Bart and his accountant partner focus on the selling of low-quality meals to the despairing unemployed. Carey measures ambition in the sybaritic pleasures— drugs, wine, luxurious furnishings, a Cadillac, rock music — that the partners purchase with short-term profits. The speaker snickers, “Metaphorically, we shat with the door open” (Carey, 1979, 268). Through a mix-up, the two murder a boy stealing a frozen meal and kill Sergei, an employee who appears to skim ten percent of the company’s income. The abysmal values of manufacturing sap both productivity and long-range planning, thus placing management in the unenviable position of exterminating the jobless class that it feeds. Heavy with tragic irony, the cautionary tale lambastes American ambitions with tyrannic factory conditions, mismanagement of resources, destruction of the environment, and waste of profits on lavish living and cocaine. “Exotic Pleasures” (1979), a beast fable blended with speculative fiction, reprises Carey’s vision of jobless hell by awarding Lillian “Lilly” and Mort Danko the Aesopian golden goose — a gorgeous bird from a distant planet. By selling opportunities to the curious to stroke its feathers, the couple refills its family coffers, a form of income that Carey



develops in the zoo atmosphere of the “Best Pet Shop in the World” in Illywhacker (1985) (Carey, 1985, 443). Lilly, the prime mover in the scheme to market the bird at a carnival booth, succeeds so well that she subverts Mort’s delight into jealousy. The collapse of their marriage parallels the destruction of the planet by bird droppings that sow roadsides with invasive Kennecott Rock-drill trees. Carey’s cautionary theme satirizes American power hunger to colonize space by speculating on the resultant loss of jobs on earth and on the introduction of alien biota capable of destroying the planet.

RACIAL CONQUEST Carey makes a direct link between imperial ambitions and the displacement and slaughter of Australian first peoples. Mr. Jeffris, the organizer and leader of the expedition to Boat Harbour in Oscar and Lucinda (1988) aggrandizes himself by demanding total obedience from his crew, comprised of “a storekeeper, two blacksmiths, a medical attendant, a collector of birds and a collector of plants (although these last two were entered on the paybook as ‘riflemen’), a groom, a trumpeter, two carpenters, a shoemaker, a cook” (Carey, 1988, 371). Dressed in uniforms topped with red shirts and white suspenders, his followers, including the hapless Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins and his guardian, Mr. Percy Smith, proceed along the nation’s east coast by chopping trees from the path of their wagons. In chapter 101, Jeffris congratulates himself on producing “evidence of his ability to lead other expeditions,” a calling that could supplant his accounting work with a career in he-man adventuring and map-making (ibid., 399). In addition to journal entries on gun battles with the Yarra-Happini and the Kumbaingiri, Jeffris sketches topography, the basis of a projected book that he intends to bring him lasting international fame. The ironic shift of ambition from Jeffris to his killers, Oscar and Percy, reveals in Jeffris’s literary foils a fount of piety lacking in the trek leader. The morning of Jeffris’s burial in a cess pool selected by Kumbaingiri Billy’s aunt, through rationalization, Smith escapes biblical injunctions against killing by declaring God broader in scope than a nitpicking avenger. He bolsters Oscar’s spirits by envisioning the glass chapel as a phenomenon on a barge “[entering] Boat Harbour in glory” before the gawking godless (Carey, 1988, 410). To complete the transfer from river to bank, Smith plans to tap a mundane form of ambition in the pride of local men who seek muscular feats to display their virility. The grandeur of the entrance Smith pictures as a “float in a procession,” a suggestion of the showmanship that mocks the Church of England’s mission to pagan Australia (ibid.). A more comic fillip to the resolution is the conniving of governess Miriam Chadwick, who seduces Oscar in his last hours to rid herself of widowhood. Carey turns to irony the unlikely conception of a child who perpetuates a patrilineage that secures notoriety for the failed minister.

THE TWISTED PSYCHE For his next fiction, the Gothic novel The Tax Inspector (1991), Carey surpasses the capitalism of Harry Stanthorpe Joy in Bliss (1981) and of Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker (1985) with the surreal self-delusion of Benny Catchprice, a 16-year-old psychopath. Like a venomous reptile in a subterranean tunnel, Benny states his credo: “I cannot be what I am” (Carey, 1991, 21). He strokes his insane ego in a sodden basement hideout and dresses in ostentatious glory — rat-tailed hair, pointed-toed shoes, and an 80 percent silk suit — to assume the role of top salesman for Catchprice Motors. The transformation bears the added perks of flirtation with the tax inspector, 34-year-old Maria Takis. Carey



choreographs a bizarre falling action in the cellar tryst that turns into a birthing scene, with Benny serving as midwife. At the height of his schizophrenia, he escapes a tainted childhood with a new pose: “I am an angel. I’m a fucking angel now,” a guise he enhances by tattooing himself with a shoulder-to-buttocks wing (Carey, 1991, 262). The author’s pairing of a schizophrenic with an ambitious civil servant results in necessary mayhem. For Maria, the eventual acceptance of pregnancy produces fantasies of mothering —“Maria and her baby, sitting up in bed,” a pink-skinned newborn appealing in its innocence (Carey, 1991, 253). Its vulnerability contrasts the repellant behaviors of Benny, whom Maria pictures as “some creature run over on the road” (ibid., 259). To survive labor and delivery under the barrel of Benny’s sawed-off shotgun, she must stem panic and keep the flow of conversation positive and controlled. While Benny cuddles “little Benny,” Maria’s ambivalence toward motherhood shifts into killer mode (ibid., 276). The instant clarification of her future exonerates the hormonal maternal drive for protecting the helpless babe from a mother’s apathy and a lunatic’s curiosity. The bonding scene that concludes with Maria’s murder of Benny and Frieda’s explosive end to Catchprice Motors and its loopy clutch of owners implies a dual view of mothering — Frieda’s destruction of family and their failed business and Maria’s acceptance of single parenthood as her true goal.

MARKETING TALENT Carey creates a triad of studies of ambition with three consecutive works: My Life as a Fake (2003), Wrong about Japan (2005), and Theft: A Love Story (2006). The first title, a convoluted mystery about a literary hoax, turns ambition run amok into Gothic clay for the shaping of a murderous thriller set in the noisome back alleys of Penang, Kuala Lumpur. By overlayering the literary triumph of Australia poet Christopher Chubb with his creation, the phantasm Bob McCorkle, the text extends an irresistible possibility to Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, the acquisitive editor of the failing London-based poetry journal Modern Review. Through a rambling second-hand account, she follows Chubb’s explanation of how he falsified the work of a non-existent poet, who takes shape as McCorkle and kidnaps Chubb’s infant daughter Tina. Precipitating the collapse of Sarah’s dream of discovering a literary star are Bob’s death from leukemia and Chubb’s murder by his wife and daughter. Thwarted hopes of profiting from someone else’s talent thrust the literary editor into howling sorrow. Of her failed ambition, she laments, “I was left with a wound that would not heal no matter how I tended it” (Carey, 2003, 265). Exacerbating Sarah’s tragedy is the obvious conclusion that her wound is self-inflicted. The ambiguity of ambition belabors the author in Wrong about Japan, in which he battles conflicts on two fronts. While touring Tokyo with his 12-year-old son Charley, an exuberant Japanophile, Carey tries to rid himself of misconceptions about Japanese philosophy and art through the study of manga and anime, graphic fiction that turned into a global fad. Simultaneously, the author attempts to know his son as a preteen on the threshold of manhood. The front gate to guiding Charley’s evolving maturity is his immersion in Japanese novel-length comic books and animated film, an interest he shares with his father. The main threats to the author’s objectives are time and history. For Carey, wildly exaggerated comic book excursions into crime and perverted science bear an unsubtle message from the past generation, the Japanese who survived the firebombing of their nation and the loss of World War II. In an unforeseen clash, the two aims entangle, leaving the father less certain about the intent of Japanese manga artists in alienating the young from



normal society, but reassured that Charley bears compassion in his character. As described by Francine Prose, a critic for O, the travelers “each accommodate the other’s unaccountable tastes,” the father with kabuki theater and samurai sword-making, the son with a video arcade in an electronics bazaar (Prose, 2005, 87). The last of the trio, Theft: A Love Story, examines the artist up close. A poorly educated painter from Bacchus Marsh, Australia, Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone moves gracelessly among aesthetes. Empowered by a visceral need to paint, he completes huge canvases, but lacks the polish to see his work through to its end as investment art or show pieces for museums. Like Sarah with her hoaxer and Carey in the comic book world, Butcher tries to comprehend the aspirations of collectors and dealers who shuffle canvases about the global market like stocks and bonds. Contributing to the question of appraising worth, Olivier Leibovitz, the son of a famed artist, devalues his father’s works through “pathetic efforts on the Lazy Lucy, that is, licensing small slices of three Leibovitzes,” which he turns into decals to paste on coffee mugs (Carey, 2006, 153). In all three works, Carey leaves moot questions of merit and peruses instead doubts about human integrity. His assumptions point to a perpetual divide between the intrinsic worth of creativity and the consumption of those products by a society governed by dollar values.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. War Crimes. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1979. Prose, Francine. “Travels with Charley,” Oprah 6, no. 1 (January 2005): 87. Quinn, Anthony. “Robin Hood of the Outback,” New York Times Book Review (7 January 2001).

Australia Peter Carey, a spokesman for his mother country, is the world’s most-read contemporary author representing what he calls a “settler culture” (Carey, 1994, 165). Critic Bill Marx, in a review for The Nation, lauded the author’s objective national history: “Carey has plugged his homeland’s racial myths, economic skullduggery and collective search for identity into the sophisticated machinery of international prose” (Marx, 1992, 346). His impressions and criticisms carry the ring of authenticity in much the same way that Chinua Achebe speaks for Nigeria, Margaret Atwood for Canada, Jamaica Kincaid for the West Indies, and Salman Rushdie for India. A preponderance of the novelist’s work winnows from his Australian experiences the intrusions that prevent Aussies from developing their own literature. In March 2009, he stated to admirers, “If you’re Australian, you live daily, almost no matter what your politics, with the recognition that the place you’re living in is not yours, that it was taken” (Hyman, 2009). To John Freeman, an interviewer for the London Independent, the author pinpointed the source of Aussie alienation: “It goes right back to, you know, being the sons that didn’t inherit and being the convicts, being of the lowest quality who were sent to Australia, because if you had connections you weren’t going to be sent to Australia” (Freeman, 2006). Carey pictures his fellow Aussies as dupes. He groused that his homeland has a “history of putting up our hands to fight in any war when asked by powerful people working



on the principle that it will pay off for us in the end and they’ll look after us in the end, which I doubt, anyway” (Balogh, 2007). He reprised the motif of national naiveté in My Life as a Fake (2003) by picturing the gullibility of Malaysians to Communist promises in the late 1950s. For Theft: A Love Story (2006), Carey expanded on previous comments about Aussie diffidence. He introduces antagonist Marlene Cook Leibovitz, an escapee from rural Benalla, to “a completely unmapped ocean, and [she] was gobsmacked, like Cortez, or like Keats himself, to see what the conditions of birth and geography had hidden from her” (Carey, 2006, 140). Patrick Ness, in a review of the novel for The Guardian, explained Marlene’s tenuous position on the horizon of self-education: “Australia no longer kneels at the foot of the empire, but neither is it allowed proper standing as a source of world culture” (Ness, 2006). Teetering on the divide between inferiority and self-affirmation, Marlene opts for criminality, a harvesting of ill-gotten loot from the mercenaries who set the standards of art and intellectualism. The concept of a free people still haunted by a convict culture and an insidious prison system burdens the author. To Lisa Meyer, an interviewer from the Chicago Tribune, he admitted his country’s split personality: “We Australians pretend that we are very free and independent, but the level of our freedom depends on the length of the leash permitted to us by such countries as England and America” (Meyer, 1997, 83). His writings indicate that he also holds the moneyed Japanese accountable for belittling Australia. He described to William Grimes, an analyst for the New York Times, “a self-hating environment” that he longed to endow “with magic and love,” a goal he achieved in part with True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) and, to a lesser extent, with 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), a tribute to the beauty and uniqueness of Australia’s birthplace (Grimes, 1992, C15). In lyric mode, he gloried in the mélange of Aussie assets: “I have seen nothing to equal it in the way of landlocked scenery, in the particular relationship between the races, in the easy tolerance of crime and corruption, in the familiar mingling you can witness on the footpath outside Bar Coluzzi any morning” (Carey, 2001, 229).

HOME BASE Even when setting fiction in the Americas, England, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and imaginary Voorstand, the author seeks a broader perspective on homeland conditions. He is particularly drawn to the fetid glamour of the Queensland rainforest in Bliss (1981) and His Illegal Self (2008), which reviewer William Sutcliffe, a critic for the London Independent, calls “a love letter to nature, and to the Australian wilderness” (Sutcliffe, 2008). After publication of 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), he explained, “I have to write for a place, and Australia is my place” (Wroe, 2001, 6). Critic Alan Mudge describes this perspective as Carey’s “ambivalent passion for Australia” (Mudge, 2008). Author John Updike characterizes Carey’s survey of home as wrought with “hectic fullness and fond cruelty” (Updike, 2007, 354). In a spot of satire in My Life as a Fake (2003), Christopher Chubb, an Australian expatriate living in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, recalls how the women in Sydney cluster around English ladies disembarking at the harbor to study their outfits: “Look at that. Must have one now. Whatever they saw there would be copied in one week” (Carey, 2003, 30). The parasitism of Sydneyites for English styles suggests an unhealthy regard for the people who relegated their rejects to the Antipodes. In the fantasy cluster of 18 archipelagos into Efica, setting of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey hints at the mindset of his fellow Aussies, who are “abandoned, self-doubting, yet ... willful” (Carey, 1994, 5). Analyst James Bradley deepens the criticism



with the descriptors “brutal, anti-intellectual, collaborationist and divided” (Bradley, 1997, 663). Carey wrote the thriller-memoir during a period of “[obsession] with my Australianness,” a sense of displacement he identified as “not at home,” a phrase replete with alienation from the things that matter (Woodward, 1995, 59). Bruce Clunies Ross, in an analysis for Australian Literary Studies, depicts the “Peter Carey world” as distinctive for artifacts and natural settings as well as incisive mannerisms, thought, and speech “registered with an exact ear for accent and idiom” of the author’s native land (Ross, 1981, 179). Claire Messud, in an essay for the LA Weekly, summarized the author’s mission as “no less than the writing of his beloved country, the voicing of Australia” (Messud, 2002, B2). The comment suggests Carey’s role as storykeeper and guardian of home.

WRITING AS CULTURE To set Australia on the page, Carey must punctuate scenes and characters with universal appeal. The creation of a distinctive Australian fiction in The Fat Man in History (1974) and War Crimes (1979) results from endowing remote, alien settings with “an original and disturbing perception” of ordinary reality (Ross, 1981, 179). For his insights into national uniqueness, reviewer Lenore Nicklin early on labeled Carey “a writer with a Capital W” (Nicklin, 1975, 3). Bruce Ross extolled the first anthology for innovation and proclaimed the author a rehabilitator of the short story and an amplifier of the scope of short fiction that captures the mundane experiences that novelists ignore. Two titles, “American Dreams” and “A Windmill in the West,” earned particular regard for their depiction of American adulteration of Australian values. In a review for the Time Literary Supplement, critic Edmund White identified Carey’s targets as “urban blight, greed, youth, violence, ecological disaster” (White, 1991, 21). Ross noted that Carey’s “entirely original visions are rooted in precise and detailed observations of contemporary Australian life” (Ross, 1981, 178). Carey’s success derives in part from a capitalist concept that the product should seal a gap, fill a need. Critic John F. Baker of Publishers Weekly attributed Carey’s immediate rise to name recognition to the Australian hunger for native literature and national selfesteem, which imperialism compromised by settling the Australian frontier with transported criminals and social rejects. After publishing Bliss (1981), the author’s first novel, he took a schoolmarmish pose and upbraided his countrymen for self-delusion. Ray Willbanks, an interviewer for Antipodes, commented, “In Bliss, you set up a positive/negative polarity between Australia and the U.S., with America standing for petrol, cancer, bad advertising and spiritual death; and Australia, through Honey Barbara standing for a kind of natural, romantic self-reliance” (Willbanks, 1997, 13). Carey admitted, “I did have a thing about Australia being on the edge of the American Empire, which still seems essentially true” (ibid.). According to cultural critic Graeme Turner, the novel, an exposé of capitalistic greed, “depicts Australia as being colonised by ‘the Americans’; in this process, the natural indigenous remnants of Australian life are the good, and the ‘imported shit’ is the bad” (Turner, 1986, 135). To jolt complacent Aussies to higher standards of pride and selfassertion, Carey charged, “We think of ourselves as a proud and free and anti-authoritarian people, and that’s ludicrous” (Dare, 1982, 3).

POSSIBILITIES FOR AUSTRALIA Through comedy, wit, and mockery, Carey ramped up his message. In the allegory of the critically acclaimed satire Illywhacker (1985), Australia poses new possibilities— “that big sky, that vast clear cobalt sky without history, clean, full of light, free of sombre



clouds” (Carey, 1985, 262). The country produces a unique citizenry “spawned by lies, suckled on dreams, infested with dragons,” a metaphor for horror stories of racism, persecution, and genocide (ibid., 359). Among the early settlers, Carey stresses the diversity of Jews, Chinese, and Communists, who have little representation in newspapers, television, and advertising. In opposition to English philosopher Thomas Carlyle’s “great man” theory of human affairs, protagonist Herbert Peter Badgery exemplifies what critics call the “‘little man’ version of history,” a commoner’s creation of nationhood as opposed to a series of cataclysmic events and spin-offs resulting in awe-inspiring grandeur (Blaber & Gilman, 1990, 58). Herbert pictures inhabitants as autodidacts who educate themselves by “fossicking in a tip,” a local idiom for dumpster diving (Carey, 1985, 359.). From a make-do education and serendipitous lifestyle, provincials develop into an extraordinary populace impelled by their upbringing to be eccentrics and exhibitionists, oddballs mirroring the roustabouts and squatters who populated the North American West from the Mississippi River to the goldfields of Alaska and the Hawaiian shores. The text of Illywhacker dramatizes what critic Karen Lamb calls “a nation’s damaging obsession with its self-esteem” (Lamb, 1992, 41). Carey discloses the cost of national incarceration in scenes of inmate coercion, maimed beasts, ruined family trust, marital treachery, the disjuncture of grandfather from grandsons, and the smuggling of endangered fowl and reptiles to collectors of global exotica. For Herbert, Australia becomes the “Best Pet Shop in the World,” a comfy cage that houses indigenous fauna until the owners export or smuggle them to distant markets (Carey, 1985, 443). The travesty of depleting national treasures, according to critic Jonathan Highfield, results from the colonial failure to prize Australia for its uniqueness and strangeness. In the end, grandson Hissao Badgery, a prosperous fauna smuggler, designs a futuristic lockup, a pet shop comprised of floating cages to house and propagate human curiosities. The controlling metaphor underlies a pervasive sorrow for diminished, intimidated, and spiritually dwarfed individuals who expend their imagination on wild fancies. Showmanship and tourism become the downfall of Hissao, the third generation of Australian Badgerys, a topic that postcolonial Antiguan author Jamaica Kincaid peruses in A Small Place (1988).

LAND AND MONEY In Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey develops a negative image of Australia as a locus of “saw-toothed savagery” (Carey, 1988, 327). He perceives in Sydney a destructive practicality, a bleak materialism aimed at “damaging the spirit” (ibid., 325). By analyzing the city’s working-class tastes and poverty of imagination, the author probes the topsy-turvy social mix that fosters “piemen affecting the dress of gentlemen, ladies’ maids with glass tiaras” (ibid., 268). Heiress and industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier perceives the true nature of Australian land and people through the perspective of agrarianism. She recognizes the pre–Christian roots of the island nation, where spirits loom, “but not Christian ghosts, not John the Baptist or Jesus of Galilee. There were other spirits, other stories, slippery as shadows” (ibid., 135). Because a cow bellows for rescue from the mud flats, Lucinda longs to escape an evening salon with amusing people to assist the doomed animal. Strong ties to the mangroves beyond the window encourage a feeling of “I should not be here” (ibid.). To her dismay, she is no more acclimated to London during her visit to her parents’ motherland. She concludes, “It was soon clear that this great sooty machine was not home at all” (ibid., 203). On a whim, she invests her fortune in Sydney’s Prince Rupert’s Glassworks, a stinking factory at the colonial end of the Industrial Revolution.



Carey amplifies Lucinda’s insights into Australia through her friendship with a newcomer. An outcast tarred with scandal by the Sydney Mail, the Oxford-educated Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins perceives Australia as “a loathsome place” (Carey, 1988, 308). After the loss of his Church of England appointment to Randwick parish in punishment for openly gambling at cards for money with an unchaperoned woman, he composes a loser’s view of Australia. He writes his father, evangelist Theophilus Hopkins, begging for news of the hedges, birds, and blue skies of England, an idealized memory devoid of damp, poverty, and other detractions from his fantasy. He contrasts the loam of Hennacombe with Australia’s unmalleable clay and sandstone. He criticizes Aussie birds for raucousness and finds the people self-involved rather than “concerned with the common good,” a preoccupation of his father and other Victorian pietists (ibid., 273). On Oscar’s lengthy expedition into the outback, at the Bellinger River, he arrives at “a landscape already bleeding from the stabbing and hacking of the cedar cutters,” opportunists who chopped their way through foliage that the Aborigines considered sacred (ibid., 416). The narrator, Oscar’s great grandson Bob, notes the indigenous animism contained in oral tradition, “sacred stories more ancient than the ones [Oscar] carried in his sweat-slippery leather Bible” (ibid.). The contrast in lore honors Koori love of earth at the same time that it excoriates white Europeans for damaging and exploiting their colonies.

NATIVE VS. IMMIGRANT The polarizing of native-born white and immigrant Europeans draws an adversarial battleline in The Tax Inspector (1991), Carey’s most controversial Gothic work. Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, in her initial conversation with tax investigator Maria Takis, notes the auditor’s Greek surname. In the same scene, Dr. Taylor, who examines Frieda for mental competency, bears the “blunt blond certainties that come from being born ‘a real Aussie,’” a swaggerer suited to his elevated caste (Carey, 1991, 28). From his elite position, he feels free to mock the tax auditor as “a little Hitler from the Tax Department” (ibid., 29). Fleshing out the author’s hostile scenario is a predatory street scene. Vulnerable pedestrians encounter the next generation of marauding preteen gangs with “stolen commando boots, lighter-fluid breath ... ripping the insignia off a Saab Turbo,” a background din similar to the rumble in Anthony Burgess’s dystopic threnody A Clockwork Orange (1971) (ibid., 93). The juxtaposition of physician, civil servant, and street maulers belies Frieda’s generalizations about the kinds of people who bolster and upgrade Australian society. Carey returns to the issue of colonial Australia in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) with a more positive approach. The true national, ex-con Wally Paccione, represents the white Australian who takes pride in pragmatism. While reviving the radical Feu Follet, a defunct stage company in colonial Efica, with a tumbling pigeon act, he asserts, “We make do with what we have” (Carey, 1994, 149). He summarizes history in a single sentence, beginning with the seizure of aboriginal lands and “then all the captains and generals sailed away and abandoned them, left them with the ghosts and bones” (ibid.). In disparagement of European exploiters, Wally claims that, after the desertion, Efica’s poor and sick have a better life and that women get equal pay. Gabe Manzini, a Voorstand spy and the seducer of Wally’s paramour, Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson, ponders an isolated, sparsely populated island nation lacking natural resources, military might, a substantial gross national product, and the self-determination to halt the dumping of toxic waste or the building of foreign defense projects on its soil. Despite his posting in the hinterlands as a subversive agent, he takes an outsider’s view of Eficans, whom he admires for being



“dry, ironic, uncomfortable with dogma, suspicious of high-sounding rhetoric” and practical (ibid., 202).

RETURN TO THE MOTHERLAND Actualizing the concept of soil turned to profit, Carey presents the protagonist of Jack Maggs (1997) as amassing a fortune from turning Australian clay into bricks. On the proceeds, Jack, a condemned convict, risks a return to London, which he considers home. The result resets Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861) with a view of the Australian success story. Michael Fitzgerald, a critic for Time magazine, exults that “Carey turns Dickens upside down. And upside down, Australia is on top of the world” (Fitzgerald, 1997, 82). A similar take on home turf in My Life as a Fake (2003) stretches the imagination with its vigorous quest tale sprawling over Australia and into Bali before settling in Penang, Kuala Lumpur. According to Clea Simon, reviewer for the Boston Phoenix, the search for a startling poetic genius reveals “self-made, fate-bound characters” in a “tale [crossing] creation myths with literary gamesmanship and Australia’s ideas about itself ” (Simon, 2003, 28). Likewise home-minded, Theft: A Love Story exhibits a local pride in the art works of Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, a home-boy from Bacchus Marsh who exults in showings of his work New York City, London, and Cologne, Germany. See also self-esteem

• Further readings Baker, John F. “PW Interviews: Peter Carey,” Publishers Weekly 238, no. 54 (13 December 1991): 37–38. Balogh, Stefanie. “Peter Carey Yearns for Oz,” Courier-Mail (28 October 2007). Blaber, Ronald, and Marvin Gilman. Roguery: The Picaresque Tradition in Australian, Canadian and Indian Fiction. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly, 1990. Bradley, John. “Bread and Sirkuses: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 657–665. Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account. London: Bloomsbury, 2001. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Dare, Tim. “He Bit, Chewed, and Found Bliss,” Sydney Morning Herald (27 May 1982): 3. Edwards, Brian. Theories of Play and Postmodern Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1997. Fitzgerald, Michael. “Changed Expectations,” Time South Pacific 32 (11 August 1997): 82. Freeman, John. “Peter Carey: Art and Lies— and Money,” Independent (26 May 2006). Grimes, William. “An Australian Novelist with a Full-Tilt Pace and Ferocious Humor,” New York Times (28 January 1992): C11, C15. Highfield, Jonathan. “Suckling from the Crocodile’s Tit: Wildlife and Nation Formation in Australian Narratives,” Antipodes 20, no. 2 (1 December 2006): 127–140. Hyman, Ben. “Novelist Reads to Intimate Crowd,” Brown Daily Herald (19 March 2009). Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –347. Messud, Claire. “The Voicing of Australia,” LA Weekly (3 May 2002): B2. Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 83 –84. Mudge, Alan. “The Seduction of the Scam: A Literary Imposter Comes Alice in Peter Carey’s ‘Fake,’” Book Page, 2003,, accessed on November 20, 2008. Ness, Patrick. “The Sacred in the Profane,” Guardian (27 May 2006). Nicklin, Lenore. “Peter Carey an Ad-Man,” Sydney Morning Herald (13 February 1975): 3. Ross, Bruce Clunies. “Some Developments in Short Fiction 1969 –1980,” Australian Literary Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 165 –180. Ross, Robert L. “Expectations Lost and Found,” World & I 13, no. 7 (July 1998): 250 –257. Ryan-Fazilleau, Sue. “The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and the ‘Pain of Unbelonging’” in The Pain of Unbe-



longing: Alienation and Identity in Australasian Literature, eds. Sheila Collingwood-Whittick and Germaine Greer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Simon, Clea. “Dead Poet’s Society: Peter Carey’s Game of Literature and Life,” Boston Phoenix (7 November 2003): 28. Sutcliffe, William. “Peter Carey’s Latest Fits Neatly into the Child-and-Reluctant-Guardian-Flee-from-Peril Genre,” The Independent (17 February 2008). Taylor, Christopher. “The Lost Boy,” The Guardian (2 February 2008). Turner, Graeme. National Fictions: Literature, Film, and the Construction of Australian Narrative. New York: Taylor and Francis, 1986. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007. White, Edmund. “Recognizing Jack,” Times Literary Supplement (30 August 1991): 21. Willbanks, Ray. “Peter Carey on The Tax Inspector and The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Antipodes 11, no. 1 (1997): 11 –16. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59. Wroe, Nicholas. “Fiction’s Great Outlaw,” Guardian (6 January 2001): 6.

Badgery, Herbert A “blue-eyed scoundrel and confidence man,” Herbert Peter Badgery is Peter Carey’s ebullient larrikin, anti-historian, and chronicler of four generations of family lore in the saga Illywhacker (1985). Prefigured by advertiser Harry Stanthorpe Joy, protagonist of Bliss (1981), Herbert anticipates Christopher Chubb in My Life as a Fake (2003) and Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone in Theft: A Love Story (2006). A model of what social analyst Helga Ramsey-Kurz calls the “non-literate other,” Herbert is a microcosm of Australia who speaks the national vernacular as the lingua franca of a determined, creative people (Ramsey-Kurz, 2007, 142). He invents himself in the same way that Australia’s convict population donned respectability, by whitewashing their sordid past. In an analogy of a scapegrace with the snake-in-the-bag trick, the autocrat declares his credo: “This snake has been in gaol. It is a mean bastard of an animal and it cannot be bought” (Carey, 1985, 141). The character returns to Carey’s canvas in 30 Days in Sydney (2001), a mural of coastal Australia bristling with resolute rascals and storytellers. Given to fecklessness and lies, Herbert is a born subversive. His method of storytelling varies completely from Harry Stanthorpe Joy, the soulful cultural fabulist in Bliss (1981); the precise reflections of Bob, the raconteur in Oscar and Lucinda (1988); and the plaintive apologia of Ned Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). Because of the aged windbag’s candor and insight into post-colonial angst, Herbert earns a limited credibility as well as a gullible following for his grotesque anecdotes. Critic Peter Pierce, in an essay for Australian Literary Studies, remarks, “Carey plays at length with this ambiguity, teasing out the possibilities of an unreliable narrator who may therefore be the most reliable recorder of the national history” (Pierce, 1992, 307). The gray area separating eyewitness history from reported fact suits Herbert, a vigorous beguiler who eases the skeptical reader into a credulous frame of mind. As the spieler extraordinaire of the Badgery-McGrath family saga, Herbert epitomizes the vigor and vision of Australia’s homeboys who layer truth with romance. In the view of Ronald Blaber and Marvin Gilman, through extravagant antics and pranks, the protagonist exhibits “a particularly dogmatic set of convictions such as Australian nationalism, commitment to egalitarianism, a belief in democracy” (Blaber and Gilman, 1990, 55). To elude his father’s cannon-selling racket and family cruelties, in 1899, ten-year-old Herbert wrecks the merchandise, flees his father and brothers, and makes his own way. From 1924 to 1931, Herbert crisscrosses Victoria “writing bad cheques when I could get



hold of a book, running raffles in pubs, buying stolen petrol,” even cadging rides by boxcar (Carey, 1985, 222). He besmirches his persona by establishing a carnal relationship with his mother-in-law, Molly Rourke McGrath, and, in 1937, by failure to protect his 14-yearold daughter, Sonia “Sonny” Badgery, from death in an abandoned mine shaft. Carey implies that, despite good spirits and verve, Herbert’s irresponsibility is the unforgivable aspect of the rogue’s natural inclinations.

PROGRESSIVE CAPRICE Mid-life signals a change in Herbert from ambiguous morality to introspective survivor of ongoing challenges, the beginning of his transmogrification into an elderly ascetic and sage. From 1931 to 1937, he adopts mime as a way of life while performing theatricals with lover Leah Goldstein Kaletsky throughout Queensland and New South Wales. In an article for Span, critic M. D. Fletcher, a specialist in political satire at the University of Queensland, depicts Herbert as a picaro, the standard opportunist of Menippean satire who uses astute observation and ready embellishment as means of plotting a life of rootless profligacy. Of the weak and unprincipled, Herbert admits, “I have been both, am both, will always be both” (ibid., 338). His bonhomie and wit earn him a grudging reader respect, particularly his gratitude for an upbringing under the tutelage of the Chinese herbalist Goon Tse Ying, a fellow orphan and social reject. The illywhacker has a lengthy literary beginning, dating to the wily slave of Roman Atellan stage farce, an improvisational stage entertainment of the third century B.C. Herbert is the progeny of Henry Fielding’s title rake in Tom Jones (1749), literary twin of the title figure in Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man (1965), and a fictional model of Charles Darwin’s survivor. The protagonist adapts well to adversity and claims as a skill the squatter’s knack for shaping residences out of natural resources and found materials, some stolen from the unwary. In the estimation of Blaber and Gilman, Carey’s illywhacker “exposes the bare grounds of an individual way without recourse to religion, philosophy, politics as a sustaining force” (Blaber and Gilman, 1990, 59). Through unethical means, such as on-the-spot improvisation like that of Arlecchino, the mischievous clown of the commedia dell’arte of 16th-century Italy street fare, Herbert advances his checkered career as a moocher, salesman, and womanizer. His theft of Leah’s letters produces family bitterness at his handy rationalization of pilfering “a bit here, a bit there, snipped, altered,” a narcissist’s version of plagiarism (Carey, 1985, 85). Adding relish to the narrative, Carey supplies Herbert with such colorful localisms as “widdling,” “swag,” “dunnycan,” “fair dinkum,” “bludger,” and “upter,” idioms that delineate the levels of social refinement and economic success among Australia’s semiliterate white settlers. In contrast, the text poses Cocky Abbott’s son, an “imaginary Englishman” who relies on the imperialist’s language to legitimize colonial conquest (ibid., 125). Unlike Herbert, who perceives opportunity in Australia stouthearted patriots, men like Abbott perpetuate adulation of and parasitism off the mother country.

HERBERT THE SAGE At a turning point in Herbert’s disreputable career, a dilemma forces him to abandon posturing and lies for the truth about himself and his homeland. After reading a come-hither glint in the eyes of Mrs. Stu O’Hagen, he attempts to sell Stu a T Model Ford. A spasm of conscience forces Herbert to back out of the deal and to urge the family to purchase a Summit, an Australian car, a symbol of native ingenuity and industry. Junk-



ing the Ford in the Geelong saltpans, Herbert debates with himself his addiction to shady hucksterism, which he compares to weaknesses for alcohol and cigarettes. His ambivalence toward the beauty and economy of American autos revives his yen to sell cars. At the same time, the appeal of the Ford reminds him of “the things I loathed,” an allusion to the American products that flood the Australian market and that inhibit investment in local inventions and ideas (ibid., 75). In much the same way that old-timers of the American West became savants in dime novels and newspaper interviews, Herbert transforms himself through the written word. Like the revelations of 99-year-old Lucy Marsden in confinement at a nursing home in Allan Gurganus’s tragicomic novel Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989), Herbert’s metamorphosis occurs from 1937 to 1947 in a cell at Rankin Downs Gaol. Fortunately, incarceration affords him time to study and the access to a history degree from the University of Sydney. In solitude, he shifts from the multifarious wordsmith to an expert on Australia specializing in the “role of lies in popular perceptions of the Australian political fabric” (ibid., 488). Ironically, scholarship liberates the felon much as storytelling frees Harry Joy in Bliss from a life of razzle-dazzle. No longer illiterate, Badgery exults: “Books! Books are no problem to me any more.... The ingenuity and effort, the deception, the stories, the bullshit, the lies I used, just to persuade people to read me the paper aloud, all this was far harder work than learning to read” (ibid., 20). Well versed in the usurpation and genocide that coincided with British colonization of the South Pacific, Herbert acknowledges the racial violence that depleted aboriginal tribes and suppressed Chinese laborers like his foster father, Goon Tse Ying, an immigrant who helped to build the nation.

• Further readings Barfoot, C. C., and Theo d’Haen. Shades of Empire in Colonial and Post-Colonial Literatures. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993. Blaber, Ronald, and Marvin Gilman. Roguery: The Picaresque Tradition in Australian, Canadian and Indian Fiction. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly, 1990. Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. Fletcher, M. D. “Post-Colonial Peter Carey,” Span 32 (1991): 12–23. Highfield, Jonathan. “Suckling from the Crocodile’s Tit: Wildlife and Nation Formation in Australian Narratives,” Antipodes 20, no. 2 (1 December 2006): 127–140. Pierce, Peter. “Preying on the Past: Contexts of Some Recent Neo-Historical Fiction,” Australian Literary Studies 15, no. 4 (1992): 304 –312. Ramsey-Kurz, Helga. The Non-Literate Other. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Thwaites, Tony. “More Tramps at Home,” Meanjin 46, no. 3 (September 1987): 400 –409.

Badgery-Goldstein-McGrath genealogy Carey’s haphazard family tree for Illywhacker (1985) mirrors through genealogy the colorful fabric of the Australian populace in its alliance of liars and picaresque storytellers with a Chinese herbalist, suicides, a barmaid, illiterates, Communists, and the barkeep of the Crystal Palace Hotel. shop keeper=wife | ------------------------------| | | older sons liar from | Granny Keogh

55 Warrnambool cannon seller

| | | father | murdered | 6/30/1861 | | | Goon Tse Ying | (foster father) | 1896 | | orphan | | | | | | | | | | Marjorie=Herbert Thatcher Badgery Wilson b. 1886 m. 1917

drowned herself | -------------------------| | Ester McGuinness mother=father barkeep, Crystal hanged | baker Palace Hotel herself | | bullock driver --------------------------------------------| | | | Jack McGrath=Molly Walter Sean | d. 1919 of | Rourke | snakebite | barmaid | | b. 1880 | | Peter=Phoebe Matilda=/=Annette Davidson=/=P. E. | b. 1902 “Dicksy” instructor | m. 1920 teacher | deserts b. 1898 | in 1923 suicide wife=Henry Underhill | | pound officer | | -----------------------------------------------| | | | Sonia “Sonny” Charles=Emma Underhill Badgery two sisters b. 1923 b. 1921 | teacher vanishes in m. 1938 | 1937 suicide | ------------------------------------------| | | Henry=wife George=wife Hissao b. 1939 thief b. 1943 Minsk tailor | Sidney “Sid” Sheila=husband Goldstein=Edith MacDonald | Russian | Scot | immigrant| Rosa=Lenny Kaletsky | Communist | --------------dies of cancer | | | | -------------------Nadia Grace | | | | | | Herbert=/=Leah=Izzie Kaletsky Joseph Peter Goldstein orator translator; Badgery b. 1911 amputee traitor dancer; m. 1931 author; maimed in actor 1936 affair with Herbert, 1931 –1936

See also Badgery, Herbert; Illywhacker




• Further readings Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

belonging Carey declares himself lucky in that his early quandary mirrors that of Australia’s settlers. He considers it fortunate “that my own personal trauma matches my country’s great historical trauma” (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). He surveys the quandary of alienation through different sized lenses, from the displaced Englishman in Jack Maggs (1997) and the returning homeboy to New South Wales in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001) to the cumbersome retardate, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone in Theft: A Love Story (2006). In a review of thriller/love story His Illegal Self (2008), the tale of three displaced waifs— seven-year-old Che David Selkirk, Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, and survivalist and former garbage collector Trevor Dobbs— on the run at Crystal Community, a hippie commune south of Yandina, Queensland, critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney chides Carey for an obsession with “one preoccupation: the difficulty of belonging in Australia” (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). Nonetheless, the reviewer congratulates the author for “combining elements of realism, fantasy and comedy, bringing a Dickensian readability to subject matter that in clumsier hands might be worthy or dull” (ibid.). Carey informed John Freeman, an interviewer for The Australian, that displacement affects all of his canon: “Every single one of my novels deals with this idea of being in two places” (Freeman, 2008). Carey’s sympathy with wanderers, exiles, and aliens took shape in his early short stories. In “A Windmill in the West” (1972), he sets an American soldier on a bland, featureless desert to guard a fence separating American and Australian property. Breaking the monotony of his sentry post, a clacking windmill to the west epitomizes the whirling confusion he experiences at meaningless sentry duty. Displaced from both his military superiors and from the putative enemy, he loses his sense of direction and directs his attention to boiling scorpions in hot water that spurts from artesian wells. Like the insects he captures by the bucketful, the soldier symbolizes the alien occupation force caught up in lethal international sovereignty clashes. Ironically, he faces a lost Australian pilot, another displaced soul whom the American soldier shoots down and buries. Carey connects the soldier’s personification of the windmill as a distant observer with mental disintegration resulting from a futile survey of a landscape that offers no familiar clues. In “The Fat Man in History” (1974), the allegory of six of society’s castoffs— Fantoni, Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and the-man-who-won’t-give-his-name — accounts for an in-house camaraderie bordering on ad hoc brotherhood. Contributing to their unity in a post-revolution economy are the need to shoplift food and supplies, the sharing of beer and musicales in the communal kitchen, and the monthly ogling of the rent collector, Nancy Bowlby, author of “Revolution in a Closed Society — A Study of Leadership among the Fat,” whom they idolize as “Florence Nightingale” (Carey, 1974, 15, 32). Of their gatherings, Carey notes “The clapping is forced into the rhythm of the music and everyone claps in time” (ibid., 23). Another element of communal life, their shared disdain for the government, leads the six inmates to an illegal act risking group arrest, “when they went out to piss on the commemorative plaque outside the offices of the Fifty-fourth District” (ibid., 20). The author betrays household unity by accounting for the cyclical sac-



rifice and cannibal feasting on the “Fantoni,” a title that passes to the next candidate for occupancy of the vacant room. Building suspense in the residents is the namelessness of each newcomer, the hapless outsider who inherits the name “Fantoni,” a name suggesting the French “phantome” (ghost). At the crux of a mid-life crisis, membership in a hippie klatch lures 39-year-old Harry Stanthorpe Joy, the advertising magnate in Bliss (1981), to flee his old life and floundering family to join a commune. Far from city materialism and glitz, like Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone and his lawn maintenance service, Harry refuels his spent system on a patch of ground near Bog Onion Road. For 30 years, to justify squatter’s rights within the circle of residents, he assumes the role of savant and storykeeper. As he generates warmth and understanding for his fellows, he “[sews] together patchworks of lives, legends, myths, beliefs, hearsay into a splendid cloak that gave a richer glow to all their lives” (Carey, 1981, 290 –291). The covering protects as it draws into intimacy a collection of marginalized hearers who need cohesion and unity. Carey extends to Harry an eternal welcome in the milieu. At his death from the blow of a fallen tree limb, he seems summoned back into the wild. His spirit thins into a sigh that embraces the woods and becomes an ethereal, yet integral part of the ecology. Because of the animistic nature of the commune, the upward drift of his spirit assures him an eternal welcome as a “fine blue line” in “their tough old heart wood” (ibid., 296). The color blue appears repeatedly in Carey’s short and long fiction as a symbol of contentment.

POLITICAL SHARDS In his second neo–Victorian novel, Jack Maggs, Carey brandishes patriotism toward the motherland like a crusader’s sword. Although exiled in 1813 at age 15 for thievery and brutalized by Rudder the flogger in Morton Bay, a British penal colony in New South Wales, at age 38, criminal Jack Maggs insists on returning to the land he calls home, even if repatriation results in his execution. Upon arrival by coach, he represents “an alien culture,” but he celebrates his love of London by eating a syrup dumpling sprinkled with sugar, a symbol of the sweetness he anticipates upon revisiting familiar places and people (Carey, 1997, 251). In an analysis for Westerly, author Elizabeth Hardy explains Jack’s rationalization of redemption: “Maggs’s memories of England enable him to transcend the agonies of convict life and construct a sense of place in which England is synonymous with the concept of home” (Hardy, 1998, 135). In defense of his need for roots, he snarls, “I am a fucking Englishman, and I have English things to settle. I am not to live my life with all the vermin” (Carey, 1997, 140). His dismissal of Anglo-Australians as vermin illustrates the degree to which his idealization of the British Isles has strayed from truth. Upon his return to Wingham, Australia, with wife Mercy, Jack creates a colonial home with his two sons and his and Mercy’s children, “five further members of ‘That Race’” (ibid., 327). The family becomes known for being “both clannish and hospitable,” a sign of Jack’s gift for welcoming others into his household (ibid.). Like Jack, the lone ex-con, Carey’s supreme oddball, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), recognizes an inability to accommodate place and company. Because of his lack of socialization, he chooses solitude. Limited society begins in Oscar’s childhood, when his father’s evangelism for a fundamentalist sect, the Plymouth Brethren, limits their affinity for community gatherings and holidays. His classmate Ian Wardley-Fish at Oriel College, Oxford, the future curate of Hammersmith, roars, “You do not fit. You are wonderful. You are perfectly unique” (Carey, 1988, 156). A left-handed



compliment, the accusation forces Oscar to admit that he is ill-suited to ordinary surroundings. To rid himself of the vice of gambling, on April 22, 1863, he proposes a self-imposed penance — a voyage to New South Wales to serve the Church Missionary Society. The venture no only circumscribes him further, but leads to his drowning at Boat Harbour in the Bellinger River. Literary historian Elleke Boehmer notes the irony that, because of Oscar’s self-exile, he contributes to “a new history of the land, a tale which Oscar’s descendants will use to explain their belonging to it” (Boehmer, 2006, 17).

ASSORTED MISFITS Carey turns two of his works—The Tax Inspector (1991) and The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994)— into explorations of family unity and solidarity, a topic that resurfaces in Theft: A Love Story. In the first novel, the efforts of Benny Catchprice, a 16-year-old psychopath, to lead his rudderless clan to prosperity requires a transformation from tattooed punk to flashy car salesman. His foil, his 18-year-old brother Johnny, gives up on the three-generation Catchprice auto business and chooses the communal family of Hare Krishnas, who require his loyalty and commitment to vegetarianism and nonviolence. Overhead, Carey explodes Catchprice Motors, a warren of carnality and child exploitation that 86-year-old Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice obliterates with sticks of gelignite. As Benny retreats from the disintegrating family and forces a hostage into his cellar hideout, he unintentionally guides tax investigator Maria Takis toward motherhood. Under the barrel of Benny’s sawed-off shotgun, Maria gives birth to a son, whom her captor lovingly dubs “little Benny” (Carey, 1991, 261). In a stagy turnaround, Maria bashes Benny’s forehead with a tire iron, thus ostensibly ending his life while retrieving the newborn for cuddling and welcome into the single-parent Takis household. More poignant than Benny’s displacement within a hostile family, the title figure in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1992) presents a grotesque physique, twisted legs, and an unintelligible voice to the citizens of Efica, a cluster of 18 archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean. On tour with his mother’s acting troupe from the Feu Follet Theatre, Tristan enjoys the attentions of the whole company, yet repulses strangers who view him “like snot, like slime, like something dripping down towards them from which they wished to take their eyes and which, the clearer and closer it became, produced in their own eyes and lips such grotesque contortions that I knew ... I was a monster” (Carey, 1992, 156). Ex-con and stage manager Wally Paccione builds a special high chair; Tristan’s mother hires tutors for homeschooling. Actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur, Tristan’s absent father, suggests letting the boy study acting by observing stage drama and by playing a part. Unlike Benny Catchprice, the wannabe car salesman, Tristan develops ego strength by portraying Bruder Mouse, Voorstand’s iconic cartoon rodent. The illusion of being treasured releases a surge of possibilities in Tristan: “I was twenty-three years old, crazy for life” (ibid., 387). His presentation to fans takes on the trappings of an audience: “This is how you introduce kings, princes, and stars” (ibid.). To Tristan, his reception is only the beginning. For True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey tackles the scope of Australian history since its colonization by Europeans. Of the ancestral background of folk hero Edward “Ned” Kelly, the author dramatizes “a big Irish component, a folkloric culture ... being robbed, tortured, and oppressed. And then we have the convict narrative, which is certainly about loss” (Jarvis, 2008). Ousted from a loving, if quarrelsome extended KellyQuinn clan, Ned spends his youth from age 14 in Victoria’s Wombat Range. Carey explained how the backdrop echoes the boy’s emotions: “It’s a hostile place, with droughts



and fires. There’s no frontier that triumphs over space in Australia” (ibid.). Because of the daily scramble for concealment and survival, Ned suffers yearnings for home and kin, which he eases in part by a common-law relationship with Mary Hearn, a 17-year-old Irish prostitute. Upon his return by night following the Buckland Coach and Reed Murphy’s Station robberies, Ned marvels, “It were a shock to finally see the home I had dreamed of so many lonely nights” (Carey, 2000, 93). The visual reunion and tactile stroking of siblings lapses into a gnawing sorrow that his mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, sold him to highwayman Harry Power for cash. The depiction of Ned’s homesickness heightens the sorrow of a man whose choices separate him forever from homefolks. Carey dramatizes the blow to self-esteem as Ned realizes himself “bought and sold like carrion” (ibid., 95). See also misfits; orphans; self-esteem

• Further readings Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Freeman, John. “Home Thoughts from Abroad,” The Australian (26 January 2008). Hardy, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey, Jack Maggs,” Westerly 43, no. 2 (1998): 135. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008). Jarvis, Jill. “CUNY Distinguished Professors: Peter Carey,” forum/?p=2668, accessed on November 26, 2008.

betrayal Among the dangers, persecutions, and miseries that Carey depicts in fiction, one of the most hurtful is human treachery. The theme resonates in David Joy’s involuntary commitment of his father Harry to Merry Lands asylum for $5,000 in Bliss (1981), in Phoebe McGrath Badgery’s abandonment of her husband and two children in Illywhacker (1985), and in a children’s story, The Big Bazoohley (1995), in which adults exploit children to advertise hair products for the Perfecto Kiddo contest. In an early short work, the demolition of Nile in “Peeling” (1972) and the cyclical cannibalism of a nameless group leader in “The Fat Man in History” (1974) epitomize Carey’s search for meaning in flights of whimsy that reflect the intent and drive of the predator. The first narrative, a seduction gone awry, pictures an elderly retiree destroying his own illusions about femininity by stripping the garments of his upstairs neighbor. By actuating his false fantasies of Nile, the assistant to an abortion provider, he discloses a vulnerable female psyche that he shatters like glass, an image of fragility that Carey develops more fully in Oscar and Lucinda (1988). Similarly turned inward, Carey’s fat man fable, like Shirley Jackson’s classic story “The Lottery” (1948), pictures the inner weakness of society’s underclass, which ingests strength by cannibalizing its leadership. Once betrayers dispatch the titular “Fantoni,” another assumes the title that keeps the deadly cycle in motion. The duping of Nile and the Fantoni illustrate society’s willingness to martyr its victims. A more seductive form of treachery, the lure of unidentified merchandise in “Report on the Shadow Industry” (1974), a commentary on the writing process, echoes the author’s anger at ugly development overlooking Bondi Beach in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Dis-



torted Account (2001). The story characterizes the deception of the poor in Topanga, California, by shadow factories that entice buyers to waste their money on junk. The motif of buying more and enjoying less dramatizes the self-betrayal of shoppers addicted to the cozening of advertisement. Carey returns to the issue of unethical merchandizing in “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” (1974), a witty satire of European settlers who trick Australia’s first peoples into buying worthless pharmaceuticals. Engineered by attorney-economist Vincent, the plot to dump goods manufactured by Farrow depersonalizes the buyers, unsophisticated residents of the Upward Islands. In atoning for his exploitation of indigenous tribes, Vincent faces a dilemma in a warehouse, where he tries to steal the drugs that will stain his hands blue, the evidence of theft that confers belonging to the people he cons.

SPIES AND INFORMANTS Carey particularizes insidious forms of perfidy in two novels, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) and True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). For Tristan, the spying of the Voorstand Intelligence Agency (VIA) by Gabe Manzini and the suicide of Natalie Theroux precede a turning point of evil, the contrived hanging of Tristan’s mother, actortroupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith. Contributing to the assassination is the son’s discovery at 2 A.M. “a horror he would carry all his life, the picture of his mother dead and ugly, hanging from a bright green rope,” a violation of nature’s color of hope and renewal (Carey, 1994, 222). Tristan tries rationalizing the sight as a mask, exercise, or mistaken identity, but he experiences instant maturity from recognizing treachery in its raw form. From terror of assassins, Tristan passes through a series of psychic states— self-protection and retreat under the theater stage. He resolves, “I would live only where my mother had died ... the deepest, darkest hole on earth” (ibid., 236). In Tristan’s recovery, he fulfills his prophecy by devoting himself to acting. The career move costs him a second parent, stage manager Wally Paccione, whom VIA agent Wendell Deveau garrotes with piano wire. Serendipitously, the lurid scene inspires a new defender for Tristan in Bill Millefleur, his biological father, who whisks the boy down a stairwell to safety. Of the trade-off, Tristan admits, “It seemed, the pain was less, the pleasure greater”(ibid., 414). In the life of Edward “Ned” Kelly, Australia’s famed Anglo-Irish outlaw, the juxtaposition of pain and pleasure tips toward the former. Loyalty defines the relationship of the boy with his nuclear family, with his maternal relatives of the Quinn clan, and with the Kelly gang, which includes his younger brother Dan. As charges, both real and spurious, accrue on Ned’s police record, Dan becomes less trusting and more sophisticated about judging telltale eye movements and facial expressions and about motivation to inform to authorities Ned’s whereabouts. Betrayal looms over Ned as his dealings with the law grow more complex. From the beginning of his relationship with Aaron Sherritt, Joe Byrne’s friend, Ned dislikes and mistrusts Aaron. After Dan reports Aaron’s collusion with police, Carey jumps swiftly to the penalty for a fink: “Then he is a dead man said Joe Byrne he has just decided” (Carey, 2000, 344). The lack of punctuation and standard pronounantecedent linkage leaves in question whether Joe Byrne has decided to kill Aaron or whether Aaron’s actions settle the question of informing on Ned in exchange for a cash reward. Carey’s theme of disloyalty highlights the vulnerability of desperados. Nearing the end of Ned’s run from the law, the ties to Ellen and her children embolden the outlaw to risk arrest or an ambush on the nights he creeps back to the homestead. To his tormentors, he offers an ultimatum that concludes, “I am a widow’s son outlawed and must be



obeyed” (ibid., 343). A final blow, traducer Tom Curnow’s betrayal of Ned’s circumstances at the Glenrowan inn wrests from Ned the charge that Tom “had entered the dragon’s lair, the benighted heart of everything rank and ignorant,” a description redolent with spite toward an informer (ibid., 357). Ned’s last words before hanging request in vain the return of his corpse to the family for Ellen to bury among trusted Kellys, the people for whom the outlaw gives his life.

ART AND TREACHERY The boomerang effect of betrayal spices up the plots of My Life as a Fake (2003) and Theft: A Love Story (2006), parallel works on scammers. As though dramatizing Sir Walter Scott’s quote from epic poem Marmion (1808): “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive,” Carey applies the perils of lying and deception to the literary world. In My Life as a Fake, Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, the self-adulating editor of the failing London-based poetry journal Modern Review, finds herself hustled to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, by novelist John Slater, a manipulator and old family friend who seduced Sarah’s mother. The pile-up of treacheries reads like a nursery rhyme chase: Sarah pursues Australian poet Christopher Chubb, who invented the poems and persona of Bob McCorkle as a literary hoax that ruined an editor and caused his death. Bob assumes flesh as a stalking phantasm to abduct Chubb’s infant daughter Tina. Tina and her surrogate mother, Mrs. Lim, murder Chubb with a machete and cheat Sarah of the verse that made McCorkle famous. The vicious cycle of trickery and exploitation concludes with McCorkle’s death from leukemia, Chubb’s dismemberment, and the mental depletion of Sarah, who “[gets] sucked deeper and deeper into the morass” of fakery to the point of nervous collapse (Carey, 2003, 266). The novel characterizes the shredding of the connections between brain and body as the moral and physical price of self-aggrandizement by appropriating another person’s creative talents. With similar attention to mental and physical collapse, the satiric novel Theft: A Love Story depicts the failure of painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone to navigate the global art market. He chooses as a guide art authenticator Marlene Cook Leibovitz, a former secretary who worms her way into the trust of boss/husband Olivier Leibovitz to control a fortune in modern art painted by her late father-in-law, Jacques Leibovitz. Butcher, an adulterer, adores his mistress as the love of his life. Like the wanderer Odysseus, he succumbs to a siren song, allowing passion to entice him into a felon’s plot to defraud art investors. Unlike Sarah Wode-Douglass, a lesbian who has no lust for her betrayer, Butcher accepts his lover’s criminality as a quirk of her personality on a par with a bad habit. Carey introduces her burglary tools as mere idiosyncrasies of a stylish woman who is adept at breaking and entering and at murdering her estranged husband. Aware that Marlene lures him into faking a Leibovitz painting, Butcher rephrases Shakespeare’s title figure in Macbeth, who dares his nemesis, “Lead on Macduff ” (Carey, 2006, 268). The acquiescence of a lamb to slaughter, Butcher’s unfailing love for Marlene causes him to admit, “I was still — in spite of all the death and deception — a prisoner of this tangled past” (ibid., 269). Carey awards the hapless lamb an ambiguous reward —five years of peace in Australia and surreptitious love messages as Marlene raises Butcher’s reputation to world-class artist.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003.



_____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Gaile, Andreas. “Re-Mythologizing an Australian Legend,” Antipodes 15, no. 1 (2001): 37–39. _____. “The True History of the Kelly Gang, at Last!,” Meanjin 60, no. 3 (2001): 214 –219.

The Big Bazoohley A rollicking farce illustrated by Abira Ali, The Big Bazoohley (1995) relies on humor based on serendipity, the artificiality of pop culture, and the natural origins of art. Carey dedicated the story to sons Charley and Sam and named the nine-year-old protagonist Sam Kellow. The plot, according to critic John Stephens, “turns on the distinction between appearance and subjectivity” (Stephens, 2002, 45). It predates by a year the strangulation of a six-year-old Coloradan, JonBenet Ramsey, whose parents forced her into a sexually ambiguous lifestyle as a model and beauty queen. The text opens on a truism of child psychology, that children interpret hushed words, body language, and anxious expressions to learn more about the secret workings of family than parents suspect. Sam is the son of gambler Earl Kellow and Vanessa Kellow, a painter of miniatures. The boy’s anxiety derives from the unconventional jobs by which his parents support the family. As their meager cash dwindles to $53.20, he tabulates mentally the leftover amount, a symbol of the secret financial shortfall his parents conceal from him. Carey reverses the motif of concealment by transforming Sam so thoroughly with velvet suit and curly coif that his own parents fail to recognize him. The repackaging of the baseball cap-wearing scamp as a charming imposter impugns cultural devaluation of normal childhood through advertising. Sam’s natural courtesy and respect for Nancy, his dance partner, informs the reader of his exemplary character. Carey curtails suspense about Sam’s escapade in the hotel ballroom by describing Vanessa’s rescue of her son as a masterwork miniature, a model of art defeating artifice. More tender and less ominous than the plot of the adult story “The Chance” (1974) and the novel The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Sam’s sleepwalking exploits lead him to a pair of grifters mirroring those of Illywhacker (1985). Carey initiates the search with a dream, a standard introduction to a child’s subconscious unraveling of a puzzle. In an episode of somnambulism, Sam — like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, the siblings in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia cycle, and Robin in Marguerite de Angeli’s The Door in the Wall (1950)— enters a parallel universe. Sam’s application of gambler’s logic to his quandary thrusts him into the clutches of child abductors, “Mad Muriel and Droopy George” Mifflin, who groom Sam for a perfect child competition (Carey, 1995, 86). Unlike actors Bill Millefleur and Felicity “Flick” Smith, the parents of the title figure in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, the Mifflins treat Sam like a “performing bear, and the bear was their child” (ibid., 53). At the end of their plot to pass Sam off as their own son Wilfred, who is too ill with chicken pox to compete, Vanessa summarizes their duplicity as “name-dropping and meanness and cheating,” unconscionable methods of winning a $10,000 prize in the Perfecto Kiddo contest. Like Tristan Smith, Carla in “The Chance” (1974), the title character in “Crabs” (1974), Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker, Lucinda Leplastrier in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), and seven-year-old runaway Che David Selkirk in His Illegal Self (2008), Sam Kellow models the resourceful renegade who accepts the dangers of risk-taking in a conformist capitalist society. The quest for reclusive art collector Edward “Eddie” St. John de Vere



introduces Sam to a short mole, whose diminutive stature brings to mind the three-footsix height of Tristan. The coincidence that reunites the family with de Vere is the art buyer’s ownership of the Perfecto Kiddo product line. In selling the entrepreneur on Sam’s qualities, Vanessa speaks the story’s wisdom — that kindness and courage and loyalty to family are more important than showy manners and perfect hair. The statement suggests Carey’s decision to abandon advertising for humanism and art. In a review for the New York Times, critic Jan Slepian compared the broad fantasy and absurdity to that of Roald Dahl. The book flourished in translation — into Spanish as El Supergordo, into French as Le Jackpot, and into German as Der Grosse Bingobang.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Big Bazoohley. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1995. Munro, Craig, and Robyn Sheahan-Bright. Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia, 1946 –2005. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2006. Rogers, Susan L. “Review: The Big Bazoohley,” School Library Journal 41, no. 10 (1995): 132. Slepian, Jan. “Eyes on the Prize,” New York Times Book Review 12 (12 November 1995): 30. Stephens, John. Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinities in Children’s Literature and Film. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Bliss Carey’s first published novel, Bliss (1981), a comedic Gothic satire, anticipates a socioeconomic catastrophe, the apocalypse that implodes in his fourth novel, The Tax Inspector (1991) and resurges as urban terrorism in His Illegal Self (2008). A commentary on fabulation and a flambouyant send-up of the advertising business, the narrative prefigures the impractical dreams of developers in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), who overshadow Bondi Beach with ugly housing. According to analyst Carolyn Bliss, the novel is an “updated Divine Comedy,” Dante Alighieri’s epic allegory of penance and punishment, published in 1321 (Bliss, 1995, 100). Just as Dante’s verse was a vehicle for his criticism of northern Italian power struggles, Carey’s novel supplied him an outlet for disgruntlement with capitalistic greed. His experience with copywriting ads educated him in the psychology of commerce and the ambiguities of consumerism, which radio reviewer Tonia de Launey of Broadway, New South Wales, called a “rich bed of false idols” (de Launey, 1979). Critic Karen Lamb noted that Carey “consistently interpreted Australian attitudes towards wealth, and the mythology surrounding the cult of the entrepreneur” before its demise a decade later in recession (Lamb, 1992, 21, 26). The feeding of individual vanities and the inevitable downturn in human values precipitates the collapse of the nuclear family and the self-worth of the businessman. In the analysis of Susan McKernan, reviewer for Overland, Carey depicts a nightmarish end-time when “all the energy and creativity of mankind are marshalled for self-destruction” (McKernan, 1982, 58). Making obvious connection with New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Bliss” (1920), Carey sets the plot in Australia, a mythic new world open to consumerism as a means of emulating the good life in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Like North, Central, and South America, the land offers jaded Europeans opportunities for enrichment and spiritual renewal. With the magical realism anticipating Isabel Allende The House of the Spirits (1982), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate (1989), Carey eases into the mythic dimension through uncluttered narration of everyday events. His compact interweaving of personal stories takes the form



of an onion, layered painstakingly with pungent leaves. Through the harmonizing of the real with the unimaginable, he conceives a world that seesaws between dreams and reality, a milieu that refutes assumptions about the times, people, and events that benefit humankind. The action of Carey’s existential fable depicts a 39-year-old advertiser, Harry Stanthorpe Joy, in the first of three diametric encounters with mortality. The first near-death collapse suspends him between “Heaven and Hell,” an existential neverland that puts his life on pause, a state that Carey explores further in the caging of aged grifter Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker (1985) and in the basement self-exile of Benny Catchprice in The Tax Inspector (Carey, 1991, 12). Medical treatment transmutes Harry into a “poor weak Gulliver,” the author’s allusion to the protagonist of Jonathan swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), who is supine during his examination by Lilliputians (Carey, 1981, 52). The helplessness caused by wires and tubes sustaining his sick body jolts Harry with an unforeseen discovery — that there are other lives awaiting him beyond the conning of the affluent into advertising useless, carcinogenic products. Carey opens the first of six staves with “Knocking at the Hellgate,” an action that suggests the thrust of terror in Act II, Scene iii of Macbeth (ca. 1603) within minutes of disclosure of King Duncan’s assassination. To engulf the reader in sense impressions, Carey’s text contrasts the cool fragrance of growing plants with the sound of a pneumatic drill, an auditory metaphor for the torments awaiting the unholy. Like Lot’s flight from the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, the contrast prophesies Harry’s eventual escape of industrial mayhem into a forest haven at Bog Onion Road.

THE ROAD TO EDEN The three-stage metamorphosis in Bliss casts Harry Joy in interlinking cameos. Anecdotal melodramas occupy “different worlds, layer upon layer, as thin as filo pastry” (Carey, 1981, 12). Like fraternal triplets, the original advertising mogul gives place to a binary remake, the atoner who shuns vice in himself, his wife, and his son and daughter, David and Lucy Joy. Seeking expiation for shady business ethics, Harry grasps at being a “good bloke” with the enthusiasm of a child reaching for a treat (ibid., 13). To assure comprehensive surveillance of his household, he records data in a notebook as though setting up an accounting system for urban family vice. He creates a tripartite demography of Hell, which comprises Actors like his family; evil-doers like drug kingpin Abe da Silva, whom he calls “Those in Charge”; and Captives, the class to whom he and penitent employee Alex Duval belong. The ongoing fact collecting “[throws] the whole emotional balance of the household out of kilter,” a necessary chaos preceding Harry’s personal, professional, and familial restructuring (ibid., 55) For yin and yang, the allegory conjures up a lurid history to contrast Harry’s eventual salvation. He blames himself for encouraging the traffic in chemical dreck along a river as black as the Styx: “Barges carried their carcinogens up river and neon lights advertised their final formulations against a blackening sky” (Carey, 1981, 79). To exonerate himself and his company, Joy, Kerlewis & Day, from selling cancer sources like pesticides, saccharin, and tobacco, Harry fires Adrian Clunes, a two-million-dollar client heading Krappe Chemicals, producer of “something like eighty thousand totally new organic compounds every year” (ibid., 124). The company sports a droll name for the makers of toxic formulae that breed tumors in human tissue. The single act characterizes the protagonist’s intent to cleanse himself of contributions to a cancer map. A postmodern Dantean schematic,



the chart depicts “the epicentre of Hell,” a riveting mosaic of hot red, vermillion, crimson, day-glo orange, and lethal yellow, “like some deadly pin-ball machine” (ibid., 125, 262). In the style of Australian poet A. B. “Banjo” Paterson, Carey leads his protagonist toward redemption in the wild, ironically, the environment that Australia’s first European settlers declared hostile and unlivable. The novel progresses to Harry’s rebirth as a tribal storyteller, a totemic role as mythographer and sage in the Australian outback. Like an organ prelude, the falling action departs the jog-trot litany of misdeeds of earlier passages and swells into a wave of idyllic lyricism honoring the newly indigenous. In a reprise of prehistoric contemplation of seasonal change, from digging and planting to a Dionysian harvest, hibernation, and reawakening, the pastoral tableau depicts a primal enthusiasm for nature at Bog Onion Road. Harry legitimizes his new self by becoming a bush guru. For parishioners, he ministers to a random collection of the disaffected —“refugees of a broken culture who had only the flotsam of belief and ceremony to cling to or, sometimes, the looted relics from other people’s temples” (Carey, 1981, 291). Carey riposted to negative charges that Bliss “was in some way not intellectually rigorous, so it was a copout” and a national embarrassment (Eustace, 2006, 109). In his plotting, the retreat to the wild reinvigorates Harry, thus rechanneling his skills at salesmanship and at misrepresenting carcinogenic products into uplifting the outback community through native oracle. He enhances their celebration of life and freedom through do-it-yourself ritual, a “sapphire, or blue bread made from cedar ash” (Carey, 1981, 291). Critic Graeme Turner allegorizes the evolution of the liturgist as a “model for the writer within the Australian culture, providing fictions, Australian dreams, for a culture ‘hungry for ceremony and story’” (Turner, 1986, 441).

DEFINING UTOPIA To shield the plot from Pollyanna-ism, Carey begs the question “What produces contentment in paradise?” He juxtaposes innocence with a workable level of conflict and individualism, a scenario that prefigures the lawn service of Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone and his autistic brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, in Theft: A Love Story (2006). According to critic Graham Huggan, Carey accounts for a symbiosis between city and commune that requires Damian and Honey Barbara to glean annually from the sullied underside of urbanism. For reality’s sake, beekeeper Honey Barbara admits that the forest holds its own horrors and that “the night was a less innocent place than it had once been,” a suggestion of encroaching evil (Carey, 1981, 136). The novel retains the character idiosyncrasies of hermit Jerusalem John and woodlands grifters like Crystal, Garry, Margot, and Paul Bees, whose rapacity produces more humor than crime. Taking up the themes of three stories from 1974 —“American Dreams,” “Report on the Shadow Industry,” and “The Puzzling Nature of Blue”— Carey strings out a picaresque extended family and a tribal tale into a surprisingly benevolent ending. He fulfills what Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges’s The Book of Sand (1975) describes as the replotting and retelling of essential human stories in unending layers throughout time. Harry’s Krishna-like pose derives from his mediation between woodlanders and the inevitability of death, which he has twice eluded in the style of Melquíades, the gypsy peddler in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). To those who pursue the mirage of the American dream — Betty Joy, her son David, and her lover, junior executive Joel Davis— death is not only grotesque, but also meaningless, as are their pleas-



ure-oriented lives. David is the most pitiable for his entrapment in suburbia and the mesmerizing effect of easy money from drug dealing. The author introduces the last chapter, “Blue Bread and Sapphires,” with his signature color representing Harry’s transfiguration as solacer to “refugees of a broken culture” (Carey, 1981, 291). As his punishment for past sins, at age 75, he falls victim to a widowmaker, a limb that falls on him from a 33-yearold yellow box tree that he planted. His evanescence into a sigh “as thin as gas” leaches him clean of corruption (ibid., 295). The quick demise seems appropriate to a naturalist whose spirit the cosmos reabsorbs. The ambiguity emerged 12 years later in an interview with Canadian writer Eleanor Watchel, to whom Carey admitted his inability to “[imagine] the successful outcome of anything” (Watchel, 1993, 103). Two critics— John Tranter of The Age and Ken Gelder of the Centre for New Research in Literatures in English Reviews Journal— disdained the episodic adventures as a lacklogic and transparent “going bush,” the down under slang term for living in the wild in traditional survivalist fashion. Tranter charged the author with attempting to yoke seriocomic short stories into an uneven whole that “tells us terrible and necessary things about the world we have made for ourselves” (Tranter, 1981, 27). Another analyst graded the novel substandard for its coy “redemptive allegory” (Eustace, 2006, 108). John Ryle, critiquing for the Times Literary Supplement, notes “a little genre-slippage” after Harry eases “into the greenwood” and regrets “the blithe acuity of Carey’s more swart passages” (Ryle, 1981, 1350). In a review for Meanjin, Peter Pierce, a professor of Australian literature at James Cook University, Cairns, demeaned Bliss as “a disappointingly mawkish fable in re-integration” (Pierce, 1981, 526). Other critiques are less caustic. A contrasting view by John Eustace, a writer and English professor at Acadia University, characterizes the withdrawal into nature as a search for respite from a cancer epidemic in the free-form spirituality of a commune. He expands on the characters’ wish to “assume the legitimacy” of first peoples without falling under the whip of the colonizer (Eustace, 2006, 116). To Francis King, a reviewer for Spectator, Bliss evidences “a potentially major talent” (King, 1981, 21). See also Joy, Harry; Joy genealogy

• Further readings Bliss, Carolyn. “Time and Timelessness in Peter Carey’s Fiction: The Best of Both Worlds,” Antipodes 9, no. 2 (December 1995): 97–105. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. de Launey Tonia. “Review: War Crimes,” 2SER-FM, 1979. Dovey, Teresa. “An Infinite Onion: Narrative Structure in Peter Carey’s Fiction,” Australian Literary Studies 11, no. 2 (1983): 195 –204. Eustace, John. “Going Bush: Performing the Pastoral in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Antipodes (1 December 2006): 108 –116. Fletcher, Don. “Utopia in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Social Alternatives 26, no. 1 (first quarter 2007): 39 –42. Hecq, Dominique. “Myth-Taken Paths and Exits in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Commonwealth 18, no. 2 (spring 1996): 99 –103. Huggan, Graham. Peter Carey. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1996. King, Francis. “Review,” Spectator (12 December 1981): 21. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. McKernan, Susan. “Recent Fiction,” Overland 88 (1982): 56 –59. Natale, Antonella Riem. “Harry Joy’s Children: The Art of Story Telling in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Australian Literary Studies 16, no. 3 (1994): 341 –347. Pierce, Peter. “Finding Their Range: Some Recent Australian Novels,” Meanjin 40, no. 4 (1981): 522–528. Ryle, John. “Magic and Poison,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1981): 1350. Tranter, John. “Hell without Logic Loses Credibility,” The Age (3 October 1981): 27. Turner, Graeme. “American Dreaming: The Fictions of Peter Carey,” Australian Literary Studies 12, no. 4 (1986): 431 –441.



Watchel, Eleanor. “‘We Really Can Make Ourselves Up’: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 9 (1993): 103 –105.

Boone-Leibovitz genealogy The measured account of an artistic family tree in Theft: A Love Story (2006) boils down to money and the possession of the droit moral, the right to authenticate the works of artist Jacques Leibovitz, a fictional ringer for Pablo Picasso. Marseilles tax accountant | wife=Jacques=Dominique Broussard=Honoré le Noël=/=Roger Leibovitz | assistant Neuilly art Martin b. 1876 | strangled, 1967 critic poet d. 1/1954 | in Nice | Grandpa Bones | | | “Blue Bones” Boone=Mum | butcher in Bacchus Marsh | cockney | died of stroke | religious | | fanatic | truck driver=manager | | died of lung | of a coffee | | cancer | shop -----------------------------------| | | | ex-wife=Olivier =Marlene Cook=/=Michael=Plaintiff=Jean-Paul Hugh “Slow Leibovitz from Benalla, “Butcher | artist Milan Bones” b. 1952 Victoria Bones” | art patron Boone advertiser secretary, Boone | b. 1946 in d. 1981 authenticator b. 1943 | Werribee b. 1953 | meat Billy Bones deliverer

See also Butcher Bones; Theft: A Love Story

• Further reading Carey, Peter. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006.

Butcher Bones From the beginning, the tone of Carey’s Theft: A Love Story (2005), a satiric allegory, exudes an abrasive bristle that borders on swaggering confessional. In the year of his own divorce from Alison Summers, the author fills his fictional Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone with a toxic rancor and a pride in the toughness of “the Bones boys” (Carey, 2005, 114). In chapter 11, the angry artist, newly released from a four-year term in Long Bay Prison at Malabar, New South Wales, drives his pickup truck onto art patron Jean-Paul Milan’s lawn. Butcher rages at the loss of “a whole life’s work” to his ex-wife, whom he depersonalizes as “the Plaintiff ” for her monetary success in divorce court (ibid., 64). Fortunately for the reader, Carey in a vile mood is Carey at his most hilarious. Because Butcher rues the loss of his early canvases to his former spouse in chapter 32, he reflects on a good year, 1973, when “the Art Gallery of New South Wales had finally condescended to give me a retrospective” (ibid., 94). In sympathy, his paramour, 28-year-old art authenticator Mar-



lene Cook Leibovitz, caresses his fingers as though they were “responsible for The Last Supper,” a hyperbole typical of Butcher’s melodrama (ibid., 165). The diverse image enlarges on Butcher’s nickname, his family’s operation of an abattoir and meat business, and the artist’s eventual ruin by his murderous girlfriend. The appearance of the ex-wife shifts Butcher 180 degrees into a babbling, moonstruck lover of the mother of their son, Billy Bones. The second pop-up, the face of art collector Jean-Paul Milan, again rotates Butcher, this time into bargaining mode. Gleefully, he mutters elation at Jean-Paul’s acquisitive nature: “I had him, sans doubt, sans souci, sans fucking question” (ibid., 66). As the multifaceted face-off of Butcher with the art buyer and a police officer gains steam, the protagonist takes a moment to nuzzle his child in arms and ponders, “Dear God why do our children have to carry all this weight?” (ibid., 67). The father protects the innocent boy from civil authorities who “can do what they like to you,” Butcher’s implication of brutality with impunity against citizens, one of Carey’s favorite assertions (ibid., 69). Meanwhile, the neighborhood suffers an onslaught of Asian gangs, perverts, and drug addicts. The protagonist’s bluster frames a character who is less adversary than scornful blowhard. Carey redirects Butcher’s love for Billy and the former wife to an off-kilter family comprised of Butcher, his lover Marlene, and Butcher’s 34-yearold autistic brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone. Richard Eder, a critic for the Boston Globe, characterizes the unlikely romance as a union of outsiders “pitted against an art establishment governed by money and buzz” (Eder, 2006). Although lacking mental acuity, Hugh manages astute commentary on his brother’s liaison, professional reputation, and financial situation.

ART MASTER Butcher’s fiscal quandary is a matter of timing. In the words of critic John Updike, the painter, unlike Vanessa Kellow, the matchbox artist in The Big Bazoohley (1995), is “passionate but passé” (Updike, 2007, 357). When he views his huge canvases at Mitsukoshi gallery in Tokyo in 1981, he ignores minor irritations, such as improper lighting and the Japanese misspelling of his surname as “Bone,” and concentrates on the power of pieces that “could still bite your leg off and spit the crunchy pieces on the floor,” a Gothic observation that links Butcher with Grendel (ibid., 160). Before the arrival of viewers and critics, the artist congratulates himself on selling all nine canvases for a total of $200,000 to an investor, Mr. Mauri. Butcher’s despair at learning of Marlene’s underhanded dealing with the buyer again plummets abnormally low. In verbal overkill, he mourns his luck: “Artists are used to humiliation. We start with it and we are always ready to return to real failure” (ibid., 212). The bathetic whine assures the reader’s awareness that humor and satire override sympathy for Butcher, a comic klutz. In a milieu overpopulated with philistines, Butcher declares himself a champion of art, yet, for all his self-ennobling bluster, he remains unredeemed, even by love. In the estimation of Sharon Dilworth, a reviewer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the problem is internal — Butcher operates with “limited nurturing abilities” toward his mistress and handicapped brother (Dilworth, 2006). Devastated by multiple losses, he retreats into a narcissism so deep that he ravages Jean-Paul’s country home as well as the temporary lodging for New South Wales artists visiting New York City. He illustrates his ability to rationalize fault with twisted logic: “I had supposedly vandalised the coachwood with the Sheetrock screws, but I can’t see how else I could have laid the ply on top of it” (Carey, 2006, 6). In the end of his odyssey to big-city art venues, he appears to take the kind of



solace found in Voltaire’s Candide (1759), which recommends the contentment found in tending one’s garden. After five years of mowing lawns in partnership with Hugh, by 1986, Butcher settles his urgent need to thrive in art, a visceral drive that subsides with age and experience. In retrospect, he can enjoy notoriety from Marlene’s belated love gifts as his canvases take their place among the best.

• Further readings Adair, Tom. “Review: Theft: A Love Story,” The Scotsman (27 May 2006). Carey, Peter. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. Dilworth, Sharon. “Australian Novelist Continues His Dazzling Style,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (18 June 2006). Eder, Richard. “Murder, Genius, and Art Jostle Together on a Crowded Canvas,” Boston Globe (14 May 2006). Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007.

Carey, Peter Peter Carey, according to critic Carol Shields, is a “novelist of size,” a sparing description of a prize-winning giant among postmodern writers (Shields, 1995). With his late 20th-century, early 21st-century works, notably True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) and Wrong about Japan (2005), he graduated from crafter of stories to a spokesman for his time and milieu. In a review for the Financial Times, critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney described the author as a rescuer of his fellow Aussies from a grand lie: “Carey tends to treat national identity as a grotesque hoax, a self-deceiving lie that replaces Australia’s actual history of colonial violence with a fairytale of plucky exiles starting afresh in a vast empty country on the other side of the world” (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). For his skill at Gothicism and black absurdist comedy, critic Bill Marx dubbed the author “Australia’s Chicken Little” and typified his writings as “corrosive cultural fables, parables of disenchantment in which dreams of transcendence burst like pustules” (Marx, 1992, 346). The transition in purpose and tone began in the mid–1980s, when Carey reached for “emotional richness” through depth of character and theme, especially perusals of the nature of truth and authenticity in Illywhacker (1985) (Baker, 1991, 33). His stretch from the ordinary to the unforeseen produced what Tim Wynveen, an admirer and reviewer for Maclean’s, terms “a cracked esthetic ... the sort of artistry one might expect from the land of the wombat, the kangaroo and the duck-billed platypus” (Wynveen, 1995, 65). Carey cleverly cloaks correspondences— Jack Maggs with Abel Magwitch, Tobias Oates with Charles Dickens, anime robotics with Japanese soldiery, and Efica and Voorstand with Australia and the United States— but his candor with critics exposes the inner workings of writing and the sources of his emotion and motivation. In an interview with John F. Baker for Publishers Weekly, the author acknowledged his growth in acuity and specificity since he advanced from short fiction to novels and experimental metafiction. Carey explained, “I realized I had to do more so that readers could react with the same emotion I felt,” a sharing of responses he achieved with Oscar and Lucinda (1988) (Baker, 1991, 33). For the social and psychological probing that preceded authorship of The Tax Inspector (1991), Carey had to examine the mental kinks of the delusional abductor and would-be rapist, whom he names Benny Catchprice. Each day, the writer pressed into Gothic terror: “There were dark corridors one had to make oneself walk to the end of, even though it was repulsive or frightening” (Heyward, 1992, 8). The stressful process caused him to question whether the novel was worth the effort. To Baker, Carey explained the finite nature of a lethal suspense novel: “In extremis, a reader has to see how it got to



this point” (Baker, 1991, 37). He admitted to four rewrites of the cataclysm and noted, “It was a more reckless and passionate ride than more of what I’ve done” (ibid.).

CRITICAL RESPONSE In response to the author’s ripening, analysts colored their kudos with left-handed swats and ambiguous observations. To Peter Kemp, reviewer for the London Sunday Times, the author’s stories “go wide-rangingly walkabout,” a puzzling assessment (Kemp, 2008). In an assessment for the Times Literary Supplement, Edmund White preferred the psychothriller to the “tedious post-modernist high jinks undermining the authority of the text,” a delayed slap at Bliss (1981) and Illywhacker (1985) (White, 1991, 21). Grudging praise from A. P. Riemer, a reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, accompanied a crushing critique of The Tax Inspector, an apocalyptic dysfunctional family fiction constrained by classical conventions of time, place, and action. Riemer declared that the author “can be a devilishly good writer, hard, cold as ice, but with an unerring eye for the telling gesture or glance” (Riemer, 1991, 43). The review lists as Carey’s strength his selection of detail, including a husband’s knowledge of birth pangs and breastfeeding and an advertiser’s appreciation for car makes, designer labels, brand names and logos, even vintages of wine. Robert Towers, writing for the New York Review of Books, pegged the pattern of details as turbulence in Carey’s nightmarish imagination. Overall, Carey admirers win out over detractors. In a review of The Tax Inspector (1991) for Southerly, Jen Craig lauds the author’s diminutive, fully conceived characters and his narrators, which tend to be “urbane, fascinated by systems and details ... and also inclined to emotional simplification” (Craig, 1992, 153). Bruce Cook, in a critique for the Chicago Tribune, extends Riemer’s assessment with praise for Carey’s neo-grotesquerie, a subversion suited to the neo–Gothicism of Angela Carter, Michel Faber, Ariana Franklin, and Joyce Carol Oates. The sum of these qualities established Carey as a pictorial author suited to film. In a New York Times symposium on writers, novelist Nell Freudenberger isolated Carey’s success: “His novels seem both meticulously researched and entirely invented; his characters are emotionally authentic” (Freudenberger, 2005). She saluted him for his creation of strange individuals and imaginary countries that reflect on the fakery and decadence of imperialism. See also irony; storytelling; writing

• Further readings Baker, John F. “Interview with Peter Carey,” Publishers Weekly (3 December 1991): 33. _____. “Peter Carey: The Acclaimed Australian Has Moved to New York — And to a New Kind of Novel,” Publishers Weekly (13 December 1991): 37–38. Bradley, John. “Bread and Sirkuses: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 657–665. Cook, Bruce. “Misfits and Eccentrics: Peter Carey’s Tale of a Most Peculiar Australian Family,” Chicago Tribune (5 January 1992): 1. Craig, Jen. “The Real Thing,” Southerly 52, no. 1 (1992): 152–156. Freudenberger, Nell. “Symposium: The Hum Inside the Skull, Revisited,” New York Times (16 January 2005). Heyward, Michael. “Australia’s Literary Ambassador,” The Age (25 July 1992): 8. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008). Kemp, Peter. “His Illegal Self by Peter Carey,” London Sunday Times (3 February 2008). Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –347. Riemer, A. P. “Brutish and Nasty,” Sydney Morning Herald (3 August 1991): 43. Shields, Carol. “Voorstand, Go Home!,” New York Times Book Review (12 February 1995). Towers, Robert. “House of Cards,” New York Review of Books (25 June 1992): 35. Wynveen, Tim. “A Stranger in a Strange Land Spins His Tale,” Maclean’s 108, no. 8 (20 February 1995): 65.



Catchprice-Takis genealogy A failed family, both financially and emotionally, the Catchprices and their four-generation car sales business sink into the hands of Maria Takis, a tax assessor who condemns their personal failings more than their fiscal integrity. Stan=Marcia McClusky | Hughie=Old Mrs. grandparents, Greeks from Letkos | pedophile | Catchprice | | | ----------------------------------------| ------------| | | | | | | Great-Uncle Petros | Daniel Graham Frieda “Gran” =Albert “Cacka” Billie sailor | runaways McClusky | Catchprice | age 86 | pedophile deceased mother=George Takis former shire | deceased 13 years sweatshop | “Ba-Ba” councillor | seamstress | ------------------------------------------------------| | | | | Howie=Cathleen Mortimer=Sophie Jack=/=Maria Takis=/=Alistair=wife Helen McPherson “Cathy” “Mort” | left property tax | tax agent Catchprice pedophile | family developer auditor | age 49 age 45 | age 34 | incest victim -------------infant boy | | “little Benny” Johnny Benjamin “Vish” “Benny” age 18 age 16 incest victim incest victim murdered by Maria Takis

See also Takis, Maria; The Tax Inspector

• Further reading Carey, Peter. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991.

Chubb-McCorkle-Slater-Wode-Douglass genealogy Multiple intermeshings dominate My Life as a Fake (2003), drawing into a Gothic web disparate people. The revelations of a father’s adultery and the bisexuality to his daughter, sophisticated literary editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, provokes the observation that children should not peek behind parents’ bedroom doors. Revelations of her father’s duplicity produce “whirling pictures in my head” of Lord William WodeDouglass’s peccadilloes and the suicide of Sarah’s mother (Carey, 2003, 134). father=mother | glove seller | d. 4/1960 | Bob=/=Mrs. Lim Barbara=/=Lord William=Australian=/=John =/=Noussette=Christopher McCorkle widow | “Boofy” | slit her Slater Markson | Chubb mechanic | Wode-Douglass | throat novelist artist | murdered kidnapper | bisexual | summer b. 1910 | |

Collected | d. 1971 | Cousin Janet


| 1938 | ------------------| | | | mother | | | | | Annabelle=/=Sarah Elizabeth Jane pompous brother lesbian “Micks” lover at editor Allenhurst b. 1930 | children near Kew

----dual fathers---| Tina college student b. 1952

See also My Life as a Fake

• Further reading Carey, Peter. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003.

Collected Stories (1994) In an anthology of 27 narratives, Carey reprised 24 early stories and continued to probe extremes of emotion and miscommunication in three new works. He included “A Million Dollars’ Worth of Amphetamines,” a story of heartbreak that he issued in Nation Review on December 31, 1975. In a mismating of lovers he reprised in “He Found Her in Late Summer” (1979), Carey characterizes the haven that 22-year-old Julia finds in Claude, a low-end architect who welcomes her as a mistress, a prefiguring of Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone’s adoration of art authenticator Marlene Cook Leibovitz in Theft: A Love Story (2006). A former groupie for a dangerous band of musicians and drug dealers, Julia bears the nightmarish fears of retaliation from Carlos, a lover-enslaver serving time for murdering Jean with a speedball, the simultaneous injection of heroin and cocaine. For Claude’s amusement, she playacts at a Bonnie and Clyde scenario that belies her concealed terror of criminals. The discordant conversations between Claude and Julia produce diametric changes, guiding Julia toward domestic serenity while enticing Claude to abandon his safe life and recover the drug cache named in the story’s title. A reverse of O. Henry’s beneficent surprise ending in “The Gift of the Magi” (1906), “A Million Dollars’ Worth of Amphetamines” is a tale of measured imbalance. The action liberates Julia’s life of eluding a stalker and a possible revenge murder by shifting the target of Carlos’s vindication to Claude. Carey turns Claude’s metamorphosis into a simulated drug experience, an obsession with the untapped amphetamine store that turns him “slightly mad,” a sleepwalker atop a tall building, a beachcomber in a minefield (Carey, 1994, 82). To dramatize the change in Julia, Carey mentions a pale blue mohair sweater she buys for Claude, a symbol of soft warmth and luxury in a color that is one of the author’s trademark representations of contentment. The story implies that complete bliss is a fragile entity that eludes both partners in the love match.

FATE IN ART In a tour de force of metafiction, Carey’s “Concerning the Greek Tyrant,” published in The Tabloid Story Pocket Book (1978), describes the revolt of a character in Homer’s



Iliad (ca. 850 B.C.) against an ignoble death. Editor Michael Wilding chose the story as a model of experimental fiction that journals often overlook or discount because of the author’s venture beyond standard expectations for narrative. In a dramatization of the composition of the Greek epic, Carey pictures Homer wracked with fever over one of the holes in his story concerning Echion’s fate. The author describes the doomed Greek as a tough, but battle-weary warrior plagued by phantasms of his death to come in the opening of the Trojan horse. To Homer, Echion is “an annoying small coin, but he will not be spent lightly” (Carey, 1994, 106). The statement implies Carey’s personal struggles with harsh depictions of truth about human self-destruction. Unlike the wandering Odysseus, the sailor who caromed about the Mediterranean for a decade after the Trojan War on his way home to Ithaca, the characters of the Iliad loll on a beach in soldier fashion like actors in the green room awaiting their cues. Under surfside wooden pavilions built by locals, the off-duty men romance island girls while combating dreams of hideous warfare with “false laughter,” a token of the omnipresence of grotesque woundings and deaths in a soldier’s experience (ibid., 107). For Echion, the breather from slaughter fails to stanch troubling hallucinations of his death, a free-floating malaise that leaves him edgy and cantankerous. In an existential state of fight-orflight, he tires of constant wariness, a burden of pre-attack alert that grants him no peace. On a universal level, the gnawing discomposure parallels the human knowledge of mortality, the extermination that awaits all people. Only Odysseus, Homer’s wartime survivor, enjoys direct communication with the poet who determines the fate of characters. The godlike knowledge suits the king of Ithaca, the craftiest Greek who designs the Trojan horse. After locating the blind bard stumbling through stony streets, Odysseus elicits the cause of Homer’s fever: Once characters know their fictional fate, “they don’t want to do what they’re told,” a complaint fraught with paternal responsibility (ibid., 111). As Homer begins to dictate the final night of the Trojan War, Odysseus takes down his words in verse, which Echion later reads. Echion’s endof-life hallucination begins with his own encounter with Homer, who reveals an ironic demise lying in wait. Compounding Echion’s bumfuzzled fall down a ladder is the fact that Homer chooses to delete the unglamorous incident from his book. Echion’s fate remains untold until 700 B.C., when it appeared in a lost manuscript, the four-volume Little Iliad, later recounted by the scholar and grammarian Apollodorus of Athens around 110 B.C. Amplifying the dramatic irony of Echion’s plunge down the steps is his attempt to betray the author by clawing a warning in the dust. As blind to the workings of destiny as mortals are to divine manipulation, the soldiers trample the message and surge into the fray that some survive and some don’t. Carey’s image of Echion’s ignoble death and a wasted warning epitomize the futility of war and of Homer’s celebration of carnage.

EATING THE YOUNG First published in Australian New Writing (1973), “Joe,” one of Carey’s earliest stories, required only one draft. It departs from the grand scheme of Homeric epic to focus on a nuclear family. The text, a subgenre that analyst Peter Pierce identifies as a “lost child narrative,” depicts a primal scene in which a tribe ousts one of its own (Pierce, 2001, 74). In his mid-teens, Joe falls victim to an unctuous, goody-goody household. Smug in its Perry Como atmosphere, the family preens over its oneness and purity of values, which involve shared dishwashing, in-crowd jokes, and a sing-along on birthday nights. The insidious lack of the family physiognomy — specifically, a Roman nose — gradually sets



Joe apart from his sister Doreen, brothers Jack and the unnamed narrator, and their parents. An unspoken awareness that Joe is uncircumcised further alienates him from full family affiliation and draws attention to his genitals, which he uses to inflict harm on Shirley Bush. Psychologically, Joe bears a considerable burden at a turning point in adolescence. Dissociation from the household causes disconnection and hyper-stress, two sources of neurotic excoriation, a compulsive self-injury through the picking of scabs and warts, a psychological disorder known as neurotic self-mutilation. The internal calm that he generates from digging down to live nerve endings relieves his anxiety. Carey propels the story through imaginative naming, particularly the pun on “Harry Bush” and on Joe’s immersion in Modern Motor, a droll reference to the boy’s evolving libido. A more ominous pun in the name “Phil Cooper” suggests filling the coop (jail cell) with a teen who has survived on the outer rim of acceptance. Another reading of the name reminds the reader that “phil” is the Greek root for “love,” a quality lacking among the otherwise harmonious family set.

CAREY UP CLOSE With “A Letter to Our Son,” Carey abandons speculative fiction to contrast himself at age 44 with his eight-month-old son. The author published the reflective essay as a standalone text in 1994 and reprised it in The Granta Book of the Family in 1991. As though telling a bedtime story, he relives the events that surround the conception and birth of Sam Carey, who bore at birth the fragrance of lovemaking. Touchingly forthright in its portrayal of terror and delight, the compressed text juxtaposes fears for Alison’s inexplicable anemia and the joy of seeing and participating in Sam’s arrival after the third hour of labor, superintended by Bushfire, an aboriginal midwife. Before the arrival, the expectant father bonded with the fetus by listening to pre-natal noises, which he imagined as soldiers marching over a bridge, short-wave radio sounds, and the inside of the ocean. The author extolled his fatherhood in sense impressions. He captured his euphoria in the emergence of the baby’s head: “a new country, a planet, a star seen for the first time” (Carey, 1994, 352). He echoed parental qualms in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), The Tax Inspector (1991), and The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) and mirrored the father’s joy in procreation in historical fiction — Ned’s letter to his daughter in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). More thrilling than family resemblances to grandparents was the reflection of Percy Carey, who had died the previous year. The author exults in the regenerative power of future scions: “Here, in you, he was alive” (Carey, 1994, 353). The celebration of parenthood concludes with the smell of the newborn, which Carey describes in Illywhacker (1985) as “flour and water,” the rudiments of human sustenance (Carey, 1985, 83). The adoration of father for offspring prefigures the relationship in Wrong about Japan (2005), a quasi-nonfictional travelogue of a father-son jaunt to Tokyo. See also parenthood; Wrong about Japan

• Further readings Bennett, Bruce. “Australian Experiments in Short Fiction,” World Literature Written in English 15, no. 2 (November 1976): 359 –366. Carey, Peter. Collected Stories. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. Daniel, Helen. Liars: Australian New Novelists. New York: Penguin, 1988. Gaile, Andreas. Fabulating Beauty: Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005.



Pierce, Peter. “The Problem of Consolation in the Country of Lost Children,” Society for Studies in Religion, Literature and the Arts (2001): 73 –86.

colonialism Through diatribe, satire, myth, and black humor, Peter Carey wreaks vengeance on British colonialism, an irksome history that he attacks in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). His fictional works, from The Fat Man in History (1974) to His Illegal Self (2008), do battle against any rationalization of the usurpation and domination of nations, the inherited burden of postcolonial states. His unblinking scrutiny of Australian history refuses to wink at the horrific past, a candor he shares with authors Jamaica Kincaid, Salman Rushdie, and Derek Walcott. In an interview with Boswell Magazine, Carey thundered, “We’re the only country on earth, as far as I know, that has its beginnings in a concentration camp, a penal colony. And a genocide, too. That affected us forever” (“Interview,” 2008). As a result to the toxic memory of Australia’s sufferings, he admits to literary monomania: “When you set out on a book you always think you’re onto something new. I’ve come to learn that it’s only years later you discover you’ve spent your whole life doing the same thing” (Wroe, 2008). After his resettlement in New York City in 1989, Carey found himself on a new frontier, but still mired in Australian history. He still relives “a convict economy, a concentration camp, genocide and all of that ... the echo of a defeated culture” (Harford, 2006, 118). Because of his unremitting contemplation of a despised and rejected citizenry, he writes of a colonial despair and failure that “doesn’t get washed away that easily” (ibid., 119). In his scrutiny of the convict’s need to repatriate to England in Jack Maggs (1997), the author noted how Victorian values extended into the Edwardian era because: “Things like that happen when people feel they are exiled from where the center is, or from where home is” (Ho, 2003, 124). In My Life as a Fake (2003), he pictures Kuala Lumpur in the 1970s at the separation point between past obeisance to Britain and a bandit-ridden independence fought to the death in jungle grapplings. The atmosphere of usurpation is “a dark, merciless world where you were not wanted and never would belong” (Carey, 2003, 54). Carey’s compassion for Australia’s transportees takes a romantic turn in Illywhacker (1985). In an interview with the Canberra Times, Carey declared that the text refutes two lies about English imperialists— that they found the land uninhabited and that colonialists left white settlers “proud and free and anti-authoritarian” (“Carey,” 1985, 27). After protagonist Herbert Peter Badgery demolishes a wall, he caresses the thumb print on each brick, a relic of the convict laborers who built the original colony. He instructs his son Charles, “Some poor bugger working at Brickfields a hundred-and-fifty years ago did that” (Carey, 1985, 542). To recapture the pathos of a legal form of slave labor, Herbert observes the unusual markings on some bricks, shapes like clubs and spades that individualize one man’s work. Badgery battles the destruction of Australian uniqueness by ridiculing serving with the British during World War I and “dying like a silly goat” for colonialists (Carey, 1985, 136). To Ian Oswald-Smith, an arrogant outsider, Herbert snorts: “The English are as big a pest as the rabbit.... They come here, eat everything, burrow under, tunnel out” (ibid., 137). The image of the usurper crawling under Australian roots ignites a verbal war between Oswald-Smith and Herbert, who turns the metaphor toward the purpose of his diatribe — the freeing of local industry from British backers. As the confrontation over money worsens, Herbert brandishes a snake as a model of Australia’s fettering: “This snake



... has been in gaol. It is a mean bastard of an animal and it cannot be bought” (Carey, 1985, 140). The concept of a slithery intruder seizes control of the imagery, remaining dominant to the novel’s futuristic end. The author speaks through Leah Goldstein Kaletsky, an idealistic socialist and hater of “police, bailiffs, armies,” the plight of Australians, whose country the British steal (Carey, 1985, 308). Without referring directly to Aborigines, Leah honors them as the land’s “real owners” (Carey, 1985, 229). She later mourns “the raw optimistic tracks that cut the arteries of an ancient culture” (Carey, 1985, 553). In straightforward repudiation of historical lies, Herbert explains the comfort that Australians took from outright mistruths: “It is why we believed the British when they told us we were British too, and why we believed the Americans when they said they would protect us” (Carey, 1985, 187). In an interview with Richard Glover, writer for The Age, Carey claimed to be optimistic toward the incarceration of Australians in a web of lies: “If the imagination can make prisons for us, it can also pull them down. I do believe people, together with a will and an aim, can make a better future for themselves” (Glover, 1985, 3).

AN AGE OF PROGRESS Confuting the pseudo-technology of Illywhacker, Carey turns to pure science in Oscar and Lucinda (1988) in the title characters’ delight in glass. Of Prince Rupert’s Drop, a glass blob tempered in cold water, industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier marvels at “something almost magical” (Carey, 1988, 108). Her childhood experiences with the glass bauble, like the imperial anticipations for colonial Australia, prove more far-reaching and less controlled than she envisions. After nipping off the tail with pliers, she witnesses an explosion: “A moment before, you had unbreakable glass, now you have grains of glass in every corner of the workshop,” a prophecy of the massive catastrophes wrought by her bankrolling the transport of a glass church to the frontier (ibid.). In the estimation of analyst Robert Fraser, Australian society suffers the consequences after its surface durability becomes fatally flawed, a controlling metaphor for the damage done by white imperialists and proselytizers on the pristine surface and aboriginal society of Australia. The fragility of land ownership takes on pathos in the novel’s exploration of the outback. For the inconsistencies of the trek, Tom Wilhelmus, in a critique for the Hudson Review, classified the story an “anti-expeditionary novel” (Wilhelmus, 1988, 552). Legitimized by the Reverend Oscar Hopkins, a defrocked Anglican priest, and financed by Lucinda, the transport of a convoy of glass and cast iron purportedly delivers to the Reverend Dennis Hasset a church for the Christianizing of the heathen of Boat Harbour. Carey builds irony from the selection of a sadist, Mr. Jeffris, as expeditioner and cartographer. Jeffris composes in his journal his intent to make a name for himself by sketching the topography of northern New South Wales and naming landmarks, places that the aborigines have long ago identified in their own language. Incursions with natives result in outright slaughter, a depletion of landholders to leave open Ballingen Heads for British settlement. Surviving the British lies about conquest and religious conversion are the stories of Kumbaingiri Billy and of Bob, the third generation of Anglo-Australians and the first to demand accountability from historians for past falsehoods.

FANTASY ISLAND With The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey speaks boldly the Australian’s postcolonial plight and of the ruse of imposture as a nonviolent form of resistance. The



daring two-nation microcosm caused reviewer Marie Maclean to refer to his “dazzling book” as “a sprawling, sensual, rambunctious marvel of a novel” on a par with Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner (1968) (Maclean, 1994, 8). From the perspective of immigrant actor Felicity “Flick” Smith née Smutts, the 18-island cluster of Efica belongs to “laconic, belligerent, self-doubting inhabitants of the abandoned French and English colonies, descendants of convicts ... grandchildren of displaced crofters and potato-blight Irish” (Carey, 1994, 9). Of her own kind, she laments, “We’re northern hemisphere people who have been abandoned in the south” (ibid., 117). When her son Tristan visits the Sirkus, he views evidence of arrogance in clowns wearing “cast-off uniforms of conquered nations ... ragamuffin POWs set free in Great Voorstand,” a performance that the boy describes as propaganda (ibid., 165). The author indirectly criminalizes the world’s colonizers with such details as immigrants to Saarlim City identified as prisoners of war and an artwork by De Kok called “Crucifixion in the New World” (Carey, 1994, 404). He inserts into a footnote a gesture of solace to the Australian Aborigine, “the ‘lost’ Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of Efica. The names of these long dead people litter our islands— tombstones in a lost language” (ibid.). The text batters the reader with a more corrosive vision of usurpage in chapter 9, when the title figure declares that British and French colonizers “murdered its indigenous inhabitants, set up dye works and prisons, and then abandoned us as being an unsuccessful idea” (ibid., 32). Carey blames the imperialists for leaving the convicts and dyers to starve. A final fillip notes that both colonizer and colonized speak roughly the same language. For his verbal slash at Australia’s captor, in 1996, he netted from critic David Griffin of the New York Review of Science Fiction an insulting review dismissing the text as “a squeaky lecture on nativist imperatives” and labeling Carey priggish and petty in defense of “a land of mingled mysticism and mediocrity” (Griffin, 1996, 15, 16). Griffin charges the novelist with a misperception of cultural resiliency, adaptability, and permeation by foreign influence.

RETURN TO THE MOTHER COUNTRY In Jack Maggs (1997), his second neo–Victorian novel written in Dickensian style, Carey attains a radical vengeance on Australia’s conquerors. He pictures writer Tobias “Toby” Oates as the fabulizer, “who ‘made’ the City of London ... named it, mapped it, widened its great streets, narrowed its dingy lanes, framed its scenes with the melancholy windows of his childhood” (Carey, 1997, 182). Critic Sigrun Meinig dubs the portrait of Great Britain’s hub “the imaginary geography of imperialism” (Meinig, 2000, 60). Ironically, London’s squalor replicates the colony’s skank. As described in a trope by F. S. Schwarzbach, “The entire city is like the prison — both are places which systematically incarcerate and dehumanise their inhabitants” (Schwarzbach, 1979, 189). The narrative wields irony throughout as a wry reminder of incongruency. Carey sends 15-year-old Jack to Australia aboard the Enterprise, a name that honors England’s glorification of its global holdings at the same time that it hints at the transportee’s eventual pardon and self-salvation. At a moment of agape in the relationship between parasitic Toby and ex-con Jack Maggs, Jack clasps his nemesis in a forgiving embrace, forcing Toby to inhale “the prisoner’s smell— the odour of cold sour sweat” (Carey, 1997, 265). The juxtaposition of sensationalizer and subject forces Toby into realistic contact with evidence of survival in the hellhole of Morton Bay, the white penal colony of New South Wales. In the estimation of critic Alice Brittan, Carey’s novel attests that “England, not Australia,



turns out to be the haunted land. England is the Hades of vengeful spirits” (Brittan, 2004, 54). Carey’s text concludes with a personal gesture of defiance against Charles Dickens as spokesman for the English and against the British Empire for demeaning the former prisoners who colonized Australia. Mercy Larkin Maggs, a former house maid debauched by her employer, Percival “Percy” Buckle, destroys seven pages of a novel based on her husband’s life entitled The Death of Maggs, ostensibly published in 1861, three years after Jack Maggs’s demise. The pages include a dedication to Percy as “A Man of Letters, a Patron of the Arts” (Carey, 1997, 328). Her repudiation of Toby Oates’s scurrilous fiction comprises a female comeuppance to a despoiler of women as well as a rejection of lies perpetrated by the mother country against Australia, personified by Jack.

HOSTILE OUTCASTS Carey’s prickly anti-colonialism crops up where bigotry and prejudice lurk. In a diatribe against the British publishing industry incorporated into his acceptance of the 1989 Miles Franklin Award, Carey snorted, “We never had a revolution to kick the British out of Australia” (Carey, 1989, 17). In “Tristan Smith,” Carey enlarges on colonialism. In the words of reviewer Carol Shields, “Mr. Carey makes clear that imperialism is not limited to nation-states. The healthy colonize the weak and deformed; parents hold hegemony over their children; everyone is drugged by a bland, pervasive popular culture, which is mindlessly conceived but expertly transmitted” (Shields, 1995). Two decades later, on January 28, 2009, Carey challenged Australian writers to demand autonomy from global control. He described the contretemps in colonial terms: “Should we put a very, very high value on ourselves and who we are? After all, we do already have a lot to be ashamed of in our history. We already have enough to rectify, to compensate, to restore” (Carey, 2009). Through the class war in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey speaks the anguish of the Irish deportee before a British government that “could bankrupt or hang you as they pleased” (Carey, 2000, 47). Ned Kelly, the memoirist, reflects on “the tortures our parents suffered in Van Diemen’s Land — Port Macquarie — Toongabbie — Norfolk Island — Emu Plains,” all monuments to imperial cruelty (Carey, 2000, 35). The destruction of the spirit is so lasting that John “Red” Kelly, after jailing from 1862 to 1865 in Avenel, lacks the pluck to soldier on. He retreats to his hut. Ned recalls, “His eyes was lost and lonely and angry in the middle of his swollen face” (ibid.). At Red’s death in late June 1866, Ned attributes his infection to “all the poisons of the Empire his skin grey and shining in the gloom” (ibid.). Although John deserves little mourning, Ned regrets the death of his sire. Ned accords a similar respect for a salesman, Ben Gould, whose palm officials brand with a T for “thief ”: “Though he were not Irish he carried the same sort of fire I mean that flame the government of England lights in a poor man’s guts every time they make him wear the convict irons” (Carey, 2000, 163). As Ned leans from honest labor in a sawmill toward a life of raising stolen horses on Bullock Creek, he takes pleasure in outraging the rich squatter who “did not own that country he never could” (ibid., 202). Personal honor and reputation stand at the center of underclass concerns. A colonial debate arises in November 1868 as Ned, Mary Hearn, and the gang gather in a hideaway at Sandy Flat in the King Valley. Because Steve Hart and Dan Kelly wear drag, Mary refuses to honor cross-dressing as an Irish rebel tradition. Lest the men involve Dan in transvestism, Mary rages that the gender switch does nothing to improve Irish status among British usurpers. She reasons that, if masking and cross-dressing were effective, “then Ire-



land would be a paradise on earth and all the Kings of England have burnt in Hell” (Carey, 2000, 286). She makes her case with storytelling about an incident in 1867 involving the dressing of Lord Hill’s horse in hat and cloak. In a post-narrative gibe, Joe Byrne declares that, to Australian politicians, the gang members are “weevils in their flour” (ibid., 291).

• Further readings Anderson, Hephzibah. “There Was Once a Poet from Down Under,” Guardian (14 September 2003): 18. Bergfelder, Tim, and Sarah Street. The Titanic in Myth and Memory. New York: I. B. Taurus, 2004. Bradley, James. “A Slippery, Ripperty Thing: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 9, no. 5 (1997): 17–19. Carey, Peter. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Fraser, Robert. Lifting the Sentence: A Poetics of Postcolonial Fiction. Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press, 2000. Griffin, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 97 (1996): 14 –17. Ho, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and the Trauma of Convictism,” Antipodes 17, no. 2 (1 December 2003): 124 –132. “Interview: Peter Carey,”, accessed on November 25, 2008. Maclean, Marie. “Carey Goes Cybersurfing,” Australian Book Review 164 (19 September 1994): 8 –10. Wilhelmus, Tom. “Knowing,” Hudson Review 41, no. 3 (autumn, 1988): 548 –556. Wroe, Nicholas. “Between Two Worlds,” The Guardian (19 January 2008), jan/19/fiction.petercarey, accessed on November 20, 2008.

coming of age Carey spotlights the shadowland of puberty as the introduction of the uninitiated into the quagmires of adulthood. The motif colors “Joe,” an early story published in Australian New Writing (1973), as well as the paternal essay “A Letter to Our Son” (1994), the emerging manhood of Sam Kellow in children’s quest book The Big Bazooley (1995), the legend of a 12-year-old head of household in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), and Wrong about Japan (2005), a postmodern travelogue of Carey’s journey to Tokyo with a Japanophilic son, 12-year-old Charley Carey. In “American Dreams” (1974), the protagonist, who advances from age 12 to 21, examines from a boy’s perspective the Australian reverie of living like affluent Americans. Coinciding with his coming of age is the maturing of his rural hometown, where Mr. Gleason, a recluse, gulls nosy neighbors by building a scale model of the area. Complete with portrait figures, the miniature village at first delights citizens with a profitable tourism, which quickly sours the town spirit, a commentary on capitalism that dates to medieval tales. After revealing a scenario of adultery in one of the tiny houses, a symbol of moral decay, the protagonist begins his coming to knowledge about desire and satisfaction. Seduced by visitors who expect him to remain forever a youth, he loses his innocence to boredom with re-enactments and disillusion with wish fulfillment. Like an Australian Opie Taylor forever playing son to Sheriff Andy’s father in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show (1960 –1968), Carey’s protagonist gains a nightmarish glimpse of the down side of adulthood. The Gothic stories “Joe” and “American Dreams” anticipate the author’s continued concerns over parenting and rearing responsible children. In a postmodern nightmare in Illywhacker (1985), Carey’s satiric novel, grandson Hissao, the third generation of Badgerys, constructs a steel-and-glass menagerie in which to display living models of Aus-



tralia’s citizenry. The overblown satire serves the author as a criticism of the Aussie exploitation of its strangeness as an enticement to tourists. Another coming-of-age nightmare, the apocalyptic The Tax Inspector (1991), views the advance of a sexually abused child into manhood through the psychotic misadventures of Benny Catchprice, a 16-year-old abductor and would-be rapist. His twisted views of family, self, and career encompass the worst of punk culture and pre-criminality. Carey concludes Benny’s bleak life with acts of compassion and cruelty. After delivering the child of tax assessor Maria Takis, Benny confers his name on the baby boy. The nightmarish birthing scene and the confinement of Maria for nefarious purpose exonerates her for clubbing Benny, ostensibly to death with one blow to the head, thus ushering in a new life to replace the failed maturation of a monster. A warmer, more endearing image of parenting, Carey’s Wrong about Japan dramatizes the author’s relationship with his elder son, 12-year-old Charley. At the magic moment when a boy turns into a teen, Charley exists in the clammed-up world of the New York City skateboarder and punk rocker. Literature becomes the link of the middle-aged male parent with his child when Charley expresses delight in manga and anime, the faddish action comics and cartoons from Japan that father and son buy at Forbidden Planet, a comics dealer in Manhattan. As a source of maturity, Carey’s discussion with Charley about the one-sided violence against Japan during 1944 and 1945 enlightens the son to the father’s growing-up years, when Carey, in his pre-school years, turned the cash of Japanese occupation troops into play money. An unsettling text, the narrative unites lessons in traveler courtesies and in Japanese capitalism with the author’s grim-edged hope for a new generation born free of world war. The sharing of interests, however tenuously linked, tightens the bond that Carey seals with Charley. Simultaneously, the pre-teen establishes his own levels of expertise at pathfinding and buying tickets for the Tokyo subway.

• Further reading Carey, Peter. Wrong about Japan. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2005.

confinement Cultural, economic, and personal restraints underlie Carey’s most poignant human tragedies. Claustrophobic settings include drowning in a glass chapel in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), house breaking and prison lashings in Jack Maggs (1997), imprisonment and hanging of folk hero Ned Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), memories of bomb shelters during World War II in Wrong about Japan (2005), and the immurement of a child from public curiosity and news of radical students at Harvard in His Illegal Self (2008). In a review of The Tax Inspector (1991) for the New York Times, critic Francine Prose pictures the setting as an “airless bell jar,” a suitable scientific landscape on which to view family dysfunction (Prose, 1992). The author advances from a general perception of Australia as a nation ensnared in self-deceiving stories of freedom and autonomy. To interviewer Lisa Meyer of the Chicago Review, he wryly states a postcolonial truth: “Our freedom is as long as the leash” (Meyer, 1997, 84). In the description of Michael Heyward, a reviewer for New Republic, the author’s “hapless characters [are] trapped in eerie, claustrophobic landscapes,” such as the under-stage cubby in which the title figure of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) immures himself to recover from the sorrow and shock of losing his mother to Voorstand Intelligence Agency assassins, and an autistic man’s retreat into a wombat burrow in Theft: A Love Story (2006).






Alex Duval Anna Bart Benny Catchprice Carla Charley Carey Che Selkirk Christopher Chubb Crabs Dennis Hasset Dial Echion Elizabeth Warriner Emma Badgery Frieda Catchprice Goon Tse Ying Harry Joy Herbert Badgery

Bliss “He Found Her in Late Summer” “War Crimes” The Tax Inspector “The Chance” Wrong about Japan His Illegal Self My Life as a Fake “Crabs” Oscar and Lucinda His Illegal Self “Concerning the Greek Tyrant” Jack Maggs Illywhacker The Tax Inspector Illywhacker Bliss Illywhacker

Honey Barbara Hugh Boone insurance agent Izzie Kaletsky Jack Maggs Joe Julia

Bliss Theft: A Love Story “Room No. 5 (Escribo)” Illywhacker Jack Maggs “Joe” “A Million Dollars’ Worth of Amphetamines” Oscar and Lucinda Oscar and Lucinda

commercialism isolation cocaine basement room, fantasy attractive body tatami-sized room house arrest, kidnap bicycle shop Star Drive-in Theatre assignment to Boat Harbour crime combat hallucinations pregnancy zoo cell family business; old age racism commercialism Rankin Downs Gaol; pet emporium; old age; lies poverty; prostitution folding chair house arrest vengeance prison, criminality, memories alienation stalker

Kumbaingiri Billy Kumbaingiri Billy’s aunt Leah Goldstein Lucinda Leplastrier Lucy Joy Maria Takis Marlene Leibovitz Mary Oates Mercy Larkin Miriam Chadwick Molly McGrath Ned Kelly Nile Oscar Hopkins

Illywhacker Oscar and Lucinda Bliss The Tax Inspector Theft: A Love Story Jack Maggs Jack Maggs Oscar and Lucinda Illywhacker True History of the Kelly Gang “Peeling” Oscar and Lucinda

Peggy Kram

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith

Peter Carey Phoebe McGrath Rose Kaletsky Sam Kellow shepherd

Wrong about Japan Illywhacker Illywhacker The Big Bazoohley “Life & Death in the South Side Pavilion” “A Windmill in the West” Jack Maggs “The Fat Man in History”

soldier Tobias Oates Teddy Finch

racism concubinage disabled husband Victorian mores anarchy pregnancy lies and felonies marriage sexual compromise poverty madness poverty, slander, crime shame, guilt poverty; compulsive gambling; glass chapel agoraphobia; fanaticism; cultural theme parks tatami-sized room pregnancy, motherhood; birdcage cancer financial uncertainty; hotel room hopeless herding desert assignment poverty; notoriety; adultery social disapproval; poverty






Tristan Smith

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith

Vincent Vincent Theroux Wally Paccione

“The Puzzling Nature of Blue” The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith

congenital deformity, garbled voice; Bruder Mouse suit; cubby under the stage blue stain marriage poverty

The critique of John Bradley characterizes Carey’s literary microcosm as “dreamscapes where patterns and images of transformation and imprisonment recur” and where “characters ... move restlessly in search of escape” (Bradley, 1997, 657). Bradley cites as examples Herbert Peter Badgery’s network of lies and deceptions in Illywhacker (1985) and the cantilevered glass chapel in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), a dual symbol of pride and downfall created on equipment built by Chance Brothers, a symbolic image of fate. Long before Lucinda agrees to structure the iron marvel for transportation to the outback, she finds herself immured in a cultural box. In a critique for the New York Review of Books, James Bradley notes, “In escaping the strictures of her own culture, thin as it is, she finds that culture has already marked her irreparably,” a social blight unacceptable to her mother’s old friend, novelist George Eliot (Bradley, 1997, 19). However clever the lockups, Carey permeates his resolutions with glimmers of opportunity, such as a Genetic Lottery offering new bodies in “The Chance” (1974), escape from crazed hotel guests in The Big Bazoohley (1995), the enduring legend of Ned Kelly that keeps his lore alive in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), career advancement for a hasbeen painter and ex-con in Theft: A Love Story (2006), and a runaway child in His Illegal Self. One method of escaping the grimness of confinement is through storytelling, an antidote to fear and hopelessness. For Harry Joy, telling stories creates union and purpose among forest dwellers of Bog Onion in Bliss (1981), a tale of reclamation through rural values. For the title figure in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), escape takes the stripping of a robot and the stuffing of a deformed actor into a comic suit to mimic the antics and tales of Bruder Mouse, a mytho-religious figure in fictional Voorstand. For Jack Maggs, the stylistic antithesis of Illywhacker, Carey personalizes restraints on the title character. According to Melissa Bellanta, reviewer for the Australian Public Intellectual Network, Jack’s “shoes are too small, his coat too tight, his sensitivities wounded by British Disdain ... his fierce loves and loyalties barely kept in check; lying beneath the surface of the novel like the Antipodes of the soul” (Bellanta, 2003). His liberation requires a return to the convict’s nemesis, Australia, where marriage, a dynasty, and free enterprise treat Jack to a contented life.

• Further readings Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003). Bradley, James. “A Slippery, Ripperty Thing: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 9, no. 5 (1997): 17–19. Bradley, John. “Bread and Sirkuses: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 657–665. Heyward, Michael. “Parallel Universes,” New Republic 212, no. 15 (10 April 1995): 38 –41. Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 76 –89. Prose, Francine. “Would You Buy a Used Car from This Family,” New York Times (12 January 1992).



egotism In short and long fiction and in the memoir 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), Carey scrutinizes the dangers of ego preening by individuals and whole populations. In “Crabs” (1974), a character study pictures the faux strutting of a 118-pound mechanic nicknamed Crabs as he advances from puberty to manhood. Because the mask of machismo lacks actual virility, the boy ends up carless and girl-less after the walling in of his date Carmen and a borrowed 1956 Dodge in the Star Drive-in Theatre, a dystopian world shrouded in darkness. For “War Crimes” (1978), a disaster fable, Carey offers a more powerful tale of the downfall of adults, two punk businessmen who destabilize and destroy a factory that produces TV dinners. Contrast in the partners’ outlook and behavior reveals the pitfalls of sybarism. Bart, a Hollywoodized cowboy decked out in polished books, swaggers about a factory north of Nebraska, where he avoids stepping in polluted sludge, a metaphor for corrupt business practices. He absents himself from day-to-day management to dabble in drugs and showmanship. Unlike the insecure partner, an accountant who suffers dire dreams of mutilation in factory machinery, Bart inflicts harm on others by running his Cadillac Eldorado over two pedestrians and by shooting a hungry boy who steals a frozen dinner. In a model of poetic justice, Bart decimates himself in symbolic fashion by channeling profits into cash for expensive wine and cocaine, the short-term pleasures that preface fiscal decline. More seriously maimed by success than his partner, Bart has himself to blame for living in the moment and pleasuring himself on illicit escapism. Longer fiction produces a more illuminating scrutiny of ego, ranging from the reserved restaurant table and perks demanded by Harry Joy, the silk-shirt-wearing advertising mogul in Bliss (1981), to the verbal gymnastics of liar and faker Herbert Peter Badgery, the humbug who dominates Illywhacker (1985). In both instances, the protagonists stroke their superiority with the daily rewards of self-approval and personal kudos, which give them permission to neglect family duties and to violate common courtesies and laws. Both men suffer the buffeting of loss and comeuppance for lives that exploit the outside world, i.e., Harry’s schmoozing with Krappe Chemicals, who sell toxic products, and Herbert’s softening of yokels for the purchase of Model T Fords. For Herbert, advanced old age finds him still addicted to boasting and lying, the two faults that further his remarkable career as a grifter. In Harry’s case, he repents of narcissism and retreats into the wild of Bog Onion Road to regain personal worth through service to woods folk as the in-house sage. In a retrospect of Carey’s boasters, critic Andreas Gaile accuses the author of stereotyping the bombastic male: “Carey plays around with the cliché that masculinity is inseparably connected with egoism and autonomy” (Gaile, 2005, 132). The charge proves true in the cases of career-obsessed actor Bill Millefleur in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), of Tobias “Toby” Oates, the philandering novelist who hypnotizes the title character and steals his story in Jack Maggs (1997), and of Irish bushranger Harry Power in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), in which he nicknames the neophyte Ned “Your Ignorance,” a slur at the boy’s apprenticeship in outlawry (Carey, 2000, 78). However, the cast of Bliss proves Gaile wrong. Harry’s wife, Bettina “Betty” Joy, another exemplar of megalomania, resembles “a decoration on a poisonous cake ... like the great bloated whale of a Cadillac that sat on the front lawn and consumed energy and enthusiasm and interest” (Carey, 1981, 239). Rather than die of cancer contracted while writing ad copy for a marketer of toxic petrochemicals, Betty sets herself aflame with three bottles of fuel at the



eighth-floor boardroom of the Mobil Research Department. Even in death, her conflagration in a white linen suit and a large white hat bears the panache of a self-aggrandizer.

ACTING OUT, ACTING UP Alcoholism and tantrums serve another of Carey’s egotistic protagonists, Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, a has-been painter and ex-con in Theft: A Love Story (2006). Critic James Bradley, writing for The Age, describes the novel from its epigraph onward as “raging, almost scatological grandiloquence of its egotism, misanthropy and self-doubt” (Bradley, 2006). A seething self-promoter, Butcher exonerates himself for his faults, which cost him a four-year term in Long Bay Prison in Malabar, New South Wales, for larceny. He bays at the world for the loss of home, wife, eight-year-old son Billy Bones, and a collection of early canvases, which the divorce court awards to “the Plaintiff.” Self-absorbed to the exclusion of others, including his autistic brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, Butcher mourns his own hurts while minimizing the grief following the drowning of Hugh’s puppy in a flood. The artist encourages a romance with the love of his life, art authenticator Marlene Cook Leibovitz, even though she is an amoral felon married to investor Olivier Leibovitz. In assuaging the art bug that gnaws at his contentment, Butcher rationalizes stapling of canvases to the hardwood floor of his patron, Jean-Paul Milan, as well as the fakery of a painting allegedly completed by famed artist Jacques Leibovitz, Marlene’s deceased father-in-law. Carey creates a two-legged conscience in Detective Amberstreet, Butcher’s Inspector Javert, who follows the couple to their illicit love nest in a hospitality suite rented by New South Wales for visiting dignitaries. For Marlene, the comeuppance to her egotism is “some bastard in a London Fog [serving] a writ on her, an action for divorce,” a hitch in her misuse of the powers of authentication, which she acquired through marriage (Carey, 206, 236). The two messengers from officialdom hasten the novel’s falling action. Carey creates an alter ego and a mirrored conceit in Hugh and art expert Milton “Milt” Hesse, Marlene’s mentor. Echoing Butcher’s arrogance is Milt’s vanity, which takes the form of misappropriation of documents. In offering Milt historic letters, Marlene questions the need for permission. With narcissistic vainglory, he blusters, “Permission! Bullshit. Just borrow them, doll-face. No sense making a fuss if they’re worth nothing” (Carey, 2006, 154). The strutting of Marlene, Milt, and other big-name art dealers and buyers results in murder and damaged self-respect. In the end of a dash from Australia to Japan and the art galleries of New York City, in 1981, Butcher finds himself reduced to mowing lawns, a job that levels his egotism while renewing ties with his handicapped brother, a humble man who functions on the level of a child. Five years later, Carey rewards the artist with showings of his late collection in London, New York City, and Cologne, Germany, a fruition of his career that redeems Butcher from self-abnegation. See also belonging

• Further readings Bradley, James. “Peter Carey’s Latest Novel Is an Excursion into Fraudulent Art,” The Age (8 April 2006). Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. War Crimes. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1979. Gaile, Andreas. Fabulating Beauty: Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. Hassall, Anthony J. “Telling Lies and Stories: Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Modern Fiction Studies 35, no. 4 (1989): 637–653.



Updike, John. “Blood and Paint,” New Yorker 82, no. 15 (29 May 2006): 84 –85. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

The Fat Man in History Peter Carey’s first short fiction anthology, The Fat Man in History (1974, 1979), a collection of 12 stories, turns shapeshifting, political satire, and the grotesque into tools for examining basic assumptions about society, illusion, and the usurpation of power. Reviewers admire the work for innovation, imagination, and unity of tone. According to critic Karen Lamb, these elements succeed because of “a cross-pollination of the techniques of advertising and fiction writing” (Lamb, 1992, 20). Bruce Clunies Ross, in an article for Australian Literary Studies, lauds Carey for controlling the urge to experiment and for maintaining a “formal integrity and economy which gives all his work ... an autonomous quality, almost like fairy tales” (Ross, 1981, 178). Ross describes Carey’s “intricate fables” as a specialty and praises his “finely crafted very brief pieces” (ibid.). The metafictional style is both startling and confrontational, an enlargement of short fictional parameters that revived and redirected the genre. The author explained his method of engaging readers: “I took a dozen or so hypotheses and asked what would happen if...” (Morton-Evans, 1984, 8). His facile musings predict a universal appeal that buoyed the author’s works to world-class fiction. In his take on speculative fiction, “By looking forward to the future you’re making a comment on what’s happening now” (Munro, 1976, 5). He received acclaim for a blurring of time periods and for ingenious shifts in perspective on human pain. His stories, which author Thomas Keneally compared to James Joyce’s short story anthology Dubliners (1914), began to develop a cult following for their off beat, on-target style. At his rise to fame, critics embraced him as a spokesman for post-colonialism and for postmodern Gothicism. For “Conversations with Unicorns,” a stagy tableau first published in the Sun News Pictorial on January 3, 1973, Carey draws on the paradigm of Plato’s cave myth, an allegory in The Republic (ca. 380 B.C.). Carey’s narrative examines the set piece in which the messenger who brings enlightenment and potential salvation threatens uninformed masses who bear a strong resemblance to Jonathan Swift’s naive, overly rational houyhnhnms. The satire of a complacent closed society gains drama from an outsider’s caution to unicorns about armed stalkers who collect unicorn heads. Only by executing a volunteer can the savior make his case for self-preservation. As a fable surveying conclusions based on limited experience, the story illustrates the author’s skill at isolating human failings on a small canvas for detailed study. By placing the male unicorns in a cave opposite a ridge, Carey implies the “rigidity” of mindset in people who venture too little into the greater milieu and who allow a single academician to undermine their notion of mortality as a blessing. By implication, the author accuses Australians of accepting their colonizers’ world view and of lacking a healthy skepticism about religious, philosophical, and governmental dicta affecting their longevity and survival.

CAREY’S UNDERCLASS In “Withdrawal,” Carey plunges into a favorite milieu, the felonious, smack-addicted lowlife thriving among urban dregs, a challenge he accepted from writer and editor Michael Wilding, founder of the Australian publisher Wild & Woolley. The author defines the atmosphere that frames the Gothic stories as an “ordinariness ... which makes them all



the more shocking” (Carey, 1994, 117). The action, a satire of unprincipled advertising and indecent commerce, depicts an end-time marked by an unsettling amorality symbolized by rings of fires about Melbourne. The burning suggests the cold flames in John Milton’s hell in Paradise Lost (1667) and prefigures the apocalyptic conclusion in The Tax Inspector (1991), in which a thwarted mother destroys the family car business by igniting charges of gelignite. At the nadir of mercantile probity on High Street in “Withdrawal,” protagonist Eddie Rayner begins negotiations to purchase an amputated hand, which he rationalizes as an investment. To the seller, physician Dean Da Silva, Eddie sneers that ethics “is really all about money. The less ethical it is the more expensive it will be” (ibid., 120). His cynicism suits the Me generation, American novelist Tom Wolfe’s designation of the gross self-indulgence of the 1970s. For maximum repugnance, the plot expands from exhibitionism of death to extreme human taboos— necrophilia and coprophagia. Carey follows his protagonist through phases of daring pandering to secretive collectors of the unspeakable — including one cabinet member — and arrives at Eddie’s first face-to-face survey of death. In viewing an old landlady sitting rigid and lifeless at a table, he replicates a dominant scene from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861), the gradual dehumanization of Miss Havisham, a would-be bride who presides over a bogus nuptial reception complete with fraying veil, yellowed gown, satin slippers, and mouse-eaten wedding cake. Eddie investigates the old lady’s life through objects and letters and strips away the voyeuristic appeal of her corpse. The resurgence of his humanity causes him to pity a heroin-addicted pig and to rescue it from cyclical withdrawal symptoms. His own withdrawal from seaminess leaves him pondering the letter from Daphne instructing him on how to euthanize the pig with an overdose of heroin.

LIVING ON THE OUTSKIRTS In 20 staves, the title story of The Fat Man in History, a dystopian fable on scapegoating and cyclical insurrection, moves from the outside world to a pocket of poverty and emotional need, a backwash created by social cataclysm similar in scope to the Russian Revolution of October 16, 1917. Carey pictures the contemplative cartoonist Alexander “Teddy” Finch, age 35, on his way out of a department store with stolen smoked oysters in his pockets and a packet of blue double bed sheets he wrapped for himself in brown paper. In post-revolution times, his obesity, a subject of anti–American satire, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to paranoia, joblessness, and chronic thievery. By helping to turn “fat” into a pejorative, a synonym for “greedy, ugly, sleazy, lazy, obscene, evil, dirty, dishonest, untrustworthy,” Finch and his five rotund housemates morph into a counter-revolutionary cell battling a despot known only as Danko (Carey, 1993, 11). Carey wields shock against apathy. In the style of the Roman fabulist Menenius Agrippa and his parable “The Revolt of the Parts of the Body against the Stomach” (494 B.C.), the narrative turns the function of the alimentary canal into a trope for refining and subverting fascist extremes. Five of the sextet, forced onto the perimeter of respectability by social rejection of the unlovely, advance from impotence and futility to gorging on one of their own. The Kafkaesque backyard barbecue of their leader Fantoni constitutes a gustatory revolt against a faceless post–Marxist regime. Oddly affectionate and forgiving of underdogs who fight back with their teeth, the fable expresses through whimsy a compassion for the disaffected, the pariahs whom critic Peter Ackroyd calls “unsynchronized”



(Ackroyd, 1980). The theme of alienation and misdirection proved prophetic of Carey’s entire canon, particularly “Exotic Pleasures” (1979).

TEASING LAYERS The graphic surrealism of “Peeling,” first published in Meanjin in 1972, comments on the writing process. The text reveals the influence of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges on Carey’s creative vision and of a story he heard about a local woman who collected white dolls, a motif that recurs in Carey’s fourth novel, The Tax Inspector (1991). The narrative, which the author began during his first rush of creativity, examines fantasy as an undependable entertainment for the voyeur and an emblematic exploration of the colonial self. Poverty and unemployment generate a severe life change after the repossession of the protagonist’s television and the burnout of the battery in the transistor radio. The dual loss leaves him “timeless” (Carey, 1993, 36). For amusement, he lives in his head and secondguesses the personal and sexual nature of Nile, his upstairs neighbor, an assistant to an abortion provider. To balance the possibilities of the seduction, Carey reprises the images of unwashed milk bottles and drowning in milk as symbols of gloom and defeated motherhood and of blue, the standard color of the Virgin Mary’s cloak, as a sign of hope. His disrobing of Nile for sex goes beyond the oddments of her ragbag clothing to the stripping of her gender and the removal of her human appendages to reveal a shattered doll, a suggestion of the female psyche fragmented by a controlling, self-titillating male. Critics debate the labyrinthine potential for solving Carey’s character mystery. Is Nile a woman stripped of substance by male exploitation? Is she reality itself emerging from shabby, externally imposed myth, like the Nile River overflowing its banks to purify and nourish Egypt? Is she Australia, the colony that England wrapped in odds and ends of social disorder to choke a fragile ecosystem? A feminist reading lauds Nile for escaping passivity by thwarting her seducer’s orderly plan for imposing a selfish sexual dalliance. Like the painting of Salvador Dali, the flexibility of Carey’s symbolism achieves the goal of reading, to open the reader’s mind to multiple views of one scenario, a motif he returns to in the masking of the title character as Bruder Mouse in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994).

THE ARTIST’S AUDIENCE Influenced by the style of Donald Barthelme’s compact, epiphanic short fiction, “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” (1979), first published in Stand, dramatizes through staged tableaux the artist’s extreme actions to inform an audience about fear. Replicating in brief segments the wordless job of mimesis found in “American Dreams,” the narrative illustrates the Aristotelian reverence for drama as a release from pity and fear, a catharsis that connects stage plays with the worship of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, joy, abundance, and fertility. Carey suggests an intercessory element in the mime’s art by describing his dedication to prayer. With the sincerity of Carla in “The Chance” (1977) and the naiveté of the title altruists in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), the mime seeks to be useful to society, another theme reprised in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith by circus owner Peggy Kram, a fanatic builder of theme parks in the decaying environs of Saarlim City. Already lionized in print and film by sophisticated observers, the mime incurs rejection in a provincial town, an unschooled backwash where his critics have no background in interpretation. Like the Athenians who poisoned Socrates with hemlock juice, the community infects the mime with a lethal diffidence.



Oppositions emerge as a result of the mime’s performances. When he romances women, he nets hostility and belittling. In a two-hour stage imitation of love, regret, loneliness, and dread, he arouses in his observers a demand for terror, the emotional extreme he avoids. Carey’s irony mocks viewers, who “fled their seats continually. Only to return” (Carey 1993, 50). His handlers exploit his legend by marketing brown paper parcels at the stage door, a barren commercial gesture that returns his thoughts to prayer and the absurdity of tourists purchasing Muslim devotional rugs as souvenirs. Public vapidity, the cause of the mime’s fatigue and doubt, and his sacrifice of segmented string to the toilet re-enact Christ suffering in Gethsemane, when his disciples fall asleep during his fearful devotions. A foreshadowing of the mime’s self-sacrifice in a river, the water image implies the tidal wave of public misunderstanding that swamps him. In Carey’s terms, the artist destroys himself “because of his inability to take the right steps to achieving his aim” (Nielsen, 1981, 192). Like a bobble-headed pet in a car window, he gives more of himself in interviews and accepts impossible tasks, beginning with flying and ending with drowning. A pseudo–Christ figure who lacks the ability to walk the Sea of Galilee, the mime selfdestructs at the whim of the public who once made him great. Carey creates the sacrificial scene as a bleak commentary on the public rejection of the artist who offers compassion to the undeserving.

WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS? Situated west of Yallamby in northeastern Melbourne, “A Windmill in the West” focuses on the disorientation of an American soldier, one of Australia’s desert colonizers. The short story, published in Meanjin in 1972, prefigures a more thorough diatribe against sloppy militarism and the sinister plotting of Gabe Manzini, an imperial spy in Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994). Meticulously detailed, the shorter narrative captures the estrangement of an alien sentry, an outsider as isolated from society and reason as a modern-day Robinson Crusoe. The situation calls to mind the rhetorical question from the Roman poet Juvenal’s sixth satire, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who watches the watchers themselves?, ca. A.D. 100). For sanity, the guard clings to army regulations as a substitute for personal direction. He stands at an uneven cross mark that divides Australian east from American west, a demarcation attesting to the island nation’s disdain for Westernism and its choice of Asia as a pole star. The unidentified locale — an allusion to Pine Gap base at Alice Springs and to a weapons test ground in the Great Sandy Desert — imposes a brain-numbing ennui. As the watchman over a sterile terrain divided by an arbitrary border, the protagonist struggles to maintain order in an empty landscape where scorpions pose his most pressing threat and a windmill mocks the symmetry of the terrain. As in “The Fat Man in History,” the theme of identity within a perplexing clash of sovereignties gnaws at an enlisted man whose daily task requires total obedience to a geographic separation of unseen, unknowable powers. His geometric musings question the outer ends of the fence he guards and the shape of the enclosed territory, whether rectangular or circular. Teasing him with its fickle clatter, the distant windmill, its arms a parody of the intersection of a road with the fence, gyrates at the whim of nature. His dreams spin out like unraveled webbing, a symbol of his emotional anomie. Depersonalized by his senseless posting on a barren frontier, he buries a downed plane, a strenuous chore he accomplishes while wearing full military dress. His floundering psyche represents the danger of situating uninformed soldiers in a tedious no-man’s-land devoid of moral direc-



tion. More to the point, Carey’s story, like Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Man He Killed” (1917), reduces an international face-off to the basics of war — one soldier who kills a pilot after a meaningless waving of hands. The one-on-one shootout retreats to Homeric simplicity the nature of global hostilities and the price exacted from individual warriors who must kill or be killed.

DUTY VS. LOGIC In a similar dead-end for the peon, “Life & Death in the South Side Pavilion” sets a drama in a deceptively unconfining building that is open on all four sides, a paradox of implied personal autonomy. The narrative dramatizes the plight of a Shepherd 3rd Class, a twin of the windmill watcher. Critic Karen Lamb concluded that the story provided “a false ritual comfort in the midst of ... bizarre and escalating tyranny” (Lamb 1992, 23). Lacking specifics of time, place, and motivation, the cautionary tale alerts the reader to the hazards of a life-or-death dilemma. Driven by a life urge to romance his girlfriend Marie, the shepherd finds himself inhibited by his obligation to dumb animals, the horses that tend to stray into a pool and drown. The management, by ignoring the shepherd’s pleas for help, thrusts him daily into a guilt-generating despair that causes him to dream of retreat to the seashore. Unlike the deadly pool, a man-made trap, the beach offers entrance and exit into a relaxing milieu that he needs to rejuvenate his spirit. A factor that links “A Windmill in the West” and “Concerning the Greek Tyrant” with “Life & Death in the South Side Pavilion” is Carey’s recurrent image of the impassable boundary imposed by a faceless authority. Despite the openness of the pavilion, the placement of a pool presents a constant hazard to innocent animals. Like the border guard, the shepherd respects his employer, yet questions repeated refusals to halt the cycle of drowning horses. Guilt emasculates the shepherd, forcing him to choose normal manhood over blind obedience to a senseless and futile duty. Carey stresses the brutality of “The Company” by dramatizing the delivery truck driver’s veiled threat to the television, which the shepherd does not own, and an examination of travel brochures, which the driver confiscates. Loss of amusement and dreams of travel, like the loss of Marie, menace the shepherd with an even greater dehumanization of his untenable position as Shepherd 3rd Class.

CONFRONTING ILLUSION A semi-autobiographical glimpse of the Carey family, “American Dreams,” published in Nation Review in 1974, makes a Lilliputian survey of small-town Australia. Its seductive illusions of happiness gained from American affluence reflects the author’s memories of Bacchus Marsh: “I just started to flesh it out” from memories of boyhood (Munro, 1976, 8). Set between 1953 and 1964, the fable takes place near Mason’s Lane, a hamlet north of Bacchus Marsh, and Bald Hill, a landmark further north of town. The speaker reflects on an elegiac shift in perspective that coincides with his teen years and a comingto-knowledge about his small-town identity. To enhance a rural atmosphere, he emulates life in Djakarta by having citizens riding bicycles, but yearning for car ownership. Just as the youth is deluded about the stability of his home, Australians nurture false concepts of America through their viewing of Hollywoodized depictions, a subject he expands with circus imagery in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. As Carey asserts in Illywhacker (1985), his second published novel, “People were more easily persuaded to a foreign [American] product than a local one” (Carey, 1985, 61).



In the style of Mark Twain’s “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” (1879), the fable exposes the self-destructive side of greed. Purchased by Gleason, the town hermit, Bald Hill, a name suggesting a barren expanse, rivets local attention like a beacon. Gleason teases citizens during the construction of a ten-foot brick wall by Chinese laborers, a droll miniaturization of the Great Wall of China and a foreshadowing of the matchbox art of Vanessa Kellow in The Big Bazoohley (1995). In a bit of reverse psychology, Gleason exploits local curiosity by backing the gate with a baffle and by topping the wall with broken glass and barbed wire. Carey supplies clues to the ambiguous construction in the surname of the builder, which implies a sardonic jokester, and in the surname “Dyer,” which suggests a life in death for the citizens whom Gleason exposes in a scale model of the town and its vices. At the heart of the conflict, stasis, a crippling image of the past, frames tourist expectations of Australian life much as Pompeii and Herculaneum epitomize the Roman Empire during a disaster on August 24, A.D. 79. In exchange for Yankee dollars, the citizenry attempts to dramatize the realism of Gleason’s hobby town, which flourishes under what critic Tony Thwaites later describes as “the gaze of tourism” (Thwaites, 1987, 408). Critic John Sutherland, a reviewer for TLS, describes the model as “a kind of Australian Disneyland for American tourists” (Sutherland, 1976, 445). Over four years of playacting for visitors, locals recognize that, in posing like museum exhibits, they jeopardize liberty and abandon freedom of expression. Like the figures in John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819), they become flash-frozen in time and place much as Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia, reflect the American colonial era and Old Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Tombstone, Arizona, capture the atmosphere of the Old West. While grubbing for dollars to buy big American cars and television sets, townspeople lose respect for themselves and their environs. Mrs. Cavanagh’s adultery with Craigie Evans epitomizes the town’s profiteering, a whoring for dollars that shrinks residents to the petty snoops of Gleason’s scale model city.

ANTIQUE WISDOM Carey followed the classic genre parameters for parable in “Report on the Shadow Industry” (1974), a commentary on the writing process and an analysis of the malcontent generated by seductive marketing. With the logic of Plato’s cave myth, a popular excerpt from Book VII of the Republic (ca. 380 B.C.), the story depicts the search of the deluded for the ultimate in diversion, a subject that dominates Carey’s fifth novel, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. A realistic survey of the shopaholic perusing stores for the latest in amusement, the plot focuses on one narrator’s family, whom disappointment shatters. Like the predictions of the Pythia, the Greek oracle in ancient Delphi, the father responds to disenchantment with a trivial gift. The narrative teases the reader with the cryptic note explaining that the father must leave without expressing his disillusion with the shadows in the gift box. In a poor part of Topanga, home of an art colony west of Los Angeles, California, the mother, eager to receive a Christmas gift, conceals her dissatisfaction with shadows by kissing the giver. Purposely, she deflects their conversation to a lottery winner, a symbol of “one of our own” who eludes daily thwarting through chance. A personal confession of dismay reveals the speaker’s secret pursuit of materialistic fulfillment, a theme that Carey scrutinizes in the envious townspeople in “American Dreams” (1974) and the carnivalesque atmosphere of “Exotic Pleasures” (1979). While pretending to be above the lure of commercial enchantments offered by 24-hour service at discount stores and the psychological lull of Muzak, he puzzles over the production of



shadows at factories obscured from public view, a suggestion of mysterious evils. Among superior friends, admission of delight in shadow boxes constitutes a lowering of status. The speaker gives a one-sentence hint at his affair with a clever woman named J. and his frustrated hope for a gratifying sexual alliance. The story risks a full revelation of theme in the inscrutable conclusion, a suggestion that the author, like T. S. Eliot in “The Hollow Men” (1925), deems life’s profound longings inaccessible to the human species. Like Eden before Adam and Earth after the end-time, joy exists in the absence of humanity.

PSYCHIC SHAPESHIFTING “Crabs,” an anarchic fantasy and one of Carey’s earliest stories, represents the author’s mounting pessimism, which reached fruition with the character of Benny Catchprice in The Tax Inspector (1991). “Crabs” creates a metaphor of the untried Australian venturing out of the British commonwealth and away from American values. First published in Overland in spring 1972, the narrative pictures the rapid transformation of urban society into a squalid refugee camp ostensibly devised to demobilize and control delinquent youth. While a 118-pound mechanic nicknamed Crabs advances from puberty to manhood, he becomes obsessed with legitimizing himself as a rugged, liberated male. The Bildungsroman ridicules his rigid standards for maturity and self-respect based on mythic Hollywoodized heroism. Beginning with dreams of muscularity and prowess, the laboring-class youth longs to drive a Ford V8 tow truck for Allied Panel and Towing, an ideal that “allies” hardihood with virility. To an undersized male once bullied outside the principal’s window and humiliated by having to drive a Morris Mini, relationships with revved-up American technology offer mastery as well as safety from victimization. Left immobile at the Star Drive-in Theatre after Karboys steal two wheels from his borrowed 1956 Dodge, he suffers a double threat — the diminution of his imagined machismo and a real possibility of bodily injury by the car’s owner, Frank, Crabs’s ego criterion. The caging prefigures similar images of incarceration in Illywhacker (1985) and The Tax Inspector (1991), which Carey set in a fenced-in car lot. Composed after Anthony Burgess’s dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange (1962) appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s screen adaptation in 1971, the allegory took shape intuitively in one of Carey’s “what if ” odysseys, a concept that informed his first children’s book, The Big Bazoohley (1995). The narrative departs from Burgess’s study of violence to a perusal of teen complacency. Amid grotesque cadavers of the masculine muscle car, Crabs’s generation, particularly his girlfriend Carmen, acquiesces to promiscuous sex, junk food, powerful cars, and vapid entertainment. In a reversal of Karel Capek’s cyborg longings in R. U. R. (1921), Crabs, the ambitious dreamer, chooses an outré means of escaping the labyrinth — transmogrification or shapeshifting into a vehicle. The author commented to interviewer Craig Munro how the scarcity of autos and car parts intensified the story’s significance: “It’s less of a jump now to seeing it actually happening, when people are going to be prepared to kill to keep their cars running” (Munro, 1976, 5). The imprisoning roleplaying enables Crabs to flee confinement, but self-reconfiguration thrusts him into a landscape stripped of vehicular transportation. Immured in a Doppelgänger nightmare more fearful than being tied to a fence by shoelaces and kicked in the arse, the mechanized alter ego turns him into a hopeless outsider. To his horror, electrified fences lock him out of the only reality that remains. In the author’s summation, Crabs “spends all his time escaping from something which he finds unsatisfactory only to realize finally that what he’s trying to escape from is the world” (Munro, 1976, 8).



BORDER ANXIETY Bearing a door designation from a room Carey saw in Portugal during a visit to Iberia, “Room No. 5 (Escribo),” the first work he attempted after returning from London to Australia, echoes the menace of a Spanish-speaking country under martial law. The era suggests the tyranny of Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the late 1960s, when he headed an authoritarian regime that suppressed Basque, Catalan, and Galician dialects. Assuring civil control were his military police, the Guardia Civil (national guard) and the Policia Armada (armed police), a type Carey excoriates more thoroughly in Theft: A Love Story (2006). Like Crabs, the unnamed insurance agent battles an odd collection of threats, notably truckloads of soldiers, closed borders superintended by Captain Jorge, and an unknown dialect spoken by the protagonist’s short-term lover. Because of the tedious I–thou exchange between speaker and lover, the story is one of Carey’s least accessible narratives. A masterwork of dramatic tension, it turns into suspense the woman’s inexplicable smile and uncertain translations of conversations with bankers and border patrols, all conventions of spy thriller novels and films of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963), John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), and Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal (1971). The mounting paranoia leaves open to suspicion the relationship of protagonist and lover and her anticipation of a transfer of funds from Zurich, which will pay their way out of the country. Central to the story are repeated forebodings cloaked in laughter and questionable gestures of good will. During a fractious state of the economy, the insurance agent communicates his peril to the head office in an unmailed letter that might be confiscated and misinterpreted. While he and his lover wait out a dangerous period in which strongman Timoshenko teeters on the edge of death, the couple’s escapes into lovemaking and afternoon snacks on yogurt are lame antidotes to free-floating terror. The image of a chicken tethered to a hat stand near a machine gun mirrors the uncertainty of outsiders trapped by a militant milieu. Carey eases the tension with a postscript that pictures the couple at Candalido, literally “white beach,” a respite free of the dark terrors the pair has endured.

MARITAL AMITY VS. CARNALITY In a more upbeat vein than “Crabs,” “Happy Story” presents a Hemingwayesque conversation between mates arguing over the husband’s yen to fly. Carey got the idea for the narrative from something he saw on television and from a good mood when he “just felt nice and optimistic about things” (Munro, 1976, 8). In rapid exchange, the duo express their differences about his discontent and her suppression of his interest in birds and flying. His flying machine forces the issue of an interest they are unable to share. Her acquiescence to flying requires accommodation for the dog. In the final stave, he allows her to make the first choice of destination. The selection of Florence (literally “flowering”) sets an optimistic tone for a shared adventure. To Craig Munro, an interviewer for Makar, Carey described the narrative as a “celebration of dreaming, an escape story” (ibid., 9). Diametric to the tone and atmosphere of “Happy Story,” the carnal relationship in “She Wakes,” his first published short fiction, which appeared in Australian Letters in 1967, dramatizes the opposite of contented mating based on mutual respect. The unidentified lovers, after their weekly Friday night sleepover, part in contrasting moods. Unlike the couple in “Happy Story,” the lovers magnify a faulty basis for intimacy. The man, grinning at glimpses of her breasts and belly, completes a satisfying episode in his exploita-



tion of a willing bedmate. The woman, fearing the ridicule and warning of other residents, gradually loses her hold on sexual gratification as the reality of her situation grips her for another six days. To Carey, the likelihood of tears epitomizes her emotional awakening to short-changing by a one-response male. See also Collected Stories; War Crimes

• Further readings Ackroyd, Peter. “Review: The Fat Man in History,” Sunday Times (19 October 1980). Aizenberg, Edna. Borges and His Successors: The Borgesian Impact on Literature and the Arts. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990. Callahan, David. Contemporary Issues in Australian Literature: International Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2002. Carey, Peter. Collected Stories. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. The Fat Man in History. New York: Vintage, 1993. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. Dunlop, Nicholas. “Cartographic Conspiracies: Maps, Misinformation, and Exploitation in Peter Carey’s ‘American Dreams,’” Antipodes (1 June 2008). Faulkner, William. “The Bear” in The Portable Faulkner, ed. Malcolm Cowley. New York: Penguin, 1977. Hawker, Phillipa. “Dead-End Drive-in,” The Age (15 January 2009). Knight, John. “Noted in Passing,” Social Alternatives 18, no. 3 (July 1999): 82. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Morton-Evans, Michael. “Carey Reaches a Blissful Peak in His Literary Career,” The Australian (26 July 1984): 8. Müller-Zettelmann, Eva, and Margarete Rubik. Theory into Poetry: New Approaches to the Lyric. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. Munro, Craig. “Building the Fabulist Extensions: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Makar 12, no. 1 (1976): 3 –12. Neilsen, Philip. “Authors’ Statements,” Australian Literary Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 191 –193. Pana, Irina Grigorescu. “The Tomis Complex: Versions of Exile in Australian Literature,” World Literature Today 67 (1993): 523 –532. Perrona, Lorenzo. “The Spectral Belongings of Mudrooroo” in The Pain of Unbelonging, ed. Sheila Collingwood-Whittick and Germaine Greer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Pons, Xavier. “Weird Tales: Peter Carey’s Short Stories” in Telling Stories, ed. Jacqueline Bardolph and JeanPierre Durix. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001. Ross, Bruce Clunies. “Some Developments in Short Fiction 1969 –1980,” Australian Literary Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 165 –180. Sutherland, John. “Division Street,” TLS (9 April 1976): 445. Tate, Trudi. “Unraveling the Feminine: Peter Carey’s ‘Peeling,’” Meanjin 46, no. 3 (1987): 394 –399. Thwaites, Tony. “More Tramps at Home,” Meanjin 46, no. 3 (September 1987): 400 –409. Turner, Graeme. “American Dreaming: The Fictions of Peter Carey,” Australian Literary Studies 12 (1986): 431 –441. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

female persona Carey tends to shape tough, self-sustaining women who tolerate and, at times, supercede the idiocies and machinations of men. In the words of Nicholas Hasluck, a critic for Quadrant, the matchup derives from compliance with political correctness: “The female characters are always strong and creative, the men are generally weak and evasive, crossdressing and androgynous sexual identity is okay ... [and] people on the margin are kinder and truer than those in the centre” (Hasluck, 1994,103). The categories of Carey’s enduring womenfolk cover the spectrum of types: Female Stereotypes Name Anna

work “He Found Her in Late Summer”

type(s) nurturer






Bettina “Betty” Joy Caitlin Carla Carmen Cathy McPherson Daphne Dial Xenos Dominique Leibovitz Elizabeth Fisher Elizabeth Warriner Ellen Quinn Kelly Emma Badgery employee Fanny Drabble Felicity Smith Frieda Catchprice Gia Katalanis Grandma Selkirk Henny d’Abbs Honey Barbara Jacqui Lorraine Kelly daughter Kumbaingiri Billy’s aunt Leah Goldstein Lilly Danko lover Lucinda Leplastrier Lucy Joy Lucy Millar Maria McClusky Maria Takis Maria’s mother Marie

Bliss True History of the Kelly Gang “The Chance” “Crabs” The Tax Inspector “Withdrawal” His Illegal Self Theft: A Love Story Oscar and Lucinda Jack Maggs True History of the Kelly Gang Illywhacker “The Uses of Williamson Wood” Oscar and Lucinda The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith The Tax Inspector The Tax Inspector His Illegal Self Oscar and Lucinda Bliss The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith True History of the Kelly Gang Oscar and Lucinda Illywhacker “Exotic Pleasures” “She Wakes” Oscar and Lucinda Bliss Oscar and Lucinda The Tax Inspector The Tax Inspector The Tax Inspector “Life & Death in the South Side Pavilion” Theft: A Love Story True History of the Kelly Gang Jack Maggs Jack Maggs Oscar and Lucinda Jack Maggs Oscar and Lucinda Illywhacker “American Dreams” “American Dreams” My Life as a Fake Oscar and Lucinda Oscar and Lucinda Oscar and Lucinda The Big Bazoohley The Big Bazoohley “The Fat Man in History” The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith “Peeling” My Life as a Fake

siren, betrayer flirt trickster, martyr siren, sybarite dreamer, scold user, destroyer nurturer, intellectual thief, user entrepreneur siren, dupe nurturer, manipulator user, madwoman dupe, avenger drudge, nurturer nurturer, entrepreneur enabler, dreamer bureaucrat, dupe defender, protector drudge, handmaiden siren, nurturer user, spy innocent drudge, sex slave nurturer, savant entrepreneur, dupe dupe entrepreneur siren drudge dreamer, widow bureaucrat, nurturer drudge siren

Marlene Leibovitz Mary Hearn Ma Mary Britten Mary Oates Melody Clutterbuck Mercy Larkin Miriam Chadwick Molly McGrath Mrs. Cavanagh Mrs. Gleason Mrs. Lim Mrs. Trevis Mrs. Smith Mrs. Williams Muriel Mifflin Nancy Nancy Bowlby Natalie Theroux Nile Noussette Markson

siren, felon, murderer nurturer, mate destroyer, user nurturer, dupe snob advocate, nurturer widow, siren madwoman, widow siren supporter, widow widow, warrior, nurturer scold drudge, scold drudge, nurturer madwoman dreamer entrepreneur, siren madwoman siren, dupe artist, siren

95 Peggy Kram

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith

Phoebe McGrath Rebecca Rene Lorraine Rose Kaletsky Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson Sarah Wode-Douglass

Illywhacker His Illegal Self The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Illywhacker The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith My Life as a Fake

Sonia Badgery Susan Selkirk Takashi’s grandmother Tina Vanessa Kellow wife Yoko Miyagi Yuka

Illywhacker His Illegal Self Wrong about Japan My Life as a Fake The Big Bazoohley “Happy Story” Wrong about Japan Wrong about Japan

female socialite, madwoman, entrepreneur siren, user hippie, enforcer nurturer, widow nurturer siren, nurturer, madwoman entrepreneur, aesthete, madwoman naif radical, socialite nurturer victim, bargainer nurturer, artist mate, advocate facilitator transvestite

The listing of women by character pattern does not deflect from the uniqueness of each or from their range of talents. For example, both Mary Hearn and Ellen Quinn Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) derive from rebellious Irish Catholic stock. Whereas Mary narrates for Edward “Ned” Kelly, her common-law husband, the secretive, violent behaviors of cross-dressing Irish rebels, Ellen Quinn Kelly incorporates in her own dealings with Protestant Celto-Australian police a guile derived from her faith in Old Country values. Like the conservative Grandma Selkirk in His Illegal Self (2008), Ellen intends to rear her family within the social and political code she adopted in childhood, even if she must prostitute herself to keep them fed. Both Mary and Ellen contribute to the strategies and choices that shape Ned’s lawlessness. From Mary, Ned gains the political sophistication to understand his father’s transvestism and to accept that the same behavior in Ned’s younger brother Dan in no way diminishes Dan’s manhood. From Ellen, Ned acquires a respect for the male head of household, a position he tries to maintain during frequent absences by protecting Ned from criminal complicity with a gang and by keeping the peace in the Eleven Mile Creek household, where Ellen acquires mates by whim and circumstance. The stature of both women in Ned’s final days influences his actions and outlook on death at age 26: he composes for Mary’s baby girl a rationalization of criminal acts, including robbery, horse stealing, and murder. For Ellen, he surrenders his liberty and life on a last-ditch effort to free her from Melbourne Gaol and to reunite her with his baby sister Alice. It is Mary who enlightens him to the futility of his mission: “They won’t never let her free Ned you must accept that no matter how you love her” (Carey, 2000, 321). Thus, Ned’s martyrdom validates the Irish concept of womanhood and motherhood, the sturdy center of the nuclear family. See also feminism; marriage; mothering; women

• Further readings Carey, Peter. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Hasluck, Nicholas. “Joining the Sirkus,” Quadrant 39, no. 1-2 (January/February 1994): 102–104.



feminism In his casts of heroes and villains, Peter Carey promotes the roles of self-assertive women. The first models appear in his short stories, including the trickster Carla in “The Chance”; Nancy Bowlby, author of “Revolution in a Closed Society — A Study of Leadership among the Fat” and the sex interest and symbol of authority in “The Fat Man in History”; and the vengeful employee in “The Uses of Williamson Wood” (1974). His first two novels, Bliss (1981) and Illywhacker (1985), feature the ad designer Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy, prostitute Honey Barbara, actor Leah Goldstein, and rebellious wife Phoebe McGrath Badgery as shapers of their own destiny. In Bliss, Betty escapes from an atmosphere of “selfhatred and the feeling that you might die from lack of air” (Carey, 1981, 239). In self-rescue, she not only wrests a career out of her husband’s domain, a profession indicated by her maiden name McPhee, but she also rears Lucy Joy, their Marxist daughter, to carve for herself a unique niche. By age 15, Lucy is “rational, sensible and, of all of [the family], the least given to hysteria,” Carey’s generous salute to an individualist in the making (ibid., 57). Similarly self-governed, Phoebe, the 18-year-old seductress in Illywhacker, matches the chutzpah of protagonist Herbert Peter Badgery, a pilot and would-be entrepreneur. In their rooftop tryst, he goggles at her naked form poised for the taking: “She was like no woman I have ever known. Please note: I said woman, not girl” (Carey, 1985, 91). The death knell of their three-year marriage, Phoebe’s self-expression in verse empowers more fully than wifedom or motherhood. She exults, “There is nothing else in my life that brings the prospect of so much pleasure,” a satisfaction shared by Vanessa Kellow, the matchbox artist in The Big Bazoohley (1995) and Sarah Elizabeth Wode-Douglass, the journal editor in My Life as a Fake (2003) (ibid., 190). Phoebe’s flight from Herbert and their two children in 1923 suits the tenor of first-wave feminism, the post-suffrage fervor of women to explore other avenues than domesticity or the bootlegging and sexual enslavement by which Ellen Quinn Kelly feeds her family in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). For Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey depicts feminist spirit in Elizabeth Fisher LePlastrier, a champion of the Industrial Revolution. In viewing mechanization as a boon to women, she foresees the liberation of women through the acquisition of financial power. In place of male-dominated factories, she envisions “nurseries incorporated in their structure, and staffed kitchen, fired by factory furnaces, that would bake the family dinners the women carried there each morning” (Carey, 1988, 70). With manufacturing at the social hub, she pictures radii carrying nurturing to the nuclear family. Carey raises a contrast between Elizabeth and the Irish women — Mrs. Kenneally, the O’Hagens, the MacCorkals— who comfort the new widow. To Elizabeth, the subservient Irishwomen walk behind their husbands “with their heads bowed like prisoners of war,” an image underwritten with implications of violent bride capture (Carey, 1988, 72). Her determination to rescue New South Wales from the backward Irish infuses her enthusiasm for farming her legacy, Mitchell’s Run, outside Parramatta. After 16 years of toil, she confides in a letter to novelist Marian Evans that locals are “venal, materialistic, corrupt, and, when not corrupt, plain damn stupid” (Carey, 1988, 73). Like Betty McPhee Joy, Elizabeth rears an addition to the next generation of stoutsouled women. While bringing up her willful daughter Lucinda to value work and profit, Elizabeth sets a goal of personal and financial liberation, an aim shared with Honey Barbara, the hippie prostitute and beekeeper in Bliss (1981), and Maria Takis, the pregnant tax auditor in The Tax Inspector (1991). Although solitude and a fear of money unsettles



18-year-old Lucinda after her mother’s death, she maintains, “She would need the money to have any sort of freedom” (Carey, 1988, 107). She enrobes herself in wealth, which becomes “her cloak, her armour” as well as the beginning of her best friend’s downfall (Carey, 1988, 139). Before Lucinda’s meeting with the Reverend Dennis Hasset, a cultured parish minister in Sydney, Carey reveals a truism about the repressive company of males. Females behave like vapid arm decorations when paired with their mates, “But alone, or with their own sex, they revealed themselves as scientists when it came to the vectors of the human heart” (Carey, 1988, 115). The statement prefigures the presentation of Lucinda’s entrepreneurial ambitions, which she displays with “great pluck” (ibid., 117). However, she admits to the vicar the need to disguise her gender because, in dealing with a businesswoman, men “will act strange” by patronizing her (ibid., 118). She describes the change in men toward a lone woman as a type of voodoo, a folk superstition caused by men who lose aplomb when dealing on an equal basis with a female entrepreneur. By age 22, she strides down a Southampton wharf ensconced in a strength she describes as “power ... primed by money” (Carey, 1988, 169). In her imagination, she rebukes people who stereotype manufacturers as men who “have side-whiskers and smoke cigars” (Crey, 1988, 191). Her credo serves her ends, but will not stretch to cover a female trumpet player from Her Majesty’s Theatre, whom the male glass blowers reject from factory work.

LUCINDA AT SEA Lucinda toys with female liberation by wagering on her inheritance, the source of her emancipation. Among seasoned gamblers on a train, she rattles dice in games of Dutch Hazards and Seventh Man with the racetrack frequenters until they oust her from male company; Mr. Paxton refuses to escort her to a cock fight, presumably out of respect for innocent womanhood. On the voyage aboard the sidewheeling steamer Leviathan from Southampton to New South Wales, she chafes at the social restraints that inhibit the interaction of genders and castes. Among stewards, cabin boys, ship’s officers, and three classes of passengers, she struggles hardest against the “silk rope between her ankles,” the invisible chastity belt that binds women to ladylike expectations (Carey, 1988, 209). Although rid of flounces and whalebone, she still feels “squeezed and blistered, pinched and hobbled” by gendered manners and customs (ibid.). In close contact with the patronizing Mr. Borrodaile, she suffers fifteen minutes of being escorted and handled, the kind of squiring well known to diminutive women trapped among taller, brawnier men seeking her comfort and protection. The source of passenger entertainment is a show of medusae, phosphorescent jellyfish that take their name from the snaky-haired gorgon of Greek mythology. Metaphorically, they remind Lucinda of the inner rage that prevents her from enjoying a display of the sea’s mysteries. True freedom comes in the form of moral choices. Lucinda opts to play poker with the Reverend Oscar Hopkins in the privacy of her first-class stateroom, a double no-no suggesting both monetary profligacy and carnal license. At the emancipation of Oscar from his clerical restraints, she envisions him as “all strapped down like Ulysses at the mast” (Carey, 1988, 222). The allusion refers to the twelfth book of Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 800 B.C.) in which the ship’s captain elects to hear the song of the sirens at the cost of terrible yearning and a struggle to escape and embrace them. The separation of Odysseus from enticing females prefigures the unconsummated love of Oscar for Lucinda, who inadvertently discourages his courtship. As though enjoying a polite cotillion, she salutes her fel-



low card player “as another woman might have complimented her partner at a waltz” (ibid.).

LUCINDA IN SYDNEY The restraints of womanhood fail to deter Lucinda. Her mother warns her about the anti-feminist backlash: “They hate women like us with a passion you would not believe” (Carey, 1988, 91). However, Lucinda must acknowledge biological and social obstacles that decree she “not be loved, not be wife, not be mother” (Carey, 1988, 249). As a spinster in gendered society, she falls under the scrutiny of her solicitor and guardian, Charles “Chas” Ahearn; chief glass blower Arthur Phelps; even her maid, Mrs. Smith, all of whom adhere to strict rules of propriety for an unmarried woman. Upon purchasing the Prince Rupert’s Glassworks, she must kowtow to worker misogyny by remaining outside the workplace unless pre-announced. On her smart strut through the Chinese gambling den in southcentral Sydney near Darling Harbour at 9:30 P.M., she can’t deny that a rain-sodden oilskin cloak outlines her diminutive size. In her stride through the front room, she feels the “unmaleness” of her small footfalls (Carey, 1988, 247). During her wait for the announcement of lottery winners, she muses over a racial irony — that Chinese males who marry “fallen [white] women, beyond the pale” treat their mates lovingly (Carey, 1988, 248). Her own spinsterhood forces her mind to shut, however unwillingly, against the vision of a happy marriage. Lucinda’s assertiveness counters solitude by choosing gambling as a gender neutral endeavor. Among bettors, the rules are the same for male and female. A woman’s win does not require that she “giggle and simper” to conceal her venture into a man’s world (Carey, 1988, 227). After playing a successful lottery round, she progresses to fan-tan among drunk, foul-mouthed males who make “the missus” feel “her otherness, her womanness” (Carey, 1988, 251, 250). Armed with an empty purse and a hatpin, she retreats from male company at 3:00 A.M. and drives her carriage through the streets of Sydney. More upsetting to the social milieu, she rescues Oscar, now defrocked, from ignominy and poverty and restores him to health at her cottage on Longnose Pointe. Carey expands on the irony of Lucinda’s acceptance of a lone male in her life, a pairing that earns them snubs from the parish priest. Nonetheless, Lucinda rises in status by escaping spinsterhood for local suspicions that she is Oscar’s common-law wife, a social step up from old maid. Further evidence of social hypocrisy toward moral propriety is the arrival of Lucinda’s factory superintendent, Arthur Phelps, at her home on Sunday afternoon to invite Lucinda to visit the glass works. The invitation presumes that Lucinda, now in company with a “lord and master,” should accompany Oscar to her factory to “inspect his new territory” (Carey, 1988, 307). The promotion of Oscar to supervisor of Lucinda’s finances derives from the era’s diminution of unmarried women to the level of children or half-wits. Her unverbalized anger leaves Oscar to assume that she is “over-laced,” the Victorian version of pre-menstrual syndrome (ibid., 308). On retreat to her business office, she “felt humiliated and powerless, like a child dragged down the street by a large dog on a leash” (ibid., 315). It is over two months later before she finds the courage to rebuke James d’Abbs for failing to follow her directions in planning a glass chapel.

MALE TERRORISM Carey pictures rape threat as a trigger to feminist rage. In the falling action of The Tax Inspector (1991), the menace of a 16-year-old psychopath, Benny Catchprice, to tax



auditor Maria Takis takes on the terrors of Minotaur in the maze as he presses her down stairs to a moldy basement lair. In semi-darkness, Maria faces external and internal pressures— a sawed-off shotgun in her face and the initial pangs of labor as her first child makes its way into daylight. After Benny grasps the newborn boy and dandles him in the air, Maria seizes the outrage of both a mother and a brutalized female and clobbers Benny with an iron bar. Her fury prefigures the instinctive self-protection of Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, caregiver to seven-year-old Che David Selkirk in His Illegal Self (2008). She conceals from the boy the truth about his siring and the violent death of his birth mother, anarchist Susan Selkirk, in a bomb blast engineered by Students for a Democratic society. At Radcliffe at age 16, Susan concealed “a teenage pregnancy with fifties shame and shadows, linocut illustrations in a women’s magazine” that set her apart from the conservative values of her mother, Phoebe Selkirk (Carey, 2008, 129). Carey depicts sisterhood as a community effort. Dial’s defense of Susan extends to females in general and herself in particular. Within reach of Jean “John Rabbitoh” Rabiteau, an armed hippie at the Crystal Community outside Yandina, Queensland, Dial refuses to submit to rape and threatens her aggressor with a fallen branch. Carey speaks through the beleaguered woman her contempt for “some shit with a very nasty knife and a sense of sexual entitlement” (ibid., 84). See also female persona; Leplastrier, Lucinda; marriage; mothering; women

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. Ferrier, Carole. Gender, Politics and Fiction: 20th Century Australian Women’s Novels. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1992. Neville, Jill. “Review: Bliss,” Sydney Morning Herald (10 October 1981).

food Carey makes judicious use of food preparation and eating, from Honey Barbara’s obsession about healthful meals in Bliss (1981), the spaghetti-eating test in The Big Bazoohley (1995), the pub menu in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), and the spare table scraps of Irish immigrants in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) to the squid, miso soup, and sashimi that 12-year-old Charley Carey adapts to on a journey to Tokyo with his father in the fictional travelogue Wrong about Japan (2005). Sustenance is the driving force of the fable “The Fat Man in History” (1974), a tale of the ostracism of the obese as scapegoats for society’s failures. As a measure of their self-destructive bumbling, the characters— Fantoni, Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man — plot an insurrection and celebrate their ineffective revolt by roasting and devouring their leader, Fantoni. Similarly self-devouring, the punk businessmen in “War Crimes” (1978) connive to profit on society’s misery by selling low-quality TV dinners to the unemployed. While operating a revolting factory and polluting a river with dumpings from the plant freezer, the accountant and the advertiser pollute themselves with expensive wine and cocaine. Bart, who addicts himself to Dionysian fare, destroys his brain, the center of logic that drives the corporation to successful profiteering. Carey’s satire on managerial malfeasance chooses the food industry as a model of profligacy. By feeding the jobless on junk meals, the duo walls itself into its fortress-factory. The only escape from advancing armies of



unemployed is through flamethrowers that burn the bodies that the corporation relies on for commerce. Like the fat men who devour their leader in a backyard barbecue, the entrepreneurs defeat their ambitions by feeding like piranhas off the misery of others. A symbolic force in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), meals energize scenes with personal and religious significance. Lucinda Leplastrier’s relationship with the defrocked Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins develops over social draughts of liquids—cups of tea and restorative ships of sherry. At the crowning moment of their misalliance, she strides from Sussex Street to York Street to the Oriental Hotel. In the dining room, she concludes that she can accept Oscar as a husband “and still be captain of her soul,” an anachronistic reference to the conclusion of William Ernest Henley’s poetic manifesto, “Invictus” (1875) (Carey, 1988, 393). The couple thrash out their murky friendship/courtship over consommé and flounder, dishes imbued with elements of their meeting at sea and the terror of water that twists Oscar into a quivering phobic. The meal, simple and direct in its ingredients and preparation, also predicts Oscar’s arrival on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, by paired lighters up the Bellinger River to Boat Harbour and his subsequent drowning when one lighter takes on water and capsizes.

TWO TYPES OF HUNGER The theme of emotional and physical sustenance in His Illegal Self (2008) stresses makeshift meals and surrogate love, like the chocolate bar that Anna “Dial” Xenos feeds seven-year-old Che David Selkirk on the bus ride to Philly. As Che’s horizons shrink from privileged Manhattanite, he accepts his new identity as “trailer trash” and helps James “Adam” Adamek, a backward Queensland drop-out, harvest vegetables from an overgrown patch four miles out of Yandina at the Crystal Community (Carey, 2008, 114). In good times, the boy climbs trees in the banana groves. He and Dial eat rice and lentils, the vegetarian fare of hippies; wild cherry tomatoes “burst inside their mouths, hot and wet, like vegetables from outer space” in brief sparks of happiness (ibid., 141). Like the subsistence meals in Theft: A Love Story (2006), Che smells a country meal of roasted eggplant, onion, pumpkin, and “spuds” that raises no hope of quelling “a secret buzzing anger quiet inside him, a vibration in his chest that got bigger all the time” (ibid., 115). As though miming the police search for Che and for the dissidents of Students for a Democratic Society who conceal him, Carey pictures the boy’s cat Buck returning from the hunt with a pitta bird in his mouth, a meal that robs the earth of beauty rather than nourishment. At the outback hideout of Trevor Dobbs, Che learns about mulching with waterweed to hold rain around the roots of cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, and beans. The grueling job of “loading black hairy matter onto a sled and dragging it along a path” exhibits the hard truth of the “tune-in, drop-out” society and its daily subsistence from farming, gathering from the wild, and orchardry. Waves of awareness sweep over Dial, who keeps vigil over the child and realizes that “all small forms of life in their wiggling squirming resistance, were like the boy, even the frog that Buck catches and torments” (ibid., 152). Her maternal feelings boil over when she spies Che talking with Trevor while they devour a dripping slab of watermelon, a symbolic heart of man-to-boy affection enlarged by Trevor’s gifts of eggplant, melon, papaya, and pumpkin, from which Dial extracts the basics of a ratatouille. In contrast to Dial’s culinary skills, Trevor, like an Aussie outbacker, eats snacks and a pickup meal of bread, cantaloupe, olives, mangoes, and melon. In a conciliatory gesture after harsh words with Dial, he makes an omelet from eggs, spring onions, and tomatoes. As the ad hoc family gains oneness from trips to the beach, they spend their



afternoons eating bananas and avocados and their nights searching for sellers of pearl perch and red snapper. An indication of Dial’s acceptance of the hippie life is the start of her own garden and the planting of beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions, parsley, peas, rocket, radishes, and spinach. From the hospitable hippies, they receive a suitably sweet acceptance gift, buttered bread coated with honey, a symbol of atonement for the colony’s rejection of its newest members. See also mothering

• Further readings Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Neville, Jill. “Review: Bliss,” Sydney Morning Herald (10 October 1981). Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

Gothic Peter Carey revives English Gothic with a fresh, postmodern style and touches of drollery. With the panache of neo–Gothicists Angela Carter, Michel Faber, and Ariana Franklin, Carey also dreams up exotic appearances— Anna’s shapeshifting in “He Found Her in Late Summer” (1979), the ratty mouse suit through which Tristan Smith seduces theme park investor Peggy Kram in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), the girlish velvet suit and gelled curls that Sam Kellow sports during the spaghetti food fight in The Big Bazoohley (1995), and the walking armor that approaches police lines from the Kelly gang’s lair in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). Flesh-eating expresses the ineptitude of the underclass in the fable “The Fat Man in History” (1974), a grotesque social revolt of six disgruntled men against a post–Marxist regime. Although they consider eating a statue dedicated to a despot, they alter their plans by converging on Nancy Bowlby, the rent collector, author of “Revolution in a Closed Society — A Study of Leadership among the Fat,” and half-hearted supporter who represents bureaucratic authority. Their scheme shifts to a self-defeating roasting of their leader Fantoni in a backyard barbecue pit. The nausea and despair that follows cannibalism attests to the recriminations that dog the survivors, icons of bumblers who turn on one of their own. The purpose of Carey’s Gothicism is cautionary. According to an interview in 1985, he believes that evil phantasms exist beyond the borders of fiction: “As long as we think there are no monsters within us, we’re in deep and dangerous trouble” (Summers, 1985, 33). The dissolution of Nile in “Peeling” (1972), the cannibalizing of cars by street thugs in “Crabs” (1974) and The Tax Inspector (1991), the self-immolation of Bettina “Betty” Joy in Bliss (1981) as a death gesture against pollution by the Mobil Research Department, and an autistic man’s fondling of the corpse of a drowned puppy in Theft: A Love Story (2006) illustrate Carey’s deft twists of the ordinary into the bizarre. A more horrifying scenario, “War Crimes” (1978), the cautionary tale of corporate malfeasance run amok, pictures the dispossessed surrounding the factory that produces cheap TV dinners. While the self-indulgent managers overindulge in luxury, wine, and cocaine, the poor, like French stormers of the Bastille in 1789, muster outside the factory gates in despair. A cataclysmic finale pictures Bart, a former advertising mogul, firing flamethrowers at the mob, thus destroying the underclass who buy his products. A cosmic jest based on post–Marxist radicalism, the destruction of both classes denudes society of its victims and victimizers.



STYLE AND PURPOSE Carey’s skill at Gothic pastiche derives from studied presentation. After the publication of Illywhacker (1985), critic Martin Duwell, in a review for Overland, lauded the author for hybridizing the native tall tale into a rambling “bush Gothic epic,” a freak show laden with bleak humor, cautionary alarums, and despair (Duwell, 1985, 92). A grotesque form of dissection occurs in a satire on the injustices in Australian history after Izzie Kaletsky suffers amputation of his legs at Albury by a train called the Spirit of Progress, a subtle nudge at the price Aussie’s pay for underwriting the rewards of colonialism to the British. Literary analyst Karen Lamb found irony in the celebration of a picaresque tale as the Great Australian Novel “principally because it exhumed a colonial past” and a lie claiming that the British settled unclaimed land (Lamb, 1992, 34). She pictured as “ratbaggy and amusing” a continental saga featuring burlap sacks of snakes, disappearing acts, and an amputated finger of a Chinese herbalist floating in a Vegemite jar (ibid.). Amplifying Carey’s sardonic view of history is the projection of a futuristic tourist trap, a caged Disneyland built on the site of colonial atrocities and filled with incarcerated character stereotypes for which Australia is famous. The stagy Gothicism pictures Australians as victims of their own uniqueness, forever posing for the amusement of imperialists. Accolades for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) affirmed Carey’s flair for the revolting, including the burning of a glassmaker after he inhaled molten glass and the euthanizing of a paralyzed kitten with a poker. Leading up to the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins’s disembarkation from Southampton wharf on the sidewheeling steamer Leviathan, his father, fundamentalist preacher Theophilus Hopkins, leader of the Plymouth Brethren, carries an unusual gift. Wrapped in a funereal ribbon, his son’s caul — amniotic tissue that helmeted Oscar’s head at birth — allegedly guarantees protection from drowning. The presentation of a folk talisman precedes a strange group prayer and Oscar’s realization that he will never again see his father. The prophecy nudges the narrative toward a quixotic quest and Oscar’s death at age 25, ironically from drowning in a glass model of a church. Before his demise, he stuffs the caul in his jacket pocket, but puts no faith in a withered amulet intended to lessen his fear of water. At the height of a storm at sea off Africa’s western shore, he yanks the caul from his pocket and begs forgiveness for what he surmises is God’s retribution to a gambler, a model of fundamentalist literalism. Carey concludes the dramatic rolling of the ship with stewards hauling Oscar’s inert form to his quarters, an anti-heroic conclusion to an epiphany in his ministry.

THE NUCLEAR FAMILY AS GROTESQUES For the psycho-thriller The Tax Inspector (1991), Carey abandoned the psychological portraitures of Oscar and Lucinda and let his imagination leap over normalcy and plunder distressingly perverted terrain. A subtext compares the shattered family structure and wounded survivors to the abstract figures in Dutch artist Willem de Kooning’s “Woman” series. The expressionist paintings echo Carey’s depiction of dynamic household clashes, violent confessions and reevaluations of pedophilia and child abuse as sources of delusion and escapism. The novel creates its model of imbalance in Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, a matriarch who bashes herself for allowing her husband to build Catchprice Motors. In a lament for earlier dreams, she recalls, “I wanted little babies, and a farm. I wanted to grow things” (Carey, 1991, 163). Armed with gelignite and fuses, she initiates the destruction of a business that has become a lockup imbued with “the smell of rubber



radiator hoses, fan belts, oil, grease, petrol vapour,” symbols of the corruption of her children from Cacka’s lust (ibid., 60). Masking their sufferings, Frieda collects and displays a doll collection as a sterile compensation for the innocence her husband despoils by dressing Mort like an angel and molesting him. In a metaphoric resolution, Carey pictures Frieda’s demise in the blossom-shaped gouts of blood that drip from her wounds to the concrete foundations in recompense for knowing about Cacka’s pedophilia and remaining silent rather than defend her daughter and sons. Analyst Anthony J. Hassall characterizes the pictorial close-ups as a “gritty, police-court realism” (Hassell, 1994, 144). Guarded, even antagonistic summations of the novel preceded a stage of Carey’s career when fans deserted, questioned his intent, even reviled him. One analyst, Eden Liddelow, called the novel melodrama and sneered at the conclusion as “pretty ho-hum horror-show, trivialising Sydney’s vast social problems” (Liddelow, 1991, 97). Robert Towers, a critic for the New York Review of Books, remarked on reader bemusement at leaps of tone from comedy and amusing eccentricity to sentimental romance, depravity, and horror. He upholds the author’s ghoulish scenarios and apocalyptic conclusion: “These juxtapositions and disparities seem entirely justified in the updated gothic atmosphere Carey has created” (Towers, 1992, 35).

TRISTAN AND BRUDER For The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey recycles Gothic convention to emphasize jangling juxtapositions. As explained by Richard B. Woodward, a reviewer for the Village Voice, Carey “has a weakness for the grotesque and the picaresque and for extended, leisurely, 19th-century form” (Woodward, 1995, 59). In the words of April Bernard, reviewer for the New York Times Review of Books, Carey’s “densely populated novels zoom about from the macabre to the comic to the romantic to the raunchy to the horrific [with a] framing fairy-tale tone ... a world in which the familiar and the preposterous coexist,” an inclusive summary of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (Bernard, 1995, 44). The deformed title figure reared at the Feu Follet, “the seedy little theatre in Gazette Street,” by a troupe of actors and acrobats reaches an apotheosis during his first trip to the Sirkus (Carey, 1994, 404). His adoption of the mask of Bruder Mouse draws on the folk tradition of shapeshifting by transforming him into the expressive actor he longs to be. The addition of the costume of a robot and a voice modulator in the snout retrieves the handicapped 23-year-old from ignominy and draws an audience for his capers. In the clutches of Mrs. Peggy Kram, a 30-year-old agoraphobic and owner of five Sirkus Domes, he recedes into a dark room of her Saarlim City penthouse “in the incense-rich dark, listening to the noises of my breathing inside the mark, my squittering heart, my acid-wash belly,” a token of his unfamiliarity with seduction (Carey, 1994, 396). Carey energizes the plot resolution with parallel acts of stalking. A mock suspense supercharges Tristan’s imagination as a ghostly figure approaches and initiates Tristan’s first bedroom tryst. To ease the tone and atmosphere toward a week-long sexual fling, Carey slips away from Gothic convention to a sight gag of Tristan reveling in the fact that Jacqui equipped his mouse suit with a zipper. Simultaneously, Gabe Manzini, the spy and hitman for the Voorstand Intelligence Agency, tracks Tristan and intimidates Bill with threats of having him exported if Bill fails to reveal his son’s whereabouts to Agent Deveau, the eliminator, who bears the serio-comic name “of veal” in French. The dual danger reflects the status of “a corrupt and decaying city,” a hopeless place where “something bad [may] happen after dark” (Carey, 1994, 407, 408). In a review for the Times Literary Sup-



plement, novelist Jonathan Coe referred to traversing the bleak extremes as “a positively Spartan experience” (Coe, 1994).

NED KELLY AS DEMON In True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey imagines the shapeshifting of a young, semi-literate Irish-Australian farmer and horse wrangler into a demon. The alteration, according to critic Susan K. Martin, makes the protagonist “almost hyperreal” (Martin, 2004, 305). After the bedevilment of Edward “Ned” Kelly by Protestant English squatters and corrupt Victorian police, he turns to murder at Stringybark Creek on October 26, 1878, to stop a posse from killing him and from returning his corpse belted to a packhorse. Upon visiting his common-law wife, 19-year-old prostitute Mary Hearn, at Kelly’s Selection, Ned witnesses the distortion of his true self in a savage response to horse impounding and the jailing of his mother and relatives by Protestant authority figures. According to newspaper cartoonists, Ned is “the Devil the Horror of the Ages,” a Catholic pariah against whom the media cultivates fear and hatred as a form of anti-immigrant stereotyping (Carey, 2000, 368). Yellow journalism takes on the conventions of Gothic fiction with accounts of body mutilation of the corpses of Sergeant Kennedy and two other shooting victims. In the style of legend, the stories morph into long-lived frontier lore of the Australian outback. Shapeshifting turns the resolution into an outlandish face-off between the police and the Kelly gang, a re-enactment of underclass Australian humiliation. Carey explained to interviewer Donna Seaman the threat to the nation’s social dregs: “The convict seed is meant to be some sort of curse over the land, and we are meant to be cast out and second-rate, the descendants of convicts” (Seaman, 2005, 50). Before Aaron Sherritt conspires with traitor Joe Byrne to inform on Ned to Constables Hare and Nicolson, the gang leader already has in mind a crude armor formed from quarter-inch steel. For raw material, he needs the moldboards from plows, an invention of the Middle Ages for turning furrows and a symbol of Australia’s agrarian roots. Ned muses theatrically, “Thus did the dragon collect its scales,” a suggestion of the feats of St. George, the English slayer of monsters (Carey, 2000, 340). Like a seamstress with a dress pattern, Ned shapes shoulder and chestplates on stringybark with charcoal outlines of his “machine of war” (ibid., 347). To the posse behind Bald Hills, Ned chides the British imperialists for failing to recognize colonial ingenuity capable of manufacturing “our 1ST Monitor” (ibid., 341). Like the Greek voyager Jason sewing dragon’s teeth to raise an army, Maggie and Kate recruit men abused by the government and by jailers. Ned describes the volunteers’ hate-filled hearts as sources of courage and loyalty. To cap the somber muster, the men take a bible oath to rebel against unjust law. The match-up resembles the universal battle of good against evil found in the Koran and at the siege of Masada, a one-sided battle that Hebrew historian Flavius Josephus described in History of the Jewish War (A.D. 75)

CONTEMPORARY TERROR With Wrong about Japan (2005), a pseudo-nonfictional travelogue, Peter Carey turns to a 20th-century battle between good and evil forces. He holds up to scrutiny the dread of international combat and its effect on the most vulnerable of citizens. While introducing his 12-year-old son Charley to the artistry and marketing of Japanese manga and anime, the father suffers free-floating visions of the Pacific war of the mid–1940s, when Australia suffered occupation by Japanese troops. Threading in and out of perusals of animated



galaxy warfare, the father’s thoughts turn to the alienation of nerdy computer buffs from daily human contact and face-to-face friendships. A series of questions to experts about the purpose of giant robotic vehicles housing individual fighters raises Carey’s concerns over isolation and its effect on the immature psyche of kids like Charley and his Internet chatroom pal, 15-year-old Takashi. The insertion of an eyewitness account of Mr. Yazaki’s escape in 1945 at age 12 from a napalmed temple and his self-preservation from the firebombing of a Shitamachi ordnance foundry darkens the text with images of the strafing and dismemberment of fellow child laborers. Distraught at the lack of sanctuaries, Yazaki understandably returns to the burning capital to an end-of-the-world scenario, a standard feature of neo–Gothic sci-fi like Cormac McCarthy’s fearful father-and-son thriller The Road (2006). For effect, Carey balances a series of Gothic and comic word pictures. To the image of 3,000 casualties from the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, he appends the risqué posturing of Yuka, a cross-dressing anime fan who makes a ridiculous comparison between fear of public nudity and terror of werewolves. Situational ironies— Takashi’s embarrassment at being seen in his Mister Donut uniform, Charley’s amazement at the inn’s gushing wooden toilet, the introduction of 13-year-old Japanese boys to samurai regiments, a humorous reference to Charley’s mom’s loss of a penis, and an anatomical chart of slices that warriors make with their swords on condemned prisoners— jolly the tone to horrific extremes and back to normal curiosity. The father’s bumbling retreat to the airport for the flight home completes a broad mix of memories that he and Charley take home to Manhattan. The undercurrent of unease about children and their access to cartoonish warfare remains hanging in the aftermath, leaving to the reader’s surmise what Carey meant by the title Wrong about Japan. See also irony; superstition; symbolism; vengeance; violence

• Further readings Bernard, April. “Un-Efican Activities,” New York Review of Books 42, no. 15 (10 April 1995): 44 –48. Carey, Peter. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. Wrong about Japan. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2005. Coe, Jonathan. “Principia Efica,” London Review of Books 16, no. 18 (22 September 1994): 5. Duwell, Martin. “The Lie of the Land,” Overland 101 (1985): 92. Hassall, Anthony J. Dancing on Hot Macadam. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Hensher, Philip. “Heaven, Hell and Disneyland,” Guardian Weekly (23 October 1994): 28. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Liddelow, Eden. “New Model Carey,” Scripsi 7, no. 2 (1991): 93 –100. Martin, Susan K. “Dead White Male Heroes” in Imagining Australia, ed. Judith Ryan and Chris WallaceCrabbe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Seaman, Donna. Writers on the Air. Philadelphia: Paul Dry, 2005. Summers, Alison. “Candid Carey,” National Times (1 November 1985): 32–33. Towers, Robert. “House of Cards,” New York Review of Books (25 June 1992): 35. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59.

healing and health Whether the dissolution of Nile in “Peeling” (1974), the soul hunger of the author for his native land in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), or septicemia in a drug addict’s leg and chronic stomach upset in protagonist Che David Selkirk in His Illegal Self (2008), the state of health in Peter Carey’s characters identifies for the reader



emotional and spiritual afflictions. In Theft: A Love Story (2006), wry satire pictures the assistance of a retarded man, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, to Jackson, a campus guard at a retirement home during the “shit and wander” shift, a reprise of slack supervision of Alice Dalton’s Merry Lands asylum in Bliss (1981) (Carey, 2006, 157). To assess the warped values of pop culture in The Big Bazoohley (1995), Carey chose a non-threatening case of chicken pox as a means of sidelining Wilfred from the Perfecto Kiddo contest and of pushing the boy’s competition-crazed parents, George and Muriel Mifflin, to kidnap a ringer, Sam Kellow. A similar benign condition in Maggie Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) pictures her sitting on a rock cairn squeezing thistle sap on her warts, a folk treatment that succeeds by the action of polyphenols on a dermal virus. Less benign is Annie Kelly’s clicking knee joint, a suggestion of rickets, a disease of the malnourished. In an early story, “Peeling” (1972), a commentary on the writing process, the author discloses a sick spirit in Nile, the assistant to an abortion provider who bears the guilt of fetal souls. To assuage accumulated grief, she collects dolls; removes their clothing, hair, and eyes; and paints them white to neutralize any lingering humanity. Her one-person games of Monopoly suggest a shuffling of play money to atone for the stanching of potential lives in pregnant patients. In Carey’s second short fiction anthology, the apocalyptic fable “War Crimes” (1978) characterizes poor health as a symptom of a diseased mind. The protagonist, a punk dropout who rescues a TV dinner manufacturer from failure, bears the unhealthy complexion of a man sick in body and spirit. A proof of the Roman satirist Juvenal’s regard for “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body, Satire X, ca. A.D. 115), the accountant’s longing for sleep illustrates his decline from years of worrying that factory machines amputated his father’s hand. Physically and mentally phobic around the assembly line, the accountant gradually loses ground. The withering of his health, symbolic of the decadence of the American managerial class, leaves him too sapped to counter hordes of jobless who threaten to topple the corporation. Like the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the onslaught is irreversible.

SPIRITUAL WELFARE The tug of war in Oscar and Lucinda (1988) between Anglican morality and obsession illuminates motives and methods in the title characters. Manufacturer Lucinda Leplastrier, a gallant independent, relies on her agrarian roots for spunk and self-healing from the sorrow of orphaning. By risking her inheritance on a Sydney factory, Prince Rupert’s Glassworks, she extends the compulsion to gamble at cards to earning a living from industry, an uncommon venue for women of the 1860s. Her compassion for a hypersensitive outcast, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, a “sacked clergyman,” takes in his fear of water, evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting after his mother’s death (Carey, 1988, 290). With the compassion of a fellow orphan, Lucinda pities his depleted health, which declines after he loses his parish over scandal arising from unchaperoned card games with Lucinda at the vicarage of St. John’s, Randwick. He describes his addiction to gambling like the lure of opium, a foreshadowing of his subsequent forced dependence on laudanum. The drug soothes his fear of water during the transport of a glass church along the Bellinger River to Boat Harbour on the northern frontier of New South Wales. The evolving comradeship of the title characters bears elements of the Greek concept of Philios. The humiliation of defrocking leaves Oscar adrift, emotionally overtaxed, physically wracked by tics, and spiritually anxious and despondent. Out of guilt and sympa-



thy, Lucinda provides him shelter at her home in Balmain, New South Wales, where he lies abed sucking the sheet and making himself unobtrusive. In a lengthy letter to his English patron, the Reverend Hugh Stratton, Oscar summarizes his mental torment after five weeks’ hiatus of gambling as a “state of mad intoxication” (ibid., 285). To Lucinda, Oscar’s jumpy behavior — his “nervous scuttling about the house”—corroborates her choice of “Mr. Crab” as a suitable surname for him (ibid.). Ironically, the title figures alight on a single gamble to cure their insecurities. In the diagnoses of Neil David Isaacs, a licensed therapist treating pathological gamblers, the pair displays “distinct pathologies: the one (Lucinda) compelled to lose to attain a specific defined goal, the other (Oscar) obsessed with the action to avoid or contain the anxiety of his fears, foibles, and fidgets” (Isaacs, 2001, 96).

INTIMACY AND CHILDBIRTH In The Tax Inspector (1991), Carey impacts the bedroom intimacies of Jack Catchprice and Maria Takis with mutual concerns for safe sex, particularly as coitus applies to the welfare of an unborn child. Jack adds to his seduction the promise to use a condom, a hallmark of heterosexual relations in fiction of the 1990s. In the estimation of analyst Elizabeth Benedict, “Safe sex is both serious and playful in a way that accurately reflects the degree of danger these characters feel,” particularly as coitus applies to the unborn. (Benedict, 2002, 90 –91). In the third chapter, the couple awakens from a night of romance in Jack’s bed with concerns for their continued relationship. Out of a tender unease for Maria’s late-term pregnancy, Jack promises to get a blood test and post the result to her immediately by courier. The voluntary testing heightens Jack’s deliberate pose of “scrupulousness, integrity,” the qualities he chooses as a basis for a loving relationship with him as the provider for Maria and her baby (Carey, 1991, 215). The theme of motherhood and infancy dominates Carey’s next novel, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994). The title character’s shocking dwarfism at birth introduces anomalies— malformed jaw, clubbed feet, twisted ankles, pale skin, convoluted digestive tract, and “little muscle tissue to develop”— that threaten his comfort and survival (Carey, 1994, 152). His mother, actor-theater manager Felicity “Flick” Smith, abandons her reliance on “homeopaths, naturopaths and iridologists” to demand a “straight” doctor for her endangered son, a “child with Special Needs” (Carey, 1994, 62, 69). The first-person memoir of being held down at 11 months for surgery enhances the terror of a small child at inexplicable torture: “They had catheters up my porpoise, tubes down my throat, drips in my arms” and took samples of his body effluvia (ibid., 62). Seven months later, he endures marrow removal, which reduces the toddler to shrieks and pleas for mercy. Over his first decade, he weathers three cardiac surgeries to repair a hole in his heart. Wally Paccione, his father in residence, triggers a gag reflex by forcing medicine down Tristan’s throat. Felicity intervenes in the advice of “straight” physicians when they stray from curing Tristan to performing cosmetic surgery on his rag-doll lips. The medical gauntlet elicits pity in Tristan’s extended family, causing Vincent Theroux to murmur to “mon pauvre petit” (my poor little one) and the rest of the acting troupe to treat Tristan like “an amiable sort of pet” (ibid., 65, 71). At age ten, when Tristan returns to Mater Hospital against his will, the satire of medical cruelty takes on new menace and, ironically, new comfort. Dragged by male attendants to the casualty ward, the boy tries to escape once more. Kind-voiced nurses have the opposite effect on Tristan, who claims, “When people in a hospital tell you, ‘It’s OK,’



it’s the same as when they say you’re going to feel ‘some burning’ or ‘some pressure’ ... that will hurt like hell” (ibid., 137). The introduction of Tristan in the Burns Unit to a ring of handicapped people infuses him with a more mature reality, that he “was meant to be here” for plastic surgery to make him more normal (ibid., 154). Carey pictures Tristan transformed in an instant of acceptance into the willful runaway who “would not be looked at in that way” (ibid., 155). On a five-story slither down the hospital drainpipe, Tristan performs a miracle of self-healing by declaring himself, “Mark Antony, Richard the Third, the Phantom of the Rue Morgue,” his theatrical ego ideals (ibid.). The flash reverses as he nears the ground and sees in the eyes of spectators his monstrous self and hears himself called a “Phantome Drool” (ibid., 157). At the crux of Tristan’s disillusion and suffering, on January 20, 382 C.E., the 11-yearold discovers his mother’s corpse dangling from a green rope, the work of Voorstand Intelligence Agency insurgents seeking to end her left-wing candidacy for parliament. The boy retreats into an infancy of insecurity, grief, and fear of assassins. Another ad hoc member to his peripatetic family, Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson, rescues him with mothering methods— rocking, bathing, oiling, and amusement with face paint. Tristan calls her “a nurse, a nun, someone finally to look up to” (ibid., 235). In addition to picnics, she prays for his recovery and attempts to restore him to normalcy with a frolic on the beach. His tantrum, which concludes with a roll on broken glass in the back of a truck, illustrates who deeply wounded the assassination leaves him. Post-traumatic self-healing requires Tristan, at age 23, to repackage his midget body in a scruffy Bruder Mouse suit and to project his talent and ebullience through mimed antics, sexual dalliance, and vocal storytelling enhanced by a high-tech modulator. Reclaimed from despair and protracted infantilism, Tristan abandons the rodent suit and sets his own path into the future.

LIFE ON THE LAM The hard riding and dodging in Carey’s frontier epic, True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), subjects Edward “Ned” Kelly and Harry Power, his mentor in crime, to questionable diet, little rest, and constant surveillance. A victim of bowel complaint, Harry relies on Ned Kelly’s gathering of blackberry root, a tannin-rich herbal curative in ancient China, Greece, and Rome revered for curing bladder incontinence, bloody gums, dysentery, hemorrhoids, impotence, and kidney disease. Subsequent makeshift treatments for gunshot wounds, chronic intestinal pain and diarrhea, and respiratory illness require cautery on Dan’s shoulder, opium for Joe’s sneezing and itchy legs and gut spasms, and a eucalyptus croup tent for baby George’s mucus-choked chest and fever. Taking the time to let Mary and George rest and recuperate at their camp at Sandy Flat in the King Valley, Ned declares it necessary to “keep watch over my family” (Carey, 2000, 283). In the depths of despair, he sprawls on a rock and bathes his wrists and hands in the King River, a treatment “like a poultice drawing out all the ancient poisons” (ibid., 292). The same cold water soak lowers George’s fever just as similar dousings once treated Ellen Kelly’s children. Reprising the rigors of running from vengeance, Carey returns to issues of mental instability in My Life as a Fake (2003), a novel replete with dark obsessions. He imbues the Malayan jungle with biota nurtured in fetid jungle humidity and urban filth. The pursuer, Christopher Chubb, suffers a string of discomforts, insect bites, fungi, ulcerations, hunger, and assaults and views his tormentor, Bob McCorkle, as a relentless tapeworm. After years of mental misery working at a Sydney ad agency, Chubb slips back into Kuala Lumpur to view the sufferings of his enemy, who lies in a curtained bed like “a grub in



its cocoon” (Carey, 2003, 252). Symptoms of Graves disease — sweating, a coppery odor, jerky eye movements, emaciation, and a phlegmy cough — prove that Chubb’s infliction of poison by a stab to McCorkle’s buttocks set off a series of affronts to health later diagnosed as leukemia. For the author’s research, he chose Malay Poison and Charm Cures, which explains how poisoners stain only half a fruit. Posing as rescuer, Chubb bears the antidote, propylthiouracil protected by a hunk of dry ice. Like the mad scientists of filmdom, he bears the medicine through a crowd of Malaysians who marvel at the clouds of carbon dioxide exuding from the box. After the coroner’s examination, superstitious Malays claim that Chubb was a ghost who “sucked the blood from Mr. Bob” (ibid., 258). See also abortion; madness; mothering; superstition

• Further readings Anderson, Sam. “Losing His Voices,” New York Magazine (10 February 2008). Benedict, Elizabeth. The Joy of Writing Sex. New York: Owl Books, 2002. Carey, Peter. The Big Bazoohley. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1995. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Coad, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” World Literature Today 70, no. 3 (summer 1996): 757–578. Isaacs, Neil David. You Bet Your Life: The Burdens of Gambling. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. Rees, Jasper. “A Writer’s Life: Peter Carey,” Daily Telegraph (17 September 2003).

His Illegal Self Carey packs into his psychological thriller/love story His Illegal Self (2008) the terror of international abduction and connections to radical bombers who bungle a child kidnap plot. In the assessment of Michiko Kakutani, reviewer for the New York Times, the pell-mell episodes follow the style of Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda (1988), True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), My Life as a Fake (2003), and Theft: A Love Story (2006), which “tend to feature improbable undertakings, sudden reversals of fortune and elaborately manufactured or forged identities” (Kakutani, 2008). Woven into a mystic recreation of the Australian outback are autobiographical elements of the author’s life, particularly his retreat to a commune. Meeting in spring 1973 on East Sixty-second Street in midtown Manhattan, seven-year-old protagonist Che David Selkirk and newly hired Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, a hippie he misidentifies as his mother, bond beneath a welter of verbal flak from Grandma Phoebe Daschle Selkirk. The encounter poses what James Wood, a reviewer for the New Yorker, deems a “hive of misunderstandings” (Wood, 2008). A patrician WASP, the elderly woman, the child’s legal guardian, hurls angry gibes at Communism and the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) counterculture, a hypocritical radical front and terrorist cell that critic James Ley, writing for The Age, describes as “self-important and ruthless” (Ley, 2008). Carey sorts out the three-way encounter in favor of family affection: “The boy was deaf, in love,” a sense lapse that betrays his longing for birth parents (Carey, 2008, 7). The contrasting worlds of grandmother and mother divide on Lexington Avenue, where Grandma hails a cab and his pseudo-mother, an “SDS goddess” leaping like a kan-



garoo, teaches the boy to run and duck under the subway turnstile to sneak a free ride (ibid., 182). The flight from Grandma introduces Che to “real life” over a route by subway and Trailways bus to a flophouse in Philadelphia, then by air to an Oakland motel and the Best Western in Seattle, where Dial has Joel the barber cut and dye Che’s hair black as a disguise. To the adventurous child, the buzz cut is a form of liberation, a connection with the hippie alternate lifestyle of the 1970s. With $30,000 in SDS funds, the pair set out to San Francisco and Honolulu and reach landfall at a squat in Sydney before striking out for Brisbane (ibid., 15). Along the way, they encounter the rogues, grotesques, deadbeats, and ragtag hangers-on of the counterculture, marginal figures lacking in sociability, one of whom is Che’s unidentified birth father, David Rubbo. Like a homing device, the boy gathers hints at his identity: “He had to listen through the wall — his history in whispers, brushing, scratching on the windowpane,” a Gothic image fraught with unspecified terrors he has yet to encounter in the flesh (ibid., 28).

MOTHERING ON THE LAM For heavy drama, Carey sends his pair of runaways north from Brisbane past Caboolture toward Yandina, Queensland, to ride out a cyclone in a trailer park. The weather parallels Che’s apprehensions, “punched and hammered so unpredictably, with such force, it seemed this thing might really kill them” (ibid., 51). The tumbling shelter, like an anchorless womb, jolts its passengers, causing Dial to murmur mom-fashion, “We’re OK, baby,” a solace that becomes her mantra (ibid., 52). Extending the impression of tender regard for innocence, Carey presents Che a kitten, which he dubs “Buck,” an emblem of strength from the dog hero of Jack London’s survivalist novella The Call of the Wild (1903). To end the harangue over Buck’s endangerment of birds at Crystal Community, Dial ties a bell to his neck, a dramatization of Aesop’s fable “Belling the Cat” (ca. 575 B.C.), originally called “The Mice in Council,” a satire on the triviality and non sequiturs of the outpost’s council meeting. Insubstantial shelter parallels the anxiety of a child far from home and from familiar relatives. Che rejects the “crooked hippie house” that Dial provides for them, a looseboarded hovel lighted by a propane lantern and stabilized with blackbutt timbers in a style that Carey calls “alternative architecture,” a makeshift hideout suited to the sensuous, humid rainforest (ibid., 172, 162). Enhancing the discomfort are yellow-tinged piped-in water and a kitchen shelf that Dial nails up on a slant. On a visit to survivalist Trevor Dobbs’s compound, Dial and Che travel a perilous track past a burned-out Volvo in a tree and arrive at “a bit of gray among the big trees, a sort of nothing” (ibid., 147). The third member of the ad hoc family lives on the dodge from arrest for shoplifting, petty theft, and concealing a gelignite charge to ward off police. Carey extends the “nowhere” feeling with details of Trevor’s theft of a hay shed on December 31, 1967, and his transport of its dismantled materials in a “borrowed” truck (ibid.). Reassembling the parts on a concrete and dirt floor, he creates a “lair, a compound ... a barn, a hut, a garage, a fort,” a rambling description suited to a raffish renegade lifestyle (ibid.). See also Selkirk, Che; Selkirk genealogy

• Further readings Anderson, Sam. “Losing His Voices,” New York Magazine (10 February 2008). Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. Kakutani, Michiko. “Dickensian Happenings for a Child of the ’60s” New York Times (5 February 2008). Ley, James. “Review: His Illegal Self,” The Age (28 January 2008).



Schillinger, Liesl. “Child of the Revolution,” New York Times Book Review (10 February 2008). Wood, James. “Notes from Underground,” New Yorker (3 March 2008).

Hopkins, Oscar As scraggly and fidgety a character as George Eliot’s myopic weaver Silas Marner or Washington Irving’s schoolteacher Ichabod Crane, the co-protagonist of Oscar and Lucinda (1988), the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, is the postmodern motley fool, a naïf whom analyst M. D. Fletcher identifies as “the innocent abroad” (Fletcher, 1994, 145). Oscar suffers a quarter century of alienation and isolation from missed opportunities to share thoughts with others. Myopic and “tangle-toed,” Oscar is a girlish figure of fun who ducks such taunts as “the little botanist in skirts” (Carey, 1988, 308, 162). Like other of Carey’s clergy, he exhibits a blend of religious fervor and worldly vice, which takes shape in childhood with the eating of Christmas pudding and a game of hopscotch as a form of divination. At a breach with his beloved father Theophilus, an evangelical preacher for the Plymouth Brethren, Oscar incurs a parental smack to the head and a seizure of his neck. The attack compromises the boy’s enjoyment of the yuletide holiday, a symbol of his abrupt and lasting disavowal of a religious fundamentalism and of the self-involved father whom a domestic condemns as a “black loveless bastard” (ibid., 12). Oscar’s eccentric interpretations of scripture fill his life with panic. The narrative depicts him learning the combinations and permutations of gambling from racetrack touts. Out of guilt, he conceals from his English benefactors, the Reverend Hugh and Mrs. Betty Stratton, the source of ready cash. Further degrading betting as a monetary investment is the revelation of his choice of “a filly named Nigger Princess,” evidence of the racism at the heart of British imperialism (ibid., 123). Despite the ignominy of a Devon-born student of Oriel College, Oxford, gambling for religious profit, he registers his illicit activities in a coded journal and files his ticket stubs for future reference. He spends the money on “holy profligacy,” including his education and the parish poor-box, but he continues to deny vanity and to dress in second-hand clothing, “a symbol of his incorruptibility” (ibid., 153). By the time he settles on Oxbridge Road, London, and joins the staff of John Colville’s School for Boys on Greyhound Row in northwestern London, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins fills 16 clothbound volumes with horse racing details from 525 races. Melody Clutterbuck, fiancée of Oscar’s schoolmate Ian Wardley-Fish, the future curate of Hammersmith, dismisses the awkward loner as a “silly little Evangelical”— a “chicken-necked madman” with a “praying-mantis head” (ibid., 161). His actions prove her correct. Wracked by fear of moral corruption, he bites his bed sheet to combat a frenzy for vice that impels him to the dog pits on the Sabbath to watch the killing of rats. In view of his duplicity toward the Strattons, at age 22, Oscar views his soul-sickness as vile. He demonizes gambling as “a monster that must be fed,” even though “he would only bet for a proper godly purpose” (ibid., 151, 150). His plan for redemption is to travel to Australia in 1865 aboard the sidewheeling steamer Leviathan to serve the Church Missionary Society in New South Wales. Carey creates irony out of a subtextual comparison of Oscar in the ship’s belly to Jonah in the whale. The claustrophobic images prefigure Oscar’s horrific drowning in a see-through church, a symbol of the sham of Church of England dogma.



OSCAR IN SERVICE Oscar’s compulsive behaviors impact his work as a water-phobic Anglican minister. At dinner aboard ship, he prides himself on being a peacemaker. His dilemma compels him to hear Lucinda Leplastrier’s confession — an “act of love”— while forcing him to remain on a red settee on the promenade deck out of sight of the sea (ibid., 195). While his dinner companions rush to view phosphorescence from the surf, he retreats to his settee “like a sad and ugly creature in a fairytale, one for ever exiled from the light” (ibid., 208). Because of his self-concealment from views of the waves, he feels more awkward than usual, a “queer bird, a stork, a mantis, a gawk, an Odd Bod,” self-abuse that further undermines his self-esteem (ibid., 211). Unlike Lucinda, the autonomous heiress and model “New Woman,” Oscar remains a maladroit puppet of religious hierarchy in the person of Bishop Dancer. Oscar becomes what critic Kirsten Holst Petersen terms “a pawn in Bishop Dancer’s power game” (Petersen, 1991, 111). Upon losing his post at Randwick parish in Sydney for gambling for money with a female cardplayer, Oscar accepts Lucinda’s efforts to reclaim him from poverty and shame at her Balmain cottage at Whitfield’s Farm. As he heals from deep depression and the effects of loss, she delights in his renewed energy, but admits that he remains “slightly dangerous, excitable, even self-absorbed” (Carey, 1988, 306). His virtual incarceration at his boyhood home in Devonshire, self-closeting at Oriel College, and a subsequent desk job at James d’Abbs’s clerks room prefigure his eventual imprisonment in laudanum during the pre–Easter mission to the Reverend Dennis Hasset’s compound at Boat Harbour on the Bellinger River.

THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB In a tumble of perceptions, Oscar senses his downfall. He is, according to Margaret Harris, a critic for Southerly, a lost cause, “an organism unfitted to survive,” a statement linking his tragedy to victims of Charles Darwinism (Harris, 1989, 113). In the months preceding his death, he views Jeffris’s boat carriage as “a gallows or a set of stocks,” a mental torment waiting to seize and undo Oscar (Carey, 1988, 363). He slips into a mental Gethsemane and continues to “bet on goodness” (ibid., 364). Upon setting out for the interior in sixteen tumbril-like wagons, he attempts to impose on the frontier his philosophical views of benevolence and truth. He idealizes his mission as that of the Magi, who carried treasures from the east to honor the Christ Child. Failure dogs Oscar like a shadow. Frustrated in his goals and obsessive to the extreme, he confronts the greed and land lust of the private settler, an expedition during which he “had eaten snake and played the missionary” (ibid., 400). He dies in what literary analyst Luke Strongman calls “mock-sainthood,” a drowning death that, unlike the sea-doom of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), pits a human malefactor against a man-made evil, a travesty of spirituality. Paradoxically, in his final hours, he sires a male offspring before nature swallows him up. In the view of critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, the depressing conclusion suits the terrain: “To be Australian is to be short-circuited by feelings of grievance and guilt” (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). Unlike the virginity of Lucinda, the survivor in the great gamble, Oscar’s parenthood sets in motion the preservation of their mutual story. See also Hopkins-Chadwick genealogy; Leplastrier, Lucinda; Leplastrier-Fisher genealogy; Oscar and Lucinda



• Further readings Carey, Peter. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. Fletcher, M. D. “Peter Carey’s Postcolonial Australia II: Oscar and Lucinda: Misunderstanding, Victimisation and Political History,” Australian Political Ideas. ed. Geoff Stokes. New South Wales: University of New South Wales, 1994. Harris, Margaret. “Eminent Victorians?,” Southerly 49 (1989): 109 –113. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008). Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Petersen, Kirsten Holst. “Gambling on Reality,” Australian Literary Studies 15 (1991): 107–116. Strongman, Luke. The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

Hopkins-Chadwick genealogy The series of family tragedies that forms the narrative of the unnamed great-grandson in Oscar and Lucinda (1988) teems with false starts, contradictions, and ongoing challenge during the Christianizing of the Australian outback. Gillian Beer, an Oxford lecturer, posits that the name “Oscar Hopkins” pairs the unlikely duo of Oscar Wilde and Gerard Manley Hopkins, the London wit with the austere Jesuit poet. The juxtaposition gives new meaning to the oddities of the Hopkins lineage. Theophilus=mother second cousin grandfather grandparents Hopkins | died of | deceased deceased preacher | cancer Hugh Stratton=Betty | | of the | foster parents father=mother Plymouth | hanged himself | dressmaker Brethren | d. 1866 | drowned off b. 1827 | | | Bellingen Heads ----------------------------| | 12/25/1858 | | | | | Percy Sarah Reverend Oscar=/=Miriam Mason Chadwick=Johnny J. P. Hopkins governess Chadwick 1841 –1866 b. 1840 d. 1863 of Anglican missionary | snakebite drowned at age 25 father=mother chemist | | ----------------------------| | | sister brother Bob=wife b. 1920s

See also Hopkins, Oscar; Leplastrier, Lucinda; Leplastrier genealogy; Oscar and Lucinda

• Further readings Beer, Gillian. “The Reader’s Wager: Lots, Sorts and Futures,” Essays in Criticism 40, no. 2 (1990): 99 –123. Carey, Peter. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988.

humor For the sake of social commentary, Peter Carey mines the varied lodes of comedy, producing what reviewer David Griffin calls “hardcover vaudeville” (Griffin, 1996, 14). In an example from the boisterous thriller/love story His Illegal Self (2008), the seven-year-



old abductee realizes his abductor’s crime in stealing him from his Grandma Phoebe Daschle Selkirk. In the understanding of Che David Selkirk, the pair is “on the lamb,” a pun that implies his naiveté and innocence of wrongdoing (Carey, 2008, 29). The contrast of seedy felons and innocents on the run returns at Remus Creek Road in the delight of James “Adam” Adamek, a scraggly Aussie known as Jimmy Seeds, who conducts Che on a tour of a 14-acre farm four miles outside Yandina at the Crystal Community. Adam and the other renegades in the colony are, according to critic James Ley of The Age, “mumbojumbo spouters, bumbling and ineffectual” in settling the minor issue of a kitten in their commune (Ley, 2008). To Anna “Dial” Xenos, a newly hired English professor at Vassar, the unkempt property is “the asshole of the earth” (Carey, 2008, 103). The tangle of wild tomatoes, fingerling bananas, and a fusty water system escapes Adam’s eyes, which are so myopic that he uses binoculars to examine his property. The near-sighted rube epitomizes the Queensland redneck who undervalues the fecundity and promise of rural property, a topic turned to ribald extremes on T. Coraghessan Boyle’s Drop City (2003). Liam Davison, in a review for The Australian, skewers Adam and his ilk as parochial “B-list hippies ... self-serving fools and paranoid petty criminals” who “speak like Hobbits” (Davison, 2008). The author favors deft turns of phrase, in print and in conversation. He undercuts his own profession with the stereotype of the literati: “I’m a writer, and you either go to the gym or you go to lunch” (Wyndham, 2006). With candid introspection, he explained to analyst Philip Gourevitch the impetus toward the comic: “I am a pessimist. But my pessimism has an indecent amount of energy and humor in it,” a contention he proved in the mixed topics and tone of 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001) (Gourevitch, 2007, 528). A shield to parental concerns for his son Charley, the comic comebacks in Wrong about Japan (2005) balance the telling moments in which Carey overlays a family vacation in Tokyo with glimpses of wholesale immolation during World War II. Although Charley is safe from world cataclysm, the author pictures him sucked down into the charybdis of nihilism. The seductive power of print manga and electronic anime widens the foreseeable gap between father and son as the teen years loom for Charley. On the final day of their jaunt, Carey closes out the adventure with a hollow chuckle, an insider joke about misperception that applies to Japanese culture as well as adolescence.

COMEDY AND CHARACTERIZATION Perceptive criticism detects Carey’s humanistic comedy. Paul Gray, a critic for Time Magazine, summarizes: “Carey specializes in comic compulsiveness, the obsessions that lonely people in underpopulated landscapes create to give some center to their lives” (Gray, 1992, 55). He introduces a ghastly comedy in an early short story, “The Fat Man in History” (1974), a two-toned fable that opens on a Laurel-and-Hardy scenario before morphing into a horrific barbecue of Fantoni, the leader of six men sharing a dilapidated rental property. Of his sources of black comedy, the author explained to interviewer Janet Hawley, “I try to write like a cartoonist — I look at things that exist, and push them to their ludicrous or logical extension” (Hawley, 1981, 26). He concludes that hard shoves into the beyond result in uniqueness and originality, for example, the “Best Pet Shop in the World” in Illywhacker (1985), a display venue for Australia’s eccentrics—“lifesavers, inventors, manufacturers, bushmen, aboriginals” (Carey, 1985, 443, 599). For maximum jest, he passes ownership from the American firm Gulf & Western to Mitsubishi, thus satirizing Australia’s economic bondage to the United States and Japan.



For Bliss (1981), his first published novel, Carey creates drollery with animal images. When protagonist Harry Stanthorpe Joy’s colleague, Account Director Alex Duval, is misidentified as Harry and committed to Alice Dalton’s corrupt Merry Lands mental asylum, the patient enjoys a respite from wife Martha Duval. In a dream picturing a cat devouring the leg of a crayfish that claws its fur, Alex puzzles over the identity of the figures: “It was a portrait of his marriage. Who was the cat? Who was the crayfish?” (Carey, 1981, 75). Like the scorpions tormenting a murderer’s mind in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (ca. 1603) or the ragged claws scuttling the sea floor in T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917), the pincers suggest a reciprocal misery. To Alex, the mutual giving and receiving of hurt becomes normal marital payback. The author adapts a stale joke about the elephant that sits on a car, the type of salesman’s anecdote mastered by con artist Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker. When a circus pachyderm reputedly crushes the hood of Harry Joy’s Fiat, the dialogue passes the event to two observers, Aldo, the waiter at the Milanos Restaurant, and a circus employee, Billy de Vere, a name derived from the Latin for “true.” Billy describes the accident as “life imitating bullshit” (Carey, 1981, 70). Because police officers Box and Hastings reject the story as fiction, Harry makes up a parable about Little Titch, a spur-of-the-moment lie that gains Harry’s release. Hastings dismisses the investigation with an unprofessional “you better piss off now” (Carey, 1981, 79). The author uses the episode as a postmodern musing on the comparative worth of truth and fiction.

TIMING AND VIGOR Carey’s comedic skills produce scenarios that require a full parsing. In Illywhacker, he plaits pathos with broad humor based on the shifty character of Herbert Peter Badgery and the assorted picaros he encounters. After his departure in 1947 from a ten-year term in Rankin Downs Gaol to his son Charles’s house on Pitt Street in Sydney, Herbert views the “Best Pet Shop in the World,” a model of exotic birds and reptiles (Carey, 1985, 443). Significant to the satire is a motley collection that critics Ronald Blaber and Marvin Gilman declare “extraneous to the accepted northern hemisphere wildlife of Western society ... a sideshow entertainment for wealthy tourists” (Blaber and Gilman, 1990, 58). Herbert, a scamster in good spirits, displays his aging body as part of the show. He winks at Leah Goldstein to share the joke of their sleeping apart at the behest of Charles. His health compromised by cell time, Herbert catalogs the nighttime miseries that tune up like orchestral instruments: “First the low grumbling oboe of my back, then the violin sciatica in my leg. Teeth and kidneys arranged themselves and I greeted my afflictions by name” (Carey, 1985, 523). The acceptance of old age miseries, like sounds from an orchestra, suggests how Herbert lives to 139 years. The alternation of jocularity with pathos in the Booker Prize–winning novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988) offers insight into religious symbolism and extreme Gothic behaviors. Theophilus Hopkins, father of protagonist Oscar Hopkins, earns the sobriquet “theoholius” for his evangelical posturing, which leads him to damn novels as Satan’s words (Carey, 1988, 49). To his rude question about personal salvation of cook Lucy Millar, he receives a snippy “mind yourself ” (ibid.). After his son Oscar develops handicapping skills, he spends his four years in theological training at Oriel College, Oxford, filling 16 notebooks with horseracing data. Carey quips that the collection overshadows the expertise of Pittsburgh Phil, the punnish nickname of American gambler and track speculator George E. Smith (ibid., 148). The revelation of Oscar’s compulsion to gamble occurs in a below-



deck discussion of laborers on the Leviathan, where a dialect exchange describes Lucinda Leplastrier as ruined by close and constant association with Oscar. Master Smiggins personalizes the gossip: “Course I bloody compreyvous. I got a sister, ain’t I?” (ibid., 220).

HUMOR AND RESOLUTION The Oscar and Lucinda relationship explodes romantic formulae into a parody of traditional courtship mocked by games of chance. At a climactic point, a parishioner’s trespass and voyeurism infringes on Oscar’s privacy at the vicarage. Mr. Judd, the peeping tom, finds himself and his stout wife invited through the window, a sight gag that follows them into the parlor. The author falls back on his alter ego, a great grandson who warns the reader of a peeping tom’s discovery of gambling: “Well, you know what he saw” (ibid., 260). The discussion of Mr. Judd’s snooping caroms out of logic as the subject of Oscar’s gambling intersperses with charges of dressing like a scarecrow and failing to schedule the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Lucinda gathers up shards of sense to reach a sensible conclusion: the Judds are rude and uncivilized by committing a sin worse than the vice of gambling for money. With “patrician arrogance,” she dismisses the intruders from Oscar’s vicarage the same way they arrived — through a window (ibid., 266). For the shy vicar, Lucinda’s mocking laugh, even more than inhaling cigarette smoke in mixed company, reveals her mischievous qualities. Her residence with Oscar at her cottage in Balmain leads to an amicability “as near to a sister as [she is] likely to get” (ibid., 305). The relationship requires camaraderie, the sharing of housekeeping chores, and abstinence from gambling, which she fantasizes as a “sweet consummation of their comradeship” (ibid.). Carey’s humor can be obtuse. From a scenario of flight and double dealing, it is difficult to extract the misconception in Jack Maggs (1997) that Richard Cosway’s portrait of King George IV in youth is Henry Phipps. Mordant humor overlays English royalty with the priggishness that has altered Phipps from a charitable four-year-old orphan to a full-grown snob. While fleeing in a boat down the Severn River with Tobias “Toby” Oates, Jack jettisons the author’s ink and quill and forces him to burn the spurious beginnings of The Death of Maggs. The idealized likeness of Henry, itself a laughable hoax, enhances the pathos of trickery that lures Jack back to London at the risk of hanging to reunite with a duplicitous foster son. Jack’s connection of Henry with the British Empire deepens at this first view of his foster son in uniform, that of the 57th Foot Regiment, the unit that brutalized transportees at Morton Bay, New South Wales. The coming to knowledge triggers sense impressions of institutionalized torture — the smell of rotten meat and the feel of leather bindings on wrists and ankles before the lash.

BLACK COMEDY In a shift from his previous tone and style in Bliss (1981), Carey attacks family perversion in The Tax Inspector (1991), a hyper-real saga that critic Bill Marx terms “a hyperbolic vision springing from a social conscience betrayed” (Marx, 1992, 346). For satire on yuppies, Hare Krishnas, and self-help study tapes, Carey sets his absurdist fiction in Franklin Heights, a model of suburban sprawl southeast of Sydney, New South Wales. Of its tone, he stated to interviewer Donna Seaman that “humor really was the book’s life force,” a reference to such scenes as Gia Katalanis and Maria Takis’s bumbling attempts to override a tax office computer, Granny’s hospitality to the tax inspector, and Benny’s midwifery (Seaman, 2005, 55). Critic Paul Kane corroborates the author’s classification



of genre by describing the novel’s mordant humor as “almost a parody of a dysfunctional, repressive family” of social defectives. In a burst of Gothic chaos, they collapse within a self-generated apocalypse fueled by sticks of gelignite planted around the periphery of Catchprice Motors and activated by the family’s petrol tanks (Kane, 1993, 520). Chief among Carey’s methods is visual incongruity, especially the failing matriarch, 86-year-old Granny Frieda McClusky Catchprice, prizing her bride doll collection and her purse stash of gelignite with fuses. Her grubby, inept grandson, 16-year-old Benjamin “Ben-Ben” Catchprice, ricochets from comic diversion to grotesquerie by abandoning his Judas Priest T-shirt and Doc Martens combat boots for a punk haircut, bath, tattoo of angel wings, and a $300 silk suit meant to transform him into a parodied stereotype of cartoons, the slick car salesman. To assure his self-reclamation from diffidence and shame, he invests $495 in a self-help program, the cassettes Actualizations and Affirmations, which provide him with catchphrases to launch him in a respectable career as super-salesman and family savior. A take-off on Dale Carnegie’s bestselling How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), the audio propaganda falls on sterile soil too perverted to see the logic of courtesy and self-confidence. Overriding Benny’s pathetic attempt at advancement is his retreat to a hellish cellar glowing red from electric radiators that illuminate the cover of the Dictionary of Angels, a stash of pornographic literature, and scrawled names of angels, an inchoate protest of his family’s censure. Like the bunker in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952), Benny’s moldy dive under the lube bay rescues him from threat, specifically, from “Old Kissy Lips,” his pedophiliac father, Mort Catchprice (Carey, 1991, 104). The boy’s flight from molestation takes on disturbing overtones of a return to the womb, an ironic reference to his mother Sophie’s failed rescue of the boy and her disappearance from the family after she shoots Benny in the shoulder. In his suffocating lair, he plots revenge against the company’s new salesman and against Maria Takis, the tax auditor who threatens to disclose irregularities in the family’s business. Carey turns the uterine image into a new beginning after Maria gives birth to a premature son on Benny’s sofa and murders Benny by smashing her abductor in the forehead with a tire iron.

PLAYFUL SATIRE Using a fantasy setting suggestive of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1735), Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) overlays humor with pathos and Gothic terror. In the words of Richard B. Woodward, a reviewer for the Village Voice, the author is a “genial soul whose comic tone often oxidizes on the page into something dark and strange. His seriousness sneaks up on you” (Woodward, 1995, 59). He introduces the text with mock scholarship and invents an Ur-text, Jacqueline Bardwell’s A Long Way from Anywhere, a jest skewering Australia’s isolated location in the South Pacific. A footnote on the first page, a parody of supercilious scholarship, refers the reader to an introduction to the 18 archipelagos of Efica as described in “Efica: from penal colony to welfare state,” a spurious reference work (Carey, 1994, 5). He darkens the jest with a source, “Nez Noir University Press,” which translates the island name of “black nose,” an allusion to the black aborigines whom imperialists displaced (ibid.). Posing as a teacher, the title figure refers to juggling and tap-dancing as classroom methods, then reveals that, however amusing, his antics conceal a broken heart. The glossary adds more touches of humor, as in the translation of “penis” and “cigarette” as “baton” and “cancerette” (ibid., 417). At a suspenseful moment in the life of ex-con and stage man-



ager Wally Paccione, Tristan’s foster father, Carey inserts another wry dig after Wally proposes a stage act of toucans: “This is Efica. We’ve got to be realistic” (ibid., 221). A pun in mid-text —“Mammon became my maman”— oscillates between tragedy and humor to express the orphaned Tristan’s need to manipulate stocks to replace the security of a loving parent (ibid., 233).

SITUATIONAL JEST Carey makes the most of situational irony as commentary on individuals and officialdom. In Theft: A Love Story (2006), he envisions the ouster of a renter from a property adulterated by a septic tank too close to a riverbank. With plotted puns, the protagonist mutters, “Why would I give a shit? It wasn’t mine” (Carey, 2006, 53). In a review for the London Telegraph, critic Siddhartha Deb refers to such bursts of comedy as an “existential muzzle-flash ... the braggart talk showing us the provincial thrusting his way through the urban world” (Deb, 2006). In creating a different professional scenario in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey relies on rural deadpan, convict sarcasm, and the muscular cynicism of seasoned outlaws. In his ingenuous boyhood, legendary highwayman Edward “Ned” Kelly puzzles over the manner in which his mother receives outlaw Harry Power and other male callers and how she profits so steadily as a laundress. Upon first view of Harry’s hideout on Bullock Creek in the Wombat Ranges, Ned, then 14 years of age, refers to the “sour evidence of mice who have found food and blankets and think themselves in a position to begin a family,” a subtextual comment on the poverty of Irish Catholic immigrants in Australia (Carey, 2000, 78). After months of association with Harry, the boy faces his first coach robbery during which threadbare passengers complain about mistreatment. Ned wearies of his mentor’s blather and confides to the reader “his little speech about how he were forced to crime I will not trouble you with it here” (ibid., 85). Upon the boy’s arrest by Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, Ned chortles, “He begged me cooperate so I sent him cooperating against the wall” (ibid., 225). Another wealth of humor, anti-church satire abounds, as in flies on meat “as thick as priests at a wedding feast” (ibid., 219). Blasphemy takes the form of hyperbole following Ned’s bare knuckle fight against Isaiah “Wild” Wright. Ned’s win earns him community honors as “Jesus Christ Almighty even Father Duffy come to worship you” (ibid., 189). The genial banter undercuts an historic injustice from Protestant Victorian police who profile Catholic immigrants as thieves and grifters. While Carey builds to an inevitable death scene, he dots in blasphemy and sexual slang as relievers of textual tension and unremitting pacing. While Ned romances 17-yearold Mary Hearn, his common-law wife, the police set on the rest of the gang, who black their faces with still-glowing stove ash that burns skin in their haste to create a disguise. They set the scene for pell-mell comedy by grabbing dresses from a woman’s closet and ripping them open to become “Sons of Sieve,” a fictional reference to the Irish tradition of outlaw crossdressing. The woman’s anger takes both verbal and physical flight, resulting in swacks with a stick of stovewood and “all those curses Irish women use when they wish not to offend their Saviour” (ibid., 278). On the upswing from a hard night, Carey returns to a sight gag with a squib from the Melbourne Argus picturing the police mistakenly capturing a possum they thought was the Kelly gang. The mockery of authorities in the media illustrates the use of wit and ridicule by the underclass as an accessible weapon that costs them nothing.



DIALECT WIT In My Life as a Fake (2003), Carey flourishes at the picaresque, his specialty. To ridicule the snobbery and self-delusion of the literary elite, he creates a manic quest novel bent on unmasking the patricians and poseurs who authenticate quality writing. Terrence Rafferty, a critic for the New York Times Book Review, observes that the author “has demonstrated, time and again, a congenital aversion to predictability, a considerable affection for oddballs and scoundrels,” including storyteller Harry Joy in Bliss (1981) and scammer Herbert Badgery in Illywhacker (1985) (Rafferty, 2003, 12). To maintain momentum, Carey ramps up the pace in the style of cops chasing Ned Kelly, a rhythm that Rafferty calls “that impatient, get-on-with-it quality, the giddy sense that the novel is making itself up as it goes along [in] ... a desperate, almost feral sort of urgency” (ibid.). Tom Templeton adds his own delight in “the chaos of fiction and its ability to crash through the defences of prudes” (Templeton, 2004, 18). For hooks into the reader’s imagination, Carey relies on mystery, suspense, teasing, and melodrama. The cast, comprised of liars, crazed killers, and connivers, outdoes itself at trickery, jealousy, and petty backbiting. The duplicity of writer-seducer John Slater takes subtle form in the observation by Australian poet Christopher Chubb that John drinks coffee like “some maharoger” (Carey, 2003, 140). The mispronunciation of “maharajah” combines the colonial arrogance of the interloper with the humor of the slang “roger,” meaning “to fuck over, to traduce.” Chubb’s verbal faux pas enhances his clownish incongruity, which Hephzibah Anderson, a reviewer for the Guardian, describes as “an almost comical mix of pride, pomposity and powerlessness” (Anderson, 2003, 18). The madcap quality of the concluding gallop churns up a dark humor that results in a horrendous murder on a par with the death by dinner fork ending T. Coraghessan Boyle’s East Is East (1990).

RELIGION IN DOWN STYLE In Theft: A Love Story (2006), Carey brandishes the belligerent rumblings of rogue artist and ex-con Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone. In a perpetual snit, according to critic Tom Adair of Edinburgh’s The Scotsman, Butcher “pontificates and fulminates, despising the hand that feeds him, the Philistine art investors and their lackeys” (Adair, 2006). Contributing to his comic monologues are Carey’s conceits, for example, “as familiar with that cul-de-sac as with my own pajamas” and a race through a cemetery “down with the Anabaptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I might as well have been a dog running for a stick” (Carey, 2006, 64, 79). The text juxtaposes Butcher with his 34-year-old younger brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, the story’s moral center. Both bear punning names based on the similarity of bone/Boone with implications of cannibalism and reduction to skeletal basics. Hugh delights in simple conveniences, particularly meals of fried sausages and sitting in his folding chair, which he places on the sidewalk for watching traffic go by. Through his meditations, Carey intersperses religious phrases and imagery from “The Good Samaritan,” indications of a good-heartedness that forms an alter ego to Butcher’s grumpy rationalizing. Magnifying jollity in chapter 26, Hugh pleads for his fractious brother, “Forgive him, Lord, a dickhead in your sight” (Carey, 2006, 141). In his retribution against Butcher for leaving him behind during the brother’s art show in Tokyo, Hugh finds a job at a retirement home. The recovery of an abandoned baby carriage saddens Hugh, but he treats himself to a strolling cooler by filling the buggy with ice to chill his daily picnic, a Coke and a chicken sandwich. The absurdity of his behaviors and his adop-



tion of psychedelic glasses endears him to police officers, who offer him a disposable diaper to absorb condensation from his drippy drink bottle. At the height of New York City claustrophobia, Hugh buys organic brown eggs to strafe passing taxis, but discovers that they bounce rather than shatter, a droll redux of the pelter to purchaser of organic foodstuffs and urban litterer. Carey pursued his saga of the Bones brothers through vigorous storytelling that Ali Smith, reviewer for the London Telegraph, describes as “lyrical and foul, biblical and crude, in the now trademark Carey fusion of expertise and wonderful blaggery” (Smith, 2006). Charles Matthews, in a critique for the Houston Chronicle, summed up the effects as “scamming, fakery and double-crossing” (Matthews, 2006, 16). The text envelops Butcher in the cavalier self-approval of an artist who seeks nobody’s imprimatur. In Tokyo, following a brilliant success at marketing his nine canvases, the painter seeks out the brochure maker, Mr. Utamaro, and enjoys a lengthy visit. Butcher excuses his second dose of scotch as a cultural failing: “Well, fuck it, I was Australian. What else was I meant to do?” (Carey, 2006, 162). After a lengthy evening of drinking and groveling, Butcher bows to Utamaro from a seated position, “[hoping] that would be polite enough for a hairy barbarian” (ibid., 164). The surly attitude derives from memories of decapitation of Australian prisoners of war in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, during World War II. In the typically Careyan mix of “mess and discipline, bombast and quietness,” the novel amuses and enlightens the reader through the comeuppance to an egotist, a retro stripping of the emperor’s new clothes (Smith, 2006). See also egotism; irony; language

• Further readings Adair, Tom. “Review: Theft: A Love Story,” The Scotsman (27 May 2006). Anderson, Hephzibah. “There Was Once a Poet from Down Under,” Guardian (14 September 2003): 18. Blaber, Ronald, and Marvin Gilman. Roguery: The Picaresque Tradition in Australian, Canadian and Indian Fiction. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly, 1990. Buffington, Sean. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Boston Book Review (May 1995). Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Davison, Liam. “Carey’s Radical Diversion Inspires a Tale of the Familiar Seen from Afar,” The Australian (26 January 2008). Deb, Siddhartha. “The Genuine Article,” Telegraph (18 June 2006). Gourevitch, Philip, ed. The Paris Review Interview, II. New York: Picador, 2007. Gray, Paul. “Australia’s Family Ties,” Time 139, no. 3 (20 January 1992): 54 –55. Griffin, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 97 (1996): 14 –17. Hawley, Janet. “How an Ad Man Found Bliss,” The Age 26 (September1981): 26. Heinke, Jörg. “The Resistance of Being (Em)Braced: Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and David Malouf ’s Johnno,” Embracing the Other: Addressing Xenophobia in the New Literatures in English, ed. Dunja M. Mohr. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994. Heyward, Michael. “Parallel Universes,” New Republic 212, no. 15 (10 April 1995): 38 –41. Kane, Paul. “Postcolonial/Postmodern: Australian Literature and Peter Carey,” World Literature Today 67, no. 3 (1993): 519 –522. Ley, James. “Review: His Illegal Self,” The Age (28 January 2008).



Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –348. Rafferty, Terrence. “Never Mess with a Poet,” New York Times Book Review (9 November 2003): 12. Seaman, Donna. Writers on the Air. Philadelphia: Paul Dry, 2005. Smith, Ali. “The Business of Art and Love,” Telegraph (28 May 2006). Taylor, D. J. “A Ventriloquist’s Tale,” New Statesman 130, no. 4519 (8 January 2001): 42. Templeton, Tom. “Hoax of the Century,” Guardian (23 May 2004): 18. Thomson, Margie. “Oops, My Fake Came to Life” New Zealand Herald (17 August 2003): 28. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59. Wyndham, Susan. “A Love-Hate Story,” Sydney Morning Herald (1 April 2006).

Illywhacker In composing Illywhacker (1985), an adventure romance, Peter Carey examines the colonial fog that clouds the Australian perception of historical truth, a topic he returned to with My Life as a Fake (2003). In a description true of both books, reviewer Margie Thomson, in a critique for the New Zealand Herald, asserts, “The truth is always uncertain, ignored, reconstructed or unbelievable” (Thomson, 2003, 28). In the summation of critic John Charles Hawley, the text “subverts the traditional Australian-celebratory novel by questioning the truth of national mythology” (Hawley, 2001, 54). Feigning the masks of the salesman, protagonist Herbert Peter Badgery exudes jolly fraud. Much like the title drifter of the Old West in Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man (1964), Herbert debunks the glorification of New World expansionism by turning it into a freak show with himself as ringmaster. His scams branch into a framework for a nationalistic overview of Australian history, which he examines right down to thumb prints on convict-made brick, snake dancing, and the dismantling of a motor bike. The ultimate victory of the usurper over the colonist is Herbert’s native exoticism, a stereotype that Colombian novelist Gabriel García Marquez declares derives from the expectations of European imperialists. During his rearing by a surrogate father, herbalist Goon Tse Ying, Herbert learns to make himself invisible, a trope for the elusive lifestyle of Chinese-Australians during racist attacks. Goon practiced the art of invisibility on June 30, 1861, when some 3,000 gold miners robbed, beat, and ousted Chinese laborers from Lambing Flat, Burrangong. More dangerous to Herbert’s future than rioting is his mastery of lies, which Goon calls “dragons” (Carey, 1985, 220). Carey’s notion of truth derives from the belief that the liar is both manipulator and manipulated. As described by critic Luc Herman, Herbert is “ripened by the events he relates” (Barfoot & d’Haen, 1993, 110). Like supine clay, he allows others to shape visions of his character and motives. To first wife Phoebe McGrath, he is a stubborn, willful dreamer; her father, Jack McGrath, forces Herbert to perpetuate behaviors that suit Jack. Like an oyster layering grit into a pearl, his untruth gains “creamy coats of credibility” (Carey, 1985, 60). During the formation of a four-member family on Western Avenue, Herbert adds more details to his verbal house of cards, which strains under the digressions. In an era marked by fascination with manufacturing wizardry, he attempts to draw investors into his plan to build the nation’s first airplane factory. If he attempts otherwise, his efforts to be himself cost him Phoebe’s love and Jack’s respect. Thus, the narrator must wear the lying tattered self that enwraps him like a prison garment. His fabrications become a legacy to his children, who are “spawned by lies, suckled on dreams, infested with dragons,” an allusion to Herbert’s failure to introduce Australia to its native capabilities (Carey, 1985, 359).



CAGING AND FREEING Carey developed Illywhacker from a single image, the pet emporium. Incarceration, the novel’s controlling metaphor, reflects a psychological construct of the persona as it is mirrored by the outside world. The individual tends to accept the opinions and standards of family, friends, and associates. Therefore, the ring of people around a single person serves as one big mirror of behaviors expected of the person at center. Carey employs the concept of surrounding models by picturing Herbert influenced by Phoebe and Leah’s families and neighbors and by his son Charles’s extended household. Metaphorically, the ring of people becomes an imprisoning environment that dictates Herbert’s responses. When others accept and encourage his lies, he feels compelled to continue lying, for example, by selling American Fords rather than Summits, Australian cars. Leah captures his phony persona as “the flashy talk and loud opinions of Herbert the urger” (Carey, 1985, 351). In Carey’s increasingly imaginative prisons, immurement worsens for Herbert. The motivation for prevarication is his yearning for a family and for the love of Phoebe McGrath. For her, he ends his homelessness by building one of a series of makeshift residences out of chicken wire, mud, galvanized iron sheets, wood crates, silk airplane wings, and wire nails clipped from stolen fencing. His ramshackle construction method mimics the history of his homeland, which lacks a substantial mythos. In defiance of his search for an Australian identity Leah mocks him with sarcasm: “You think you can put up some shanty and that makes it your place, but you can’t, and it never will be” (ibid., 307). Thus, impermanence forces him into a tramping lifestyle that feeds his stock of vignettes and anecdotes.

TRADING IN LIES Low-grade storytelling condemns Herbert to the bottom rung of social respectability, the rogue romancer who trades dignity for cheap laughs and bold imaginary exploits. When Herbert tries to extricate himself from the tangle of lies, he identifies with the king brown snake, a symbol of menace that Carey reprises in The Tax Inspector (1991). The snake becomes Herbert’s prop for gags: “There is no doubt that the greatest mistake I ever made in my life was to keep that Geelong snake a prisoner in a hessian bag, to starve it, to use it for tricks” (Carey, 1985, 231). Herbert’s sudden sincerity in negotiations with Cocky Abbot, Cocky’s pretentious son, and with English investor Ian Oswald-Smith costs Herbert financial backing for Barwon Aeros, the dream factory he shares with Jack McGrath, Phoebe’s father. Once more, the tale-teller must rely on a peripatetic lifestyle financed by yarning. According to critic Anthony J. Hassall, the tripartite narrative results in self-constructed lockups, each more confining than the last: cage Herbert’s selling cannons with his father Herbert’s living a lie with the McGrath family Phoebe Badgery’s iron and chicken wire cage for king parrots reliance on Leah Goldstein, star of Badgery & Goldstein Leah tending her amputee husband Izzie Kaletsky

place Punt Road Western Avenue Balliang East Dudley’s Flat

date 1896 November 1919 1919 1920 –1923

segment Book I Book I Book I



Book II



Book II

123 cage Herbert’s transfer from Grafton Gaol to Downs Prison Charles Badgery’s pet emporium Emma Badgery’s retreat to a cage Charles’s dispatch of Hissao to boarding school Hissao’s four-story human zoo


place Rankin

date 1937

segment Book II

Sydney Sydney Melbourne

1940s 1942 1950s

Book III Book III Book III



Book III

Before his imprisonment, Herbert enjoys a limited odyssey about the Australian bush during the Great Depression, which Laurie Clancy, a reviewer for Australian Book Review, characterizes as “set pieces tenuously strung together” and Peter Goldsworthy demeaned as a “marketable collage” (Clancy, 1985, 15; Goldsworthy, 1985, 57). By 1931, Herbert forms a loving relationship in Bendigo with Leah Goldstein, who mothers Sonia and Charles “Snake Boy,” the children whom Phoebe abandons (Carey, 1985, 403). The domestic idyll precedes what analyst Peter Pierce calls a “lost child narrative,” the episode involving a futile search for 14-year-old Sonia among abandoned mine shafts. Permutations dominate the remaining narrative. Carey once more slices free of his moorings to a substantial saga and sets out for comic absurdity. For the stage duo Badgery & Goldstein, Herbert takes up the cause of hoboes, the true offspring of possessors of the “Waltzing Matilda” (1895), the wanderer’s bundle immortalized by bush balladeer Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (Carey, 1985, 599). In the final view, Herbert, freed from illiteracy during a prison term, abandons a career with a traveling road show for retirement in a cage alongside aboriginals, shearers, exotic animals, and “the boys from Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club (Carey, 1985, 634). He becomes the prize zoo exhibit for his advanced age and shriveled physique and for the fictional life story that he constructs for himself and his country. See also Badgery, Herbert; Badgery-Goldstein-McGrath genealogy

• Further readings Barfoot, C. C., and Theo d’Haen. Shades of Empire in Colonial and Post-Colonial Literatures. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993. Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. Clancy, Laurie. “Some Beautiful Lies: Our History Mythologised,” Australian Book Review 73 (1985): 14 –15. Fletcher, M. D. “Post-Colonial Peter Carey,” Span 32 (1991): 12–23. Goldsworthy, Peter. “The Novella in Illywhacker,” Island Magazine 24 (27 May 1985): 56 –57. Hassall, Anthony J. Dancing on Hot Macadam. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Hawley, John Charles, ed. Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Lobe, Cliff. “Reading the ‘Remembered World’: Carceral Architecture and Cultural Mnemonics in Peter Carey’s Illywhacker,” Mosaic 35, no. 4 (December 2002): 17–34. Pierce, Peter. “The Problem of Consolation in the Country of Lost Children,” Society for Studies in Religion, Literature and the Arts (2001): 73 –86. Thomson, Margie. “Oops, My Fake Came to Life” New Zealand Herald (17 August 2003): 28. Thwaites, Tony. “More Tramps at Home,” Meanjin 46, no. 3 (September 1987): 400 –409.

injustice Carey’s trenchant battles against society’s victimizers take an ambiguous stance in support of the vulnerable. Examples range from the contestants seeking a $10,000 prize in the Perfecto Kiddo contest in The Big Bazoohley (1995) and the dehumanization of penal colonists in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001) to Japanese chil-



dren bombed and strafed at the Shitamachi ordnance foundry during World War II in Wrong about Japan (2005) and a hippie commune south of Yandina, Queensland, which police raid without cause in His Illegal Self (2008). In “War Crimes” (1978), rather than uplift the despairing jobless, the author chooses an apocalyptic face-off between factory owners and the underclass, who joust against management in a futile bid for subsistence. Foreshadowing a battle to the death, the opening scenes picture an accountant and an advertiser running over two pedestrians who impede the duo’s Cadillac Eldorado, a gaudy status vehicle among American exhibitionist rich. A reflexive irony implies that the plant superpowers lay waste their market by burning alive with flamethrowers the vagabonds who cower outside the factory gates. The resulting conundrum allots justice to neither side, thus raising the question of the possibility of justice in the midst of class war. More telling than labor disputes, Carey’s literary paeans to convicts draw reader empathy for Australia’s white transportees. In Illywhacker (1985), narrator Herbert Peter Badgery broadens his view of national cruelty and suppression with glimpses of mid-nineteenth century racism, when white Australian miners riot against Chinese immigrants and crush Asians with ax handles at Lambing Flat on June 10, 1860. Leah Kaletsky, Herbert’s longtime love, speaks the anti-capitalist spite for gold mining and its depletion of human compassion in prospectors: “It has made them think that all they need is luck. They have been blinded by gold,” a charge readily applicable to colonialism (Carey, 1985, 229). She blames the deluded Australian for embracing fantasies of a sudden rise above the ruling class to a new-found laborer’s freedom, a theme that undergirds the naiveté and hope of Edward “Ned” Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) and the hoaxing of poet Christopher Chubb in My Life as a Fake (2003). Suppressed visions of the British transportee emerge in unforeseen conceits, including a passage about a snake. As though creeping suddenly into view, it resembles “a bolted convict with lash marks on its back, crisscrossed, burned in like a loaf of fancy bread,” a Gothic recreation of mottled snake skin and the wealth that enabled the English sybarites to live high (ibid., 231). The subtle image reminds the reader of the usurpers who protected their motherland by dumping the overrun of jails, poorhouses, and child detention centers into coastal Australian prisons. The protagonist of Jack Maggs (1997) cringes under recollections of whippings at the Morton Bay penal colony in New South Wales. Stalking his dreams, Rudder, the official flogger under the command of Captain Logan, layers indelible stripes over old weals, the colonial burden borne by Australian frontier settlers.

WOMEN AS VICTIMS Carey favors mercy and compassion for the female, particularly the Australian woman. For Oscar and Lucinda (1988), he extends his study of heiress Lucinda Leplastrier in her mid-teens. The victim of Melbourne attorney Charles “Chas” Ahearn, executor of her mother’s will, Lucinda discovers her inheritance compromised and her choices limited to loss of the farm that her father bought and her widowed mother worked. On May 7, 1859, three days before her 18th birthday, Ahearn auctions her land. With the resolve of a survivor, she blames herself that “she had been too weak, had given up her farm too easily, had let herself be bullied into exile” (Carey, 1988, 83). By taking responsibility for a setback, she lays the groundwork for character strengths to come that boost her into an iconic labor leader in the Aussie version of the Industrial Revolution. In True History of the Kelly Gang, the author pictures through the eyes of a gangster the plight of highwayman Edward “Ned” Kelly’s mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, his fictional



wife, 19-year-old prostitute Mary Hearn, and their infant daughter. The elder Kelly, Ned’s ideal, sets the tone for vengeance. According to a summary in Publishers Weekly, “Harassed, slandered, provoked and jailed with impunity, the Kellys, led by indomitable bootlegging matriarch Ellen, believe they have no resource but to break the law,” a foreseeable response in the oppressed (“Review,” 2000, 83). Carey explains the visceral nature of resistance: “The historic memory of unfairness were in their blood,” a residue borne by past ancestors before the Kellys’ immigration from Ireland to Australia (Carey, 2000, 312). Critic Lisa Fletcher explains the need for the addition of wife and daughter to the Kelly mythos as a “preference for remembering the past by turning it into a heterosexual love story,” a fictional ploy that Dan Brown applied to the life of Jesus in the mystery-detective novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) (Fletcher, 2008, 147). Created to supply a human dimension to the bushranger, Ned’s baby girl adds another level to the three-stage Kelly genealogy and remains susceptible to the father loss that Ned experiences at age twelve. He enlarges on his vision of an orphaned daughter learning about “the injustice we poor Irish [suffer] in this present age” (Carey, 2000, 7). Upon viewing a prosperous farm with fat, healthy cattle, Ned delights in “proof of what contentment the colony might provide if there is ever justice” (ibid., 112). He begrudgingly honors highwayman Harry Power, his mentor in lawlessness, for defending the Irish dirt farmer. Of a Robin Hood–style reciprocity, Ned explains, “As the poor pay fealty to the bushranger thus the bushranger pays fealty to the poor,” the perpetual victims of corrupt Protestant police (ibid., 116). Offsetting Harry’s character strengths, Ned contrasts the Beechworth constables who stoke “a hankering to make their reputations with [Harry’s] neck” (ibid.). The official self-aggrandizement further elevates Harry as a prize catch and symbol of justice for the underdog, a scenario replicated in His Illegal Self .

PEONAGE In contrast to the lionizing of thieves and stickup men, Ned recognizes that Australia is “a colony made specifically to have poor men bow down to their gaolers,” a two-sided caste system dating to ancient times (ibid., 157). At the core of daily persecution are “traps,” the peasant name for police, who confiscate herd animals and dispossess farm families (ibid., 153). Because of his family’s ongoing sufferings, Ned eventually enjoys stealing from rich men like squatters James Whitty and R. R. McBean, “who picked the eyes out of the country with the connivance of the politicians and police,” a grotesque image of blinding suggestive of crows pecking at the eyes of corpses (ibid., 204). Ned castigates Superintendent Nicolson, a two-faced deal maker who exchanges Ned’s confession for a warrant against the traitor Tom Lloyd. Ned responds with sarcasm: “So is the law administered in the colony of Victoria,” a political entity named for the empress herself (ibid., 144). When the ruse involves Ellen Quinn Kelly, she roars a peasant aphorism, “Nothing is as low as trading a man’s life for money,” a motto her son embraces (ibid., 145). Nicolson and Hare continue their illicit negotiations by repudiating the charge of robbery against Ned, who describes how they “played with justice they pushed it pulled it made it hop & jump” as though manipulating a toy (ibid.). Even though Harry Power doesn’t deserve Ned’s loyalty, Ned takes the ethical high road by maintaining his stance against informing to the police. Repeated violations of police ethics attest to Ned’s belief that he has no choice but turn lawless, the same rationalization that painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone applies to stealing back his canvases from his ex-wife in Theft: A Love Story (2006). In the words



of Wendy Morgan, a critic for Social Alternatives, Ned transforms himself from man of the household to “a daredevil who’d take the mickey out of the pompous police and selfimportant burghers” (Morgan, 2001, 72). The worst offender, Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, turns on Ned and intimidates Mary Hearn by implying that she will lose her infant son George if she doesn’t expose her lover’s whereabouts. Superintendent Brooke Smith grabs baby George as a human shield during a raid on the Kelly hut. Detective Michael Ward heightens the infant’s peril by tossing him into the air. During the imprisonment of hostages at Faithfull’s Creek Station on December 9, 1878, Ned uses the opportunity to substantiate claims against Constable Fitzpatrick and to exonerate Ellen Quinn Kelly for attempted murder. With encouragement from the hostages, Joe Byrne composes the second letter to Donald Cameron, member of the legislative assembly, revealing police malfeasance against the citizenry. Corroborating Ned’s claims about unjust police is the arrest of 21 men on January 4, 1879, solely because of their friendship with Ned. One of the detainees, Jack McMonigle, discovers “what it were to be slandered & perjured and he were handcuffed & herded on to Benalla Railway Station & shoved into a box car like he were nothing but a daggy sheep” (Carey, 2000, 317). The action winds down to its foreseeable end, which an unnamed reviewer for the Economist refers to as “a gloomy inevitability to his progress from the cradle to the scaffold” (“The Wizard,” 2001, 82). Carey leaves unclear the cause of the other crooks’ demise, either bullets or immolation after police torch the Glenrowan hotel. Before a gnarly executioner, a prison volunteer, Ned intones his stoic death wisdom of everyday injury to the downtrodden: “Such is life” (Carey, 2000, 368). See also Maggs-Larkin genealogy; social class; vengeance; vulnerability

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. Wrong about Japan. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2005. Fletcher, Lisa. Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008. James, Jamie. “A Legendary Fugitive Rides Again,” Wall Street Journal (5 January 2001): W8. Morgan, Wendy. “Treading a Fine Line?: Carey’s Kelly,” Social Alternatives 20, no. 1 (January 2001): 71 –72. “Review: True History of the Kelly Gang,” Publishers Weekly 247, no. 46 (13 November 2000): 83. “The Wizard from Oz,” Economist 358, no. 8205 (20 January 2001): 82.

irony Carey’s ease with human absurdities and paradoxes produces ironies of motivation, intent, and action. His incongruities range from a child’s rescue of his gambler father from bankruptcy in The Big Bazoohley (1995) to the contentment of a former convict in his return to Australia in Jack Maggs (1997), an expatriate’s fascination with landing at Kingsford Smith Airport in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), the passage of an obsession from a hoaxer to editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass in My Life as a Fake (2003), and the unerring eye for art in Detective Amberstreet in Theft: A Love Story (2006), who, unlike critics, art scammers, investors, and dealers, recognizes real skill. In an early story, “Peeling” (1972), a commentary on the writing process, an elderly retiree intent on a drawn-out seduction of his neighbor Nile ignores the guilt she suffers from aiding an abortion provider. In his disrobing of Nile, he loses control of the process and deconstructs her to rubble, a jolting turn of events that ruins his plan to satisfy a sex-



ual itch. In a double twist on fantasy, the dismemberment rids Nile of self-torment by turning her into a shattered doll like those she depersonalizes in her free time. Irony directs plotting in Carey’s signature evasions of reality. Through a supernatural shift from humdrum life to fairy tale, the opening death scene of Bliss (1981), his first published novel, frees protagonist advertising magnate Harry Stanthorpe Joy of earthbound subjectivity and positions him in a floating superstratum to gain a truer view of reality. Thus, on a detached plane, he learns more about himself and his career in ad campaigns than he knew when he lived. In a double irony, as he migrates from his former self, his wife, Bettina “Betty” Joy, slips into his former career and ends up immolating herself in the eighth-floor board room of the Mobil Research Department. In Harry’s last incarnation as a woodlander on Bog Onion Road, the widower rids himself of workaday angst and becomes one with the forest and with members of a rural commune. He realizes that his emotions are “blended with wonder and made volatile with some lighter spirit,” a Zen experience that paradoxically creates wholeness in Harry after disburdening him of family, work responsibilities, and materialism (Carey, 1981, 283). For the author, a former ad copywriter, Harry’s metamorphosis and Betty’s suicide are both droll and redemptive. The fable encompasses Harry’s death from a falling limb, when his being floats upward as his corpse falls to the ground. Rid of his former bluster, he dies with a sigh, the breath of the storyteller who gives insight and wholeness to a fragmented people.

IRONY AS DRAMA To dramatize the doomed love of title characters in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey sets up similar ambiguities of attraction and frailty between a pair of tender, over-imaginative neurotics. Like Betty and Harry Joy, both Lucinda and Oscar recognize their eccentricities, which include nonconformity to social dictates and an addiction to gambling. Both struggle with a rigid social order that smashes like a Prince Rupert’s Drop the possibility of a propitious marriage, shared life, and offspring. In planning the fabrication and delivery of a glass and cast-iron church up the Bellinger River to Boat Harbour, New South Wales, Lucinda intends to stretch her creative gifts toward excellence, a miniature Crystal Palace, a hallmark of Industrial Revolution wizardry that glorified the Great Exhibition of 1851. Oscar, a hydrophobe who mistakenly assumes that she loves the Reverend Dennis Hasset, honors her by agreeing to a hare-brained expedition that condemns him to convey the fragile edifice via a lengthy water passage, the source of scientific wonder to Oscar’s father, marine biologist Theophilus Hopkins. Attesting to Oscar’s devotion to his love is a willingness to challenge the longstanding dread that brought him and Lucinda together on the sidewheeling steamer Leviathan. The ship’s name contributes a droll suggestion that the doomed couple risk a huge threat on a par with Jonah in the belly of the whale. Contributing to the irony of a cross-country convoy delivering boxes of glass to the frontier is the duplicity of Mr. Jeffris, a self-embellisher who envisions his actions as contributions to the history of South Pacific exploration. Although he lacks religious fervor and dislikes the idea of a see-through church in Boat Harbour, he manipulates Anglican proselytizing to validate an expedition that “would slice the dust covers of geography and reveal a map beneath, with rivers, mountains, and names, the streets of his birthplace, Bromley, married to the rivers of savage Australia” (Carey, 1988, 445). In his arrogance, he commits the standard gaffe of colonizers in particularizing places with titles imposed by white outsiders, often placing their surnames in prominent cartographic positions. Thus, Urunga, the site of his downfall, appears on maps as Bellingen Heads. In a scenario



reminiscent of Sacajawea’s guidance of the Lewis and Clark mission, Carey depicts Jeffris’s mangled body preceded by Kumbaingiri Billy’s aunt, a cyclical rape victim held captive at a Urunga pub, as she points the way to a burial spot in a cesspool. Critic David Brown, a professor of divinity at Duke University, observes in the gesture a paradox of manners: “The native population consistently behaves better than the white immigrants” (Brown, 2004, 96).

MOTHER ENGLAND The continuing postcolonial drama in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) draws energy from ironies of place and culture. In a satire on London, as the title character, on a secret excursion from Efica, enters the outskirts Saarlim City on highway E1, the crumbling infrastructure and abandoned vehicles along the verges alarm him. To the reader, he divulges the secret reaction of an Ootlander to colonizers: “Madam, Meneer, you are part of our hearts in a way you could not dream.... We grow up with your foreignness deep inside our souls” (Carey, 1994, 292). For examples, he cites epic poetry, British history, hagiography, music, and the lore of Bruder Mouse, a religious icon. He admits that, even under duress from the motherland, colonials still admire Britain’s Christian ideal. For added satire, Carey stresses that the vehicle for religious lore is the Sirkus, a razzledazzle high-tech entertainment medium fraught with myth, violence, and death. The neo–Gothic novel Jack Maggs (1997), Carey’s next swipe at British imperialism, comes closer to defining what critic Robert L. Ross identifies as “the elusive meaning of ‘Australianness’” (Ross, 1999, 122). Perhaps because the title figure immerses himself in the seaminess of London’s criminal class, he is more able to demythify caste distinctions and the pretensions of the landholding class, some of whom profit directly from colonial enslavement, land usurpation, prison torture, and genocide. Early on, Carey returns Jack to his foster mother, “Ma” Mary Britten, a self-styled healer and abortionist who conceals under fake proprieties her lure of troubled girls and wives into taking “Dr Britten’s Cock Spur Pills for Female Disorders” (Carey, 1997, 5). The abortifacients prove lethal to both mother and fetus, a reflection of England’s tossing of criminals and pariahs into the wastelands of Australia. According to Gary Krist in a critique for the Hudson Review, the reality of the English drawing room is a fraudulent gentility in “no less brutal a place than the streets around Pepper Alley stairs, even if its brutality is well hidden behind expensive draperies and polished furniture” (Krist, 1998, 624). A subtler irony in the second sentence depicts a sign at the Golden Ox inn —“a golden bull and an overgrown mouth opening to devour him,” a metaphoric depiction of a vigorous Australia freed of imperialism and eagerly wreaking vengeance against Britain’s wealth and social superiority (Carey, 1997, 1). See also names

• Further readings Brown, David. God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Harris, Margaret. “Eminent Victorians?,” Southerly 49 (1989): 109 –113. Krist, Gary. “Classics Revisited,” Hudson Review 51, no. 3 (autumn 1998): 623 –630. Natale, Antonella Riem. “Harry Joy’s Children: The Art of Story Telling in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Australian Literary Studies 16, no. 3 (1994): 341 –347. Ross, Robert L. Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1999.



Jack Maggs In Jack Maggs (1997), his first neo–Victorian fiction since Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Peter Carey ventures from wide-lens debunking of Australian history to the minutiae of the microscope. The meta-novel is his most precise, cohesive satire. In comparing it to My Life as a Fake (2003), Blake Morrison, a critic for the Guardian, pictures both works as “fast, furious and fantastical stuff ” (Morrison, 2003, 16). As described by literary historian John Charles Hawley, the novel “[examines] the working of colonialism, its legacy, and possibly the liberation from it” (Hawley, 2001, 54). Carey adopts for his tale of imposture a popular metafictional mode — prequels, sequels, or literary parallels derived from classic novels. Compared to John Irving’s The Cider House Rules (1985), Carey’s Dickensian retrospect reprises a classic Victorian pairing of child abandonment alongside poverty and criminality, a duo that undergirds the strength of ex-con and stage manager Wally Paccione, the surrogate father of the title figure and garrotter of an assassin in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) and that of Bob McCorkle, desperado father of Tina in My Life as a Fake (2003), and Dial, renegade English professor from Vassar and abductor of seven-year-old Che David Selkirk in His Illegal Self (2008). The author’s shifting of perspective from Philip “Pip” Pirrip to his rescuer and sponsor, Abel Magwitch, a transportee and prosperous Australian stockman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860 –1861), examines the financial hub of the British Empire from a bicultural point of view. In the estimation of critic Joseph J. Wiesenfarth, Carey’s work gives Great Expectations a “creative afterlife” (Wiesenfarth, 1999, 70). Marc Carnegie, reviewer for the Wall Street Journal, honors Carey for devising “a way not only of one-upping his idol Dickens but also of making a claim for Australian independence, literary and otherwise” (Carnegie, 1998, 1). The action focuses on the former convict’s effort to reunite with his foppish foster son, Henry Phipps, whom Jack first encountered by a forge when the four-year-old offered him food. The literary conceit of furthering adventures of a classic literary character serves a variety of respected sequels and prequels— Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), a postcolonial glimpse of the background of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847); Tom Stoppard’s absurdist drama Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966), an alternative view of expendable characters in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (ca. 1599); and John Champlin Gardner’s Grendel (1971), a retelling of the mythic Beowulf (ca. 600) in the words of the monster. Jack Maggs anticipates Geraldine Brooks’s Pulitzer Prize–winning March (2006) (based on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868 –1869); Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia (2008), a character enhancement of the second wife of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid (19 B.C.); and John Edmund Gardner’s thriller Moriarty (2008), a study of the villain in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Carey’s revisionist novel, according to Marc Carnegie, moves beyond Dickens’s perspective to expose the Victorian underside: “Much that Dickens kept hidden in the pockets of Victorian morality — the abortion racket, homosexuality, child prostitution — here clatters loudly to the floor” (Carnegie, 1998, 1). Janice Carlisle notes that Carey castigates London, the heart of imperialism, by linking it with a pervasive stink. Carey “cannot imagine a Victorian world or even a modern version of one that is not rank with openly deplored, disgusting odors,” a sensory equivalent of moral rot (Carlisle, 2004, 18).

A PARENTING MOTIF Carey applies a discovery method to the action of Jack Maggs, which debates how a pampered and debauched ward avoids a conflicted reunion with his benefactor, a topic



that the author surveys on the personal level in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). Like a reverse Bildungsroman, the text pictures Jack as a patriotic homelander returning after a quarter century to a London that refutes his English ideals. His memories shiver with nightmares of life with abortionist “Ma” Mary Britten of Islington and her mate, master thief Silas Smith, who engineers fearful slides down flues of mansions to be burgled by a team of child housebreakers. Both confinements prefigure Jack’s eventual transportation at age 15 to the ultimate in claustrophobia, a prison at Morton Bay, New South Wales, a white penal colony for England’s surplus felons. The action encompasses a complex household next door to Phipps, where grocer/fried fish seller Percival Clarence “Percy” Buckle lives the luxury of the nouveau riche. Symbolically, Jack nets a position as Percy’s second footman and wears ill-fitting shoes that restrict his movement, recalling his descent into chimneys in boyhood to rob the wealthy of silver. Carey’s deft ironies mock the social system that elevates Percy to the level of gentry without legitimizing him with appropriate manners, socialization, and taste, the accoutrements of a gentleman that Jack provides Henry via tainted money. The novel turns Jack’s mental anguish into a visible nerve spasm, a psychosomatic crippling that resets prison lashings in the effete dining room of Percy Buckle. During the onset of tic doloureux, Jack falls under the care of novelist Tobias “Toby” Oates, a parody of the young Dickens, the “smarmy bastard” who longs to map “the beast within,” his stagy term for the criminal anima (Carey, 1997, 110, 47). Oates describes chronic facial agony as Jack’s phantom, which “[pulls] with his strings inside his face,” a cruel puppetry that Oates himself usurps as a source of easy cash (ibid., 323). The pairing of mesmerist with patient poses what Marc Carnegie terms “a complex and often comical game of cat-and-mouse,” a pre-psychoanalysis that tags the psychosomatic cause of Jack’s chronic facial pain. (Carnegie, 1998, 1). According to Carey, through a quack hypnosis cure, Oates raids and “[burgles] the soul of his subject” (Koval, 1997, 671). Oates gleans from Maggs’s babblings the subconscious rudiments of a potential fictional potboiler, The Death of Maggs. In a model of literary venality, Oates deliberately misrepresents Jack’s life story as a means of marketing a Gothic caricature based on lies. A vain self-adulator, he boasts, “I write that name, Jack, like a stone mason makes the name upon a headstone, so her memory may live for ever. In all the empire, Jack, you could not have employed a better carver” (Carey, 1997, 182). The text wrings irony from the image of the headstone as a dual symbol of identity and death. Although Carey depicts Oates as a debt-ridden opportunist, the literary parent of a criminal stereotype, the novel echoes Dickens’s concern for English urchins lured into crime. A coded letter to Henry describes Jack’s rescue by scavengers three days after birth from the mud flats under London Bridge, his purchase by Silas Smith and the infant’s adoption by “Ma” Britten. To legitimate Jack’s anguish, Carey creates two damaged females. Jack’s paramour, Sophina Smith, is the daughter of Silas, a mentor into the art of housebreaking. The romance of convict with gallows bait declines into sorry spectacle, Ma’s slicing and aborting of Sophina’s five-month fetus, which lies trashed in a cess pit. The hopeless teen marriage concludes with 15-year-old Jack proclaiming his guilt to free Sophina from a death sentence for a burglary on Frith Street in London’s privileged section. The two merit England’s pitiless dooming of the poor and underprivileged.

THE COLONIAL OTHER Carey wrote his version of Great Expectations through nested stories as a means of getting at a murky truth, including Jack’s rise to respectability as a brick manufacturer



and his illegal entry at Dover “on the wink” (Carey, 1997, 141). In the complex dealings between venal writer and unsuspecting dupe, ironically, Oates steals a thief ’s success story. Thus, Jack Maggs becomes a bully pulpit from which Carey celebrates Australian resilience and defuses centuries of recrimination, denial, rage, and sorrow borne by a lost people rejected, plundered, and alienated from the motherland. Set in late April–May 7, 1837, some six weeks before Queen Victoria’s coronation and the year that Dickens published Pickwick Papers, Carey’s text poses Jack Maggs as larger than life — a model of the crude, menacing, but well-meaning survivor of colonial dehumanization at Morton Bay and eventual solid citizen of Wingham, New South Wales. In casting Jack as the prototypical forebear of the Anglo-Australian, Carey refutes colonial mislabeling by depicting his protagonist as a self-redeemer, a testament to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. On return to Regency London, Jack, in his mid–40s, impresses his viewers with powerful shoulders, arms, and thighs, yet he falls victim to the English class system and to imperialist lies about the transportees to Australia. The prevailing false impression leaves Oates wondering if he is to be “stabbed, cudgelled, suffocated” by an escapee from a lurid prison system (Carey, 1997, 256). To ensure safety in the Buckle household, Jack instigates house arrest and nails shut windows and doors, a reversal of his incarceration at Morton Bay. As analyzed by writer Jörg Heinke, Jack is a victim of “partial knowledge about convicts and about his former trade, and on rumours that he might also be a murderer, all aspects of the discourse of convict-otherness” (Heinke, 1994, 212). Carey subverts Dickens’s Abel Magwitch by placing Jack in charge of the colonial scenario. Rather than ponder how to elude English immigration officials, Jack takes the Australian pioneer’s view: “What am I to do with you all?” the core question of Carey’s parallel novel (Carey, 1997, 141). Jack’s sterling character, shaped in the rough and tinged with compassion for the underdog, contrasts his ward, the citified Henry, a self-important, amoral twit whom London’s elitism has debauched. With an eye toward destroying stereotypes about Australia’s founding fathers, Carey legitimates Jack’s character development as “an oyster working on a pearl” (ibid., 25). In contrast, the author denies progeny to Henry, but rewards the protagonist with a long life, a solid reputation, an exemplary wife, and a dynasty of seven children. For depicting the Australian mindset of stoic endurance and recovered identity, bestowers of the Commonwealth Writers honored Carey’s Jack Maggs a prize of £10,000. See also Maggs, Jack; Maggs-Larkin genealogy

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. Carlisle, Janice. Common Scents: Comparative Encounters in High-Victorian Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Carnegie, Marc. “Dickens World Upside Down,” Wall Street Journal (4 February 1998): 1. Hawley, John Charles, ed. Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Heinke, Jörg. “The Resistance of Being (Em)Braced: Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and David Malouf ’s Johnno,” Embracing the Other: Addressing Xenophobia in the New Literatures in English, ed. Dunja M. Mohr. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994. Koval, Ramona. “The Unexamined Life: Peter Carey Interviewed,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 667–682. Miller, Karl. “Late Expectations,” New Republic 218, no. 16 (20 April 1998): 40 –41. Morrison, Blake. “Damaged Beast of the Antipodes: Peter Carey’s True Story of a Hoax Is Fast, Fantastic and Flawed,” Guardian (13 September 2003): 16. Ross, Robert. “Expectations Lost and Found,” World & I 13, no. 7 (July 1998): 250 –257. Thieme, John. Postcolonial Con-texts: Writing Back to the Canon. New York: Continuum, 2001. Wiesenfarth, Joseph. “Phillip Pirrip’s Afterlife, or Great Expectations Again ... and Again,” George Eliot–George Henry Lewes Studies 36 –37 (1999): 70 –84.



Joy, Harry To personify capitalism’s rot, in Bliss (1981), a fable of punishment, atonement, and redemption, Peter Carey creates the double metamorphosis of Harry Stanthorpe Joy, a half–American protagonist and the first in the author’s fiction to elude the urban cesspool. His confident speech rhythms and American sounds have a calming effect on listeners to his sales spiels. Readers see in Harry’s manic drive the ebullience of Voltaire’s Candide, the obsessions of Jonathan Swift’s Lemuel Gulliver, and the comic ineptitude of characters created by satirists Joseph Heller, Ken Kesey, Eudora Welty, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Critic Karen Lamb defines Harry, an advertising magnate and visionary, as guilty of “the small personal conceits and deceits that help professionalise corruption,” a motif that Carey returns to in My Life as a Fake (2003) and Theft: A Love Story (2006) (Lamb, 1992, 26). Harry makes his living composing and marketing lies, a career that Carey undertook upon leaving college. To win Bettina “Betty” McPhee as his wife, Harry relates the anecdotes of his father, Vance Joy, about New York City, a metropolis that eventually lures Betty to an operatic suicide at the Mobil Research Department board room to avoid slow death from cancer caused by urban the pollutants she promotes. Before a transforming neardeath experience from heart attack, Harry pictures himself as a shifty, aggressive “tell-uswhat-you-want-and-I’ll-do-it-for-you pragmatist” (Carey, 1981, 217). Betty despises his business associates as “this conspiracy of men, this almighty brotherhood of frauds” (ibid., 14). Ironically, the complaint precedes her supplanting of Harry as breadwinner via her meteoric rise as an advertiser. Carey conflates the trickery of advertising with the false domestic bliss of the Joy household, a nuclear family dysfunction that the author overcasts with a three-generational sexual abuse in The Tax Inspector (1991) from grandfather to father to sons and daughter and the press for abortion of a grandchild in His Illegal Self (2008). To reviewer John Ryle, the text of Bliss replicates “a truly striking vision of the dark side of the family romance and the fraught times that engender it” (Ryle, 1981, 1350). When Harry’s children, David and Lucy, reach their mid-teens, the father perceives insincere home affections as a sham cover for acrimony and serious corruption. Not only is his wife sexually involved with adman Joel Davis, Harry’s junior partner, but the Joy children engage in incest as Lucy’s payment for David’s drugs. The motif of amelioration establishes Harry’s resolve to alter a lifestyle that he condemns as “worthless, so loathsome, shallow, hollow as to be worth nothing” (Carey, 1981, 207). In place of shilling for corrupt capitalists, he flees the city and searches out “the relative merits of Goodness and Originality,” a quest that delivers the kiss of death to his business (Carey, 1981, 89).

ESCAPE TO PARADISE In the style of fantasists Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, Carey redirects his protagonist from an action figure to an observer and commentator similar to Douglas Spaulding in Dandelion Wine (1957) or Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). Harry Joy, like the allegorical figure in Everyman (ca. 1485), becomes an expiatory wanderer by traversing hell on earth, a purgatorial progress down the rungs of Dante’s inferno that whisks Harry from a Hilton Hotel suite to Alice Dalton’s Merry Lands asylum. Involuntary commitment, which his treacherous son David arranges for $5,000, divests Harry of his identity and, simultaneously, cleanses him of multiple secular sins. After abandoning his nuclear family, he imagines a “tin-roofed hut with candles flickering in their safe magic



circle” and allows lover Honey Barbara Harrison, a former prostitute, beekeeper, and pantheistic healer, to “[drive] out his devil” (Carey, 1981, 181). Exorcism of the demon, the residue of commercialism, leaves Harry free to enjoy an eco-friendly environment, epitomized by the pure influence of rain, trees, and river. Like the peripatetic evil that Christ casts out of victims in Luke 8:30, Mark 5:9, and Matthew 8:28 –34, the advertising bug leaps on Betty, sending her rapidly to perdition, a vengeance she earns for carrying on a blatant affair with Joel Davis. Carey redeems his protagonist only after Harry performs atonement and establishes an earnest change of heart, a theme that the author revisits on a personal level in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). Following Honey Barbara to a bucolic commune at Bog Onion Road in the final stave, Harry, in his early 40s, receives the “Good Samaritan” treatment that eases spiritual aridity. He accepts from Honey’s father, Paul Bees, a drink of water and sleeping arrangements on a dirt floor that “felt softer than anywhere he had lain for days” (ibid., 271). An allegory of human caution in a dangerous world, the story pictures him under a protective “green canopy” treading leafy terrain over “fine vine trip-wires which were best proceeded through without haste” (ibid., 278, 277). Slowly, he wins Honey’s love by planting the “brush box, stringybark, red flowering gum” that keep her bees producing a year-round supply of honey, the tangible evidence of communal bliss (ibid., 279). The narrative draws on neo–Zen philosophy to picture the paradox of getting by giving away. Simultaneously, Harry advances/regresses to a revered position. Crouching alongside his audience in Neanderthal informality, he becomes the preliterate around-the-fire storykeeper, a mellow narrator devoid of the adman’s capitalistic cant. Carey dismisses as literary license Harry’s retelling of his father’s stories, a recycling that Honey Barbara’s legalistic nitpicking describes as plagiarism. Listener Paul Bees validates the narratives for their emotive link to human libido, a life force that he and other forest dwellers express through vegetarianism and druidic tree veneration. The raconteur, who is “not interested in newness,” imagines the purloined stories as reshaped building materials, “just as you pick up rocks scattered on the ground to make a cairn,” a folk grave marker (ibid., 284, 67). Carey blesses the story man with Harry’s absorption back into nature to become part of “the lightning, the trees, the fire ... bees and blossoms,” the elements of earth’s “joy” (ibid., 296). See also Bliss; Joy genealogy

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Bliss: The Screenplay (with Ray Lawrence). St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1986. Edwards, Page. “Review: Bliss,” Library Journal 107, no. 4 (15 February 1982): 472. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Ryle, John. “Magic and Poison,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1981): 1350. Tranter, John. “Hell without Logic Loses Credibility,” The Age (3 October 1981): 27.

Joy genealogy A hybridized clan of American and Australian urban and bush strands, Harry Stanthorpe Joy’s family exudes energies and creativity on three continents. They claim Vance Joy, a New York raconteur, as patriarch, and his grandson, drug dealer David Joy, as a martyr in Colombia. The story follows Harry’s de-urbanization and natural acculturation with vigor and a celebration of his children by beekeeper Honey Barbara.



Crystal=Paul Bees Patricia=Vance Joy Billy McPhee=former wife | Peugeot Paul lottery | New Yorker gas station | abandoned | beekeeper winner | owner | her baby | | | Honey=/=Harry Stanthorpe Joy=Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy =/=Joel Davis Barbara | advertiser | ad designer junior partner Harrison | storyteller | suicide by age 26 age 27 | age 39 | immolation suicide hippie | Little Paul | beekeeper | d. age 75 | | -----------------------------------unnamed children | | | twins David Joy=Anna Lucy Joy=/=Ken McLaren dead drug dealer Marxist mechanic age 17 age 151 ⁄ 2 killed in Colombia

See also Bliss; Joy, Harry

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. Ryle, John. “Magic and Poison,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1981): 1350.

Kelly, Ned The Bildungsroman of horse breeder and outlaw Edward “Ned” Kelly, True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) contributes to Australian crime history a fictional dramatization of poverty and social ignominy among colonial Irish Catholic immigrants. In Carey’s words, they labor under a “deep sense of inferiority,” a product of the convict experience that defines their identity as suspect outsiders (Murphy, 2003). The issue of exploitive labor returns the next year in Carey’s 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). Through handwritten memoir, the protagonist, a Celtic bush phenomenon, crusades against the forces that “stole my tongue” (Carey, 2000, 328). His charge derives from his parents’ and kinfolks’ experience. In an interview with Jessica Murphy of Atlantic Unbound, Carey explained, “People didn’t come by choice but in terror, having been cast out —flung out, wrenched out. They knew themselves to be abandoned and second rate” (Murphy, 2003). Low self-esteem combined with dispossession and the Protestant police conspiracy against Irish Catholics produced in Ned a defiance worthy of a freedom fighter on a par with Geronimo, Aung San Suu Kyi, or Simon Bolivar. In the opinion of author John Updike, Ned’s feistiness peeks through a “touchingly and comically ingenuous voice,” a far cry from history’s more articulate heroes, such as Che Guevara, Rigoherta Menchu and Nelson Mandela (Updike, 2007, 354). In the style of a semi-literate Mexican corrido, the text pictures Ned as a naive, trusting lad growing up with six siblings. The family survives north of Melbourne on a 20-acre farm at Beveridge on fictional Pleurisy Plain, a grim satire on a common preface to death by pneumonia. Without education or refinement, the family, “ignorant as tadpoles spawned in puddles on the moon,” functions as best it can (Carey, 2000, 278). In the view of critic D. J. Taylor, Ned —“an Irishman stuck at the very bottom of the 19th-century colonial antheap — is capable of providing his own sharply figurative gloss” on Australian history (Taylor, 2001, 42). After the family’s move to Avenel in 1862, Ned, like North American white trash, lives in a bark-roofed, dirt-floored hut at a lower standard than Aussie blacks.



He recalls “the great number of us packed behind the curtains breathing the same air snoring farting blind and deaf to each other as a newborn litter” (Carey, 2000, 19). Although coarse, the image projects a protective esprit de corps that links Ned and his human littermates with the land and with a career in animal husbandry.

CREATIVE RESISTANCE Like the showdown between Coalhouse Walker, Jr., and the corrupt firefighters of New Rochelle, New York, in E. L Doctorow’s Ragtime (1975), Carey orchestrates an underclass us-against-them tension that dominates the social bandit memoir. According to history, the Kelly-Quinn clan chalked up 71 arrests and 26 convictions, the basis of the Kelly legend. Ned attains heroism through daring, trickery, generosity, courtesy, brotherhood, and mythic longevity. Contributing to his self-perception is his defiance of the arrogant Kevin O’Neil, a northern Irelander and Australian police sergeant who slanders Ned’s father, farmer John “Red” Kelly, as a blasphemer, arsonist, and murderer of women and children. From age eight, Ned denigrates himself for the state’s imprisoning of his father for rustling a calf that Ned slaughtered to fend off starvation. Two years later in 1864, the ten-year-old regrets that Ellen Quinn Kelly, his pregnant mother, decks herself in possum skin. She must feed herself and six children on a meager diet — parsnips, potatoes, oatcake, and bread smeared with lard. In the words of analyst Sjef Houppermans, Ned is thwarted by “his ever growing despair and the impossibility for the mother to be what he wants her to be” (Houppermans, 2004, 160). The comment smacks of the stereotype of Irish Catholicism that pictures women attempting to attain the purity of the Virgin Mary. Ignorance stalks the Kelly clan, especially Ned. His experience broadens at age 11 with the birthing of his sister Grace, which requires Ned’s assistance to Ellen in labor and awards him with ignominy for viewing “my mother’s naked bottom” (Carey, 2000, 27). In September, he hears from his teacher, Mr. Irving, that “micks” like the Kellys are less valuable than livestock. At age 12, Ned earns his first view of a bathtub and breakfast menu at the Royal Mail Hotel, Ned’s reward for saving a friend, Dick Shelton, from drowning in Hughes Creek. Like bricolage, oddments of fact and slander wall Ned into a naive, antiauthoritarian mindset that is his glory and his doom. Looking ahead, analyst Carolyn Bliss predicts that Ned “will be executed not so much by the state as by his own failures of imagination” (Bliss, 2001, 47). Bliss’s blame-the-victim philosophy echoes the distaste of British Aussies at the failings of its despised farm class. The text describes experience as the basis of manhood, family responsibility, and resultant civil disobedience. At John’s death from dropsy, the folk term for enlarged heart, on June 24, 1865, Ned charges the loss to “all the poisons of the Empire,” which turn the corpse gray (Carey, 2000, 35). Before Ned achieves adulthood, he and Ellen form what Carey terms a “survival unit” (Seaman, 2005, 53). Ned and his younger brother Dan grieve for their scofflaw sire; Ned rages against his mother’s casual sexual liaisons, a universal form of domestic income that protects poor children from want. As a model of diligence, he reveres paternal lessons: “There would never be a knot I tied or a rabbit I skun or a horse I rode that I did not see those small eyes watching to see I done it right” (Carey, 2000, 39). Ned’s respect for learning endears to him his Uncle Jimmy Quinn, who teaches the boy horse-breaking. The attitude toward breeding and rearing livestock springs from guilt for causing his father’s arrest. Ned declares of farm work, “It were my job to replace the father” (ibid., 41). Fortunately for Ned and his siblings, his mother’s purchase in 1867



of an 88-acre “selection”— a government homestead — on Eleven Mile Creek relieves uncertainty and restores the family to a semblance of normality under one roof.

NED AND THE LAW Much of Ned Kelly’s impetuosity and struggle aims to control his destiny. He is oblivious to his mother’s decision that he become a bushranger. After unintentionally abetting the Buckland stage robbery outside of Whitfield in April 1868, he admits, “I were already travelling full tilt towards the man I would become,” but he doesn’t suspect that “he’d been bought and sold like carrion” (ibid., 77, 95). Under the tutelage of Irish highwayman Harry Power (1819 –1892), Ned acquires the nickname “Your Ignorance,” a token of the boy’s apprenticeship in outlawry that returns to his mind in November 1878, when he’s “still following [Harry’s] rutted track” (ibid., 78, 298). To his credit, Ned longs to return to the agrarian life, but he listens to his mentor and observes “more bolt holes than a family of foxes ... secret caves and mia mias and hollow trees” and another spot “wrought from green saplings and tin and burlap” (ibid., 79). On a visit to his family in 1869, at age 15, Ned declares himself the man of the house by facing down Bill Frost, Ellen Quinn Kelly’s common-law husband and the father of baby Ellen, her seventh child. The bastardy of Ellen establishes Ned’s inability to govern the family under the tenets of monogamy. The quasi-legal status of Kelly children extends to his own daughter, born in June 1879 in San Francisco under a common law arrangement with teen prostitute Mary Hearn. Carey speaks through his picaresque memoir the overt enmity between immigrants and colonial law. In his mid-teens, Ned lobs sarcasm at justice, especially that administered by the British Empire. After superintendents and the police commissioner of Melbourne contravene fairness with lying and sham deals, Ned speaks his disillusion. When the police drop charges against him for robbing the Protestant English squatter R. R. McBean, Ned receives “the Queen of England’s kind permission to freely walk the 13 wet and windy miles” home to Eleven Mile Creek (ibid., 152). For his loyalty to the family’s code of honor, Ned finds himself shunned by his mother and siblings on the strength of a rumor that Ned informed on Harry. Ned’s reunion with the nuclear family does not square him with his aunts and uncles, who betray him to the court for allegedly stealing a mare. Released in March 1871 at age 17 from six months at hard labor at Beechworth Gaol in north central Victoria, Ned falls victim to police brutality and a false charge of receiving a stolen horse. The newspaper account proves him innocent, but he serves three more years at hard labor to a legal system devoid of justice for the poor. Carey emphasizes the cost to the psyche of a teenager of false imprisonment among hardened criminals.

NED AND DAN The narrative depicts Ned’s dedication to the Kelly-Quinn clan and to his younger brother Dan. As is true of urban teens from troubled homes, Dan becomes raw material for the Greta Mob, which lures him into marauding and public nuisance. After more unjustice from anti–Irish squatters and law officers, Ned admits the source of his family loyalty, his love for Ellen Quinn Kelly: “I knew how deep I loved her we was grown together” (ibid., 200). In her defense, he is willing to steal horses as well as endure jibes from Dan and George King that Ellen is Ned’s true love. The Freudian interpretation of their relationship retains validity throughout Ned’s life. As the law zeroes in on the Kelly gang — Ned and Dan, Steve Hart, and Joe Byrne — an official posse comprised of Consta-



bles Ernest Flood and Frank Strahan, Officers Thomas McIntyre and Michael Scanlon, Tom Lonigan, and Sergeant Michael Kennedy force Ned to make choices concerning Dan’s safety. In asserting the role of older brother, Ned slips and refers to his sibling as “Danny,” a demotion that the boy resents as unmanly. Without Dan’s knowledge, Ned sinks into ambivalence about attacking the posse, muttering, “I couldnt bring myself to that next step in my life” (ibid., 248). The straightforward comment prefigures Ned’s final confrontation with the law, when he bangs his revolver on his armor-plated breast to prove to Dan that help is on the way from his older brother. Moody and tense with anticipation, the text reserves its final quarter for the grand shoot-out, a convention Australian outlaw lore shares with such Northwestern American works as Martha Canary’s Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane by Herself (1896), Jill L. Crossley-Batt’s The Last of the California Rangers (1928), Charles Kelly’s Is Butch Cassidy Dead? (1938), the autobiography The Life of John Wesley Hardin (1961), and Lula Parker Betenson’s Butch Cassidy, My Brother (1975). Melancholy reigns as Ned, the bandit chief and redresser of social wrongs, relates details of the gang’s spying on the posses and the police scheme to raid the outlaw camp on Stringybark Creek in south central Victoria. The rapid turnaround follows Ned’s shooting Strahan through the eye, a murder Ned calls “the ripe fruit of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick” (ibid., 250). Although the atmosphere declines to a “forlorn place” with the smell of blood and the buzzing of flies around Tom Lonigan’s remains, Ned notes that Stringybark Creek gains acclaim as a crime scene, where Scanlon lies “lifeless as a bag of spuds” (ibid., 252, 253). Ned caps the scene with a pseudoreligious lament: “Dear God Jesus it were a sorry day” (ibid., 253). The invocation to deity contributes to the overlay of Irish Catholic piety and folk melancholy that surrounds the bushranger’s mythos.

MARTYR AND MYTH Carey intersperses ups and downs of tone, picturing Ned in alternate stances, including disciplinary action against Dan, back-bitten rage at dispossession, and chats with his mare about what he should do next. His actions are swift, his intent transparent. As a gunman and tracker, he overpowers Sergeant Kennedy, then regrets that the victim suffers from an underarm wound. To end the suffering, Ned fires a coup de grace that leaves his flesh “sour with death” and his dream of home ownership “gone to smash” (ibid., 255). During a three-day attempt to cross the flooded Murray River, Ned laments, “God did not see us,” an indication that outlawry has cost the men eternal grace (ibid., 260). The first ray of hope comes, ironically, from a newspaper account about a member of the legislative assembly, journalist Donald Cameron of West Bourke, who questions the unethical conduct of the Victorian police. Premier Graham Berry’s pledge to inquire into police corruption counters less cheerful news from “poison ink” that the gang “could be shot on sight and was entitled to no more mercy than a rabid dog” (ibid., 275). The narrative depicts the underclass as the victims of delayed justice. In the falling action, Carey mimics an ingenuous candor and savagery in a criminal reared in a shack and trained for larceny. As summarized by John Bemrose, a critic for MacLean’s, the peasant class embraces Ned’s legend for its “inherent decency and breathtaking courage,” a subtextual acknowledgement of a peasant code of morality (Bemrose, 2001, 49). The narrative stresses the role of the media in legend-making and folk hagiography by describing the arrival of cops and police sketch artists by train, the same mode of transportation that advanced the Industrial Revolution in England and “brought the



famine to Ireland” (ibid., 276). Ned’s delight in news of Mary’s pregnancy precedes his handwritten apologia, a first-person legacy to their unborn child. However, the comments about trains prefigure the shootout at the Glenrowan depot and hotel, when 30 police depart from rail cars with 20 horses to battle Ned’s armored battalion. The curtain scene, according to reviewer Alex Marsh, “seems set in stone. [Ned] can drift into chronic criminality and prison, or he can stand up for himself ” (Marsh, 2001). The stoic face-off against the stockmen’s minions elevates Ned in death to more than he can be in life, given his circumstances. The author explains the appeal of the Kelly saga to Australians: “We like the defeats.... We like the follies, the failures, the losses. These are the things that tell us who we really are” (Bemrose, 2001, 49). See also injustice; Kelly-Quinn genealogy; True History of the Kelly Gang

• Further readings Bemrose, John. “Dialogue with a Desperado,” MacLean’s 114, no. 13 (26 March 2001): 48 –49. Bliss, Carolyn. “Imagining the Truth,” Antipodes 15, no. 1 (2001): 47–48. Carey, Peter. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Houppermans, Sjef. “Castaway or Homebound” in Living in Posterity, eds. Bart Westerweel and Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen. Hilversum, Netherlands: Uitgeverij Verloren, 2004. Marsh, Alex. “Review: True History of the Kelly Gang,” Boston Book Review (April 2001). Murphy, Jessica. “A Living, Breathing Hoax,” Atlantic Unbound (22 October 2003). Rogers, Jane. “Remaking the Myth,” Guardian Observer (7 January 2001). Taylor, D. J. “A Ventriloquist’s Tale,” New Statesman 130, no. 4519 (8 January 2001): 42. Tranter, Bruce, and Jed Donoghue. “Bushrangers in the Sydney Morning Herald: Ned Kelly and Australian Identity,” TASA Conference 2006 (4 December 2006): 1 –12. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007.

Kelly-Quinn genealogy By developing the expansive Kelly family in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Peter Carey reflects the diverse influences that shape a fervid, at times, desperate Catholic Irish-Australian household. In a review for the Financial Times, analyst Ludovic HunterTilney declares that the purpose of romanticizing Australia’s favored outlaw is to establish the “authority-defying Australian [as a] founding father” (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). father d. 1870 | -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | | | | | | James John “Red” Kelly=Ellen=/=Harry Jimmy Quinn Kate=Jack Lloyd Jane Pat=Margaret arsonist from Tipperary Quinn Power b. 1842 | traitor Dubliner d. 1866 b. 1837 outlaw jail, 1857, 1870 | | | | =/=Bill=/=Brigit Cotter -----------| | Frost | | | | boundary rider Tom Jack Jr. | | shot, 2/1870 | | | Ellen Ma=blacksmith at Templecrone | b. 1870 | | d. 1871 ----------------------------| | | | =George King=/=Mary Hearn six sisters



| | m. 1874 | b. 1861 | ----------------------| | | | | George | Ellen John Alice b. 1877 | b. 1874 b .1875 b. 4/16/1878 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | | | | | Ned Kelly=/=Mary Alex=Annie=/=Constable Jem Maggie=Bill | Kate=/=Alex Grace b. 6/3/1854 Hearn Gunn b. 1853 | Flood b. 1859 Skilling | Lloyd “Fitzy” b. 1865 bushranger | m. 1868 | m. 1873 | b. 1863 Fitzpatrick | | | jail, 5/1870 | d. 1872 | Dan Kelly d. 11/4/1880 | | b. 1861 | child jail 1877 | b. 1872 d. 6/28/1880 daughter b. 6/1879 San Francisco

See also Kelly, Ned; True History of the Kelly Gang

• Further readings Carey, Peter. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008). Marsh, Alex. “Review: True History of the Kelly Gang,” Boston Book Review (April 2001).

language Peter Carey’s appetite for authentic ethnic idiom infuses dialogue and description with a native uniqueness. According to Richard B. Woodward, a reviewer for the Village Voice, in the 1980s, Carey and his contemporary fiction writers “reinfused the English novel and language from the boundaries of a defunct empire,” including a range of writings from Australia, Egypt, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, and the West Indies (Woodward, 1995, 59). For the composition of His Illegal Self (2008), James Wood, in a review for New Yorker, admired Carey’s fusion of “crooked colloquialism and poetic formality” (Wood, 2008). Carey creates the auditory jangle of seven-year-old Che David Selkirk’s New York Manhattanese, recently hired Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos’s broad Bostonian accent, and the Queensland dialect of Remus Creek Road outside Yandina, Queensland. The author’s one-line introduction to Gladys the Haitian maid provides both comic relief to a tense situation and a glimpse of maternal concern for the child of outlaws: “You don’t be getting yourself upset seeing your mommy and daddy in the hands of the po-lees” (Carey, 2008, 17). Contributing to the illicit nature of Che’s flight from Manhattan to Queensland are the serio-comic catchphrases of the 1970s—“leave it to Beaver,” “it’s cool,” “good vibrations,” “trippy,” and “go with the flow”— which flout the level of terror in Che and Dial, his motherly abductor (ibid., 74, 89, 110, 87). Carey is meticulous in his study of dialect. While writing Illywhacker (1985), for three years, he thumbed through Geoff Wilkes’s Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (1978), the source of Carey’s title. Although not clarified by etymological research, the title term “illywhacker” suggests pig Latin for “willy hacker,” a description of masturbation implying exhibitionism through a form of self-pleasuring. The racy pun reprises the farce of Jonathan Swift’s description of Gulliver’s apprenticeship under “my good Master Bates” (Swift, 2003, 22). For good reason, in the opening lines, the narrator, Herbert Peter Bad-



gery, admits to being a liar and warns in Latin, “Caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware)” (Carey, 1985, 11) In fiction and in the expatriate’s memoir 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), Carey pictures language as a clan inheritance from preceding generations, including the much repeated “chook” for “chicken” “fossick” for “rummage,” “hessian” for “burlap,” “ute” for “pickup truck,” and “dunny” for “outhouse.” The protagonist develops into a rogue pilot of a Morris Farman biplane and a salesman of Ford T models by emulating his father, “a liar and bullshitter ... hungry for a quid,” a standard British term for the pound sterling (ibid., 85, 456). Whether Herbert’s practicing “how to appear bigger or smaller, how to skin a crow, butcher a pig, wear expensive shoes when my suit was inferior, how to change my accent, how to modulate my walk,” his prolixity and willful chicanery empower him to succeed over the odds, in part by re-enacting his father’s blather (ibid., 221). Drawn from the Great Depression era and World War II slang, the list of his idiosyncratic terms— goog, staver, spiv, abo, quandong, rattler, yabbies— suits his roguery. Through Carey’s characterization of the fictional Aussie rascal, he commemorates and vivifies the high points in the career of his colorful grandfather, aviation innovator Robert Graham “R. G.” Carey of Warrnambool.

CLASS AND DIALOGUE In Oscar and Lucinda (1988), language, both verbal and body English, sets at odds the caste divisions of Sydney. Any undue refinement heightens working-class suspicions of the pretentious British “pommy” (gentleman) in Australia, who mocks the local “JackyJacky,” “navvy,” and “larrikin” (Carey, 1988, 387, 349, 376, 49). For the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, the scrawny, twitchy minister, an “odd bod” at St. John’s in Randwick parish, body language is “loose and floppy as a puppet” (ibid., 84, 310). On board the steamer Leviathan, he faces Mr. Borrodaile of Ultimo, a declassé mimicker of Oscar’s lordosis, concave cheeks, and jerky walk. Without realizing the insult, Oscar smiles at the improvisation and salutes, “My congratulations, Mr. Borrodaile, it is a great gift” (ibid., 205). The exchange reveals Oscar’s social naiveté and his openness to ridicule. A shift in professional class alters the relationship of outsiders and Sydney’s working class. The minister’s ouster from the pulpit reduces him to penury and wretched labor in the accounting department of James “Jimmy” d’Abbs, a parvenu Irishman who labors at a polished air of artsiness. Expectations heighten after Lucinda announces Oscar’s credentials as an Oriel College “Hon” (honor student) and graduate and labels him an Oxford scholar versed in Greek and Latin (ibid., 103). As a test, D’Abbs asks Oscar to decline “sinister,” the Latin for “left hand,” a mockery of the minister’s left-handedness. The ensuing word battle pits Oscar’s incorrect “sinistur, sinistu, sinistu, sinistrum, sinistris” against d’Abbs’s nonsense reply “Sinistartorium” (ibid., 291). The comic lingual duel implies that neither man knows enough about Latin to outshine the other.

MUTE IN COMPANY Carey indicates through inchoate evenings together that neither title character is capable of simple speech. After Oscar settles at Lucinda’s country home at Longnose Point, Balmain, he fails at expressing himself to a woman he adores. Worsening his isolation, his awkward gestures and miscommunications distance him from his beloved. In contradictory postures, he and Lucinda are “each blind to the condition of the other” (ibid., 309). Thus silenced, they wordlessly hug themselves rather than each other, giving the impres-



sion that he protects himself from her and that she rejects him. They perpetuate their inability to express mutual affection and, like the proverbial ships passing in the night, never exchange loving words. The impasse becomes so palpable that, Lucinda “felt the space between them as if it were a living thing,” the author’s conceit that turns wordlessness into a presence as ominous as the Tower of Babel (ibid., 377). Oscar earns a grudging respect from the glass blowers of Lucinda’s factory, crafters who speak a local argot “as direct as nails” (ibid., 307). Oscar’s fish-out-of-water syndrome worsens at a tavern at Urunga, where sordid badinage among tipplers involves urging the minister to visit a prostitute behind a torn curtain to “dip your wee white toe in the holy well,” a coarse metaphor for fornication (ibid., 403). The blasphemy compels him to rise to rebuke the card players. He attempts an utterance like an Old Testament patriarch, but can only tremble and glare. As his courage grows, he mutters “How could I smite you?” and recites a pastiche of verses from Psalm 23 (ibid., 404). The menacing atmosphere silences the “sky-pilot” before he endangers himself further (ibid., 403). His mangled rebuke prefigures his one-sided plea for forgiveness before he drowns alone and screaming in a glass chapel. Saving him from erasure from history is the family story aired by Bob, the posthumous grandson that Oscar unknowingly sires in 1866 on governess Miriam Mason Chadwick within hours of his death. Through Oscar’s ignoble death and slide into aboriginal legend, Carey indicates how an inept communicator impacts Australian history.

FANTASY DYSTOPIA For The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey creates his own version of colonial language for Efica, a cluster of 18 archipelagos in the South Pacific. According to reviewer Philip Hensher of the Guardian Weekly, the author writes “fabulously, Dickensianly profuse” prose (Hensher, 1994, 28). Carey explained, “One of my ways to reveal the language of the Eficans was to delve into their French and English colonial past. I began to develop these creolised expressions which would grow from Efican history [that] percolated through their language” (Polito, 1996, 1). He creates original patois, legitimized by a two-part glossary covering French-tinged Efican and Dutch-flavored Voorstandese idiom. Carey enjoyed writing the outline of hybrid language that creates • humorous idiom (to see the angels=experience sexual orgasm; spin drier=prostitute) • ritual food (crois cakes=cross cakes) • word play (vert-walk=narrow green between a curb and sidewalk) • professions (santamarie=nurse). He enjoys garbled French (mo-chou=mons choufleur; dos-sack=backpack; odeklonje=eau de cologne) as well as sight gags (porpoise=penis; wheel-squirrel=rollerblader). For the imperial Voorstand language, he concocts • • • •

Anglo-Saxon look-alikes (hunning=honey) pseudo–Germanic (liefling=darling; wolkegrabber=skyscraper) pseudo–Dutch (prikkeled=irritated, Kakdorp=shit town) tech talk (Simulacrum=robot).

As explained by Michael Heyward, a reviewer for the New Republic, the double patois forms “the fictional equivalent to that sensation of strangeness we all have when we hear



foreigners speaking our language but using words we never would” (Heyward, 1995, 40). Slang adds “vid,” “sirkus,” and “zine” as evidence of pop media, a theme that Carey peruses in his father-son odyssey to Tokyo publishers of manga and anime in Wrong about Japan (2005). In an interview with the novelist, analyst Robert Polito complimented the scholarly machinery of annotated commentaries as “very funny, teasing academia, among other targets. But they also convey a powerful, almost tragic sense of the two countries’ linguistic strangeness from each other” (Polito, 1996, 1).

19TH-CENTURY VERISIMILITUDE For Jack Maggs (1997), the narrative must delineate the title figure’s adaptation to two nations. The author energizes the text with cocky locutions, such as “esclop” and “Peeler” for “police officer,” “magging” for “chattering,” “skiver” for “layabout,” and “clack-box” for “smart-mouth” (Carey, 1997, 39, 154, 214, 157). Grammarian John Anderson notes Carey’s rule extension in making idioms suit the speaker’s intent. The title figure expresses the job of his foster mother as “She grew me up,” a resetting of active verb and object that transfers the power of maturation to the parent (ibid., 26). To Ramona Koval, an interviewer for Meanjin, the author explained his sources, “dictionaries of cant, criminal slang, wonderful, wonderful books, scary in a way” for their directness in matters of coercion and violence (Koval, 1997, 670). He singled out New Zealand lexicographer Eric Partridge’s Historical Slang (1974) that Carey located in a Yale bookshop as a source of misogynistic and sexual terms. For True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey recreated an Irish-Australian argot that he called “a very Irish voice, unpunctuated, passionate, with great stream of sentence ... like Ned Kelly’s DNA” (Seaman, 2005, 52). For critic Henry Sutton of the London Independent, the effect is “a breathless and ultimately very convincing punctuationless dialect ... both hypnotic and extraordinarily powerful” (Sutton, 2003). For a model, the author relied on the language of his elementary school playground in the 1940s for the voicing of a persona as familiar as the boys of his old neighborhood. He explained, “The Kelly voice has been in my head forever” (Murphy, 2003). The lingo preserves elements and tenets of the gang’s milieu in the 1870s and of Australia’s convict past. Contributing to Kelly’s character are his use of “b-----ds,” “b-----rs,” “b-----y,” “c--t,” “eff,” “effing,” “f-----g,” and “ess” and the Dickensian euphemism “adjectival” as masks for improper language, a shield of Ned’s infant daughter’s innocence and a gesture to the truth (Carey, 2000, 3, 9, 157, passim). In justification of character foibles, Carey impressed interviewer Nicholas Wroe, a reviewer for the Guardian, with the value of verisimilitude of language: “He lifts his eyes from the main story and gives you a picture of this whole people of Irish immigrants who have been brutalised and are struggling for some space and some reasonable way of life” (Wroe, 2001, 6). Like William Faulkner’s compassion for Mississippi’s agrarian poor in As I Lay Dying (1930) and Carlos Fuentes’s respect for the bilingual Mexican revolutionary General Tomas Arroyo in Old Gringo (1985), Carey’s voicing of “Derwenter” for “convict,” “fizgig” for “informer,” “lag” for “capture,” and “dob in” for “betray” echoes the pain and outrage of demoralized frontier folk searching for a libertarian champion (ibid., 164, 143, 140, 152).

WORD TRICKS Carey needed a panoply of word tricks to plumb the mental wells of an Aussie poet in My Life as a Fake (2003). He explained in an interview, “Since the Kelly Gang, I aspired



to make a poetry out of an unlettered voice and ever since I’ve been obsessed with bending, snapping and reshaping sentences, trying to join things in ways that are not at first apparent” (Bennett 2008). The narrator, Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, editor of the London-based poetry journal Modern Review, struggles with the veracity of poet Christopher Chubb, an Australian expatriate living in the back of a bicycle shop in Penang, Kuala Lumpur. As a test, Sarah analyzes his Malaysian English, which produces such corruptions as bisnis (business), samah-samah (same), sarcky (sarcastic), releks (relax), and trishaw (three-wheeled rickshaw). In rebuke of Sarah’s fastidiousness, analyst David Huddart asserts, “There is nothing definitively proper about British English: English is in fact not owned by anyone, and so its transformations in other places create their own versions of propriety” (Huddart, 2006, 64). Huddart concludes that, even the mimicry of pidgin English “has its own life and power,” just as Chubb’s fake literature is still creative writing, whatever its provenance (ibid.). To express the agility of Bob McCorkle’s diction, the text ridicules his misidentification of the nipple of a baby’s bottle. To Christopher Chubb, McCorkle’s inventor, McCorkle aligns four approximate rhymes, “Tit, tight, teat, tote. What a great joke that is. Fee, fie, fo, fum,” a reference to the British folktale “Jack and the Giant Killer,” which bookman Benjamin Tabart first printed in 1807 as a cautionary tale to over-reachers like Chubb (Carey, 2003, 151). The allusion to a monstrous human abductor suits the subsequent description of McCorkle, whose muscular frame is seven feet tall. Theft by an oversized monster implies that Chubb’s week-old daughter Tina is in mortal danger from manhandling. Contributing to verbal pyrotechnics is McCorkle’s complaint that Chubb invented him as a 24-year-old writer without a childhood, a failing that McCorkle rationalizes as justification for kidnapping Tina. In a shift of tone from playful to melodramatic, McCorkle creates bathos by demanding justice of his “dear Father” (ibid., 152). The snipe turns to irony in the resolution, when Tina and Mrs. Lim hack Chubb to death with a machete and toss his corpse down the stairs. The shocking human pile creates a palpable metaphor for Chubb’s attempt to hold together his hoax.

OUT OF THE MOUTHS The best of Carey emerges from the mouths of off-center characters the likes of Honey Barbara, Jack Maggs, Ned Kelly, and Tristan Smith. For Theft: A Love Story (2006), the cast requires a loopy arrangement of defensive artist and ex-con — 36-year-old Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, a ragged rebel from Bacchus Marsh created along the lines of Herbert Peter Badgery, the title fraud in Illywhacker (1985). Abetting Butcher is his felonious lover — 28-year-old adulterer Marlene Cook Leibovitz, an art authenticator and expert with burglary tools— and Butcher’s younger brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, a 34-year-old idiot savant. Critic John Updike typifies the Boone brothers’ monologues as “giddy, unbuttoned, reminiscing” from Carey’s boyhood (Updike, 2007, 361). According to James Wood, a critic for the London Review of Books, Butcher is one of “Carey’s scarred, ebullient narrators ... a tough dramatic alloy, delicate and robust at once,” who punctuates his ravings with a naughty-boy rat-a-tat of “fuck” and “shit” (Wood, 2006, 16). The bluster that upbraids Hugh for his unlovely behaviors— wolfing fried sausages, glowering, farting, breaking little fingers— reveals an older caretaker who bears with fraternal affection the onus of a simpleton forever-child. In the midst of a day-and-night romance marathon linking Butcher and Marlene, Hugh lives on the cusp, an observer no more noticed than a puppy.



To the reader’s amusement, through intercalary chapters, the author inserts in Butcher’s ravings his brother Hugh’s naively informative commentary. The dual narratives ennoble with biblical citations, cynicism, and disorderly segues Hugh’s raw poetry: “All my life I lived amongst the perfumes of secrets, blood, roses, altar wine, who can say what happened to us all in Main Street, Bacchus Marsh, not me” (Carey, 2006, 250). For pseudo-family unity, the story highlights a mutual admiration in Hugh and Marlene for a favorite child’s book, The Magic Pudding, an Australian children’s classic that Norman Lindsay published in 1918. For Hugh, the remembered story orients his moral compass, the view of right and wrong that he expands to cover the amoral swindles of Marlene and Butcher. Animating character exchanges are joyous word battles, which reviewer James Wood types as “customised slang ... the warped reality of spoken language ... a vivid democracy, now high and now low, but always interestingly rich” (ibid.). See also Badgery, Herbert; humor; Illywhacker; irony; names

• Further readings Anderson, John M. Modern Grammars of Case. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. “Australian Authors Defend Local Language,” Guardian (21 April 2009): 5. Bennett, Ronni. “His Illegal Self by Peter Carey,” As Time Goes By, peter-carey.html, accessed on November 26, 2008. Blaber, Ronald, and Marvin Gilman. Roguery: The Picaresque Tradition in Australian, Canadian and Indian Fiction. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly, 1990. Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Hensher, Philip. “Heaven, Hell and Disneyland,” Guardian Weekly (23 October 1994): 28. Heyward, Michael. “Parallel Universes,” New Republic 212, no. 15 (10 April 1995): 38 –41. Hope, Deborah. “Showing His Sensitive Side,” The Australian (22 March 2008). Huddart, David. Homi K. Bhabha. New York: Routledge, 2006. Korte, Barbara. Body Language in Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996. Koval, Ramona. “The Unexamined Life: Peter Carey Interviewed,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 667–682. Murphy, Jessica. “A Living, Breathing Hoax,” Atlantic Unbound (22 October 2003). Polito, Robert. “Peter Carey,” Bomb no. 54 (winter 1996): 1. Seaman, Donna. Writers on the Air. Philadelphia: Paul Dry, 2005. Sutton, Henry. “The Non-existent Poets Society,” Independent (14 September 2003). Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. London: Penguin, 2003. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007. Wood, James. “Damaged Beasts,” London Review of Books 28, no. 11 (8 June 2006): 16 –17. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59. Wroe, Nicholas. “Fiction’s Great Outlaw,” Guardian (6 January 2001): 6.

legitimacy Peter Carey’s crusade for authenticity derives from inborn traits sharpened by daily battles with Aussie diffidence, a subject that the expatriate author surveys in much of his canon, particularly 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001). James Wood, in a review of Theft: A Love Story (2006) for London Review of Books, draws a likely surmise about the influences on Carey’s themes: “He had read no books until he was 18, an Australian incapable of false aestheticism or preciousness, devoted to the hygienic stringencies of scepticism and year-round bullshit-detection” (Wood, 2006, 17). Carey’s fiction



conflates the bastardy of characters— the tri-fathered cripple and title character in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), and the unelected position of architect Gerrard Haflinger in “Kristu-Du” (1979)— with the outcasting of Australia’s British pioneers, who arrived by sea from England’s poorhouses, homes for delinquents, and prisons. In acts of reclamation, he reinvests protagonists with self-worth by validating their courage, resilience, and humanity, his gift to Aussie legend Edward “Ned” Kelly and his Irish Catholic immigrant clan in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). Carey introduces the redemption of outsiders in Bliss (1981), his first published novel. Fleeing an adulterous wife, two venal children, and a hostile home and work environment for safety in a woodlands commune on Bog Onion Road, 30-year-old Harry Stanthorpe Joy, a former advertising magnate, tackles guilt for failing as husband and father and for propagandizing cancer-causing products. He struggles to cleanse himself of destructive campaigns for Krappe Chemicals by communing with trees and absorbing their sacred blessing. Like Medieval crusader lore, the purification requires a pilgrimage through pagan territory to “[dig] those holes big so that the trees would grow and cover him,” his shield from damnation and hell (Carey, 1981, 280). Harry’s reclamation begins with physical collapse and reinvigoration. Far from the chaos of home and the rottenness of the advertising game, he sinks into agoraphobia and begins stripping himself of depravity. The process requires caution: “The ground was soft and leaf-covered, littered with moss-green stones and laced with fine vine trip-wires which were best proceeded through without haste” (ibid., 277). As his physical presence and labors gain credence among woodlanders, his storytelling sets him above the ordinary. He becomes a priest-bard, an unexpected exaltation for humility and intuition that boosts him far above his urban status as crackerjack salesman. As storykeeper and wordsmith to a demoralized people, he “was merely sewing together the bright patchworks of lives, legends, myths, beliefs, hearsay into a splendid cloak that gave a richer glow to all their lives” (ibid., 290 –291). By feeding their “[hunger] for ceremony and story,” he uplifts himself and his wife and children, the offspring of a sage and healer and the foundations of a forest dynasty (ibid., 291).

LEGITIMACY THROUGH FAMILY The establishment of a respected family sept is also the outcome of Carey’s second neo–Victorian novel, the Gothic thriller Jack Maggs (1997), a reshaping of social novelist Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860 –1861). The original Australian convict, Dickens’s Abel Magwitch, lurks in the shadows of Great Expectations much as Carey’s Jack, the phantom father, hovers on the outskirts of respectable society. In spite of the threat of execution, he slithers into Clerkenwell in north central London in late April 1837. His memories muse on a stoic survival of orphaning and near infanticide on a muddy bank at four days old. Rejection precedes rearing in a criminal family headed by abortionist “Ma” Mary Britten and master thief Silas Smith. The sordid parenting echoes the training of pickpockets by Fagin in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1838), the first English novel to feature a child protagonist. Loss of family threatens Jack’s self-esteem and survival of brutality. Transportation in 1813 at age 15 for housebreaking from London to a penal colony at Morton Bay, New South Wales, leaves him toughened, but disheartened. His coat covers a webwork of scars left by the double-cat, the lash that continues to reverberate in horrific memories. Cramping his gut and wrenching his facial muscles in tic doloureux is the “cold terror associated



with the triangle,” the whipping post at the arch of the prisoners’ barracks manned by Rudder, the flogger, and commanded by Captain Logan, Jack’s nemesis (Carey, 1997, 297). The symbol of triangulation depicts Jack at the apex of choices, either continue life on the lam in London as a fugitive from the law or return to New South Wales, the fount of intolerable hurt and shame that threaten social and personal erasure.

BOYHOOD SEARCHES Carey gets double mileage from the quest motif. As Jack searches for his ward, Henry Phipps, the boy he has sponsored for a quarter century, the foster father longs for proof that cash can mold a promising innocent into a gentleman, Jack’s ideal of London social valorization. The rhythms of hide and seek overturn the original concept: while Jack pursues his beloved child, Henry sinks in respectability as Jack rises to a coarse, but well deserved sanctification. Self-honored with a red vest and the love of chambermaid Mercy Larkin, Jack poses by the fire, his face “rubbed at by pain until it shone,” a visual beatification (ibid., 322). In the settling of plot entanglements, Jack departs England for good and finds dignity in the domestic environment of Wingham south of Brisbane, New South Wales. Assuring his hold on respectability as well as her own, his wife destroys an acknowledgement of Percival Clarence “Percy” Buckle’s gentility in The Death of Maggs. Her symbolic act dramatizes a single blow for Australian honor against the degradation lobbed by the British Empire. The rescue of truth recurs in Carey’s tenth novel His Illegal Self (2008), a thriller/love story set during an unplanned flight from the radical Students for a Democratic Society movement at Harvard in the 1970s. A quest narrative at heart, the story speaks the yearning of a rich little boy, Che David Selkirk, a seven-year-old orphan, for the facts of his parentage. Brought up by a bohemian grandma, socialist Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, a block from Fifth Avenue and at her upstate hideaway at Kenoza Lake, Che, like Henry Phipps, gains from urban materialism none of the assurances of identity and security. He feels so untethered that he listens to Phoebe’s breathing after her afternoon martini in hopes that she won’t die and leave him unattached from his banished mother and father, anarchists Susan Selkirk and David Rubbo. Liam Davison, in a critique for The Australian, finds in the novel “a remarkable consistency about Carey’s work: lies, deception, fakery; the moral consequences of ambiguous truths,” the themes that dominate his canon (Davison, 2008). See also belonging; injustice; Maggs, Jack; self-esteem

• Further readings Ashcroft, Bill. “Reading Carey Reading Malley” in Who’s Who: Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature, eds. Maggie Nolan and Carrie Dawson. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2004. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. Davison, Liam. “Carey’s Radical Diversion Inspires a Tale of the Familiar Seen from Afar,” The Australian (26 January 2008). Eustace, John. “Going Bush: Performing the Pastoral in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Antipodes (1 December 2006): 108 –116. Haber, John. “Fraud and Theft,” New York Times (15 November 2006). Ho, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and the Trauma of Convictism,” Antipodes 17, no. 2 (1 December 2003): 124 –132. Ramsey-Kurz, Helga. “Tokens or Totems? Eccentric Props in Postcolonial Re-enactments of Colonial Consecration,” Literature and Theology 21, no. 3 (2007). Wood, James. “Damaged Beasts,” London Review of Books 28, no. 11 (8 June 2006): 16 –17.



Leplastrier, Lucinda With a delight in womanhood and proto-feminism, author Peter Carey shapes the appeal of the co-protagonist in his neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988). A farm girl born near Mitchell’s Creek in an “earth-floored hut in New South Wales” northwest of Sydney, Lucinda Leplastrier is orphaned and enriched by inheritance of £10,000 (Carey, 1988, 62). Reared in a bicultural environment, she combines femininity with libertarianism and shrewd personal and business instincts. In the summation of homeopathic psychologist Philip M. Bailey, Lucinda teeters on the edge of a “fragile independence”: “Generally, she is not pompous or egotistical, but she will not tolerate disrespect, since she has a great deal of self-respect, despite her lack of faith in herself at times” (Bailey, 1996, 316). Bailey lauds the character for a sense of justice and maidenly propriety, which is neither conventional nor arbitrary. In the assessment of Margaret Harris, an analyst for Southerly, Lucinda “has a fascinated affinity with the Aboriginal,” a sympathy that parallels her concern for male factory laborers and for her gambling partner, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins (Harris, 1989, 109). At her best, Lucinda defends the innocent, extends benevolence to the victims of hypocrisy, rebukes the violator of her personal space, and admires the working class for its traditions and stamina. Oscar pictures Lucinda at age 18 as an enticing Eve who emerges into adulthood on April 7, 1859, the Tuesday after Whitsuntide, a day of baptism in white robes. Her independence and her rise to the moneyed class produces what M. D. Fletcher calls “a parody of the female-coming-of-age story,” a rush to engage the unmarried girl to a man who can think for her and manage her money (Fletcher, 1994, 146). Symbolically, she rejects ladylike outfits that inhibit her stride, a display of confidence that sets her apart from mincing belles. A blunt, canny heiress, she examines her entrepreneurial options carefully while concealing under her gender’s mystique an unladylike enthusiasm for investing her £10,000 in manufacturing. The narrative extols her vision with a straightforward compliment: “She did not expect anything small from her life” (Carey, 1988, 107). In choosing to invest in glass manufacture, she recalls the conundrum of the larme batavique (Prince Rupert’s drop) and its hard exterior and rapid explosion when snipped near the tail. The experiment proves to her the appeal of glass, which is “invisible, solid, in short, a joyous and paradoxical thing, as good a material as any to build a life from” (ibid., 111). The choice suggests a candor and naiveté about the forces that threaten her achievement. External views of Lucinda vary. Her guardian, Charles “Chas” Ahearn, considers her uninitiated and helpless; Mrs. Mildred Burrows, a pursy widow, reprimands her for liberality toward Aborigines and urges her not to keep late hours, an age-old suspicion of darkness and foul doings. To Lucinda’s adviser and confidant, the Reverend Dennis Hasset, who risks his reputation during late night consultations with her at the vicarage, she is a “milk-breathed child” requiring ministerial guidance and masculine protection (ibid., 129). To his amusement, the night porter at Petty’s Hotel tips a wink at the vicar to acknowledge and abet the reverend’s presumed despoliation of a teen-age orphan. Of her affection for Dennis, she clarifies her need for friendship and “someone with whom I can talk” (ibid., 170). In an article for Southerly, critic Margaret Harris describes Lucinda’s solitude as “the social and sexual loneliness that her economic power confers upon her,” a form of confinement generated by Sydney’s narrow-minded conventions (Harris, 1989, 111).



FEMALE AUTONOMY As independence relaxes social restrictions on Lucinda, she relaxes into card playing, a controlling metaphor for daring fate. During nightly games of cribbage on Rushcutters Bay at the home of James “Jimmy” d’Abbs and his wife Henny, the heiress “was not dull or angry. She laughed. She looked prettier. She could feel her own transformation” (Carey, 1988, 133). Her green eyes glitter as she becomes intoxicated with risk, a natural adjunct to liberation and intellectual curiosity. The loosening of her inhibitions endears her to d’Abbs, who enjoys her fleshy lower lip, droopy eyelids, and an energetic recklessness denoted by a twitch and by card dealing as deft as that of a croupier. The fun of gambling with friends ends in a “moving water-wall of hatred” from gossip revealed by the Reverend Hasset (ibid., 147). Ironically the slam against her character coincides with her finalizing of negotiations to buy the Prince Rupert’s Glassworks, a symbol of the transparent motives of Sydney’s busybodies. Just as she wagers on the prosperity of her factory, she longs to release self-castigation in a “hand of shining cribbage,” which she shares with her employees (ibid., 147). Even laboring-class men recognize that Lucinda’s egalitarianism in games of Blind Jack or poker is not “proper” (ibid., 189). She views herself as “a beast in heat looking for a beastly game,” a subtextual reference to her gambling habit and to budding sexuality (ibid., 192). Maturity further divests Lucinda of maidenly graces. No longer a neophyte in her late teens, she travels to England to meet her mother’s friends and proves “an embarrassment in proper society” for her willfulness, a model of the coarseness that colonizers expect from the outback (ibid., 236). Without hesitation, she criticizes exploiters of the colony as “tallow-boilers and subdividers,” her term for people who hold no regard for the land and its wonders (ibid.). Upon return to Sydney from her sojourn, Lucinda displays an assertive, uncompromising side derived from age and experience and from a natural “passion for things” and a belief in “the benefits of industry,” an acknowledgement of the proceeds of the mechanized age (ibid., 236, 237). She rebukes Hasset for accepting Bishop Dancer’s reassignment to the outback and challenges her old friend to state his beliefs openly. Out of anger at “the tyranny of bishops,” she avers, “I do not accept the wisdom of turning the other cheek,” a rebellion against a key tenet of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount that appears in the gospels of both Matthew and Luke (ibid., 238, 235). Disappointed with the one-sidedness of her relationship with Hasset, she chooses to attack rather than mourn his going: “Must you wait for mould to happen to you?” a daring feminist challenge to a professionally superior male (ibid., 238).

GENDER BATTLES To the lone literary foil, whom society labels a wayward spinster, Carey cites the weaknesses of males as testimonials to the illusion of macho strength and wisdom. Lucinda endures heartbreak by retreating to Whitfield’s Farm on Longnose Point at Balmain north of Sydney and lives in dreams of accomplishment. Fueled by anger, she stokes an attitude of “I’ll-show-you-Mr-Hasset-what-it-is-you-could-have-had” and, into August 1866, promotes his homesickness for urban life by sending him drawings of the comforts of Sydney (ibid., 240). Her pluck turns to defiance after a long trot through Sydney to a Chinese gambling den south of Bathurst Street in Darling Harbour. To male silence at her approach, she smartens her posture and mutters to herself, “You’re the boss” (ibid., 247). In a room packed with Asian male gamblers, her assertiveness is empowering, awarding her “a larger body of feeling which was dense, compacted, a centre of pure will” (ibid., 248).



Carey implies that, among white males, Lucinda loses steam. Her self-steeled backbone proves illusory after her factory workers cheer Oscar as the long-needed man in her life. At the same time that she doubts her accomplishments in industry and her ventures into female independence, she breaks into weeping, a lapse that imparts “pink eyes like a dormouse” (ibid., 320). The outward show of grief nudges her toward the standard female shelter — Oscar’s arms, an ironic refuge after his fall from grace as a Church of England vicar. On a walk up Druitt Street toward Castlereagh to the dining room of the Oriental Hotel, she battles her instincts: “Do not cry. I will not. Take his arm. I cannot. Take it. I cannot. You must” (ibid., 319). The compelling arrogance and vulnerability in Lucinda is, according to reviewer Melissa Bellanta, the novel’s heart, an ambivalence common to the trailblazer. After the upriver expedition diminishes her role in the action, the text loses its focus, leaving Lucinda to work at “Mr. Edward Jason’s Druitt Street pickle factory” and to become a labor leader, a lackluster farewell to a vivid character (ibid., 429). See also Hopkins, Oscar; Hopkins-Chadwick genealogy; Leplastrier genealogy; Oscar and Lucinda; religion

• Further readings Bailey, Philip M. Homeopathic Psychology: Personality Profiles of the Major Constitutional Remedies. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 1996. Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003). Carey, Peter. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. Fletcher, M. D. “Peter Carey’s Postcolonial Australia II: Oscar and Lucinda: Misunderstanding, Victimisation and Political History,” Australian Political Ideas. ed. Geoff Stokes. New South Wales: University of New South Wales, 1994. Harris, Margaret. “Eminent Victorians?,” Southerly 49 (1989): 109 –113.

Leplastrier-Fisher genealogy The platonic relationship shared by the title figures of Oscar and Lucinda (1988) truncates a genealogy that begins with vigor and direction on a productive Australian farm and ends with a childless spinster bankrupted by her eagerness to gamble. mother | Elizabeth=Abel Fisher | Leplastrier feminist | farmer d. 1859 | d. 4/3/1852 in a of influenza | fall from a horse | ---------------| | deceased Lucinda brothers Leplastrier b. 5/10/1841 in Australia “glass lady”

See also Hopkins, Oscar; Leplastrier, Lucinda; Oscar and Lucinda



• Further readings Carey, Peter. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988.

madness Peter Carey’s depiction of mental imbalance covers a span of dementia, obsessions, and delusions. Examples range from the cannibalism in the title story of The Fat Man in History (1974), the disembodied voices that assail Molly McGrath in Illywhacker (1985), the lust for gaming in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), and the jealous rage of Natalie Theroux in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) to the demented competitiveness of Muriel Mifflin in The Big Bazoohley (1995) and of leapers to their deaths at the gap and of sailors in the 54th annual Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race of December 1998 in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001) and in the self-isolation of the otaku, the solitary computer nerd in Wrong about Japan (2005). In an interview in 1985, Carey justified his delving into Gothic extremes by describing himself “as an advocate for unpleasant people with driving passions, an exploration of the negative emotions common to all humanity” (Summers, 1985, 33). He later contributed a personal interest in serial killers and in the psychotic children he knew in his youth: “They didn’t spring from nowhere. I remember seeing a few children ... with those sorts of dead eyes.... I wonder what happened to them, what they’ve become” (Baker, 1991, 3). His musings undergird his eeriest characters— the unnamed sentry in “A Windmill in the West” (1972), the retiree who destroys Nile in “Peeling” (1974), and penitent adman Alex Duval and the martyred drug dealer, David Joy, in Bliss (1981). For source material, Carey plays recordings of prison ballads “singing of prolonged isolation and madness— the Ur-story of white Australia” (Woodward, 1995, 59). In the Gothic saga The Tax Inspector (1991), 16-year-old Benny Catchprice dominates as an aggressor and self-aggrandizer, a monster predicted earlier in the machinations of accountant-turned-explorer Mr. Jeffris, the murderer of Aborigines in Oscar and Lucinda. The author explained the nature of the boy’s doom: “The soil Benny is growing out of — nothing very beautiful or wonderful is going to come out of it,” an allusion to the shattered dreams of his grandmother, Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, to cultivate a flower farm (Marx, 1992, 347). Benny attempts to brazen his way into adulthood by seizing a job as salesman in the family car business, the beginning of his metamorphosis into an imaginary angel and hero. Like Alexander “Teddy” Finch in the title story of The Fat Man in History (1974), Mort Danko in “Exotic Pleasures” (1979), and other of Carey’s losers, Benny exhibits the physical marks of defeat, notably, the self-tattoo that grows so infected that it blots out the words he inscribed on his upper right arm. The name “BenBen” infantilizes him, reducing him to a pet for his dysfunctional family to coddle or scold for his perversions. Already doomed by a series of adopted personas, Benny, like the title figure in “Crabs” (1974), perches on the rim of survival in what Anthony J. Hassall describes as “scripted victim status” (Hassall, 1994, 11). As though immured in a self-fulfilling prophecy, Benny lives in a wet cellar like Grendel, a seething predator in a comfortless hole. Like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gollum in The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1949), Benny is a megalomaniac who plots ways of wreaking vengeance on family members for debasing him and rendering him powerless. He both needs and despises his older brother Vish for abandoning the family and taking up Hinduism with the Hare Krishnas in town, a bicultural situation



that Carey returns to in Theft: A Love Story (2006). Benny’s dual relationship with his aunt Cathy McPherson vacillates between her cooing baby talk and cooking eggs for his meals and her screams at him for incompetence in the company parts department and intolerable personal behaviors. During the kidnap of the pregnant outsider, tax auditor Maria Takis, Benny reveals a psyche misshapen by learning disability and subverted by his father Mort’s pedophilia, a three-generation family curse. At the height of paranoia, fancying himself an angel, Benny “was almost fucking starkers ... a spider, a lethal creature” pointing a sawed-off shotgun at Maria while she contorts in the early stage of labor (Carey, 1991, 262). Pathetically, her attack on Benny’s cranium with a tire iron ends the boy’s delusions while he cradles her newborn son and welcomes him as “little Benny” (ibid., 276). To A. P. Riemer, reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, the overall effect is “brutish and nasty,” a defensible critique of Benny’s mental aberrations (Riemer, 1991, 43).

MONOMANIA The obsessions of My Life as a Fake (2003) echo those of The Tax Inspector, but ricochet across the pacific, from Australia to Bali to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and back through a round of tracking the perfect poetry cycle to epitomize the era. The episodic tale of Christopher Chubb’s battle with his nemesis, Bob McCorkle, leaves in doubt which figure is more warped by vengeful trekking — the writer or his made-up poet. Chubb, who labors in a courtroom to exonerate David Weiss of an obscenity charge, faces McCorkle, a disruptive phantasm endowed with a literary bent and a flair for serious mischief. The clash between hoaxer and stalker occurs in chapter 18, when Carey resets the epigraph from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) that begins Carey’s novel. Late at night, McCorkle hammers at Chubb’s door, “a bloody horror ... a ghastly snotty epidermis, sticking to the glass, like a human squid in an aquarium ... whiskers on the lip, the red maw stretched wide open” (Carey, 2003, 97). The comparison of the intruder to a sea monster with red mouth precedes a kidnap, the gobbling of Chubb’s baby girl Tina and a protracted chase to recover her from a madman. The abduction is poetic justice — the life of Chub’s infant for the infancy that the made-up poet Bob never had. Gothic scenes of lashing machetes, rattan bindings, and nights in the jungle among gnawing insects give place to the heart of Malayan darkness. Chubb enters Kangaratnam Chomley’s secret chamber stocked with insect effluvia and herbal poisons capable of dropping a dog in its tracks. As Chubb narrates the falling action of his lengthy memoir, his listener, editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, ponders “the possibility of him being truly psychotic” (ibid., 251). The question leads the reader to question the parameters of psychosis as they apply to the whole cast of characters. Sarah’s companion, novelist John Slater, whom reviewer Margie Thomson of the New Zealand Herald describes as a dissolute iconoclast, dismisses the wanderer as “mad old Chubby” (ibid., 261). Similarly unable to ascertain the cause of McCorkle’s anomalies, Chubb considers him a paranoid schizophrenic. Thomson sharpens the questions of veracity with a Gothic-rich rhetorical question: “Can untruth take on a life of its own, in effect becoming true?” (Thomson, 2003). The enigma contributes to Carey’s study of the provenance and purpose of art, a survey he returns to in Wrong about Japan (2005) and Theft: A Love Story (2006). The convoluted tale of Bob McCorkle’s madness and retribution requires what reviewer Ron Charles calls “narrators narrating the narratives of other narrators” (Charles, 2003, 14). The novel concludes horrifically with sparagmos, the mythic Greek ritual of dismembering and eating a sacrificial animal. The slaughter of Chubb as a living sacrifice to



art and truth ends his storytelling, a burden borne like that of the legendary Wandering Jew and by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. The murderer hacks an unhealed wound in Sarah’s psyche over their mutual misunderstanding of the furor in Chubb’s daughter Tina and Tina’s foster mother, Mrs. Lim. Sarah describes her own obsession with sparagmos as a search for the scattered remnants of “the body of truth” (ibid., 265). Her adoption of Chubb’s quest takes the form of an idée fixe, “getting sucked deeper and deeper into the morass” to the point of nervous collapse (ibid., 266). Upon her return to Penang, she views Chubb’s vise at the bicycle shop as a token of the fixation to seek the truth about his hoax.

ELECTRONIC OBSESSIONS In the Tokyo-based travelogue Wrong about Japan, Carey reveals his concern for children in a threatening world. During his perusal of Sega World, an arcade at Electric Town in Akihabara, he wonders about the skill of Charley, his 12-year-old, at navigating an arcane subway system, buying tickets, and inserting tokens in electronic games. The overlay of the otaku, the loner who limits interaction with others to seek relationship on computer screens, reminds the author that his boy is a “hardcore anime fan,” a disturbing echo of the computer nerd’s hyper-involvement with virtual reality (Carey, 2004, 60). The resulting detachment from the outside world suggests a dimming of humanity, a loss of the need for intimate contact with others and for real feeling. Carey fears the emergence of a criminal hostility in the computer-obsessed generation “associated with sociopaths, serial killers” (ibid., 62). An American view compiled by New Yorkers Timothy Blum and Jon Kessler credits the downsizing of humanity to an education system that requires memorization of “volumes of contextless information” needed to succeed on entrance exams (ibid.). The result is a social ineptitude in data junkies who flourish only in electronic transmissions. The brilliance of Wrong about Japan derives from Carey’s positioning comic book art in the children of the post–World War II generation. Through a separate narration by Mr. Yazaki about the American firebombing of a Shitamachi ordnance foundry and the strafing of child laborers, the author questions the source and intent of all-out combat and perverted weaponry in 21st-century manga. Yazaki, a septuagenarian survivor of the bombing of Kofu on July 10, 1944, recalls a dread of an apocalypse, the result of superpowers trading blows that reduce cities to embers and civilian populations to a fraction of their pre-war numbers. The resurrection of Aussie terror at occupation by Japanese forces reminds Carey of his own family’s wartime experiences and an amorphous fear that Charley, his friend Takashi, and other innocents are warping their minds by identifying with murderous comic book characters. See also health and healing.

• Further readings Baker, Candida. “Carefree Carey,” The Age (27 July 1991): 3, 6. Carey, Peter. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Wrong about Japan. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2005. Hassall, Anthony J. Dancing on Hot Macadam. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –347. Riemer, A. P. “Brutish and Nasty,” Sydney Morning Herald (3 August 1991): 43. Summers, Alison. “Candid Carey,” National Times (1 November 1985): 32–33.



Maggs, Jack A tormented soul from birth to reclamation, ex-con Jack Maggs emerges in Carey’s Gothic thriller Jack Maggs (1997) as an emblem of the abysmal, unjust disrepute thrust on white laboring-class Australia. Along with Georgia, Norfolk Island, and Tasmania, the island nation became the largest of Great Britain’s penal dumping grounds. The redemptive narrative sketches a rugged protagonist —“this dark, loathsome other”— grounded in the author’s abhorrence toward the history of forced labor in his homeland (Polito, 1996, 1). The touchstone of the fictional Jack Maggs is the convict Abel Magwitch, a degraded, doomed thief from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860 –1861), whom Carey recycles into an anti-hero. In the author’s words, Jack, a rejected British orphan, is “the first Australian to go home and not be welcome” (Woodward, 1995, 59). In the view of analyst Peter Pierce, the convict, transported at age 15 for life for housebreaking and larceny, becomes the source of an Australian subgenre, the “lost child narrative” (Pierce, 2001, 74). For Jack, rescue by scavenging Mudlarks four days after Jack’s birth and the child’s grooming for felonious intrigue prefaces the training of an innocent for theft, the motif of Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1838) and of the title character for spying in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901). Jack’s imprisonment and penal transportation in 1813 in pre-manhood prefaces both physical and emotional torture and a social death and burial on the hindside of the globe amid “mosquitoes and skin-rot,” emblems of an infelicitous environment (Carey, 1997, 317). To his future wife, Mercy Larkin, he declares, “You would shoot a man you saw treat a dog as we were treated. You might blow his brains out” (ibid.). The author satisfied nationalistic urges by inveighing against the British Empire for fostering so forbidding a sentence on transportees, many of whom were jailed for minor offenses, including prostitution and stealing food. He confided to interviewer Igor Maver that the original Magwitch “is possessed of an incredible self-hatred, loathing, and these feelings about Australia are weirdly very modern” (Maver, 2006, 158). Nurturing Jack’s damaged spirit is the memory of a would-be rescuer, a four-year-old English boy holding out a pig’s trotter out of pity for the shackled captive. In a dream of rescuing the child from the horrors of his own youth, Jack envisions himself “[spinning] him a cocoon of gold and jewels” and “[weaving] him a nest so strong that no one would ever hurt his goodness” (Carey, 1997, 287). The dual image pictures Jack retrieving a child from poverty, an act that simultaneously redeems Jack from ignominy. In tribute to idealism, Carey’s revisionist fiction defines Jack’s character in terms of living in the mind, a quality that Jack shares with Dickens, the fictional Tobias Oates, and Carey himself. Through conscious striving, Jack refuses to equate himself with imprisoned white “vermin,” whom he categorizes as a race apart (ibid., 141). Ironically, his immurement in the South Pacific blinds him to what critic Simon Joyce terms Jack’s “cherished fantasy of Englishness,” a filial denial of the venal nation that robbed him of youth and vigor and subjected him to multiple lashings and the loss of two fingers of his left hand, all in the name of justice (Joyce, 2007, 15). In an interview with critic Eleanor Wachtel, Carey asserted: “In the outposts of the Empire these exiled people were still keeping up the standards, unaware that they were no longer their standards” (Wachtel, 1993. 104). The irony enhances Jack’s goodness of heart and his dedication to an ideal that never existed.



OBSESSION Carey depicts Jack ensnared in a Freudian mind warp. An avenging spirit, after a quarter century’s absence from England, the ex-convict creeps into London like a sneak thief to repossess a land that he visualizes as ever green and rejuvenating, a delusion perpetuated by art and song that Aruban author Jamaica Kincaid describes in The Autobiography of My Mother (1995). Driven to tell his tale of penal torture, before Jack can complete his mission to reunite with his foster son, he vacillates between self-revelation and the fear of exposure, betrayal by Percy Buckle, recapture, and execution. In surreptitious leaps from roof to roof, Jack adheres to a fine line between the rescuer’s saintliness and the infamy of the gibbet bird. The tension energizes the novel in a style echoing the obsessions of the title character in Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) compounded by the quaking ambivalence of gallows broadsides and penny dreadfuls echoing “the Newgate jig,” the tell-all crime stories that fueled England’s popular pulp market (Carey, 1997, 75). The salvific narrative literally fleshes out Jack from the “bad smell” of the past life to an exemplary if rough-cut solid citizen (Carey, 1997, 230). On first view, like a troubling dream, he slides through the port of Dover and into London in the shadows. While he stalks his dream child, he himself eludes the haunting of prison lashings, a psychosomatic phantom that takes the shape of tic doloureux, an electric surge that agonizes the trigeminal nerve. Armed with a dagger in his boot, he passes on the sly to Clerkenwall in central London to reclaim his laboring-class orphan, “Henry Phipps, Esquire,” now groomed into an English gentleman (ibid., 272). The refinement process redirects Jack’s colonial prosperity from brick manufacture toward financing Henry’s Oxford tutor, Oxford-educated Victor Littlehales, along with upscale clothing and residence, servants, and a private club for homosexuals, a privileged life paid for out of the sullied gains of the Industrial Revolution. Education alone, according to Jack, costs £50 annually. The result, an overdressed snob, is Carey’s slap at a corrupt caste system that profits from colonial investments and male-to-male inheritance. Thus, Jack, the self-salvaging outcast, learns through heartbreak that money and privilege do nothing for Henry but hasten his ruination. Nonetheless, Jack attempts in vain what critic Alice Brittan calls “[exorcising] the ghost from the goods,” a purification guided by the faux science of mesmerism (Brittan, 2004, 54). Like the false ideal of gentility, the cleansing releases a ghoulish stalker, a specter that peers through windows at Jack’s suffering.

BETRAYAL AND REPATRIATION In an article for World & I, critic Robert Ross poses an upbeat interpretation of the convict’s fictional life, the possibility that “Jack Maggs may well be the final piece in the mosaic of a defunct empire” (Ross, 1998, 252). The evaluation imposes a hopeful interpretation on an anguished life. Once other Londoners— novelist Tobias “Toby” Oates, parvenu Percival Clarence “Percy” Buckle, even chambermaid Mercy Larkin — learn that Jack is an Australian exile, Jack loses legitimacy as an Englishman and human being. According to literary analyst Jörg Heinke, “Everyone who is legally tried, however, suffers the embrace of being labelled a deviant, an ‘out-law’” (Heinke, 1994, 209). At Morton Bay, a white penal colony off the coast of Brisbane, New South Wales, Jack learns the business of staying alive. He respects the swapping of secrets with other jailbirds, a tradeoff that keeps the men “in balance” (Carey, 1997, 202). A further assault on his self-worth



is his hiring as a second footman in the Percy Buckle household, where guest Toby Oates invades Jack’s civil rights by mesmerizing him to learn a criminal’s secrets. Carey charges Toby with a violation of the spirit, “[burgling] the convict’s soul” (Polito, 1996, 1). The diminution and dehumanization of Jack resonates in other lives, particularly Jack’s lover Sophina Smith, whom “Ma” Mary Britten, the Soho abortionist, coerces to end an unwanted pregnancy. While seeking to employ the “Thief-taker” Wilfred Partridge to hunt Henry, Jack clings to dark passages as a concealment of his persona non grata status. The slinking silhouette symbolizes a defiled history that gives England no peace. In the falling action, the text creates irony out of Henry Phipps’s charge that Jack broke into Henry’s residence, a crime for which Ma Britten and Silas Smith trained Jack and Sophina in childhood. Significantly, the house sits at 27 Great Queen Street, a snide reference to Victoria, empress of the British colonies and royal plunderer around the globe who came on the throne within weeks of Jack’s return to Australia. Jörg Heinke characterized Jack’s felony as a socio-legal affront to royalty and the superior upper class, “his defiance and challenge of the law, property, hierarchy, and social status, his disregard for manners” (Heinke, 1994, 214). Overturning the poignance of the biblical Abraham and Isaac, for the sake of claiming Henry, his idealized foster son, Jack is willing to risk rearrest and hanging for breaching exile. Jack’s release from a fantasy son and homeland take the form of a bullet fired by Henry, the phantom flogger come to life. He galvanizes Jack by appearing in the uniform of the 57th Foot Regiment, the torturers at Morton Bay outfitted “to protect the King himself ” (Carey, 1997, 122). Betrayed, menaced, and disillusioned, Jack alters course and re-envisions New South Wales as a haven and source of liberation. By returning to the site of his success as a brick manufacturer and family man, he offers dignity to the Australian entrepreneurial class and solidity to a nation he helped found. See also injustice; Jack Maggs; Maggs-Larkin genealogy.

• Further readings Brittan, Alice. “A Ghost Story in Two Parts: Charles Dickens, Peter Carey, and Avenging Phantoms,” Australian Literary Studies 21, no. 4 (2004): 40 –55. Carey, Peter. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. Charles, Ron. “Novel Gives the Dickens to Historical Fiction,” Christian Science Monitor 90, no. 92 (8 April 1998): 14. Hardy, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey, Jack Maggs,” Westerly 43, no. 2 (1998): 135. Heinke, Jörg. “The Resistance of Being (Em)Braced: Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and David Malouf ’s Johnno,” in Embracing the Other: Addressing Xenophobia in the New Literatures in English, ed. Dunja M. Mohr. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994. Ho, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and the Trauma of Convictism,” Antipodes 17, no. 2 (1 December 2003): 124 –132. Hughes, Robert. The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787–1868. London: Collins Harvill, 1987. Joyce, Simon. The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007. Maver, Igor. Critics and Writers Speak: Revisioning Post-Colonial Studies. Oxford: Lexington Books, 2006. Miller, Karl. “Late Expectations,” New Republic 218, no. 16 (20 April 1998): 40 –41. Pierce, Peter. “The Problem of Consolation in the Country of Lost Children,” Society for Studies in Religion, Literature and the Arts (2001): 73 –86. Polito, Robert. “Peter Carey,” Bomb no. 54 (winter 1996): 1. Ross, Robert. “Expectations Lost and Found,” World & I 13, no. 7 (July 1998): 250 –257. Wachtel, Eleanor. “‘We Really Can Make Ourselves Up’: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 9 (1993): 103 –105. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59.



Maggs-Larkin genealogy An allegorical family history, the rearing of the title character in Carey’s Jack Maggs (1997) and the resulting dynasty of Maggs-Larkin children represents in little the English family jettisoned from polite society to nurture a new and vigorous culture in the British colonies. Symbolically, the title figure and dynasty founder is a brick maker, a creator of solid building material from the bedrock of Australia. According to Ludovic HunterTilney, in a review for the Financial Times, the purpose of Carey’s doughty family tree is a re-establishment of justice: “In a country founded on land theft, forced migration and Aboriginal genocide, the real criminals are those in authority” (Hunter-Tilney, 2008). parson | “Ma” Mary Britten=/=Silas Smith=wife abortionist | thief | | Sophina Smith=/=Jack Maggs | hanged | brick maker | | | son | Marjorie=Horace Larkin aborted at -------------------------| lace maker | mechanic five months | | | Tom first=Jack Maggs=Mercy Larkin=/=Percival Britten wives | foundling | | maid “Percy” Buckle traitor | convict | | m. 1837 grocer/fried | b. 1798 | | fish seller | d. 1858 | five sons parvenu | | and daughters ---------------------| | | Henry Phipps=/=Edward “Eddie”=/=Albert Richard “Dick” John foster son Constable Pope b. 1826 b. 1831 army recruit gay footman suicide in 57th Foot Regiment shot, 1837

See also injustice; Jack Maggs; Maggs, Jack.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008).

marriage Carey’s off-kilter human relations highlight couples whose union teeters on a selfdestructive arc toward ruin. Lillian “Lilly” and Mort Danko, the featured players in “Exotic Pleasures” (1979), share an intense sexual commitment, but they lack the emotional underpinnings to survive hard times. Lilly extends compassion toward her husband’s loss of face after they lose their jobs as gardeners at the Firestone Estate. Like the good wife, she supports him after he fails to find work at the Kennecott Interstellar Space Terminal, the author’s projection of future delvings of an Australian metal mining consortium. While the nation tunnels alien planets for profit, men like Mort flounder toward defeat. After



Lilly exploits an alien bird as a showpiece, Mort quickly tires of her clown costume and makeup, grotesque adjuncts to her pregnant shape that rob both wife and family of dignity. In her triumph, Lilly admits, “She had a fair idea of the worms that were eating at Mort and she was surprised and a little guilty to discover that she didn’t care” (Carey, 1979, 230). The caged parrot becomes a symbol of a confining and unfulfilling marriage that falters at vows of “for better or worse” and “till death do us part.” The narrative pictures “Morto” taking out his frustration and anger on the car, a symbol of masculinity and power that he kicks and hammers with his fist. Carey turns marital discord into a mathematical accounting, a hard look at contributions that he continues in unstable pairings in the Quinn-Kelly clan in True History of the Kelly Gang (2001) and in the examination of the union of Lord William “Boofy” Douglass, the bisexual philanderer and husband of an Australian who slits her own throat in My Life as a Fake (2003), and the separation of the Selkirk grandparents, Buster and Phoebe, in His Illegal Self (2008). The paradox of Lilly’s increasing income and self-esteem from the shows and Mort’s decreasing acceptance of their role as entertainers breaks the tie of husband to wife. Carey parallels the ruined union with the nation’s loss of commitment to the environment, which the flashy bird soils with excreta laden with invasive seeds. His short fiction explores other couples like the disunited Dankos. The materialistic wife and disenchanted husband in “Report on the Shadow Industry” (1974), the megalomaniac architect Gerrard Haflinger and his disaffected wife in “Kristu-Du” (1979), and the overbearing father and unloved wife in “Do You Love Me?” (1979) contrast a more accommodating pair, the flyers in “Happy Story” (1974), who reach compromise and set off for Florence accompanied by their dog. The latter are exceptions to Carey’s pattern, a lack of faith in monogamy he perpetuates in the one-sided relationship of poet Christopher Chubb with Noussette Markson in My Life as a Fake and in Theft: A Love Story (2006) with the corrupt marriage of thief and murderer Marlene Cook to her victim, advertiser Olivier Leibovitz.

ONE-SIDED WEDLOCK In longer fiction, Carey’s couples tend to pull in opposite directions like mules at the far ends of a tether. Bliss (1981), a satire of the advertising business, dramatizes the sparks that fly when 39-year-old Harry Stanthorpe Joy and his wife, Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy, swap roles. Early on, the author ridicules her as an adulterer “limited ... to men who were prepared to be unfaithful with the wife of a Good Bloke,” a pervasive evaluation of Harry’s character (Carey, 1981, 14). Contributing to marital discord, Betty conducts an affair with 29-year-old Joel Davis, a junior executive in Harry’s firm. Jill Neville, a reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, calls Joel the “worm in the center” of the Joy marriage (Neville, 1981). Even if Harry could eradicate the wife despoiler, the damage would eat at the fruit of matrimony. After Harry’s first near-death experience, Betty, fresh from an adulterous liaison, sits by Harry in the hospital while she reeks of Joel’s seminal fluid. She has the “feeling that [Harry] knew things, that he knew she had dreamed his death a hundred times,” an ominous fantasy of mariticide (Carey, 1981, 28). Harry wears linen suits and silk shirts, dines at his favorite restaurant, and sports about town in a Jaguar as a means of flaunting an oversized ego. Meanwhile, the Joys’ teen-aged children, David and Lucy, indulge in drug dealing, Marxism, and incest as well as speculation about Betty’s infidelity, an example of the rot in the apple. Carey creates a parallel misalliance after Harry deserts his wife and takes up with



Honey Barbara, a hippie prostitute and beekeeper, in hotel trysts. Barbara is even less compatible with Harry than is his first wife. The narrative uses the freeing of Betty to depict a second creative mind destroyed by the advertising market that promotes the carcinogenic pollutants of the Mobil Research Department, an amplification of the decay at the heart of monogamy and child rearing. As a widower, Harry requires a complete makeover into a tree planter, bard, and sage at the Bog Onion Road commune. In a text limited in conversation, Carey turns to humor for Honey Barbara’s capitulation to the man who, for five years, loves her unconditionally: “I am not going to waste my whole life hating you.... We’re getting too old for this nonsense” (ibid., 294). After her unromantic confession, Harry can ally comfortably with his second mate and produce a healthy dynasty, a blessing prefiguring the closeness of Earl and Vanessa Kellow in The Big Bazoohley (1995) and of the Maggs-Larkin family tree in Jack Maggs (1997).

TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES A seeker of truth, Carey places his characters in situations in which expectations depend on sincerity and honesty, the goals of Harry Joy in the forest commune and on the common-law arrangement of Ned Kelly and Mary Hearn, mother of their illegitimate daughter in True History of the Kelly Gang (2001). The quixotic life of trickster Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker (1985) illustrates Carey’s themes of knavery and deception as they apply to married life. The duplicitous protagonist, smitten by Phoebe Matilda McGrath, courts the teenager in 1920 in nude trysts on the roof of her parents’ house. In addition to bigamy against his first wife, Marjorie Thatcher Wilson, whom he wed in 1917, Herbert makes a newlywed husband’s mistake by selecting home appointments for Phoebe at the Port Melbourne dump, his standard forming of shelter from discards. He admits, “I never guessed how differently she saw the place ... [as] nothing more than a camp ... a place to sing and dance and make love in, but nothing permanent” (Carey, 1985, 161). The miscommunication bodes ill for a marriage equal in length to that of Herbert and Marjorie. Carey illustrates the discontinuity of thought when a deceiver encounters deception. The irony of the gadabout flier and hornswoggler wed to a will-o’-the-wisp teen wife produces pathos after Herbert loses Phoebe to a claustrophobic marriage and attempts to shape himself into a single parent. The ill-advised union generates extensive multi-generational tragedy, beginning with Phoebe’s attempt to abort her second child, her desertion of the family, daughter Sonia’s disappearance down a mineshaft in 1937, and son Charles’s suicide. Charles leaves behind a deluded wife, Emma Underhill Badgery, who opts to live in a cage that echoes the household confinement that drove Phoebe to desperation. Herbert’s subsequent mate, Leah Goldstein Kaletsky, is a married actor who abandons him in 1936 to care for her crippled husband Izzie. The sequential losses appear expected, even predictable, given Herbert’s narcissistic tendencies and the lack of truth in his dealings with the world. Instead of retiring with the dignity of a widower and father of two, he lives out a lengthy old age as an exhibit in his grandson Hissao’s exhibition hall, “the Best Pet Shop in the World,” another image of familial and social incarceration (ibid., 598).

GIVING AND RECEIVING The question of suitability dominates the matchmaking of Lucinda Leplastrier, the 18-year-old heiress and industrialist in Oscar and Lucinda (1988). Her failure to make a marriage with the Reverend Dennis Hasset precedes her more obvious misalliance with the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, the new vicar at Randwick parish in Sydney. The title



couple share a passion for gambling, but close association with the vicarage proves to Lucinda that Oscar’s vulgar tastes in carpet, furnishings, and wall chromos rule out his appeal as a potential husband sharing her quarters. Carey’s tricky plotting turns on subsequent mismating. After Oscar accepts the task of accompanying a glass chapel up the Bellinger River to Hasset’s outback parish at Boat Harbour, Oscar’s attempt to please Lucinda leads to a debacle. Seduced by a widowed housekeeper, Miriam Mason Chadwick, Oscar approaches the announcement of his abrupt betrothal to her and the signing of the banns with a single thought, “I love Lucinda Leplastrier,” a statement he avoided before losing his virginity (Carey, 1988, 423). He blames himself for respecting Lucinda’s maidenhood and for fornicating with Miriam the first time a female hand touches his genitals. At a time when Oscar bankrupts Lucinda by winning a £10,000 bet with her about delivery of the prefab chapel, he mourns, “he had lost, not gained” (ibid., 424). Too late smart, he goes to a watery demise without realizing that his dynasty is illegitimate, but secure in Miriam’s womb. Preceding his bestselling Jack Maggs (1997), Carey ended his 20th-century writings with a broader appraisal of wedlock. In “A Letter to Our Son” (1994), he concludes his essay with a tender reflection of the fragrance of lovemaking, a scent that, in 1990, marks the birth of Charley Carey, the fruit of the author’s marriage to actor-director Alison Margaret Summers. Reflecting on the marriage of creative people, he describes the family dynamics of gambler Earl Kellow and Vanessa Kellow, a painter of miniatures in the children’s farce The Big Bazoohley. The couple shore up unstable finances by seeking an art investor, Edward “Eddie” St. John de Vere, who collects Vanessa’s matchbox paintings. As in the essay, the children’s story pictures realism in matrimony that demands realistic collaboration to solve difficulties. For Earl and Vanessa, an emergency — the loss of Sam in a big-city Canadian hotel during the Perfecto Kiddo contest —forces the mother to examine her values and to promote as most essential the traits of kindness, courage, and loyalty to family. Hearth and home mores continue to influence Carey’s fiction. For the title figure in Jack Maggs (1997), the love of Sophina Smith, his common law mate in their mid-teen years, and marriage to London chambermaid Mercy Larkin offset the blows to manhood that Jack suffers from condemnation and transportation to prison New South Wales for housebreaking and larceny. During Jack’s wretched sojourn in London in adulthood, he falls under Mercy’s care. She endears herself to him by reminding him that he produced two boys— six-year-old John and ten-year-old Richard “Dick” Maggs— by successful marriages in New South Wales. While trimming the hair along Jack’s collar, Mercy sympathizes with lash marks “glistening like torture in the candlelight,” the hidden scars that reveal his reduction to outcast (Carey, 1997, 318). It is Mercy’s clear assessment of Jack’s search for the perfect British son and her grasp on locks of Dick and John’s hair that places the couple “at once at cross-purposes and yet not” (ibid., 323). The blessing on their union derives from a Gothic loss— Henry Phipps’s bullet that amputates “Mercy Larkin’s wedding finger,” a sacrifice that allies her with Jack, who lost two fingers to the penal colony (ibid., 327). Carey indicates that Mercy, as mother to potential delinquents, solidifies the marriage with discipline and dedication to family. For her success as wife and parent, like the biblical goodwife in Proverbs 31:10 whose “price is far above rubies,” Carey states, “it is Mercy who is now remembered best,” a gesture to the meaning of her Christian name (ibid.). His admiration exhibits the honor to women derived from post–Second Wave feminism. See also Kelly, Ned; Maggs, Jack.



• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. War Crimes. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1979. Ferrier, Carole. Gender, Politics and Fiction: 20th Century Australian Women’s Novels. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1992. Neville, Jill. “Review: Bliss,” Sydney Morning Herald (10 October 1981). Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

materialism In fiction and nonfiction, Peter Carey batters at the consumerism that has degraded and betrayed the human spirit since late 18th-century colonialism. The grasping for more material gain impacts Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass’s negotiations for loans to her journal the Modern Review in My Life as a Fake (2003), the creation of the manga and anime industries in Wrong about Japan (2005), Marlene Cook Leibovitz’s murder of her husband in Theft: A Love Story (2006), and Phoebe Daschle Selkirk’s demand that her daughter Susan abort anarchist David Rubbo’s unwanted offspring in His Illegal Self (2008). In the first person narrative “American Dreams” (1974), he creates a visual scolding by Mr. Gleason, a resident of a “little valley, as nothing more than a stopping place” (Carey, 1974, 101). By luring nosy residents up Bald Hill to spy on a secret construction, the builder creates curiosity about a scale model of the town, a hobby project that prefigures Hissao Badgery’s steel-and-glass pet cages in Illywhacker (1985), Lucinda Leplastrier’s glass-and-castiron chapel in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), and the adoration of robotic killpower and speed in Wrong about Japan (2005). After Mr. Gleason’s death in “American Dreams,” viewers discover in tiny portrait models of townsfolk his tell-all recreation of Aussie vice, pettiness, and envy of American cars and televisions. Contributing to Carey’s satire, Gleason’s employment of Chinese crafters “running at a jog-trot carrying bricks on long wooden planks” replicates the dependence of the global market on cheap Asian labor (ibid., 104). To turn Gleason’s insult into profit for “guides and interpreters and caretakers and taxi drivers and people selling soft drinks and ice cream,” the town entices North American tourists to view the small-gauge town in the same way that competition lures sports fans to the 54th annual Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race of December 1998 in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), Indonesian exoticism draws travelers to tour Penang, Kuala Lumpur, in My Life as a Fake, and manga and anime entices comic book lovers to Tokyo in Wrong about Japan (ibid., 155). To mirror Gleason’s models, residents halt expansion and live like the immolated victims of the volcanic ash that stopped Pompeii in its everyday existence in A.D. 79. Greed, like bars on a cell, incarcerates villagers in living each day over and over for the pleasure of moneyed gawkers. In Bliss (1981), Carey’s first published novel, the 39-year-old advertising mogul Harry Stanthorpe Joy experiences a mid-life epiphany similar to that of villagers in “American Dreams.” He discovers from the first of three brushes with death that material goods— silk shirts, white linen suits, a Jaguar, Veuve Cliquot — produce no lasting happiness. Like painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone and his lawn maintenance service in Theft: A Love Story (2006), Harry gains satisfaction by whittling down a macrocosm into a workable microcosm. After his wife’s suicide, he deserts his home to pursue a hippie lover, beekeeper and prostitute Honey Barbara, and to cultivate trees and vegetables Johnny Apple-



seed style on a patch of ground near Bog Onion Road. Bolstering Harry’s new life are the stories he “suckled on ... in those long lost days in the little weatherboard house on the edge of town,” a reminder of his lower-class childhood (Carey, 1981, 18). From his father, Vance Joy (whose names imply progress toward bliss), he hears “maxims about not working yourself to death,” a warning of the dangers of investing too much of self in work (ibid., 23). The outback tests Carey’s theories of spiritual renewal. Commune life reacquaints Harry with earthy values based on non-ownership. As Harry’s gift to the social dropouts who rescue him, he offers wisdom and fables, a treasury of stories bequeathed by his father. Harry’s intuition tells him “how a story could give strength or hope ... something of worth, as important, in its way, as a strong house or a good dam,” the essentials of survival (ibid., 291). His bardic skills honor communal occasions like births and funerals while educating forest dwellers on sources of pride and spiritual resilience. The novel signs off on Harry’s death at age 75, when his narrative rises upward like a single breath cherished by a canopy of trees, his gift to a world that gives him a second chance.

COLONIAL VALUES Carey applies the nature and substance of extrinsic and intrinsic worth to his postcolonial screeds. On the purpose of neo–Victorian fiction, novelist Antonia Susan Byatt poses a rhetorical question: “Why is the Victorian past the subject of so much modern fiction?” (Byatt, 1993, 92). Does Carey set actions from 19th-century England in a current readership to test prevalent values against those of the Victorians or does he intend to prove concepts of his own time, particularly faith, value, and materialism? In Oscar and Lucinda (1988), he recaptures the consumerism and snobbery that shaped white Australia through heiress Lucinda Leplastrier’s voyage from England on the Leviathan, in which she occupies the cushy upper deck. In Chapter 47, “Babylon,” a satire of gaudy excess, she stands alone in the lofty saloon amid red plush velvet settees, mirrors, Brussels carpets, and scrolled fretwork. Because of the absence of company, she gazes down at second-class facilities and wishes she could thrust herself among the less privileged, whom she identifies as “her kind, like a Derby hog or a rabbit in a cage” (Carey, 1988, 172). On return to Sydney, Lucinda encounters a bleak seaport that projects soulless materialism in place of spirit and pride. Working-class people foster dreams of upper-class elegance through “piemen affecting the dress of gentlemen, ladies’ maids with glass tiaras ... the clothing of the classes they used to serve” (ibid., 268, 267). Fearing incipient madness from her entrapment in social mimicry, Lucinda chooses to trot her horse into Sydney to sample immigrant-class fun —“a little Pak-Ah-Pu ... run by the Chinese down at that end of George Street” (ibid., 247). With the thrill of the risk heating a chilled body, she drops her hostility: “Her anger became as inconsequential as blue-flies,” a symbol of lightness of spirit that accompanies her betting forays (ibid., 248). Because of her agrarian upbringing, she weathers bankruptcy from a wager with the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, who sets out with a glass-and-cast-iron chapel as a gift to the parish of the Reverend Dennis Hasset, pastor to the non-materialistic Aborigines. In a description of spiritual space, analyst Philippa Berry describes the multiplicity of values for the chapel: the “borderline between all polarities: being and nothing, idealism and materialism, sacred and profane, silence and language” (Berry, 1993, 256). At Lucinda’s fiscal downfall and her loss of Oscar as a friend and gambling soul mate, she works at “Mr. Edward Jason’s Druitt Street pickle factory” and advances to a labor leader who respects Australia’s manufacturing class (ibid., 429).



In Carey’s second neo–Victorian novel, Jack Maggs (1997), the narrative digs a wider moat between haves and have-nots. As critic Sigrun Meinig explains, “The wealth and luxury of a select few need the negative alterity of the poor, the uneducated and the criminal to reassure itself of its value — and to be economically possible in the first place,” a comment that accounts for the existence and perpetuation of colonialism (Meinig, 2000, 65). Thus, the sullied cash that the title figure, an Australian brick maker, feeds into England’s economy bankrolls Henry Phipps, Esquire, the ward whom Jack attempts to gentrify from age four through tutoring, fine clothes, a mansion, club membership, and servants. The experiment in upbringing calls into question the meaning of “gentleman” and the value of gentlefolk to society. In a parallel view of money’s failings, Phipps, a thankless would-be parricide, edges toward ruination at the same time that his next-door neighbor, Percival “Percy” Buckle, a former grocer and fried fish seller, stagnates in a welter of liveried staff, salon gatherings with the would-be elite, and bedtime romps with his chambermaid, Mercy Larkin. No amount of funding can make up for Percy’s mercantile beginnings and working-class tastes or for Henry’s ingratitude. No cash balance can replicate Mercy’s kind, maternal heart and her sympathy for the title figure, whom colonial dehumanization reduces to a pariah. See also social class.

• Further readings Berry, Philippa, ed. Shadow of Spirit: Postmodernism and Religion. New York: Routledge, 1993. Byatt, A. S. On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays. London: Chatto and Windus, 2000. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. Eder, Richard. “Running on Empty,” Boston Globe (10 February 2008). Meinig, Sigrun. “An Australian Convict in the Great English City: Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs,” Southerly 60, no. 3 (2000): 57–65. Patai, Daphne, and Wilfrido Howard Corral. Theory’s Empire. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Ramsey-Kurz, Helga. “Tokens or Totems? Eccentric Props in Postcolonial Re-enactments of Colonial Consecration,” Literature and Theology 21, no. 3 (2007). Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

misfits Carey’s literary landscape is home to a variety of disaffected, displaced underdogs and self-defeatists. Peter Kemp, a reviewer for the London Sunday Times admires the author’s imaginative casts: “Con men and convicts, refugees and bushrangers crisscross Australia’s vast land-mass. Misfits, from transported felons to Victorian eccentrics disastrously addicted to gambling, embark on voyages across the globe” (Kemp, 2008). In Carey’s native land, the home of eccentrics, each character epitomizes some aspect of social dysfunction, such as builders of ugly housing overlooking Bondi Beach and suicidal leapers from the Gap in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001); bicycle mechanic Bob McCorkle, the made-up Aussie poet in a literary hoax in My Life as a Fake (2003); the faddish transvestism of Yuka, a slave to manga and anime in Wrong about Japan (2005); and the offsides observations of Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, the autistic brother in Theft: A Love Story (2006) whom reviewer Karen Lamb in a critique for the Australian Book Review referred to as “yet another misunderstood misfit-genius from Down Under” (Lamb, 2006).



Carey’s early fiction produced some of his most obverse characters. In “Peeling” (1972), he pictures the unsuccessful mating of an elderly retiree with his neighbor Nile, an assistant to an abortion provider. Her shattered spirit emerges after he disrobes her of jacket, blouses, sweaters, girdle, and stockings and unleashes a dismaying molt of skin, hair, and limbs. In the process, she passes from female to male to female again to “a small doll, hairless, eyeless, and white from head to toe” (Carey, 1972, 43). In the end of their assignation, the male fantasist finds himself alone with the shards of Nile’s inner being, a spirit incapable of healing its hurts. In a similar disintegration of self, an American sentry in “A Windmill in the West” (1974) loses touch with reality while guarding a largely featureless frontier shared with Australians. Unlike Nile, the sentry has no control of his daily posting or of his gradual geographical confusion, which questions the role of the guardian in colonial usurpation. Carey continues his exploration of the outsider in “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” (1974), in which an undervalued performer disappears from a riverbank to drown unmourned. The narrative concludes the open-ended question of the nature of belonging with a query about “how this man stirred such emotions in the hearts of those who saw him” (ibid., 136). The story predates a lengthy perusal of the misfit in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), an examination of ventriloquism and a robotic body that give acceptable voice and form to a would-be actor ostracized for extreme birth defects and resultant dysphonia. Later short pieces stuff the author’s dramatis personae with more victims, outsiders, and ne’er-do-wells, including Vincent, the exploiter of Upward Islanders in “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” (1974) and the townspeople who dwindle in boom times in “American Dreams” (1974) from a loss of self-respect. The title story in the collection The Fat Man in History (1974) introduces the author’s absorption in social outcasts, the marginal few whom society embraces as scapegoats for the failure of utopian schemes. The setting suits the dejected tone —“One of six such houses, all identical, surrounded by high blocks of concrete flats and areas of flat waste land where dry thistles grow” (Carey, 1974, 12) Easily identified by their corpulence, the coterie of obese men — Fantoni, Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man — retaliates through cannibalism of the Fantoni, their titular leader, an oral aggression symbolizing the rebellion of the underclass against tyranny. In a less atavistic setting, the addicted shoppers in “Report on the Shadow Industry” (1974) risk disillusion from individual purchases of enticing boxed goods that disappoint the materialistic buyer. Similarly disaffected, Carla, an upper-class idealist cozened by manipulative alien despots in “The Chance” (1977), buys into a Marxist scheme. For the sake of unity among the proletariat, she shares the misery of the underdog by purchasing a chance at trading her body for a new one, a malcontent that leaves her “weeping in a darkened room,” a vignette of hopelessness (Carey, 1979, 121).

VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCE The author ups the ante in more devastating parables and cautionary tales about the dissatisfaction of the unemployed. The theme dramatizes despair in “The Last Days of a Famous Mime,” which pictures a disaffected audience that hounds to drowning an actor who tries to spare them terror. Idleness and accompanying shame are the ruination of the marriage of Lillian “Lilly” and Mort Danko in “Exotic Pleasures” (1979). In a fiscal downturn, Lilly rescues family finances by dressing in clown get-up to amuse audiences with an exotic bird. Her choice of undignified costume and gestures destroys Mort’s love for her, a loss she seems incapable of regretting. Like Lilly, in “War Crimes” (1978), a pair of



shoddy businessmen — Bart and the narrator, “a tyrant, a psychopath, an aberrant accountant”— shred their humanity (Carey, 1979, 241). They market substandard TV dinners to the nation’s hungry, an exploitation much more mercenary than Lilly’s charge of a dollar to hold her “Pleasure Bird” (ibid., 227). Misfits in the corporate stereotype, the duo dresses in eccentric purple T-shirt, waist-length fur coat, cowboy boots, baggy jeans, and shoulder-length hair. Revved up on booze and drugs, they flaunt their divergent methods of building up a tottering food empire, which collapses amid rioting, arson, and gunfire. Longer fiction gives Carey a better grip on the provenance and development of the divergent personality. In Bliss (1981), the dodgy advertising mogul Harry Stanthorpe Joy emerges from the second of two near-death experiences with a yen to give up his life’s work to pursue goodness and justice. Worsening the scenario is the self-immolation of his wife, Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy, in the board room of the Mobil Research Department to escape a lethal cancer caused by pesticides. Harry, a promoter of polluters like Krappe Chemical, distributor of carcinogens, alienates himself from “the cancer in the air” and pleads “for mercy, for death, for release, slowly, agonizingly over an eternity of pain that they would call, euphemistically, A Long Illness” (Carey, 1981, 261). To extricate himself from the “cancer map” his advertising campaigns further, he outlaws himself from society and, upon entry to a forest utopia, “managed to turn his head sideways before he threw up water and bile,” the physical evidence of internal malcontent. Harry’s retreat from urbanism relocates him to a pagan world. He dwells on the fringe in a rain forest commune on Bog Onion Road, where laid-back residents dwell in huts, wash under bush showers on the verandah, and recline on sleeping platforms. While planning his own retreat, he discovers in the subject of design, site, and materials that construction “became the medium through which he came to know his neighbours,” a source of friendship that confers belonging (Carey, 1981, 282). Gradually, among canopied trees and pumpkin plots, he morphs into a compound guru, the storyteller who overturns the accepted view of Australian values by introducing a group of expatriates to an animism replete with humanistic truths. No longer the citified outsider driving a Cadillac, he treads the forest paths barefoot and embeds himself so thoroughly in commune affairs that his stories are a given to honor births and funerals. Carey’s celebration of transformative fiction indicates that Harry’s sincere change of heart and behavior recover the pariah from alienation.

JERKS BY CHOICE A more jovial version of Harry enlivens Illywhacker (1985) with the antics of pilot and car salesman Herbert Peter Badgery, a cordial grifter who turns his status as misfit into an asset. By strutting his self-important posture and offering good-natured anecdotes as social gifts, he ingratiates himself with potential investors in an airplane factory and customers for T Model Fords. From automotive seller, Herbert advances to show business and memoir, a fulfillment of a life of lies through his account of how and where he escaped the guise of outcast. Of his metamorphosis, he exults, “Pock-marked and ugly I have wandered the street and slept in the parks. I have been bankrupt and handsome and a splendid con-man” (Carey, 1985, 121). Unlike his original down-and-out self, he takes pride in survival by wit and fraud and the more positive tack of self-transformation. At the end of a checkered life of bigamy, adultery, theft, destruction of property, and a stretch in prison for disfiguring a Chinaman, Herbert retains his identity as a misfit by claiming to live 139



years. Still exhibitionistic, he poses in his room for tourists like the Wandering Jew. He mutters, “You would not believe you could feel so bad and still not die, but I cannot die.... I must stay alive to see it out,” his occluded reference to his place in “the interesting times ahead” (ibid., 600). In subsequent works, Carey amplifies his interest in misfits like Harry and Herbert. The Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, the “odd bod” in the neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), follows a credo of fundamentalist orthodoxy that isolates him from even the family housekeeper and cook (Carey, 1988, 84). By the time he graduates from Oriel College, Oxford, and obtains ordination, his personal intent to gamble for the sake of charity, sets him more thoroughly apart from other students, both pietists and rounders like dorm inmate Ian Wardley-Fish, the future curate of Hammersmith and a reprobate who bets to finance a dissolute life. Carey creates a hilarious disjuncture of Oscar from others by picturing him lowered into the passenger steamer Leviathan in a cage and settled on the promenade deck to rid him of the fear of water on a long voyage to Australia. On boarding, as an object of curiosity, he feels “caught in the web of his phobia in the geometrical centre of the ship,” like a tangled insect (ibid., 182). The absurdity of his arrival illustrates Carey’s paradox that Oscar, by reason of his fear, is both misfit and center of attraction, like the bird in “Exotic Pleasures” and the title martyr in “The Last Days of a Famous Mime.” To Philip Gourevitch, interviewer for the Paris Review, Oscar’s uniqueness and his love of gambling form “a bond of love” with Lucinda, his soul mate (Gourevitch, 2007, 434). The two manage to bungle courtship and mating by avoiding the subject of marriage in favor of an unlikely scheme to ferry a glass church to Aborigines of the outback, a hapless race more alienated and marked for doom than even Oscar and Lucinda. The setting of individuals in the limelight grows more ominous in The Tax Inspector (1991), an apocalyptic satire on commerce and cheating the government. To save his family’s three-generation car business from bankruptcy, 16-year-old Benny Catchprice, a demented punk living in the compound basement, reclaims himself through outlandish dress and by business studies by mail. To maximize his impact on potential car customers, he tattoos half a set of wings on his back and flattens his platinum hair to the side of his head. In a $300 suit, he glares at his older brother Vish and asserts, “I’ve changed.... For Chrissakes, look at me,” an emphasis on looks as cause and evidence of self-estrangement (Carey, 1991, 100). A deliberate eyesore and embarrassment to the family, Benny perceives himself as a ladies’ man, but, like Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka’s allegory “The Metamorphosis” (1915), Benny regresses to the level of a vile insect in his subterranean lair. To enhance his coming of age, he holds hostages with a sawed-off shotgun, a symbol of male empowerment. Rather than victimize, his death rids the narrative of a drugged-out delinquent and potential killer.

TRANSFORMATION Carey pairs the misfit characterization with the theme of metamorphosis, a self-alteration through deliberate change in looks, behavior, and attitude. His most imaginative case, actor Tristan Smith, occurs through serendipity. During a car ride in Saarlin City, Tristan, the birth-defective child of Felicity “Flick” Smith, seizes on the disguise of a diminutive religious icon, Bruder Mouse, whose value to society places new and more dramatic strictures on Tristan’s being. Through a voice synthesizer in the stuffy mouse suit, a boy formerly shunned by revolted society reshapes himself into a beloved figure of pop



culture. He becomes the role: “BRUDER MOUSE stepped forward, bowed, moved to one side ... quirky, quick, bow-legged” (Carey, 1994, 314). Beloved for his performances in the Sirkus, the familiar figure romances investor Peggy Kram and achieves normality through the acceptance of the privileged class and sexual experience. Tristan exults, “the hands went up, the hands came down, and when they did my head was nestled between her generous breasts” (ibid., 362). Threats to his foster father, stage manager Wally Paccione, force Tristan again into the outer edge of acceptability. Peggy once more demonizes Tristan as “Marchosias ... the Hairy Man ... Dagon,” satanic figures connected with doom (ibid., 411). Again “taunted ... surrounded by animus,” Tristan chooses a full personality to the constricting life as a sainted mouse, a persona he slips into when the costume is expedient to his need for disguise (ibid., 414). Carey closes the novel with hopes for Tristan’s enjoyment of an “unusual life,” a resolution similar to that of Illywhacker (ibid.). Advancing from Gothic sci-fi into historical fiction, Carey effects a similar transmutation of misfits in Aussie legend, True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), a study of the marginalizing of Irish Catholic immigrants among the Protestants of southeastern Australia. For outlaws, the wearing of women’s garments is a tradition dating to Ireland’s folk customs adopted by the Sons of Sieve. Edward “Ned” Kelly disapproves of seeing his father, John “Red” Kelly, in a dress and expresses distaste for the same dodge used by Ned’s younger brother Dan. On his own in manly dress, Ned flees charges of highway robbery and police murder to a life of hideaways in the outback. A misfit by circumstance, he has little choice about fulfilling his role as head of household and protector of his beloved mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, and her growing brood of fatherless children. As opportunities to skulk about the territory decrease, Ned creates a new vision of himself and his three-man gang by welding plowshares together to form armor. With a bucket for a helmet, he proclaims himself “the b____y Monitor” (Carey, 2001, 363). In his last day of freedom, peasants uplift Ned from country-boy-gone-wrong to national legend for his defiance of an army of officers. No longer the eccentric outrider and gunman, Ned takes his place among the heroes of the underclass, boosted to further heights of admiration by Carey’s novel. See also belonging; reclamation; self-esteem.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. War Crimes. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1979. Conrad, Peter, and Tim Adams. “Oz Ancient and Modern,” Observer (28 May 2006): 23. Gourevitch, Philip, ed. The Paris Review Interview, II. New York: Picador, 2007. Kemp, Peter. “His Illegal Self by Peter Carey,” London Sunday Times (3 February 2008). Lamb, Karen. “Carey’s Love Affair with Fakery,” Australian Book Review (April 2006).

mothering As a writer and a parent, Peter Carey respects the monomania of motherhood as a woman’s ineluctable instinct for child protection and family rearing. In The Big Bazoohley (1995), a satire of pop culture, the main character, Sam Kellow bears an oversized anxiety



about his family’s fiscal health: “When they travelled to a strange city, Sam never knew whether they would be living on peanut-butter sandwiches or sitting in a fancy restaurant being served ... Bombe Alaska” (Carey, 1995, 2). In contrast to the gambling of the father, Earl Kellow, the mother, artist Vanessa Kellow, pursues a domestic tranquility in her painted matchbox miniatures: “Not just the buildings and the streets, but the bakers and butchers, the stews bubbling in the pots, the freckles on the faces, and the cat sleeping in the basket and the fluff under the beds” (ibid., 3). The tiny paintings, similar to Mr. Gleason’s small-scale town in “American Dreams” (1974), symbolize a scrutiny of popular culture at the same time they celebrate women’s contribution to the minutiae of domestic contentment. To lessen the threat of the villain, Carey speaks a maternal creed through Muriel Mifflin, the mother of Wilfred, a boy sick with chicken pox. She acknowledges the female obsession with parenting: “It’s me. It’s who I am.... I’m a mother. I was born to be a mother” (ibid., 46). In the execution of motherly duties, Muriel functions simultaneously bad-tempered and soft, the two sides of maternal personality that contrast like masks of the theatre. Although she is zany enough to “borrow” nine-year-old Sam Kellow for the Perfecto Kiddo competition, she commits a felony in part to assuage the misery of Wilfred, who is confined to bed. Carey ameliorates the abduction through Muriel’s intent to spruce up the captive Sam with soap and a shoeshine and to style his hair with Perfecto shampoo and gel. While making him presentable, teaching him to ballroom dance, and cautioning him about slurping spaghetti to snag a $10,000 prize, the scrubbing, buffing, and combing reveal the nurturing side of Muriel’s personality.

THE COMFORTING MOTHER The author introduces surrogate mothering in the title story of The Fat Man in History (1974), a dystopic fable. The narrative pictures a social disaffection that features Nancy Bowlby, the rent collector, as the beloved “Florence Nightingale” of a cell of six male counter-revolutionaries. Carey builds on the character type in The Tax Inspector (1991) with the character and good deeds of 86-year-old Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice. In addition to bearing three children — Cathleen “Cathy” McPherson, Jack, and Mortimer — Gran Catchprice nurtures grandsons Benny and Johnny and retrieves at-risk youth for work in the family business. Like beekeeper and prostitute Honey Barbara in Bliss (1981), the cooks Fanny Drabble and Mrs. Williams in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Felicity “Flick” Smith in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), and chambermaid and stepmother Mercy Larkin in Jack Maggs (1997), Gran Catchprice is a fount of benevolence. Nonetheless, she faces her daughter’s charge that Frieda knitted and ignored pedophilia while her husband Cacka molested their children. For added dark humor, the nickname “Cacka” echoes the mimetic babytalk term “caca” for “excrement.” Carey extends the satire of consumerism with a connection between the nuclear family and world ecology. Dodging sins of the past, Frieda regrets giving up her dream of operating a flower farm and blames her husband Cacka for covering good soil with concrete, a symbol of disrespect for nature’s fecundity. Frieda takes on an earth mother significance by declaring that the soil below Catchprice Motors is “like a smothered baby,” a claustrophobic atmosphere that suffocates creative hopes (Carey, 1991, 164). When she considers hiring Sarkis Alaverdian as a salesman for Catchprice Motors, he honors her as a treasure to be cherished in the family home: “They should listen to her papery breathing in the night and it should give them a sense of completeness they would never have without her”



(ibid., 93). The outsized tribute deepens the satire of unprincipled parents who give the outward appearance of probity.

MOTHERS AND AMBITION In The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Carey depicts the bonding of mother and child before its birth, a subject he viewed from his own experience in “A Letter to Our Son” (1994). For Felicity Smith, an unwed actor and manager of the Feu Follet theater troupe in Chemin Rouge, Efica, the dream of motherhood captivates her during pregnancy much as drama becomes her metier for fostering culture. Following her pilgrimage to Mater Hospital, she makes “mummy-noises” and adores “my beautiful baby boy,” a pathetic four-pound mutant to whom she whispers loving words (Carey, 1994, 17, 151). After doctors discover that Tristan is a pale, misshapen cripple, she nestles him like a treasured kitten and ignores the green vomit, lipless mouth, and wry legs that attest to multiple birth defects, inside and out. By rearing him with affection and admiration, she wards off negative opinions of specialists, who suggest euthanizing the baby, and sleeps the first night with her arms and leg across the bassinet. She entrusts the infant to stage manager Wally Paccione, an in-house foster father who cherishes Tristan like a birth son. The boy’s climbing of a fir tree and his return with a bird egg in his mouth convinces her of his courage and his right to be alive. Through contrasting fathering, Carey enhances the reader’s opinion of Felicity. Unlike her married lover, Vincent Theroux, who suggests that the boy play a stage role of the Hairy Man, a mythic demon, Felicity introduces her son to the fun role of Puck, King Oberon’s merry do-all and mischief-maker in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (ca. 1593). The part is empowering as well as multifaceted, a test of Tristan’s determination to act in legitimate theater. After the boy, at age eleven, slips out of the suburban house Vincent buys for them, she paws fearfully through the bedding of “Tristan, Rikiki, Tristan darling ... [experiencing] the wild alarm familiar to every parent — that fast beating of the heart, that rising panic in the throat” (ibid., 151). Rather than bash her son for running away, she accuses herself of betraying him and his love of theater. Buoyed by her own faith in the arts and in motherhood, she recognizes that he is seeking his chosen home, the tower, the former residence of Felicity’s acting troupe and an obvious symbol of manhood. By gracing him with an antique Bruder Mouse mask, she encourages his maturation “against her own heartfelt principles” (ibid., 185). At her assassination by the Voorstand Intelligence Agency, which ends Book 2, he praises her motherhood: “Everything that had allowed me to sustain my problematic existence, the illusion of talent, my safety, my power, all this died with my mother” (ibid., 231).

THE MOTHER SHIELD In the memoir of Edward “Ned” Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey separates parental roles diametrically as he does in Tristan Smith’s household. Opposite the caustic cynicism of outlaw-farmer John “Red” Kelly, Ellen Quinn Kelly’s pride in family and defense of her six children elevates her character to that of protector and culture conduit. Wrapped in possum skin, she preserves quiet with “that hiss so particular to the mothers of young babes” (Carey, 2000, 32). In 1862, after Red’s incarceration for slaughtering a calf, the children gather around their mother for recitations of Irish lore from the Ulster cycle, a body of medieval Irish sagas and heroic legends. Bold, masculine tales of the chariot warrior Cuchulainn of Ulster in Northern Ireland encourage bravery among the hungry, shivering Kelly household and return to mind in June 1879 to encourage 25-



year-old Ned during his retreat to the Bogong High Plains. The hut, bitter with southern winds, glows golden from a single tallow candle, a mythic aura that Carey romanticizes. He pictures the mother with feline savagery —“great dark eyes bright and fierce as a native cat to defend her fatherless brood” (ibid., 25). From Ellen’s spirited storytelling, Ned learns to respect Irish women for fervor and courage. With regret at Australian bigotry, he adds, “They would have been called Irish rubbish in Avenel,” a Protestant-dominated town north of Melbourne and symbol of anti–Catholic prejudice (ibid.). The narrative endows Ellen with pioneer spunk. Her service as father and mother to seven children includes tending a dying husband and plowing 20 acres of oat fields, an echo of the earth motherhood of Frieda Catchprice. Carey described her relationship with her oldest son as “a survival unit” (Faulkner, 2009). Ned admires Ellen so much that, in September 1865, at age 11, he considers asking for a dress for her as his reward for saving classmate Dick Shelton from drowning in the creek. Her association with a string of lovers arouses jealousy in Ned, who views intrusive men as rivals for his role as head of household. After the family’s separation and reunion, in September 1868, Ned breaks a mixedblood Arab horse for Ellen to ride to reward her for purchasing 88 acres on Eleven Mile Creek, a poor farmwoman’s investment in the nuclear family. The enduring relationship meets its test after Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick initiates a manhunt for Ned. To escape the gallows, Joe Byrne chooses flight through Gippsland to America or Africa, but Ned, ever true to his mom, stays in the territory after his mother’s imprisonment at Melbourne Gaol for abetting the shooting of a police officer in the wrist. Whether from loyalty to mother, older brother, or both, Dan chimes in his own loyalty to his ma, even though the two outlaws know that a determined posse — Constables Flood and Strahan, Officers McIntyre and Scanlon, Tom Lonigan, and Sergeant Kennedy — are scouting their hiding place and carrying a Spencer .50-calibre rifle and horses for returning the gang’s corpses to town. The grim tone enhances the men’s dedication to Ellen Kelly, who finds a way to tie a two-word message —“Ned Kelly”— to a rock to toss from the yard of Melbourne Gaol (ibid., 296). The curse of illiteracy suggests a mother’s truncated attempt to correspond with her beleaguered sons. With affection, Ned notes, “Thus did young girls write love letters to their men,” a subtle reminder of his Oedipal affection for Ellen (ibid.). Carey respects uncompromising motherhood as a lasting shaper of character. While Ned lives out his final days as a hunted man, his respect for motherhood takes on poignance in the falling action. After his reunion with Mary Hearn at Eleven Mile Creek, he provides her with a written account of his battle against corrupt police. Tacitly agreeing that the situation is deadly, the two load the sickly baby George on a spring cart and vow to remain together as a family in the short time left to Ned and his gang. After camping near the Quinns on the upper King River, Ned presses on into the wild with the admission that “this were no way to be either a mother or an outlaw” (ibid., 282). When Mary later bemoans how cruel it is to rear a baby in Australia’s backcountry, Ned must agree that she should not follow the gang “as the wives followed their husbands into war in olden days” (ibid., 293). The statement echoes Ellen’s tellings of Irish combat lore and illustrates how affectionate mothering prepares Ned for his own role as protective husband and father.

MOTHERING AS CHARACTER Carey pursues maternal issues in subsequent works by contrasting attitudes of parents. The secondhand story of Noussette Markson and her daughter in My Life as a Fake



(2003) reveals the development of poet Christopher Chubb as the life-giver of a hoax and the sire of an infant daughter. Noussette, a vain poseur, sticks in his memory as “beautiful, reckless, spendthrift, fearless” (Carey, 2003, 145). She uses pregnancy as a means of titillating patrons of her eponymous restaurant in Sydney, Australia. She encourages pats on the abdomen and turns the rupturing of amniotic fluid into exhibitionism. Delivery requires a caesarian section, which mars her belly and assaults her vanity. Chubb, by accident, discovers that the mother intends to put her daughter up for adoption. Without thought as to ways and means, he slips into Noussette’s place by housing the newborn at his home in Chatswood northwest of Sydney. Carey stresses his unsuitability for surrogate motherhood by remarking he had had “never so much as a tadpole to care for” in his life, an evocative image of a limbless, helpless reptile that bears a resemblance to spermatozoa (ibid., 148). The role of sole caregiver infuses Chubb with a feeling that “he’d been given charge of Life itself,” an apotheosis of parental responsibility (ibid., 149). The text creates an irony of respect for mothers who endure “excursions of the night, the continual feeding, burping, washing, the long walks through the dark streets while the colic ran its course” (ibid.). The statement foreshadows Chubb’s uprooting and a lifetime of grief. The parody of male attempts at mothering takes on Gothic dimensions in the middle of the night. The arrival of the monster Bob McCorkle terrorizes Chubb, who allows his intruder to bottle-feed the week-old girl. The magic of watching an infant grasp an adult index finger transforms Bob nanny-fashion into a dichotomy — a loving adult claiming a childhood that Chubb denied him. The interloper retorts, “I feel the weight of everything you stole from me” (ibid., 153). He shapes a hood from her blanket in preparation for taking her outside to see the stars, a scene echoing the naming ceremony of Kizzy by Kunte Kinte, an African slave in Alex Haley’s Roots (1976). The disappearance of Chubb’s baby elicits terror for a helpless infant in the hands of a creature who “knew not even the names of the things he needed in order to care for her,” a lack of mothering instinct and experience amplified by the monster’s dehumanized beginnings as a literary fabrication (ibid., 157). In the pathetic aftermath, Chubb feels empty, a misery that Noussette mocks with her letter chortling at the justice of the father’s loss of her child. The study of male single parenting takes on Madonna-like qualities in chapter 39, in which Chubb encounters McCorkle once more. Pursuit to a seaside estate coincides with a supernatural event involving exorcism of a ghost in the form of a large bird that swoops into the manor. After minions identify Chubb as an evil spirit and tie him with rattan, he can observe McCorkle’s ministrations to the child, Tina, who requires reassurance throughout the night. The kidnapper exudes strength and “that lovely calm that only a child can feel, that you are perfectly loved, invincibly protected” (ibid., 204). The scene recurs at the compound of Raja Kecil Bongu, where McCorkle engulfs the crying girl, who buries her face in his shoulder. The tableau veers away from mother-and-child toward victor and vanquished as McCorkle sneers at Chubb, “I will destroy you” (ibid., 225). Ironically, after Chubb metaphorically inflicts Graves disease on McCorkle, the kidnapper, actually suffering from leukemia, wraps himself in martyrdom and accuses Chubb of orphaning Tina. Before his inevitable death, McCorkle returns his thoughts to the girl he has mothered for 15 years. He extracts from Chubb a promise to protect his family. Mourners extol McCorkle, who “cooed and fawned” over his daughter (ibid., 258). As though snatched back into the mothering role, Chubb feels himself merging into the matronage that McCorkle created for himself.



MOTHERING INSTINCT In His Illegal Self (2008), the question of maternal styles contrasts the women in the life of Che David Selkirk, a seven-year-old “little rich boy” who knows nothing definite about his birth parents, Susan Selkirk and David Rubbo, dissidents and civic terrorists with the Harvard-based Students for a Democratic Society (Carey, 2008, 150). At a Manhattan apartment near Central Park and a getaway at Kenoza Lake northwest of New York City, Che enjoys the lifestyle of the privileged, provided by his arrogant grandmother, Phoebe Daschle Selkirk. After his abduction by Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, his former nanny, he comes to think of her as “the mother,” his buffer against a shifting milieu that takes him farther from urbanism into the Queensland rainforest colony of Crystal Community (ibid., 121). Like Buck, the kitten Dial transports in her sweater pocket, Che nuzzles up to his kidnapper and connects her warmth and fragrance to security. Carey honors Dial for providing Che with surrogate mothering that is “fine and tender,” yet acknowledges a responsibility that makes her feel like a leashed dog (ibid., 143). She resolves to commit to the child’s nurturance: “She would feed him, she would watch him grow” (ibid., 185). On a drive to the beach, she uses personal contact in the style described by British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu, an advocate of physical closeness in Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (1971), a humanistic treatise espoused by the hippie counter-culture. While she shifts gears, “she kept moving her hand from the gear stick to his shoulder and back again” (ibid.). Her promise of an evening of pizza, poker, swimming, and reading from Huckleberry Finn, a classic orphan novel, on the floor of a motel links their activities to the nestling of a kitten by a mother cat, a primal example of maternalism. Even more feral is the crouching of Dial, her hippie consort Trevor Dobbs, and Che in a concealed dugout during an illicit police raid of the commune and the trio’s rebirth as a family the next day after their “in the womb” bonding. See also female persona; parenthood; Selkirk, Che; storytelling; Takis, Maria; wisdom; women.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Big Bazoohley. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1995. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Faulkner, Don. “Peter Carey,” Writers Online Magazine 13, no. 2 (spring 2009),, accessed on July 10, 2009. Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. “The Fugitive’s Lament,” Financial Times (15 February 2008). Messud, Claire. “The Robbers of Bruder Mouse,” Independent (17 September 1994). Stephens, John. Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinities in Children’s Literature and Film. New York: Routledge, 2002.

music In his early short fiction, Carey’s fictional music derives from the same jangled, exaggerated sources as his characters. An early story, “Peeling” (1972), focuses on an elderly retiree reduced to amusing himself with sexual fantasy after the repossession of his television and the failure of batteries in his radio. He loses not only electronic entertainment, but also a connection to time, which he obtains from radio broadcasts. A similar disrup-



tion of melody occurs in “The Fat Man in History” (1974), a microcosm of society’s rejects. May, one of the six amorphous males in a rented dwelling, assuages loneliness for his estranged wife by playing a recording by Jean Sibelius, a Finnish composer of moody Nordic tone poems like “Valse Triste” (1904). A more engaging scenario places Nancy Bowlby, the rent collector and author of “Revolution in a Closed Society — A Study of Leadership among the Fat,” in the arms of May, then Finch, then the-man-who-won’t-give-his-name as the music advances from a slow tune to a gypsy dance, sailor’s hornpipe, and “The Blue Danube” (1867), a stately waltz by Johann Strauss II. The final partner establishes primacy over Fantoni, the group leader, who confesses that he can’t dance. The admission begins the slide of Fantoni from leadership and the rise of the unnamed man, who becomes the group’s next Fantoni, a name suggesting the phantom role of cell chief to disaffected counter-revolutionaries. For “The Chance” (1974), Carey mimics the raffish Irish folksong with Lumpy’s singing of “Rosie Allan’s Outlaw Friend” (Carey, 1993, 67). The type of song suited to an outdoor serenade on a wharf at Pier Street in Perth, the lyrics disclose the doomed love of an illiterate rustler for a schoolteacher. The motif prefigures protagonist Lumpy’s unlikely mating with Carla, a woman from a privileged class, at the same time that it captures the fate of Australia, a down under failure at winning the approval of the Western world.

TRANSFORMATION BY MELODY At a crucial moment in the metamorphosis of Che David Selkirk, the “poor little rich boy” protagonist in His Illegal Self (2008), his abductor, newly hired Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, ducks the police by reshaping the seven-year-old Manhattanite into a Jeffersonville redneck. At Joel’s barber shop in Seattle, a buzz cut and black hair dye begin the alteration. To Che, his connection with the 1970s underground is a boyish adventure, a chance to unite with his unknown birth parents to fill in gaps in the child’s identity. As he exults in the barber’s chair, he recites a line from George Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935), sung to a dialect libretto by DuBose Heyward. For Che, the promise of better times parallels that of Porgy, the crippled beggar in a goat cart: “One of these days you’re going to rise up singing,” a subtextual reference to death and reclamation in heaven (Carey, 2008, 112). The standardization of Heyward’s South Carolina ghetto language does no damage to the concept of an epiphany, a source of exultation in a child who lacks the rudiments of his identity.

• FURTHER READINGS Carey, Peter. The Fat Man in History. New York: Vintage, 1993. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. Kachka, Boris. “Influences: Peter Carey,” New York 38, no. 6 (21 February 2005): 76. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

My Life as a Fake Carey’s My Life as a Fake (2003), a metafictional tour de force, tangles and unravels threads of a literary hoax that teases the reader with its grotesque plausibility. The sprawling text ribs Australia’s cultural ineptitude through the actions of a cast of what Terrence Rafferty, a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, calls “world-class talkers” in a “brisk, relentless prankish book” (Rafferty 2003, 12). In a realignment of creation metaphors from the Greek titan Prometheus and from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667),



the story pictures Australian hoaxer Christopher Chubb, a specialist in the double sestina turned bicycle-wallah, as a mesmerizing Malaysian raconteur on a par with Joseph Conrad’s Marlow in Heart of Darkness (1902) and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s unnamed narrator in Heat and Dust (1987). Chubb originates a doppelgänger, the monster Bob McCorkle, a working-class auto mechanic and writer, and boasts, “I was the one who made Bob McCorkle, not just the words, but also cut up his head and legs and body, I physically pasted him together,” a reference to the Egyptian Isis and Osiris myth and to a mad scientist’s creation of a monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) (Carey, 2003, 52). In this narrative on artistic authenticity, gullibility and oneupmanship reign. Hugh Barnacle summarizes in a review for New Statesman the reason for the publisher’s issuance of spoofed verse: “They weren’t interested in poetry; they just liked the idea of an avantgardist being made to look foolish” (Barnacle, 2003, 52). In the analysis of Andreas Gaile for the Australian Book Review, “In an ironic twist of fortunes, [McCorkle] tricks his master into living his own lie” (Gaile, 2003, 10). Like Shelley’s downcast monster, the phantom later blames the hoaxer for “[putting] my parts together,” an assemblage that blesses the fictional McCorkle with life as well as longing and pain that precedes a real death from leukemia (Carey, 2003, 83). With a similar surge of blood and sinew, Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, the acquisitive editor of the London-based poetry journal Modern Review, feels her moribund publication flex with new life after she reads a single page torn from McCorkle’s canon. Unfortunately, hubris outweighs her dedication to the arts. Joy Press, an analyst for the Village Voice, cheers for the made-up McCorkle, “who brings these prigs to their knees, forcing them both to recognize that poetry can’t be reined in or cordoned off ” (Press, 2003, C84). To Henry Sutton, a reviewer for the London Independent, the villain is “Kurtz-like — big, bald, and surrounded by adoring natives somewhere in the middle of the Malaysian jungle,” a recreation of Joseph Conrad’s monster in Heart of Darkness (1902).

STYLE AND SUBSTANCE Carey’s novel is a work of textures as well as a battle over art, whether earnest or faked. Critic Rafferty calls the text a “destructive parody of modernist orthodoxy — a Postmodern Prometheus” (Rafferty, 2003, 12). Contributing visual contrast is the papery quality of Chubb’s wrinkled suit and aged skin holding the organic exterior — oily and scaly — of McCorkle’s books. The books take on an organic immediacy because he binds them from living elements of the Malaysian jungle. For Chubb’s ingenuity and audacity, he becomes “a sort of beloved boy in Sydney literature” (ibid., 84). For subtextual humor, Carey speaks the viewpoint of British characters, Sarah and her traveling companion, poet-roué John Slater, “who can say all those appalling things that Brits say about Australians,” producing another layer of misinformation to the question of poetic validity (Murphy, 2003). Intensifying an underworld mystique suggesting Theseus’s traversing of the Minotaur’s maze in Mycenae are taxi rides at 2 A.M., surreptitious meetings in bars and a children’s cemetery, jungle assassins, and conversational exchanges requiring multiple angles of analysis for their facetiousness, deceptions, and falsehood. Much as Australia requires cultural authentication, a desire for legitimacy fuels the multiple layers of intrigue in My Life as a Fake. Sarah bears the apt nickname “Micks,” a pun on “mix.” Like Adela Quested in E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924) and Olivia Rivers in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust (1975), Sarah makes a muddle of her penetration of the East much as she bungles her literary magazine and personal life with lover



Annabelle at Allenhurst. Sarah’s reading of Bob McCorkle’s verse produces a startling metaphor: “He had ripped up history and nailed it back together with its viscera on the outside,” an accolade to the pulsating beauty of his verse (Carey, 2003, 235). At a crossroads of distaste and pity for Chubb at his Jalan Campbell address, Sarah admits to being a “nasty girl ... I was prepared to take [the manuscript], using whatever cruel hook was required to rip it free” (ibid., 121). In defense of freedom of the press, Carey speaks through the giant, Bob McCorkle, a writer’s outrage on the jailing of a publisher: “How could we let that be? ... Would any civilized nation do such a thing?” (Carey, 2003, 75, 76). The text enlarges the issue of liberty to encompass assaults on all Australian rights. In the end, critic Barnacle grouses, “The storyline comes to a not very satisfactory crash-stop” by focusing on Sarah’s self-destruction through greed (Barnacle, 2003, 52).

QUEST FOR TRUTH Like the fictional Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker (1985), Carey took personal pleasure in the Byzantine paths of chicanery, lies, and stark truth that accompanied the Ern Malley hoax, which critic Peter Porter termed an “archetypal Australian legend” (Porter, 2003, 54). In a critique for Chicago Review, Geordie Greig compared the ins and outs of Carey’s supernatural fiction to an octopus “fixed around the dark, inky centre of the hoax and the monstrous phantom born of it” (Greig, 2003, 34). Carey chuckled at Malley’s rude, panic-ridden depiction of literary snobbery: “One of the pleasures of Ern Malley is to show the great metropolitan centres are fools and that modernism was crap. I felt this was the periphery giving the metropolitan centres a bit of a belt around to show that ‘We’re tired of you bastards telling us what’s good and what’s not good’” (Wyndham, 2003). Carey salts the text with digs at Oceania’s values, for example, “In Melbourne a billiard player will always outrank a poet” (Carey, 2003, 72). At a pinnacle of angst for the victim of imperialism, the text exalts “the song of the autodidact, the colonial, the damaged beast of the antipodes,” who emerges in body during the obscenity trial (ibid., 82). At a dramatic moment in the quest for legal truth, McCorkle presents the judge with an alternative to “either ... or,” an alternate defendant in the art itself, which belies both creator and publisher. When McCorkle faces Chubb, the phantasm demands, “I want justice,” a declarative sentence rife with the ambivalence of rendering justice to a seven-foot figment of the imagination who looms above average beings (ibid., 152). When Chubb debates his alternatives, he realizes that a confession leaves him vulnerable to a charge of non compos mentis because McCorkle transcends the definition of reality. Carey exonerated his novel from criticism that he exploited the Ern Malley affair for profit. To interviewer Alan Mudge, the novelist declared, “It’s about the power of imagination and the sort of magical thinking that novelists often have that if they write something, then maybe it will come true” (Mudge, 2003). To restage the hoax, Carey worked and reworked for three years before he backed away from the monster McCorkle’s perspective to that of a British outsider. Through the narrator’s revulsion at the poverty, odors, and squalor of Kuala Lumpur, the reader feels drawn into a series of Chinese boxes, a stack of stories-within-stories as brocaded as the Hindu Panchatantra (ca. 200 B.C.), the mother of Asian folklore. After winding through a chance meeting with hobby poisoner Kangaratnam K. G. Chomley, employment by headmaster David Grainer, chasing McCorkle to the compound of a raja, and expulsion of a ghost bird via a floating prison cell, the story concludes with McCorkle’s death from leukemia after treatment for the wrong disease. Because greed for McCorkle’s manuscript outlives him, the story grinds



on with Chubb’s horrific slaughter by machete and Sarah’s nervous breakdown. David Burleigh, reviewer for the Japan Times, lauded Carey’s accomplishment as “a wonderful picaresque confection” (Burleigh, 2004, 34). Other analyses find strands of Frankenstein as well as Robert Louis Stevenson’s fable Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and Joseph Conrad’s quest novel Heart of Darkness (1899). Author John Updike captured the feel of Carey’s Gothicism in the essay “Papery Passions,” in which he describes the tight fit of details and false clues as “[unfolding] like scenes on a fragile paper fan” (Updike, 2007, 353). Andreas Gaile carries the praise to a higher level by naming Carey “a master of postmodernist explorations into the binarisms of Western thought” (Gaile, 2003, 11). In a review for the London Independent, critic Henry Sutton notes a problem with overly imaginative fiction: “As Carey’s story becomes ever more fantastical, it becomes ever weaker, and more and more like a rather monstrous literary contrivance itself ” (Sutton, 2003). See also Chubb-McCorkle-Slater-Wode-Douglass genealogy; madness; mothering.

• Further readings Ashcroft, Bill. “Reading Carey Reading Malley” in Who’s Who: Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature, eds. Maggie Nolan and Carrie Dawson. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2004. Barnacle, Hugh. “Poetic Licence: Peter Carey’s Novel about a Notorious Australian Literary Hoax Isn’t Quite What It Promises,” New Statesman (22 September 2003): 52. Birnbaum, Robert. “Birnbaum v. Peter Carey,” Morning News, December 16, 2003, archives/personalities/birnbaum_v_peter_carey.phPress, accessed on November 20, 2008. Burleigh, David. “A Clever Yarn Crafted from a Hoax,” Japan Times (28 November 2004): 34. Carey, Peter. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. Gaile, Andreas. “Life-Giving Lies,” Australian Book Review (August 2003): 11. Greig, Geordie. “The Poet Who Never Was,” (London) Literary Review (September 2003): 34. Macfarlane, Robert. “Dangerous Inventions,” Times Literary Supplement (12 September 2003): 23. Mudge, Alan. “The Seduction of the Scam: A Literary Imposter Comes Alice in Peter Carey’s ‘Fake,’” Book Page, 2003,, accessed on November 20, 2008. Murphy, Jessica. “A Living, Breathing Hoax,” Atlantic Unbound (22 October 2003). Porter, Peter. “Spooked by a Spoof,” Spectator (27 September 2003): 54. Press, Joy. “My Little Phony,” Village Voice (4 November 2003): C84. Rafferty, Terrence. “Never Mess with a Poet,” New York Times Book Review (9 November 2003): 12. Sutton, Henry. “The Non-existent Poets Society,” Independent (14 September 2003). Thomson, Margie. “Oops, My Fake Came to Life” New Zealand Herald (17 August 2003): 28. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007. Wyndham, Susan. “For My Next Trick,”, accessed on November 25, 2008.

names Carey excels at semantic devices, especially puns and allusions in proper names. Among his best are identification that bears a dark or witty edge: name


a creation of a posthumous joke on a town a thug who reduces all to a dollar value a swinish despoiler of Upward Islanders an architect who bears an equal share of fault for Oongala’s tyranny Shirley Bush rape victim Shepherd 3rd Class a diminution of an already humble trade


Gleason Dean Da Silva Farrow Haflinger

“American Dreams” “Withdrawal” “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” “Kristu-Du”

Mort Danko

“Joe” “Life & Death in the South Side Pavilion” “Exotic Pleasures”

a given name suggesting his spiritual death






Turk Kershaw

a closet homosexual and shaper of young men a filler of jail cells the maiden name of a late-in-life career advertiser and “fee” generator a womanizer and frenetic car salesman

“A Schoolboy Prank”

a circus employee and mocker of truth a low-paid domestic Hebrew for “son of my right hand,” the name identifying the child of a pedophile fecal slang for a child molester a parody of morality play casts and of 18th-century stage comedy a mockery of happiness in the mother of a congenitally handicapped son a leftist stage troupe named “foolish fire”

Illywhacker Oscar and Lucinda The Tax Inspector

Phil Cooper Betty McPhee Herbert Peter Badgery Billy de Vere Prucilla Twopenny Benjamin Catchprice Cacka Catchprice Felicity Smith Feu Follet Mercy Larkin Ma Britten David Weiss Micks Wode-Douglass Butcher Bones Boone Amberstreet Patricia Abercrombie Anna Xenos Che Selkirk

an uplifting name for the wife and saviour of ex-con Jack Maggs a droll surname for the abortionist who rids England of unwanted children a Jewish publisher falsely charged with obscenity, which stains the surname meaning “white” a publisher battling “mixed” emotions over the value of a literary hoax a surname bearing the Anglo-Saxon term for madness an artist who rejects the family abattoir business a detective lodged between the red and green of a traffic light to art theft a “patrician” Chaucerian professor at Vassar a hippie with a foreign air a combination of rebel Che Guevara with Alexander Selkirk, the castaway in Robinson Crusoe

“Joe” Bliss lllywhacker

The Tax Inspector The Tax Inspector The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Jack Maggs Jack Maggs My Life as a Fake My Life as a Fake My Life as a Fake Theft: A Love Story Theft: A Love Story His Illegal Self His Illegal Self His Illegal Self

In “Crabs” (1972), Carey mocks the hapless weakling in the title by naming Crabs’s girlfriend “Carmen,” a fused image of Georges Bizet’s operatic siren and of the boyfriend’s need to draw manhood and self-respect from the vehicles he drives. The author experiments in “The Fat Man in History” (1974) with the identification of Alexander “Teddy” Finch, whose father abandoned the surname Senti and whose grandfather bore the Asian name Ching or Chong. Finch’s mix of names, along with slitted eyes and springy black hair, obscures his ethnic origin. Similarly, Carey veils the identity of the-man-who-won’tgive-his-name and of Nancy Bowlby, the rent collector and author of “Revolution in a Closed Society — A Study of Leadership among the Fat,” whom the six male lodgers elevate to near sainthood with the nickname “Florence Nightingale,” an allusion to the stereotyping of 19th-century nurses as trollops and/or paragons of virtue. In “War Crimes” (1978), Carey parodies Old West melodrama in the naming of Bart,



an end-time simulation of the English highwayman Charles E. “Black Bart” Boles, a stage robber during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Carey’s Bart prisses about in long black locks, purple T-shirt, and fur jacket and clutches his power symbols, a Cadillac Eldorado and a Colt .45, as he drives north of Thirty-Two Mile Creek, Nebraska. A dilettante gunman, he refuses to step into a stream of corruption from his frozen dinner factory lest he ruin his polished cowboy boots, a ludicrous buffing of Western work shoes. To further dissociate the futuristic Bart from Western lore, the text describes him as a former apprentice product manager with Procter and Gamble and a writer of advertising jingles gone soft on booze and cocaine. Carey’s playful naming device serves him well in his first published novel, Bliss (1981). The rescue of Harry Stanthorpe Joy from capitalistic corruption requires some quick thinking. After his arrest for driving a damaged Fiat, he faces Constable Box and Police Sergeant Hastings, a suggestion of being boxed in and assailed, like King Harold by William the Conqueror in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, the downfall of Anglo-Saxon domination of England. To attain “joy” in expiation for supporting Krappe Chemicals, an aptly named disseminator of carcinogens, Harry makes up a story about the self-rescue of Little Titch, the sobriquet of the abused child Daniel. The choice of Daniel reflects the on-the-spot verbal facility of the biblical prophet Daniel, a strict observer of Torah morality. To escape Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian king, the prophet interprets dreams, including the mystic “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” written on the wall by a disembodied hand in Daniel 5:25. Carey’s evocative naming foretells Harry’s reformation as a tribal storyteller. His reward is a sweetie named Honey Barbara, who lures him deep into the forest preserve at Bog Onion Road, far from the decadence at 25 Palm Avenue.

VICTORIAN CARICATURES Through names, Carey pursues symbol and parody in his neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988). The male protagonist, enrolled in theology at Oriel College, learns to gamble from a fellow Oxford student, Ian Wardley-Fish, whose name suggests the fish symbol of Christianity. The female protagonist bears the Latinate first name linked to light, also the source of the name Lucifer, heaven’s fallen angel. Lucinda’s memories of driving into the country around Parramatta with her father recall neighbors named Houlihan, Molloy, and Rourke, evidence of Irish immigration to New South Wales, a subject that Carey returns to in True History of the Kelly Gang (2001). The elevation of James “Jimmy” Dabbs to accountant requires a continental spelling of his Irish surname as d’Abbs. In the absence of factory owner Lucinda Leplastrier, d’Abbs and the Reverend Dennis Hasset superintend the glass blowers without having experience at the trade or at factory management of machinery built by Chance Brothers. Head man Arthur Phelps reduces d’Abbs and Hasset to “the Natty Gent [and] the Bible-basher,” a suitable put-down for poseurs (Carey, 1988, 229). Lucinda’s reunion with the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins at the Sydney fan-tan parlor at 3:00 A.M. repudiates the value of name association. By picturing him scuttling “from red settee, to cabin, to red settee” aboard the steamer Leviation, she inadvertently calls him the Reverend Crab. The implications of given names and surnames in Jack Maggs (1997) contributes to the drama and humor of Carey’s second neo–Victorian novel. Nouveau riche homeowner Percival Clarence “Percy” Buckle bears a surname implying the awkward grafting of a grocer/fried fish seller to the London gentry. In contrast to the impromptu advancement of an unworthy wimp, the brusque masculinity of Jack Maggs echoes in monosyllables that



suggest a ruggedness of character honed in a penal colony in New South Wales. His surname derives from the English street slang “magg” for “pilfer” or “shoplift.” Like the biota that biologist Charles Darwin surveys in the Galapagos Islands, Jack epitomizes survival of the fittest, a loner in his prime who seeks emotional fulfillment in pseudo-fatherhood to Henry Phipps. The family name suggests a magnificence in Jack that glimmers through the coarse, scarred carapace that covers the former burglar and ex-con. In contrast, Carey seeks irony in the mock heroic naming of Oxford-educated Victor Littlehales, Henry’s “beloved tutor” and the forger of filial letters to Australia to “him who signed his letters ‘Father’” (Carey, 1997, 321, 387). The pyrrhic victory of colonialism takes shape in a dramatic contrast: Henry, the effeminate recruit to the brutal 57th Foot Regiment, embraces the cruelty of the motherland that spurned and bestialized Jack, the novel’s reclaimed hero.

LITERARY LOGISTICS Choosing names allows Carey some control over the reader’s response to characterization. As critic Wendy Brandmark explains in a review of His Illegal Self for the London Independent, naming sets themes and motifs for protagonist Che David Selkirk, a poor little rich boy, and his hippie abductor, Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos: “Each has two names and several identities— straight and hippie, iconic and real — to match the worlds they journey through” (Brandmark, 2008). The third major character, orphaned picaro Trevor Dobbs, suffers the smearing of his identity after his kidnapping from London to a south Australian orphanage in toddlerhood. The priests who ostensibly parent and rear him carelessly scribble on his box of personal items “Eric Hobbs.” In Theft: A Love Story (2006), the antagonist, Marlene Cook Leibovitz, poses as a stylish art authenticator, a high-class role to which her Jewish surname is appropriate for its link to her father-in-law, artist Jacques Leibovitz. Lurking at the center of her name is a true representation of the character, a poor girl escaped from Australian poverty who “cooks” up a persona to cover the threadbare beginnings as a typist. Her soul-mate, Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, according to John Freeman, a reviewer for the London Independent, lives “closest to the bone” because of a series of setbacks— marital breakup, arrest for stealing back paintings awarded in the divorce settlement, loss of his son Billy, and a four-year sentence to Long Bay Prison that leaves Butcher bankrupt and homeless. In retrospect on Butcher’s self-presentation, Carey divulged to Freeman, “I know all about river and flood,” a metaphor for Butcher’s ebbing popularity as an artist. See also Butcher Bones; humor.

• Further readings Birnbaum, Robert. “Birnbaum v. Peter Carey,” Morning News, December 16, 2003, www.themorningnews. org/archives/personalities/birnbaum_v_peter_carey.phPress, accessed on November 20, 2008. Brandmark, Wendy. “The Odd Love between Boy and Hippie,” The Independent (15 February 2008). Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. Freeman, John. “Peter Carey: Art and Lies— and Money,” Independent (26 May 2006). James, Caryn. “Great Extrapolations,” New York Times (8 February 1998). Letissier, Georges. “Dickens and Post-Victorian Fiction” in Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film, ed. Susana Onega and Christian Gutleben. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004. Liddelow, Eden. “New Model Carey,” Scripsi 7, no. 2 (1991): 93 –100. Meinig, Sigrun. Witnessing the Past: History and Post-Colonialism in Australian Historical. Tübingen, Germany: Druck und Bindung, 2004.



order Carey ponders the disorder in society, government, and the arts through original images, such as the drowning of horses in “Life and Death in the Southside Pavilion” (1974), atonement for exploiting islanders in “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” (1974), the completion of civic duties in “The Journey of a Lifetime” (1979), and the competition of children at dancing and eating spaghetti in The Big Bazoohley (1995). In “Peeling” (1972), a Gothic disintegration of the human form, the text depicts the dissolution of Nile, an assistant to an abortion provider and love interest of a retiree. In a seduction scene at her downstairs neighbor’s apartment, she passively sits through the peeling of layers of blouses, sweaters, and stockings, an exaggerated symbol of layering in a woman who abhors her job as assistant to an abortionist. The stripping gains momentum as her skin, hair, and limbs fail her, leaving a shattered white doll in place of a human spirit. The retiree’s misdirected seduction leaves him sexually unfulfilled, a natural stage in the order of aging. In a subsequent story, “The Fat Man in History” (1974), the author explores a renegade form of order in a fable on in-house tolerance among six obese misfits whom society marginalizes as scapegoats for governmental shortcomings. To maintain domestic order, five of the six murder their leader, Fantoni. In the back yard, they barbecue him for a feast, the introit to the naming of a new Fantoni and a welcome to a new nameless member of their cell, the unwitting Fantoni-to-be. The narrator notes, “It was a relief to be able to call him a name,” an acknowledgement of the value of names in the establishment of domestic order (Carey, 1974, 32). As in “Peeling,” the death cycle suggests that the role of destruction is inherent in human ambition. Carey imposes a tidy ruliness in subsequent works, beginning with the reining in of adman Harry Stanthorpe Joy’s egotism and material excess in Bliss (1981) and advancing to the perverse caging and labeling of Australian oddities at the “Best Pet Shop in the World” in Illywhacker (1985), a satiric restructuring of Australian history (Carey, 1985, 443). The intrusion of disorder on religious dogma turns Carey’s neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988) into an exercise in failed idealism. From a post–Christian perspective, the era of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) tops the Richter scale of shocks to the Church of England. Oscar, son of Theophilus Hopkins, a marine biologist and fundamentalist preacher, rejects his father’s assertion that God intends people to puzzle over nature’s beginnings. Margaret Harris, a critic for Southerly describes Theophilus’s deity as “a God who put fossils in the rocks on the day of Creation in order to simulate geological history, and whose subsequent control of his creation is total, to be interpreted by many signs” (Harris, 1989, 109). For peace of mind, Oscar comes up with the Pascalian belief that religious orthodoxy is a crap shoot, the basis for the Oxfordtrained minister’s obsession with gambling. Carey inserts in Oscar’s life an inharmonic fear of water, one of the four basic ingredients of life. Ironically, seawater, the source of Theophilus’s daily collection of specimens, becomes Oscar’s bete noire, an unavoidable element. The thought of water denies the neophyte minister serenity: “It was not a discreet entity. It fractured and flew apart, it swarmed like fish, splintered like glass,” a foreshadowing of his bizarre drowning in a glass church (Carey, 1988, 13). Carey satirizes colonialism by mocking Oscar for ineptitude at the ministry and at courting Lucinda Leplastrier, a manufacturer who thrives on a vigorous market for glass. In an operatic conclusion to the defrocked minister’s life, the narrative confines him within the tidy prefab chapel he escorts up the Bellinger River to Boat Har-



bour and leaves him cringing and screaming as he drowns. The loss confers on Oscar a martyrdom to the reclamation of Aborigines, Australia’s first people. The disorderly dynasty that results from his coupling with widowed housekeeper Miriam Mason Chadwick produces a ragged, bastardized family history cleared up two generations later by a grandson named Bob, the storyteller who confers order and dignity on the Hopkins-Chadwick family tree.

DISORDERLY MORALS In a drive for truth, Carey restructures situations reflecting deception and dishonesty. In Bliss, Harry Stanthorpe Joy twice faces death before ridding himself of materialism and embracing goodness and justice, the bases of his service to a commune on Bog Onion Road as bard and culture keeper. Herbert Peter Badgery, the liar and rapscallion in Illywhacker, disorders his first family by caging his wife, Phoebe McGrath, in a constricting domestic arrangement. After lengthy escapades, Herbert serves a ten-year term at Rankin Downs prison for his attack on a Chinaman, his foster father, Goon Tse Ying. Ironically, during his incarceration, Herbert gains, through atonement, a university degree in history and a perspective on Australia’s past. Just as storytelling rescues Harry Joy from ignominy in Bliss and confers a late ordering on the Hopkins-Chadwick genealogy in Oscar and Lucinda, Herbert’s introduction to reading history for himself offers him a clearer understanding of his homeland and himself. For The Tax Inspector (1991), Carey elevates sticks of gelignite as the wrecker of disorder. Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, an abettor of Cacka, her pedophiliac husband, redeems her family from generations of child sexual abuse by blowing up Catchprice Motors. The struggling auto dealership that covers in concrete her hopes for a flower farm requires Gran’s manual labor, “Working her way along the side of the wall, stooping, like a gardener weeding ... lighting fuses” (Carey, 1991, 269). The concrete pad inhibits the fecundity of soil and also conceals a madman, her grandson, 16-year-old Benny Catchprice, who lurks in the compound basement like a dangerous subterranean microbe. To re-establish hope for the future, Carey conflates the extermination of evil “like something smashed against the windscreen of a speeding car” with the birth of Maria Takis’s son, “little Benny ... warm, squirming, still slippery as a fish,” a new generation to replace the Catchprice family’s dissolute past (ibid., 279).

ORDER AS COMPROMISE Less clear is the falling action of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), a wildly imaginative meditation on the theft of colonial culture by the motherland. Carey creates a small-scale world order in the relationship of Voorstand to its colony, the 18-isle cluster of Efica, home of the title character. To assure control, Voorstand’s entertainment industry controls Efican imagination: “You stand with your hand over your heart when the Great Song is played, you daily watch new images of your armies in the vids and zines” (Carey, 1994, 5). For all its illusion of harmony, the enforced culture displaces Efica’s indigenous organization. In his impersonation of Bruder Mouse, the religious icon of Voorstand, Tristan seizes for himself agency and a voice, the two assets denied by a freakish conception and birth and, symbolically, by the usurpation of a smaller nation by imperialism. Although his emergence from gross handicap requires the political martyrdom of his mother, Felicity “Flick” Smith, an actor and director of the Feu Follet Theatre hanged by secret insurgents, Tristan overcomes the loss and reframes his life as an adult male, neo-



phyte actor, and liberal dissident like Felicity. In the resolution, Carey pictures Tristan and his ad hoc family enjoying a more normal existence in which “the pain was less, the pleasure greater” (ibid., 414). Carey leaves intact the voracious gobbling of small nations, but implies through Tristan’s guile and his father Bill’s energy a more promising future for island nations like Efica. A similar realignment of values and outlook invigorates Jack Maggs (1997), Carey’s neo–Victorian salute to the convict class that settled Australia. Seizing on Abel Magwitch, the convict and deus ex machina who saves Philip “Pip” Pirrip from poverty in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860 –1861), Carey enlarges on the perspective of an outcast, a symbol of disunity in Great Britain. Jack, the spurned burglar condemned to penal labor in New South Wales at age 15, returns to London despite the threat of recapture and hanging for an exile. Groping through adjacent houses at Great Queen Street in Clerkwall for a way to reunite with his foster son, Henry Phipps, Jack documents the disorder in his life from birth to abandonment at four days old to training in housebreaking and theft by Silas Smith and “Ma” Mary Britten. Much of Jack’s life is beyond rectification — Ma’s abortion of Jack’s unborn son, the hanging of Jack’s mate, Sophina Smith, and years under the lash of Rudder, the prison camp torturer directed by Captain Logan. Carey symbolizes the unrelenting regrets pounding through Jack’s head in attacks of tic doloureux, a lightning sharp attack on the trigeminal nerve. Jack perceives reclamation as a citizen, husband, and father through the sentimental “love of a good woman,” chambermaid Mercy Larkin. Escaping in the night on the Portsmouth Mail, the couple thrive through the reshaping of Jack and the dedication of Mercy to reuniting Jack with his sons, Dick and John: “It was not an easy role ... yet she applied herself to being their mother with a passion” (ibid., 327). Balancing discipline with love, she becomes Jack’s beacon of justice and hope, a maternal contributor to Australia’s disavowal of colonial status.

LOST CAUSES In 21st-century publications, Carey opts for a more historical view of order. In his fictional version of an Aussie legend, True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), the author works within the parameters of a highwayman’s life cut short by a rope at age 26. Edward “Ned” Kelly, the son of Irish farmers and horse breeders, accepts the role of head of household by age 12, when his father, John “Red” Kelly, dies of dropsy. Betrayed by his mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, to an apprenticeship under seasoned robber Harry Power, Ned learns the business of robbery and the necessary duck and weave of outlawry. During his ennui in Harry’s “bolt holes,” Ned reads accounts of the American Civil War in the Australian News, which disseminates the disorder of a world power throwing off its addiction to slavery. Increasing the disunion in the Quinn-Kelly clan are frequent clashes with Protestant Victorian police, who victimize the poor Irish Catholic farmers with false arrests and confiscation of livestock. Ned sympathizes with the underdog: “In a very bad year even the richest farmers was cutting down saplings to feed their stock they was pressed hard themselves and so harsher than usual to their poor neighbours” (Carey, 2001, 196). The inadequate husbandry of land substantiates the disorder in nature, which suffers as the agrarian class struggles to survive. Carey tightens the focus on Ned as a disadvantaged youth who doubts that order is possible. He recognizes the hopelessness of demanding justice for Ellen, who serves a term in Melbourne Gail for shooting a police officer. Ned frets that the term separates Ellen from her youngest child, Alice, born April 16, 1878. Ned’s feeble letters to editors illus-



trate the fate of high ideals of justice in a corrupt British colony where the media offer the only voice for the underclass. In a tumble of run-on sentences, he rages, “They will print my letter then you will see what happens the Australians will not tolerate a mother be gaoled for no offence” (ibid., 322). At his appointment with the gallows on November 4, 1880, he abandons the hope for domestic order with the sigh “Such is life” (ibid., 368). A glimmer of trust in narrative results from the handwritten autobiography that Ned bequeaths to his newborn daughter. Like Bob’s reassessment of the life and accomplishments of his grandfather, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, Ned’s memoir bears into the future strands of truth occluded in the past by corrupt imperialists.

ORDER AND ART In two subsequent novels, Carey applies to the arts the theme of putting to rights the provenance of creativity. In My Life as a Fake (2003), Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, a self-aggrandizing editor of the Modern Review, becomes the agent of truth while chasing the text of Bob McCorkle, a mechanic and poet invented by Aussie hoaxer Christopher Chubb. By granting Bob both a mastery of engines and of English verse, Chubb grants his puppet a skill at organization. Sarah discovers that McCorkle produces “very complicated internal rhyme ... [that] slashed and stabbed its way across the page, at once familiar and alien” (Carey, 2003, 26). Over a Gothic landscape in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Sarah pieces together from Chubb’s life story his creation of McCorkle as a hoax on pretentious literati. Ironically, Chubb’s punishment is poetic justice — the reassembly of inoperable bikes in a meager shop in Penang. The falling action begins with McCorkle’s death from leukemia, an appropriate “bad blood” disease, and from the machete slaying of Chubb by Mrs. Lim and Tina, his wife and daughter. Ironically, McCorkle accuses Chubb of cobbling together spare parts into his hoax poet, an image suggestive of Frankenstein’s monster. To create order, Carey pictures Chubb lying below the second story of his home and bicycle shop in pieces, the poetic justice of dismemberment to an assembler of falsehood. With similar dexterity, Carey orchestrates a backhanded reprieve for artist Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone in Theft: A Love Story (2006). Sucked in to the corrupt art market by lover Marlene Cook Leibovitz, Butcher litters the art world with disorder by abetting investment collecting and the fraudulent boosting of value. On his arrival in New York City, Marlene applies burglary tools to their quarters and sets up an illicit atelier. Butcher, however, lacks the felon’s grace at bogus dealings: “I was a lonely, unemployed disaster, a two-hundred-pound barramundi flapping on the deck” (Carey, 2006, 201). Marlene’s murder of her ex-husband, Olivier Leibovitz, and the suspicions of Detective Amberstreet convince Butcher that he is displaced in a dubious environment. Reduced to mowing lawns and “[trimming] bucking borders in Bankstown,” Butcher returns to an imposed order (ibid., 269). He humbly accepts Marlene’s restitution through the late-in-life re-evaluation of his canvases as worthy works of art. In establishing regularity and propriety for Butcher, Carey leaves to the reader the question of a true assessment of brilliance: “How do you know how much to pay if you don’t know what it’s worth?” (Carey, 2006, 269).

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991.



_____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Gaile, Andreas. Fabulating Beauty: Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. Harris, Margaret. “Eminent Victorians?,” Southerly 49 (1989): 109 –113. Zamora, Lois Parkinson, and Wendy B. Faris, eds. Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

orphans Carey’s obsession with waifs and foundlings earns him a place among postcolonial sibyls. Analyst Peter Pierce called the resultant subgenre a “lost child narrative,” a term bearing national significance for the outcast British who settled New South Wales (Pierce, 2001, 74). Along with Mr. Yazaki and other homeless war victims during the firebombing of Tokyo in Wrong about Japan (2005), Carey creates varied wanderers— the former convict and title figure and his foster son, Henry Phipps, in Jack Maggs (1997) and the title character in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), a motherless trauma victim who wanders the empire of Voorstand in search of his straying birth father, actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur. In Carey’s first collection, The Fat Man in History (1974), the surreal story “Peeling” (1972) creates tension in the fetishism of Nile, an assistant to an abortion provider who honors dead fetuses by collecting dolls, stripping them of hair and eyes, and painting their nude remains a sterile white, an eerie negation of human facsimiles. At her own dismemberment by a seducer, Nile lapses into a pile of clothing, limbs, skin, wig, and shattered fragments of self, a symbol of the severed dynasties and segmented identity of Anglo-Australians. The story prefigures the sufferings and displacement of Edward “Ned” Kelly, protagonist of True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), a fatherless horse breeder and outlaw who goes to the gallows while trying to gain release for his mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, from the Melbourne Gaol. His reasoning is the need for his baby sister Alice for her mother, head of a splintered clan of Irish Catholic immigrants. Symbolic orphaning pities the outsider for an emotional confinement as painful and damning as prison or exile, the fate of Harry Stanthorpe Joy in the snidely named Alice Dalton’s Merry Lands asylum in Bliss (1981), of ex-con Herbert Peter Badgery at Rankin Downs Prison in Illywhacker (1985), and of Jack Maggs, a 15-year-old transportee from London to the Morton Bay penal colony in New South Wales. Among Carey’s tormented are the title figure in “Joe” (1973), a vignette of family exclusion that ousts the boy from the fold for his physical differences, the desert sentry in “A Windmill in the West” (1974), the fatherless son in “Do You Love Me?” (1979), and the undervalued entertainer in “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” (1979). The fable “The Fat Man in History” (1974) exploits the notion of disconnection from society by anathematizing the obese as public enemies, a form of orphaning via bigotry. In a substandard rental home, six unemployed males shelter, led by the “Fantoni,” and support each other in an eccentric camaraderie based on need and compassion. Like adult Oliver Twists, the men steal to survive and share their loot in a communal kitchen. Their lack of blood kin results in a splintered brotherhood threatened once a month by the visit of Nancy Bowlby, the rent collector, whom they lust after and adore. Like a den mother, she rewards them with mothering and sexual pleasure, for which she earns the humorous nickname “Florence Nightingale,” the nurse to soldiers during the Crimean War.



PAIRED INNOCENTS Carey acknowledged to critics his pattern of decrying the “casting out of children,” a metaphoric term encompassing innocents in general (Gussow, 1998). For Oscar and Lucinda (1988), he pairs needy naifs. Lucinda Leplastrier, a wealthy heiress at age 17, searches urban Sydney for guidance in investing in Prince Rupert’s Glassworks, a quest that adds her company to that of conversationalists and seasoned gamblers. On her return from an obligatory visit to England, she meets the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, a bumbling, unsocialized cleric who lost his mother in boyhood to disease and who depended on a housekeeper and cook for mothering. To escape a fundamentalistic father, Theophilus Hopkins, a preacher to the splinter sect the Plymouth Brethren, Oscar vacates a miserable home life. He boards with an Anglican minister and his wife, the Reverend Hugh and Mrs. Betty Stratton, who become his foster parents and benefactors during his years at Oriel College, Oxford. In death at Boat Harbour on the Bellinger River, Oscar has a vision of Theophilus, the father he once loved but couldn’t abide for his rigidity and lack of affection. Both ostensibly homeless and unparented in Australia, like Jack Maggs and his teen mate Sophina Smith, Oscar and Lucinda lean on each other for strength and wisdom. A tragic lack of stable adult influence leaves them open to their innate faults and susceptible to the deceit of a corrupt society further weakened by prelate Bishop Dancer and gambler Ian Wardley-Fish. The title duo weakens after Oscar’s dismissal from Randwick parish and the priesthood, an ousting that turns him into a street wanderer. In an attempt to repair his original orphaning, Oscar writes in a letter, “Dear Papa, I am so sorry to have caused you, by the extended silence which this epistle will now serve to end, so much anguish,” thus taking on himself the fault for severing an attenuated family tether (Carey, 1988, 273). When Lucinda reunites with Oscar, Carey marks him with a pustule on his lip, the mark of Cain that shames his status. In forming a loose household at Whitfield’s Farm in Balmain on the Parramatta River, Oscar and Lucinda once more embrace the role of orphans for the judgment of gossips who consider them adulterers. By accepting Lucinda’s bet on the transport of a glass church up the Bellinger River to the compound of the Reverend Dennis Hasset, Oscar, her “dear friend and companion,” escapes opprobrium, frees Lucinda of taint, and merges his own misery with that of beleaguered Aborigines, Australia’s true orphans (ibid., 306). At a tavern brothel at Urunga, Oscar attempts to defend Kumbaingiri Billy’s aunt from forced prostitution, but lacks the strength to overturn colonial dehumanization of its first peoples. Ironically, a more assertive orphan, widowed housekeeper Miriam Mason Chadwick, escapes social disapproval and peonage as governess and scullery maid by seducing Oscar and creating a new family, one that flourishes for three generations.

SURROGATE PARENTING In two subsequent stories of metaphorical and actual orphanhood and the search for identity, Carey peruses the art world. In My Life as a Fake (2003), he creates Gothic vengeance for Bob McCorkle, a mechanic and poet dreamed up by hoaxer Christopher Chubb, an Australian author. McCorkle charges his maker with condemning him to an orphaning that lacks even a childhood, which the poet recovers by stealing Chubb’s infant daughter Tina. As part of the made-up life of McCorkle, Chubb assigns him Graves’ disease, a pun that threatens to leave Tina unparented. In McCorkle’s final hours, the two,



writer and fictional character, make peace. McCorkle says to Chubb, “I am easy now.... We are one, you and I” (Carey, 2003, 256). The brief reunion precedes the machete murder of Chubb by his daughter and second wife, the widowed Mrs. Lim, leaving Tina again fatherless. In the settlement of the plot, the searcher for McCorkle’s verse, Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, editor of the London-based poetry journal Modern Review, orphans herself by traipsing foreign lands until she, too, becomes a rootless wanderer and victim of nervous collapse. Carey’s examination of bogus art in Theft: A Love Story (2006) returns to orphaning in the life of a co-narrator, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone. Apparently injured in childhood, he disappoints his parents by dim-wittedness, the source of uncouth behaviors and angry outbursts that causes his father, abattoir owner “Blue Bones” Boone, to try to drown him in the bathtub. At the death of “Blue Bones” and “Mum” of Bacchus Marsh, Hugh becomes the ward and perpetual burden of his artist brother, “Butcher Bones.” The troubled affection between the Boone brothers results from Hugh’s unpredictability, which impinges on the painter’s concentration. To rescue Hugh from boredom and mischief, Butcher arranges for a daily chicken sandwich lunch at the local pub, where Hugh walks on his daily jaunts about the neighborhood. Butcher tires of straightening out wrangles, like the threats against Hugh for cuddling the corpse of a drowned puppy. In a snit of frustration, Hugh recalls of Butcher, “Many a time he had threatened to have me put under MANAGED CARE where they would remove the tartar from my teeth,” a threat that terrifies Hugh, who shrivels into a 220-pound infant (Carey, 2006, 60). Hugh retreats to Olivier Leibovitz, a short-term friend and protector in Manhattan until Olivier’s murder. In the end, both Butcher and Hugh feel displaced on the amoral big city landscape, where Hugh’s idea of security is a quiet survey of the street from his folding chair. Upon their return to Australia, their partnership in a lawn maintenance business delights Hugh with the smell of grass clippings and the sight of monarch butterflies. In a secure environment, he exults, “We had NORMAL LIFE” (ibid., 266). The comment gives added meaning to the subtitle, “A Love Story.”

RUNAWAYS AND HIPPIES The plight of the parentless child dominates Carey’s next novel, His Illegal Self (2008), a terrifying quest narrative that surveys the anxieties of Che David Selkirk, a wealthy, privileged seven-year-old who has no contact with either birth parent, socialite Susan Selkirk or Harvard anarchist David Rubbo. On a broader scale, Richard Eder, a reviewer for the Boston Globe, perceives the scenario as “the burnishing ordeals of three waifs,” taking into account Che’s abductor and her hippie consort (Eder, 2008). As described by Liesl Schillinger, a critic for the New York Times Book Review, the alienation of the child from his New York family has its roots in radical philosophy: “Ideology has orphaned him” (Schillinger, 2008). After his abduction from Manhattan to Crystal Community four miles south of Yandina, Queensland, by Anna “Dial” Xenos, he receives nurturing from a woman he mistakenly identifies as his birth mother. She offers the gifts of travelers’ games, chocolate bars, and a kitten, but he clings to scraps of paper in his pack that link him to his real mother and father. Dial conceals the fact that Susan Selkirk, Che’s mother, died in a bomb blast in Philadelphia during Che’s flight west. In Dial’s frequent embraces and caresses, she perceives from his response an affectionate nature: “Whatever had happened to him you could feel he had been loved” (Carey, 2008, 98). At the story’s climax at the end of chapter 20, Dial must admit to the anxious child, “You dad doesn’t want to find us” (ibid., 107).



The subjects of surrogacy and making-do return as adult characters learn more about Che. Dial realizes that the boy’s moodiness derives from questions and quandaries about his haphazard past. At a pivotal point, Che observes, “I’m an orphan, aren’t I?” (ibid., 179). Trevor Dobbs, an orphaned picaro at Crystal Community, admits his own parentlessness and acknowledges the cigarette burns on his legs from childhood torture. As a reward for self-sufficiency, he brags on “fresh veggies, good dope” raised at his rural compound (ibid., 157). Nonetheless, his repeated question —“You sad at night?”— implies that Trevor has lived through the mental torment that besets Che. The narrative poses the unnamed question of pedophilia — the ravishing of one orphan by another — in Trevor’s kindness to Che and their retreat to the saddle to examine a blue car. The ambiguity mirrors in the reader Che’s unease with a nudist outlaw. Trevor eases the uncertainty with stories of his abduction from London by priests of Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, a “cold and loveless” child warehouse where boys suffer “ringworm, scabies, beatings” (ibid., 168). Emotional battery results from the priests’ careless misidentification of Dobbs as “Eric Hobbs.” See also belonging; confinement; mothering; parenthood.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. Eder, Richard. “Running on Empty,” Boston Globe (10 February 2008). Fletcher, M. D. “Peter Carey’s Postcolonial Australia II: Oscar and Lucinda: Misunderstanding, Victimisation and Political History,” Australian Political Ideas. ed. Geoff Stokes. New South Wales: University of New South Wales, 1994. Gussow, Mel. “An Australian Novelist Takes Another Look at Dickens’s Inimitable Convict,” New York Times (25 May 1998). Pierce, Peter. The Country of Lost Children: An Australian Anxiety. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. _____. “The Problem of Consolation in the Country of Lost Children,” Society for Studies in Religion, Literature and the Arts (2001): 73 –86. Ryan-Fazilleau, Sue. “Bob’s Dreaming: Playing with Reader Expectations in Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda,” Rocky Mountain Review of Language & Literature 59, no. 1 (spring 2005): 11 –30. Schillinger, Liesl. “Child of the Revolution,” New York Times Book Review (10 February 2008). Walton, David. “On the Run in a Hazy World,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (10 February 2008). Wong, Amy. “Review: Theft: A Love Story,” Harvard Book Review 7, no. 3 (2006). Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996. Wynveen, Tim. “A Stranger in a Strange Land Spins His Tale,” Maclean’s 108, no. 8 (20 February 1995): 65.

Oscar and Lucinda For his prize-winning dystopic novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Peter Carey debunks what critic Robert Fraser calls a “founder lie,” a history of Australia promulgated by European imperialists (Fraser, 2000, 203). Over 110 segments, the author directs a stagy calamity through what analyst Melissa Bellanta describes as “squinting light and raw parochialism” (Bellanta, 2003). In another overview, analyst Karen Lamb summarizes the conflict as “absurd misfirings and collisions of temperament,” the fanaticism, error, skepticism, guilt, lust, ambition, and self-delusions inherent in colonialism (Lamb, 1992, 42). The author chooses a duo of ingenuous oddballs as models of the adventurers and idealists who migrated from Great Britain to the Australian colonies. Analyst Rod Edmond notes that the author remains faithful to Victorian motifs, notably, the naif orphaned at a tender age, a troubled coming of age, the quest for identity, and the youth’s inheritance of wealth,



decisive elements in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861). The similarities end with a postmodern conclusion, which condemns the title figures to a platonic relationship and rids Oscar of his virginity at age 25 by the husband-hunting of housekeeper Miriam Mason Chadwick, a frontier black widow after her husband, teacher Johnny Chadwick, dies of snakebite. Carey pursues an intercalary method of propelling his title characters toward an encounter fraught with selfishness, pride, and jealousy. Through Bob, a chummy present-day narrator, the author offers a bicultural alternate to sanitized history by recounting the intrusion of Anglican missionaries among animistic aborigines. At Boat Harbour, the water-front compound of the Reverend Dennis Hasset on the Bellinger River, Oscar and the other expeditioners witness ongoing cultural erasure through what political ecologist Josh Newell describes as “the importation and oppression of a belief system incompatible with the colonized people” (Sarangi and Mishra, 2006, 114). Bob, the great-grandson of the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, in an analysis of his grandsire, blames Christianity for wasting a promising life on needless sacrifice: “It was a knife of an idea, a cruel instrument of sacrifice, but also one of great beauty, silvery, curved, dancing with light” (Carey, 1988, 324). Like a scene from the biblical account of Abraham and Isaac, the lengthy visualization anticipating sacrifice precedes Oscar’s transportation of a glass chapel to Boat Harbour and, in 1866, his martyrdom in his mid–20s from drowning in the Bellinger River. A vivid metaphor reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s flying island in Gulliver’s Travels, the church depicts a bizarre colonial building project that creates upheaval in the lives of whites and blacks. In the estimation of Veronica Brady, the church emphasizes “not merely ... the incongruity and cruelty of colonisation in its attempt to replicate Europe on the other side of the world but also its essential fragility,” a frailty personified by Oscar (Brady, 1996, 89).

ERRANT DETAILS In propelling action toward this end, the text violates history by placing electric lights on the steamer Leviathan and by pushing up the invention of celluloid by five years. Altered perspectives, past and present, create a counterpoint: Oscar’s restricted upbringing in Devonshire versus Lucinda’s inheritance and the establishment in 1859 of a glassmaking career at the Prince Rupert Glassworks in Darling Harbour, Sydney. The centrality of gambling draws the co-protagonists into a mystic camaraderie focused on “that small spherical world of which the cut pack was the exact geometrical centre” (Carey, 1988, 213). The image suggests the fate of colonials amid the entrepreneurial shufflings of imperialists. Against more troubling differences than those of Harry Stanthorpe Joy and Honey Barbara in Bliss (1981) or of Charles and Emma Badgery in Illywhacker (1985), Oscar and Lucinda establish a relationship based on misunderstandings, the novel’s controlling metaphor. The author maneuvers opposing forces to bring the couple together in private in Lucinda’s stateroom — her embarrassment at a display of poker hands and cash before a witness and his avoidance of her porthole view of the sea, the source of his water phobia. The title figures, for all their contrasts, share similar mindsets. Both sorrow over loss of worthy parents, who set stalwart examples of commitment to work. Both scheme to improve society through a grand, futile gesture, one altruistic and the other capitalistic. When the steamer Leviathan wallows in waves, Oscar loses his composure, gropes at a deck



of cards, tosses them out a porthole, and sinks into a swoon. Similarly affected by adversity, Lucinda maintains logic in an argument with the Reverend Dennis Hasset about his reassignment to Boat Harbour in the outback. While nudging into the subject of marriage and co-management of the glass factory, she removes, strokes, and torments her gloves, emblems of agency. At the high point of her realization that Hasset is not willing to marry a female industrialist, Lucinda halts only half gloved, “barely aware of herself, turning over books in an open crate,” symbols of a male-female mismatch (Carey, 1988, 238). Less tormented than Oscar, she nonetheless struggles against a brushoff that mortifies and disconcerts, leaving her sadder, but wiser about a man she once admired and his commitment to social constraints.

HELL ON EARTH The purgatory that awaits Oscar takes on the stratified miseries of Dante’s hell. Leading the expedition through ever worsening landscapes, Jeffris, a self-aggrandizing accountant, abuses any who threaten his opportunity for frontier glory. Instead of “lurching around the countryside with incompetents,” he directs the convoy up the Bellinger River with precise orders and brutal snaps of his whip (ibid., 407). The sixteen wagonloads of glass, cast-iron, and glazing supplies travel by barge from Port Jackson in Sydney harbor to the edge of the outback: Destination Semi-circular Quay

Events Wardley-Fish fails to bribe his way from a pilot boat to the expedition’s barge. Maitland Wardley-Fish falls behind the pursuit by playing cards at the Grand Hotel. Yellow Rock Jeffris’s party stays at the Old Blacks’ Camp. Kempsey Jeffris hires Narcoo blacks as guides. Mount Darling The expeditioners cut trees and make maps. Mount Leadenhall Uphill travel requires ropes and pulleys. Mount Dawson To gain entrance to the sacred mount, Jeffris shoots one of the two Narcoo guides. Bellinger Valley Odalberee leads the way down Mount Dawson to the valley. Uranga A confrontation at Sandy Creek with the Kumbaingiri leads to shooting, which Oscar protests. Urunga (Bellingen Heads) On the Bellinger River, Oscar enters a tavern-brothel and, among cedar cutters, plots punishment to the wicked. Boat Harbour Percy Smith abets the murder of Jeffris, whom Percy Smith, at the direction of Kumbaingiri Billy’s aunt, buries in a cesspool.

Carey rounds out his episodic plot with an existential gesture to human isolation. One by one, his characters sink into confining milieus— Lucinda Leplastrier into work at “Mr. Edward Jason’s Druitt Street pickle factory” and labor activism, Miriam Mason Chadwick into a faux widowhood and social decline as housekeeper and governess, the Reverend Dennis Hasset into ministerial drudgery, Betty Stratton into widowhood after the Reverend Hugh Stratton hangs himself, and Oscar into the watery death he dreads from boyhood (ibid., 429). To rescue the story from disintegration, the author leaves the telling in the voice of Oscar’s great-grandson Bob, the culture keeper who informs the 20th century of the colonial predations against Australian first peoples. Analyst Bruce Woodcock summarizes the narrative as a testimonial to “brutal cultural expropriation with disturbing violence” (Woodcock, 1996, 73).



See also Hopkins-Chadwick genealogy; Leplastrier, Lucinda; Leplastrier-Fisher genealogy; religion.

• Further readings Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003). Brady, Veronica. Can These Bones Live? Sydney: Federation, 1996. Carey, Peter. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. Edmond, Rod. “From the Victorian to the Post-Colonial Novel,” Australian Studies 3 (1989): 88 –95. Fletcher, M. D. “Peter Carey’s Postcolonial Australia II: Oscar and Lucinda: Misunderstanding, Victimisation and Political History,” Australian Political Ideas. ed. Geoff Stokes. New South Wales: University of New South Wales, 1994. Fraser, Robert. Lifting the Sentence: A Poetics of Postcolonial Fiction. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2000. Harris, Margaret. “Eminent Victorians?,” Southerly 49 (1989): 109 –113. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Sarangi, Jaydeep, and Binod Mishra. Explorations in Australian Literature. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2006. Strongman, Luke. The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Tausky, Thomas E. “Getting the Corner Right,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 4 (1990): 27–38. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

parenthood The creation and nurturance of nuclear families is a pivotal consideration in Peter Carey’s fiction, from off-kilter single fatherhood of Charles and Sonia “Sonny” Badgery by their single parent father, Herbert Peter Badgery, in the novel Illywhacker (1985) and the nonfictional salute to the author’s fatherhood in “A Letter to Our Son” (1988) to the insistence on an introduction to art for the young villagers of Bacchus Marsh in Theft: A Love Story (2006) and the reciprocal mother-son fulfillment of nurturing a seven-yearold in His Illegal Self (2008). In Bliss (1981), much of the anguish in protagonist Harry Stanthorpe Joy, a 39-year-old advertising agent beset by male menopause, derives from the misdirection of his two children during his wife’s fling with Joel Davis, a 29-year-old junior executive. Harry regrets his inability to model his adulthood after his own father, Vance Joy. Harry rationalizes, “What monstrous crimes had he committed? A little adultery perhaps, an amount of covetousness when it came to other men’s wives, but that was about all” (Carey, 1981, 41). At the Joy home at the droll address of 25 Palm Avenue, Mount Pleasant, the lack of parental integrity plants the seeds of disaster. While Harry’s 17-year-old son David secretly bankrolls his entrepreneurship with the proceeds of dope dealing, his 15-year-old daughter Lucy absorbs the creeds of Marxism and anarchy and trades oral sex with David for marijuana. After two life-altering close calls with death from heart attack, Harry abandons his home and children to their ultimate decline. At his 2:00 A.M. departure in the Cadillac Eldorado, a metaphor of utopianism, Harry awakens Lucy, who mutters, “The creep” (ibid., 263). At Bog Onion Road, Harry establishes a second family with a freespirited mate, beekeeper and prostitute Honey Barbara, a name suggesting the sweetness of his second marriage and subsequent brood. As tribal sage and storykeeper, Harry, like the title figure in Lois Lowry’s The Giver (1993), establishes a giving relationship with listeners based on trust, friendship, and commitment to culture. From his example, his second family values his stories and preserves them as a form of filial honor. The break with affluence marks the second family as a promising stage of development for humankind.



THE REARING OF ODDBALLS The deaths of the mother and two siblings, Sarah and Percy, in the Hopkins family in the neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), illustrates Carey’s views on vulnerability in compromised households. To the Hopkins’ cook, Mrs. Williams, the whittling down of members from five to two produces “this awkward lurching thing with one of its limbs cut off, out of balance and bumping into things in broad daylight,” a monstrous disorder that ill prepares Oscar for adulthood (Carey, 1988, 30). Immured in a confining lifestyle, Oscar, the surviving child, tries to love his fanatical sectarian father, Theophilus Hopkins, the preacher and titular sire of the Plymouth Brethren, a marginal sect of fundamentalists. The father, fearing affection as a sign of weakness and sensuality, longs to embrace Oscar “to make a human cage around him, to protect his bird-frail body from harm,” but the dictates of fundamentalism label such joy in children as pride and arrogance (ibid., 22). In a grab for the warmth of early childhood, the boy leaves letters to his mother in a hole in a tree trunk, an echo of the insecurity of Boo Radley in Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). Further limitation of Oscar’s intellectual options motivates his skepticism about literal interpretation of the bible, the bedrock of his father’s faith. In place of acquiring sophisticated narrative skills, at Oriel College, Oxford, Oscar develops an obsession with gambling as a means of knowing the mind of God. A diametric type of parenting shapes the childhood of industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier. Rearing by a sturdy Australian farmer, Abel Leplastrier, and Elizabeth Fish Leplastrier, a free-thinking mother who reads the feminism of John Stuart Mill, introduces Lucinda to independence from fussy Victorian mores. To their dismay, she carries libertarianism to a shocking extreme by chopping off her doll’s golden curls and replacing them with the straight black hair of the Australian Aborigine. In the anguish of widowhood, “Elizabeth became a door her daughter could only press against” (ibid., 71). At her mother’s death, Lucinda’s choice of bloomers over crinolines and bustles attests to her rejection of gendered restraints on movement. Freed to think for herself after inheriting £10,000, she displays her mother’s unfettered outlook on a visit to England, where Lucinda shocks even the revolutionary novelist George Eliot by gazing directly into the author’s eyes. Carey turns to humor the exasperation of both the mother and Eliot at a teenage heiress who relishes the liberty to sample and explore her options. For The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey generates a farfetched nurturing style comprised of one mother and a triad of fathers. At the Feu Follet Theatre in Efica, the response of three men to actor-troupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith’s freakish infant Tristan discloses the fiber of each contender for parenthood. Termed the “new messiah of the grotesque” by critic Marie Maclean, Tristan brings out the un-father in actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur, the babe’s biological dad (Maclean, 1994, 803). Bill’s dedication to the stage and his subordination of his wife and son in his priorities proves ironic in the falling action, when Tristan risks all to reunite with Bill in Voorstand and to adopt his profession as a Sirkus performer. The intermediate father, Vincent Theroux, offers a more substantial form of caregiving by situating Felicity and her son in more substantial quarters than the tower room of the Feu Follet. Tristan, however, tests all three contenders in the crucible of father love and awards the title to the third hopeful, Wally Paccione, the excon and stage manager who fosters with the skill and devotion of a nanny and the iconic nobility of Merlin guiding the neophyte King Arthur. Although devoid of sexual ties with Felicity, Wally, like Horace Dunlop, the volunteer father of Sonia and Charles Badgery, in



Illywhacker (1985), tends Tristan and relieves his sorrow after Felicity’s politically motivated hanging by the Voorstand Intelligence Agency. Wally protects his ward to the climactic point when he stands before an assassin’s gun to shield his son from a bullet and dies at Tristan’s feet. Martyrdom, an inversion of the Christian paradigm of the divine son’s crucifixion for the sake of God’s creatures, strengthens Tristan for the next stage of his unusual life, a flight from imperial control to a theatrical career that allows the 23year-old his first grasp at normality.

SCIONS OF CRIMINALS Carey explores the nature of parental loyalty among criminals of the agrarian class. In True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), he assigns to 26-year-old Australian bushranger Edward “Ned” Kelly a purported loyalty to his daughter, whom he never sees. By way of introduction to his quasi-literate memoir, Kelly declares his intent to expunge falsehoods and rumors of cold-blooded criminality: “this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false” (Carey, 2000, 7). The declaration, sworn in the name of folk superstition about punishment in the afterlife, accentuates the outcast’s dedication to fatherhood, a truth surpassing the demands of law. Ned opens his apologia with the pain at age 12 of losing his own father, John “Red” Kelly, a transportee to Van Dieman’s Land and ne’er-do-well farmer in Victoria until his death in 1866 from dropsy. Despite the absence of affection, the father-son bond thrums in Ned’s mind when he performs the simple tasks of farming and survival, lessons learned from Red in past years. Carey honors the male-to-male link as a necessary step in outback education and preparation for life for an Irish Catholic immigrant to the Australian frontier. The father’s demand for obedience and diligence allows Ned to survive on the run for two years from a host of informers, stalkers, and a police army. Carey applies poetic license to the gentling of Ned Kelly, a barefoot semi-literate who knows more about horse breeding and riding than about establishing the standard nuclear family. At his mother’s incarceration in Melbourne Gaol, Ned accepts the responsibility of younger siblings, who live in the same unspeakable poverty and hunger he recalls from boyhood. Most deprived, to Ned’s way of thinking, is baby Alice, whom Ellen births on April 16, 1878, shortly before Ellen’s arrest. He leaves behind his memoir, “So when our daughter comes into the world she will always know the proper story of her da and who is he and what he suffered” (ibid., 277). The absence of information about Ned’s baby girl, whom Mary Hearn produces in June 1879 after fleeing to San Francisco, amplifies the theme of martyrdom and loss among the Quinn-Kelly clan of Anglo-Celtic peasants. While his American-born daughter flourishes like a newly foaled filly, Ned accepts the downward spiral of gangsterhood, a devotion to confederates and lawlessness that robs him of even a glimpse of his only child. Brought down by a police fusillade in June 1870 and hanged the following November, he expresses his stoic loss of life’s treasures with a terse farewell: “Such is life” (ibid., 368).

CAREY & SON Before composing the meditative Wrong about Japan (2005), Carey makes a traditional gesture to his 12-year-old son Charley’s passage into the teens. Traveling to Tokyo in 2003, the duo turns their interest in the faddish publication of manga and anime into a shared reason for viewing Japanese pop culture. The fathering aspect of the trip involves Carey’s trust in Charley’s maturity and responsibility. The two share perplexity at the



tatami-sized inn room in Asakusa, a futuristic toilet, breakfasts of sashimi and pickle, and the tangle of subway lines requiring ticket purchase from kiosks. Charley seizes the advantage by rendezvousing with Takashi, a 15-year-old resident and employee of Mister Donut who maintains constant communication via text messaging. Carey displays his middleaged qualms by scrutinizing Takashi’s imitation of cartoon characters through comic book costuming and hairstyle. In defense of a pre-teen, Carey wonders if Charley’s friend is gay. The author juggles the roles of visiting celebrity, tourist, and father by reminding himself that Charley’s behavior is exemplary for a pre-teen. Although the boy falls asleep during a video viewing and discussion with their host, Carey forgives his ennui and awards him extra points for sitting through four hours of kabuki theater. The alternating views of a mature, yet flummoxed father tilt in favor of Charley in the final scene, in which the two bid farewell to Takashi’s grandmother. Lacking language for a proper goodbye, Charley gratifies his parent by bowing to Takashi’s grandmother, presenting her with wrapped gifts, and receiving a kiss on the cheek. Carey turns the parting scene into a coda that negates the missteps and doubts of previous social intercourse. Although the text signs off with a quip, Carey indicates that pride in Charley’s humanity makes the two-man trip worthwhile. The issue of fatherhood changes course, but follows the same themes in Theft: A Love Story. The protagonist, artist Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, rears his son with appreciation for tender feelings and susceptibility to the world’s evil. By age four, “Billy Bones” Boone learns to value his father’s oil canvases, which he rids of particles by plucking hair and dust from the surface with tweezers. Butcher asserts that “children raised on Space Invaders and Battlezone will tire quickly of this stuff,” i. e., cleaning art of extraneous trash. A boy brought up in nature, Billy learns to love his family, including “Uncle Hugh” Boone, a retarded adult who serves as the nephew’s nanny and playmate. After the child’s death, Butcher recalls him as “benevolent, generous, blessedly in need of love thank Jesus” (Carey, 2006, 113). The emptiness of former fatherhood grieves Butcher like the phantom pain of amputation. See also abortion; female personas; Maggs, Jack; mothering; orphans; Takis, Maria; women.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. Wrong about Japan. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2005. Kemp, Peter. “His Illegal Self by Peter Carey,” London Sunday Times (3 February 2008). Maclean, Marie. “The Heirs of Amphitryon: Social Fathers and Natural Fathers,” New Literary History 26, no. 4 (autumn, 1995): 789 –807. Ryan-Fazilleau, Sue. “Bob’s Dreaming: Playing with Reader Expectations in Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda,” Rocky Mountain Review of Language & Literature 59, no. 1 (spring 2005): 11 –30.

powerlessness Carey voices an overt compassion for the vulnerable whom society depersonalizes. The sadistic story “Peeling” (1972), a commentary on the writing process, pictures a collection of nude dolls painted white to represent the fetuses evacuated from the womb by



an abortion provider. To enhance the powerlessness of the unborn, the author describes the sound of slicing as a chop through a pear, a succulent fruit covered by thin, permeable skin. Furthering the aura of fragility, the tyranny of mind and heart is so onerous among villagers in “American Dreams” and in a military sentry in “A Windmill in the West” that critic John Sutherland, a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, characterized Carey’s first story collection, The Fat Man in History (1974), as “a vision of Australia recolonized or (as in the title-piece) in a state of totalitarian oppression” (Sutherland, 1976, 445). In the title fable “The Fat Man in History,” Carey posits an explanation for failed attempts at social betterment by creating an in-house coup in a cell of six obese counter-revolutionaries— Fantoni, Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man. The men’s colorless lives, supported by shoplifting, retain an off-kilter integrity through the cyclical sacrifice of their leader Fantoni and the inclusion of a new misfit, the Fantoni-tobe. In a show of unity among the unemployed, five of the commune members strangle Fantoni, who appears in their midst “wearing white silk pyjamas,” a symbol of his purity and innocence of collusion (Carey, 1974, 31). In the socio-political web of the satiric fable Bliss (1981), Carey’s first published novel, he jeopardizes characters in variant forms of controlling institutions, including a police station, hospital, and asylum. Overarching Australian power structures is the materialism of the American dream and a culture that pushes toxic rationalism on unwitting idealists. The novel characterizes Alice Dalton’s Merry Lands asylum as a model of the depersonalizing elements of society by assigning one patient’s name to another inmate. In the view of analyst Don Fletcher, the fictional action illustrates how “mental institutions share with totalitarianism the attempt to change human nature” (Fletcher, 2007, 39). The lacklogic of feigning insanity to escape institutional brutality grows out of fictional strategies in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), and Marge Piercy’s dystopian sci-fi thriller Woman on the Edge of Time (1976). In a thrust at consumerism, Carey depicts his characters, ad man Harry Stanthorpe Joy and his lover, beekeeper and prostitute Honey Barbara, as survivors relying on cash bribes to free themselves from a commercially successful mental hospital. To restore balance and ambition, the pair flourish in the bush on Bog Onion Road, a leafy utopia where Harry rebuilds self-regard by planting trees and by becoming the sage and storykeeper to a commune unanchored from a definable culture.

GLIMPSES OF HELPLESSNESS Subsequent scenarios of impotence place Carey’s characters in more unenviable positions. Herbert Peter Badgery, protagonist of Illywhacker (1985), confronts multiple terrors, including his daughter Sonia’s disappearance down a mineshaft, extreme old age, physical decline, and exhibition in the “Best Pet Shop in the World” (Carey, 1985, 443). In the previous century, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins drowns in a glass church that sinks into the Bellinger River at Boat Harbour in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), a neo–Victorian study of the colonization of New South Wales. For Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, 86-year-old matriarch of the family auto dealership in The Tax Inspector (1991), examination by a physician, Dr. Taylor, threatens involuntary commitment to a retirement home. On a more menacing level, her crazed grandson, 16-year-old psychopath Benny Catchprice, holds at the muzzle end of a sawed-off shotgun Maria Takis, the tax auditor, who gives birth while her abductor threatens her life. More terrifying to Maria is Benny’s bonding with the newborn, whom he calls “little Benny” (Carey, 1991, 276). At the Feu



Follet Theatre in Efica, the birth of a severely handicapped infant to actor-troupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), introduces the title character to a life of constant care, which infantilizes him into his twenties. To Sam Kellow, being locked out of his hotel room in Canada leaves him parentless in The Big Bazoohley (1995), a child’s fable of self-reliance and improvisation. For Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, the dim-witted brother in Theft: A Love Story (2006), the thought of “managed care” terrorizes him with the threat of having his teeth cleaned. In each instance, characters have no access to empowerment, no way to fight back against overwhelming odds, the situation that ends the life of Sophina Smith, a hanged burglar in Jack Maggs (1997), that Edward “Ned” Kelly faces as he ascends the gallows in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), and that ends the life of investor Olivier Leibovitz, a murder victim in Theft: A Love Story (2006). Carey divulges his own protectiveness of his family, the subject of “A Letter to Our Son” (1994). During a father-son trek to Asia in Wrong about Japan (2005), he recaptures through the memories of Mr. Yazaki the helplessness of the children of Tokyo during sequential nights of firebombing. Left orphaned and hopeless in smoky rubble, in 1944, the children escape first to a temple, then acquiesce to the home guard, which shepherds them to a munitions factory to become underaged drones. In both suburban locales, American B-29s follow and turn into a living hell the survivors’ retreat from World War II. Simultaneously, Carey’s son Charley terrifies his father by overinvolving himself in manga and anime, a comic book obsession that features robotic warriors fighting intergalactic battles. The author superimposes Charley in Yazaki’s place and subconsciously shudders at the thought of his 12-year-old facing the global horrors of firebombing. The unease in Carey endears him to his readers for his candid expression of fatherly concern for the future. See also abortion; Smith, Tristran; orphans; vulnerability.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Fat Man in History, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. Illywhacker, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. Fletcher, Don. “Utopia in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Social Alternatives 26, no. 1 (first quarter 2007): 39 –42. Sutherland, John. “Division Street,” Times Literary Supplement (9 April 1976): 445. Thwaite, Anthony. “The East Remains Mysterious,” Telegraph (26 December 2004).

racism On matters of sovereignty, Peter Carey fills his texts with a white man’s guilt that echoes across his homeland. His early short works, particularly “Crabs” (1974), a tale of dark-skinned gangs, and “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” (1974), a satire of colonial conspiracy against indigenous people, refute the self-aggrandizing history of colonialism in an island nation that once belonged to Aborigines. Within range of breathtaking terrain and views of sea and sky, the Aussie writer experiences sorrow and self-doubt: “Under all of this lies the knowledge that the land we love is also stolen. The horror of the destruction of aboriginal society is there every day” (Jarvis, 2008). Paradoxically, as a scion of the convict culture, he shares the anguish of dispossessed first peoples and regrets that his concern for Irish immigrants to Australia in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) fails to address the issue of color-based prejudice. He explained to an interviewer the source of



confusion: “It’s complicated because we’re historically both oppressors and victims ... still concerned with finding ourselves” (Seth, 1994, 2661). The author’s mix of people in Illywhacker (1985) attests to the clash of cultures during the 19th-century white settlement of Australia. Of anti–Chinese prejudice, herbalist Goon Tse Ying, the protagonist’s foster father, relives the worst of a riot against 3,000 miners on June 30, 1860, at Lambing Flat: “They drove the Chinese down the river bank. They had axe handles and picks. They ran over my uncle Han in a cart and broke his leg and they broke my father’s head open with a water pipe” (Carey, 1985, 215). The text addresses the issue of genocide against aboriginals through the observations of Jewish author Leah Goldstein Kaletsky, an altruist and well read socialist, and her lover, con artist Herbert Peter Badgery, an ex-con with a history degree. Ironically, education during his incarceration at Rankin Downs prison for assaulting Goon Tse Ying initiates Herbert’s understanding of the sins committed by whites during the European land grab in Australia. Leah prefers the peripatetic anti-capitalist life because she believes the true owners of Australia are the blacks whom whites uproot. Out of respect for the dispossessed, she claims, “We can only move around it like tourists. The blackfeller can rest but we must keep moving” (ibid., 323). After Herbert’s jailing, he achieves a B. A. in history from the University of Sydney. A sophisticated reading of Australian chronicles informs him of his forefathers’ lies, especially the rationalization for seizing land from first peoples. To complaints from blacks, pioneers replied with firearms and poisoned grain “with a clear conscience,” Herbert’s primary charge against British imperial mayhem (ibid., 456). The conundrum of race extermination returns in nonfiction in Carey’s 30 days in Sydney (2001) with the author’s musing on huge piles of seashells left by the people of Sydney Harbor. He adds, “The most racist among us must grant the aboriginals intimate knowledge of this hostile land, and that is where they gain their authority in our imagination” (Carey, 2001, 52).

A GUILTY BICENTENNIAL Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey’s bicentennial framework novel, thrust unpleasant historical truth into the tension of a self-conscious year, the 200th anniversary of the British settlement of Australia. For characters, he sets up standard Victorian antipathies: • the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, a member of the English intelligentsia, a saintly rescuer of heathens, and a victim of the snobbish, misdirected Church of England • Lucinda Leplastrier, a feminist, heiress, and parvenu industrialist and investor in the Australian economy • Mr. Jeffris, the intrepid expeditioner and racist murderer of blacks who expects to gain historical recognition for mapping the Bellinger River region • the Aborigine or “darkfellow,” a class that critic Luke Strongman calls “the colonial ‘Other’” (Strongman, 2002, 94). Without developing the undocumented subtext of the victimized native, the narrative charges early white British explorers and settlers with grimmer forms of genocide, specifically, dispossessing, shooting, and distributing “‘bye-bye damper,’ bush bread made from strychnine-poisoned flour” (Carey, 1988, 132–133). In childhood, Lucinda regrets the gentrification of her father, Abel Leplastrier, by farming land northwest of Sydney on Mitchell’s Creek at Gulgong, New South Wales. The plot is a subdivision of large parcels stolen from natives. She attempts to reclaim the banished black by scalping her white-



skinned doll of its blond curls and gluing to its skull straight black tresses. The symbolism does not escape her parents’ displeasure, displayed in a slap on the leg and the withholding of bread and butter at tea and dinner. The evening concludes in the hurling of a serving dish and a frying pan and adult demands of “Why?” (ibid., 67). Ironically, Lucinda merely actualizes the libertarian tenets of her mother, Elizabeth Fisher Leplastrier, a protofeminist. Carey admires Australia’s first people for stoicism in the face of Christian hypocrisy. In the estimation of critic David Brown, a professor of divinity at Duke University, the author questions “the assumption that worship, and so with it divine presence, are always there to serve some further end (such as mission)” (Brown, 2004, 350). In a scenario set on the eve of Palm Sunday — April 4, 1852 — black residents cluster at the hedge on Mitchell’s Creek, where Irish neighbors prepare Abel Leplastrier, owner of 20,000 acres, for burial after his death from a horse riding accident. As though merging with the night, six Aborigines stand “on the edges of the lamplight ... as still as trees,” a metaphoric stance echoing their retreat from urban areas (Carey, 1988, 71, 134). Lucinda Leplastrier, as though speaking the socialist tenets of Leah Goldstein in Illywhacker (1985), declares, “The money was stolen from the land. The land was stolen from the blacks.... It was thirty pieces of silver,” the payment that Judas earns for betraying Jesus in Matthew 27:9 (ibid., 104). In a later retrospect on her ill-gotten inheritance, she credits her parents’ labor and “the blood of the blacks of the Dharuk,” the black natives whom the first English settlers encountered in 1788 (ibid., 361).

RACISM ON THE FRONTIER The novelist imbeds the narrative with glimmers of evil intrusions into Australia’s “Heart of Darkness.” In the opening chapter, Carey refers to the renaming of Darkes’ Point as Darkwood, New South Wales, and charges an ancestor of the Clarke family with “[pushing] an entire tribe of Aboriginal men and women and children off the edge,” a means of obliterating an inconvenient people (ibid., 2). After a racial clash, Mr. Jeffris, another detractor of Aborigines, reassures Mrs. Mildred Burrows, the widow of the martyred Captain Burrows. Because of her husband’s massacre at the hands of blacks, she demands a fight to the death between the British army and Aussie natives. To moderate her hysteria, Jeffris explains that blacks are murderous because they are “dispossessed of their lands and driven into the dense, tumbled country ... their backs against the wall” (ibid., 143). Carey establishes in side commentary the shifting of interest in civilizing and Christianizing Australian Aborigines. At a peak of England’s proselytizing fervor among black Australians, racial attitudes alter. Bishop Dancer, who toys with Oscar Hopkins’s placement among popish parishioners in Randwick, dismisses mission work as “a waste of time.... Leave the blacks to the Dissenters” (ibid., 255). He substantiates his opinion with remarks about poor health among Sydney’s “poor wretches,” the unsaved fought over by Baptists and Methodists who soothe the endangered natives with gifts of blankets (ibid.). Oscar falls into Dancer’s scheme by questioning smug visitors to the rectory about the membership of blacks in the congregation, sure evidence that the new minister is “Dancer’s man,” an effeminizing term that abases Oscar (ibid., 256).

COLONIAL INTENT The question of surveying and mapping unexplored parts of black Australia returns in the concluding episodes of Oscar and Lucinda. After the Reverend Dennis Hasset receives



reassignment from a cushy Sydney parish to the territory of the Kumbaingiri on the frontier, Oscar accepts a bet contingent on his delivering industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier’s glass church to Hasset upriver at Boat Harbour. Jeffris, the surveyor, mocks pidgin English by urging Oscar to “gently-gently catchee monkey” by edging around aboriginal boundaries into “niggers’ kingdoms” so “Jacky-Jacky would be pleased to let you be” (ibid., 349). The comments imply that grandstanders like Jeffris manipulate first peoples for selfish means without respect for native personhood, civil rights, or traditional lands. In the assessment of analyst Bruce Woodcock, the frontier offers no safe harborage for the glass church because it “was haunted by other ghosts and dreamings from another, obliterated culture, that of the Aborigines who were massacred in order that the land could be claimed for the church to stand on” (Woodcock, 1996, 73). Through poetic justice, Carey requites the wrongs done to his fictional Aussie natives. Appropriately, Jeffris meets a violent end in 1866 for slaughtering the blacks who interfere with his audacious expedition up the Bellinger River into the frontier of northern New South Wales. Suitably, his murderer, pathfinder Percy Smith, buries Jeffris in a cesspool disclosed by the paternal aunt of Kumbaingiri Billy, a 20-year-old whom whites force into concubinage at a Urunga tavern. The former comfort girl is a suitable avenger against white males who keep her “reduced and miserable as any human being might ever be” (ibid., 411 –412). Out of pity, Oscar christens her Mary for Magdalene, a New Testament associate of Jesus whom legend labels a prostitute and folklore in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003) honors as Jesus’s wife and mother of a Hebrew dynasty.

MULTIPLE UNDERDOGS Bigotry returns to Carey’s fiction in a fantasy, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), in which all blacks disappear from the South Pacific setting. Carey salts in the casual Voorstander’s diminution of dark-skinned immigrants as “some nigger from Nigeria” and describes Saarlim City as “full of niggers” (Carey, 1994, 320, 373). Racism plays an inverted part in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) as a measure of social prominence. For Edward “Ned” Kelly and his little brother Jem, living barefoot and poor at Beveridge on Pleurisy Plain draws an unsettling realization that black cowboys have jobs and boots and put on an impressive “nigger show” (Carey, 2000, 15). Ned marvels, “we was raised to think the blacks the lowest of the low” (ibid., 14). Realization that blacks occupy a high socio-economic level stirs Ned and Jem to damn and double damn the riders. The brothers’ companion, Pathy Moran, degrades the cowboys as “effing niggers” (ibid.). The adult version of name calling involves Ned’s father, outlaw John “Red” Kelly, in an ambush set by Warragul, leader of spear-chucking, “shouting savages” (ibid., 16). Ned inserts a subtextual slur by describing the “blackfellows” as stupid enough to watch the front of Red’s hideout while he sneaked out the back (ibid.). Just as lower class whites scapegoat black freedmen in the American South and belabor achievers through the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, the belittling of Aussie blacks offers the Irish underclass someone to look down on. In Ned Kelly’s memoir, black Australians bear a reputation for victimizing whites. On Mary Hearn’s night flight in the rain from a Benalla brothel to the Kelly homestead on Eleven Mile Creek, she prioritizes free-floating anxiety as being “afraid of Chinamen of blacks of swagmen” (ibid., 242). In contrast to the ethnic terrors of assorted males, Mary takes comfort in locating Kate Kelly, who murmurs, “You’re home here lovey ... safe as with your own people dear” (ibid., 243). However, Mary’s apprehension proves true as



the stalking “undertakers” home in on the cabin at Eleven Mile Creek. Outlaw Steve Hart notes that Superintendent Nicolson confers with two black trackers. Joe declares the two “more dangerous than 20 effing Spencer [rifles]” (ibid., 279). The scene echoes a chase in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) in which a famed Indian tracker known as Lord Baltimore accompanies Sheriff Joe Lefors’s posse in pursuit of train robbers. Implicit in both scenes is the native guile of indigenous people, who redeem themselves in the eyes of imperialists with knowledge of the land and its usurpers. Carey adds a racist coda to the action by picturing Superintendent Nicolson’s men preparing a picnic that excludes the black trackers. The two even the score against the bigoted police by leading them away from the gang. See also colonialism; Oscar and Lucinda.

• Further readings Brown, David. God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account. London: Bloomsbury, 2001. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Jarvis, Jill. “CUNY Distinguished Professors: Peter Carey,” forum/?p=2668, accessed on November 26, 2008. Korn, Eric. “Entertaining Empires,” Times Literary Supplement no. 4770 (2 September 1994): 10. Lobe, Cliff. “Reading the ‘Remembered World’: Carceral Architecture and Cultural Mnemonics in Peter Carey’s Illywhacker,” Mosaic 35, no. 4 (December 2002): 17–34. Ryan-Fazilleau, Sue. “Bob’s Dreaming: Playing with Reader Expectations in Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda,” Rocky Mountain Review of Language & Literature 59, no. 1 (spring 2005): 11 –30. Seth, S. P. “Australia’s Aboriginal Problem,” Economic and Political Weekly 29, no. 41 (8 October 1994): 2661. Strongman, Luke. The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

reading Peter Carey speaks with fondness and some diffidence about his reading background, which he characterizes as a life-changing experience. In Theft: A Love Story (2006), he describes himself and other Aussies in terms of indigenous literature: “We are the nation of Henry Lawson and the campfire yarn” (Carey, 2006, 31). The reference names the mostread and most-quoted frontier writer of the colonial era. When Carey was about ten years old, his family still had no television and retreated into the bible and Reader’s Digest condensed books. His father spent holidays reading aloud from Biggles books. Before beginning the narrative, the father checked the ending to be certain that it concluded happily for the characters. In adulthood, Carey rebelled against a culture surviving on “perilously few stories,” particularly romances (Meyer, 1997, 81). He decided to make a career out of celebrating Australia’s endangered mythography. Interviewer Subhash Jaireth, a writer for Overland, validated Carey’s choice with a conundrum: “We are what stories make us. We make ourselves in and through stories” (Jaireth, 1995, 73). The prophecy suits the themes of Wrong about Japan (2005), Carey’s odyssey with 12-year-old son Charley as an antidote to father-son distancing caused by shifts in the boy’s reading toward manga comics and anime film. As a contrast, Carey pictures himself immersed in the haiku of master Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Carey’s introduction to literary classics coincided with his failure in 1962 in chem-



istry and zoology studies at Monash University. Among his first free-reading encounters were the writings of Graham Greene and Jack Kerouac and of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1920), one of the top 100 titles on Modern Library’s best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2005, for representing truth from opposing perspectives, Carey named as his most life-changing read William Faulkner’s Southern Gothic novel As I Lay Dying (1930). At age 19, Carey admired “those particularly idiosyncratic voices of poorly educated people ... [that] Faulkner renders in rich jewellike prose” (Carey, 2006, 52). The author’s honor to first-person narrative impacted Jack Maggs (1997), True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), and Theft: A Love Story (2006), texts that make “poetry from an uneducated voice ... giving voice to the voiceless” (ibid.).

THE WRITER’S SHELF Concerning the influence of writing on reading, Carey confided to interviewer Thomas E. Tausky that “an enormous self-absorption, self-obsession ... enters every aspect of my life when I’m writing a novel,” especially reading and viewing (Tausky, 1990, 28). One of his projects, the satiric fantasy The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), took shape from Carey’s reading of Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1740) to his two sons. The concept of monstrous external features on a normal human being influenced the creation of Tristan, the crippled actor who retreats behind a mask and into a mouse suit equipped with a voice synthesizer. Tristan informs the reader, “Our heroes are the lost, the drowned, the injured, a habit of mind that makes our epic poetry emotionally repellent to you” (Carey, 1994, 137). Five years later, another work, the life of bushranger Edward “Ned” Kelly, an Australian Dick Turpin, required background reading as well as a perusal of the paintings of Australian artist Sidney Nolan. At the end of Carey’s research, he declared Kelly a man of stature more akin to the American hero George Washington than to outlaw Jesse James. The author invests his protagonist with a love of storytelling introduced by his illiterate mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, and advanced by Ned’s common-law wife, Mary Hearn, a former prostitute. In early manhood, Ned listens to songwriter and poet Joe Byrne read a classic outlaw novel, Richard Blackmore’s Lorna Doone (1869), a volume ruined in October 1878 during the Kelly Gang’s retreat north over the Ovens River. Carey describes Ned’s visual identification with the fictional action: “My eyes was seeing things from centuries before I were witness to a mighty fight” (Carey, 2000, 189). A bare knuckle champion and regional hero, Ned sympathizes with the fictional John Ridd’s weariness of being a champion wrestler. For the pleasure and immediacy of oral reading, Ned values Joe higher than he ranks Mr. Irving, Ned’s anti–Irish schoolmaster. The joy of books spurs Ned to spend two years reading Lorna Doone three times along with delvings into the Bible and William Shakespeare’s sonnets. During a sojourn in a frontier cabin, he peruses accounts of the American Civil War from Australian newspapers pasted to the wall to keep out drafts. When Mary Hearn shares a cautionary tale with Ned’s gang at Sandy Flat, she speaks familiarly of Lemuel Gulliver, a character invented by Jonathan Swift, the Anglo-Irish dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin. The conclusion of Ned’s last foray with schoolmaster Thomas Curnow’s recitation of the St. Crispin’s Day speech in William Shakespeare’s history play Henry V (1599) endorses the armored followers, whom Ned calls boys “noble of true Australian coin” (ibid., 354).



ART AS OBSESSION In My Life as a Fake (2003), the novelist dramatizes the internal drive to know and possess the best in art. Speaker Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, an esthete and editor of the Modern Review, admires early 20th-century modernist verse. She discovers Australian expatriate Christian Chubb in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus (1922). The allusion to Orpheus’s search of the underworld for his wife Eurydice foreshadows Sarah’s hellish trek in Chubb’s footsteps in search of the poems of Bob McCorkle, a literary hoax. Sarah admits the unforeseen beauties of rule breakers. Of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), she celebrates “those dazzling eruptions and disconcerting schisms [in which] I saw a world whose dreadful harmonies I never guessed existed” (Carey, 2003, 134). The fireworks of Eliot’s masterwork ignite Sarah’s yearning to save her magazine by publishing a similar chef d’oeuvre that redirects poetry to soulful emotion and startling conceits. While stating her case by transatlantic call to a benefactor, Lord Bertie Antrim, she imagines “the singing of the submarine phone cables,” an exaggeration derived from her faith in a virtuoso poet (ibid., 138). Her mark takes the bait and postpones his departure from London, a sure sign that Sarah is not the only obsessive verse lover in Bloomsbury. Additional references to classic literature attests to the scholarship of the principal characters. Poet Christopher Chubb steeps himself in poetry, including W. H. Auden’s “The More Loving One” (1957), a sarcastic meditation on living without the beauty of stars against the night sky. Chubb treasures a volume of Stéphane Mallarmé’s verse and a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Duino Elegies (1922), a rhapsodic cycle on love and despair. In his poverty as a bicycle shop repairman, Chubb grouses, “I am K in The Trial,” a reference to Josef K, the hapless arrestee in Franz Kafka’s 1926 novel. In 1956 on his island hop to Bali, Sumatra, and Malay, Chubb ranks the steamer journey to Penang as worse than the main character’s sufferings on the Patna in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1900), a novel of conscience laden with spiritual trial and regret. The torment of lost love of his mate and newborn daughter presses Chubb to write poetry on a wrought-iron table, a physical parallel to his unrelenting personal straits—“Christopher Chubb in full flight”: “It was agony, like cutting words into your own chest” (ibid., 164).

FACT-FINDING For Che David Selkirk, a seven-year-old ward of his grandmother, Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, in His Illegal Self (2008), reading provides the details of his life kept secret during his early years. Before his birth, his 16-year-old mother, socialite Susan Selkirk, immersed herself in Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the socialist writers favored by anarchists. Denied television, Che lives in seclusion with his grandmother at Kenoza Lake near the New York–Pennsylvania line and selects from a formal library equipped with a rolling ladder. Grandma Selkirk prefers 19th-century adventure novels by Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, or Robert Louis Stevenson. After the boy’s abduction by his pseudo-mother, English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, at their hideout at the Days Inn in New York City, she reads from Jack London’s novella The Call of the Wild (1903), a study of the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest played out by a California pampered pet beset by sled dogs in the Yukon. To Che, it’s “the best book ever written” (Carey, 2008, 22). His perusal of London’s fiction continues with the reverse-image novella, White Fang (1906), which takes a wolf-dog from the frozen north back to California.



The contrast of milieus and threats to survival mirror Che’s advance from Park Avenue to Brisbane and a perilous hitchhike north to Yandina in Queensland. On the way, he gets another glimpse of books at the underground hideout in Seattle. Led by Joel, the barber who transforms Che with a buzz cut and black hair dye, Che and Dial arrive at a safehouse, a dismal dump with a porch littered with discarded carpet and books stacked in boxes. Rain has reduced the pages to mush, “like chocolate in the heat” (ibid., 112). The image of dissolved paper and the ruined words they contain give Che hope that “nothing that had mattered before would matter now,” his hope for a better life away from the Manhattan apartment of his grandmother, Phoebe Selkirk, and reunion with his birth parents (ibid.). As his hope bubbles up once more after Dial buys a 14-acre plot at the Crystal Community on Remus Creek Road, she heads for the beach with a copy of Huckleberry Finn, a classic orphan story, and plans to share pizza, swim, play poker, and read aloud to him. After a day at Coolum Beach, Che looks forward to “just ... them, and blankets, and a book, nothing better to imagine now” (ibid., 126). Dial’s restlessness, which spawns a drive south into Nambour, directs her to more reading material. At a news stand, she inquires in vain for London’s The Sea-Wolf (1904), a tale of an urbanite rescued at sea by a brutal sealing captain. At a school library, she learns that the purchase of reading material in the outback is limited to a bookstore at Noosa on the coast to the northeast. Well read in Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus as well as Mario Puzo’s pop novel The Godfather (1972), Dial condemns Australia’s slim literary offerings in “an awful place to spend your life” (ibid., 163). Carey uses her need for literature to contrast survivalist Trevor Dobbs, a learning disabled orphan who was whipped in childhood for being “word blind” (ibid., 176). Because Dial needs books, she fills her shack at night with bright light from a propane lamp while Trevor lives, literally and figuratively, in the dark. When he insists on dousing her lamp, at first, she considers the compromise “a retreat from the Enlightenment” (ibid., 241). See also storytelling.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. “The Book That Changed My Life,” Best Life 3, no. 5 (June 2006): 52. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Jaireth, Subhash. “A Mis-en-Scene in the Feu-Follet Theatre in Chemin Rouge,” Overland 139 (1995): 72–74. Kachka, Boris. “Influences: Peter Carey,” New York 38, no. 6 (21 February 2005): 76. Koval, Ramona. “The Unexamined Life: Peter Carey Interviewed,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 667–682. Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 76 –89. Schine, Cathleen. “The Call of the Wild,” New York Review of Books 55, no. 4 (20 March 2008). Tausky, Thomas E. “Getting the Corner Right,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 4 (1990): 27–38.

reclamation The motif of redemptive acts dominates Carey’s work. The theme emerges in his early stories, particularly “Do You Love Me?” (1975), a sci-fi chiller that describes the dissolution of people and places because they inspire no love. In Bliss (1981), the author enlarges on the atonement and reclamation of Harry Stanthorpe Joy, a cynical 39-year-old advertising mogul, from a life of lies, graft, and fraud to benevolence. Harry’s willingness to



sell toxic products manufactured by Krappe Chemicals contributes to a world cancer epidemic, which he views demographically on a cancer map that “glowed malignantly in his mind’s eye” like radioactive waste (Carey, 1981, 195). Carey faults his protagonist with condemning his teenaged children, David and Lucy, to isolation and self-absorption, which leads his son into drug dealing and his daughter to Marxist anarchism and to fellatio with her brother in exchange for marijuana. In flight from a demoniac household, Harry arrives at work on a Saturday and surprises his contemplative colleague, Account Director Alex Duval, in another form of prevarication. Driven by conscience, Alex rewrites conference reports to remove the duplicity that conceals from society the evils wrought by industry. In an exercise in futility, Alex locks his alternate agency reports in a filing cabinet, a tangible heart of darkness. Restoration of a cynic elicits some of Carey’s best satire. The narrative depicts the salvific effect of rewording reality in Harry’s notetaking. He prepares for summarizing his observations by masturbating in his hammock before sharpening his pencil, a droll sight gag based on Freudian clichés. From his dysfunctional household, “like a zoologist [classifying] creatures,” Harry collects and records the prevarications and con games of everyday life (Carey, 1981, 61). The task wanes during periods of doubt when Harry “reread his notebooks and found them a little extreme, a little frenzied, not to say unbalanced” (ibid., 104). Nonetheless, like the Greek iconoclast Diogenes of Sinope, Harry continues the quest for integrity. Carey creates irony out of Harry’s confinement to Alice Dalton’s Merry Lands mental institution, a punitive atmosphere based on a profit motive rather than a commitment to rehabilitate patients. After his escape from involuntary commitment, the renewal of the former ad designer requires what John Ryle, a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, terms a supernatural shift from “a kind of alchemy of the imagination” to “the natural magic of the wild,” which welcomes Harry to a commune at Bog Onion Road (Ryle, 1981, 1350). Carey reprises the transformative powers of nature in his tenth novel, His Illegal Self (2008), which returns to the Sunshine Coast of Queensland to glimpse atonement and restructuring in the rough. In the estimation of Liam Davison, a reviewer for The Australian, the two books “pitch big political ideas against domestic dramas; both are people with idealists at odds with their lot” (Davison, 2008).

19TH-CENTURY SKEPTICISM Carey envisions reclamation as an ongoing process. At a turning point in Christian orthodoxy, the characters in his neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988) struggle with waves of challenge to the status quo. To Theophilus Hopkins, an amateur marine biologist, leadership of the Plymouth Brethren in Hennacombe, Devon, requires the stanching of the Tractarian Movement by the reinstatement of biblical inerrancy, a fundamentalist crusade. Critics Michael Shortland and Richard R. Yeo remind the reader of the role of fiction in disclosing personal quirks: “There [is] rarely any room for the idiosyncrasies of the particular man of science,” a paucity of detail that Carey fills in with mention of Theophilus’s book Corals of Devon and his fear of “prophets ... in sheep’s clothing” (Shortland and Yeo, 159; Carey, 1988, 32). The internal war against empirical revelation isolates Theophilus, forcing him into a domestic silence that limits outlets for camaraderie and parental love. While wading out daily against the surf to collect specimens of seaweed, corallines, anemones, and starfish that thrive in the English Channel, he batters the mental tide that confutes closed-minded tenets by corroborating Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Theophilus acts out the doctrinal struggle on a personal field of com-



bat, the maturing spirituality of his 14-year-old son Oscar, who is at the “age when boys are secretive and sullen” (Carey, 1988, 6). The constant grappling with change demands from the father a repressive form of religious imperialism that succeeds in driving the widower farther from his only surviving relative. To Oscar, the pious father seems “indistinct, an unfocused dark shape, a lump in a dream” (ibid., 16). At the sea’s edge, Theophilus takes on a pagan air “like a matted red-lipped Neptune,” an image that foreshadows Oscar’s last moments of terror and self-doubt (ibid., 17). For the next decade, frustrated efforts at self-rescue stalk Theophilus’s son. By involving himself in the effort to Christianize the Australian frontier, Oscar arms himself with the naiveté and misguided altruism that thwarts his father’s anti-empirical marine research. Ultimately, according to analyst Simon During, in an article for Ariel, Oscar botches efforts to escape his father’s stranglehold on faith and son and “to sustain a strong inner self ” (During, 2000, 44). Victimized by the Bishop Dancer and the scandal-mongering Judds, Oscar loses the parish of Randwick when the bishop, figuratively and literally, “pulled out [the cloth] from under Oscar’s life” (Carey, 1988, 270). The defrocked minister, an outcast from polite society, haunts the streets of Sydney like a wraith until he locates a means to reclaim his confidence through office work for Jimmy d’Abbs. To honor his love for industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier and to retrieve his commitment to the Church of England, Oscar takes on a fruitless task, the delivery of a glass chapel up the Bellinger River to Boat Harbour, a grubby frontier mission. Just as the backwash carries Theophilus’s efforts at orthodoxy back to the sea, Oscar’s attempted restitution of self from human fault not only drowns him in a glass and cast-iron cage, but diminishes his gift to black pagans to a capsized box littered with shards of glass. In the analysis of critic Bruce Woodcock, the folly of a glass church proves chaos theory — that “Nature is, by nature, episodic, spasmodic, non-linear,” a refutation of faith (Woodcock, 1996, 86).

CONTEMPORARY DO-IT-YOURSELF The absence of religion in The Tax Inspector (1991) suits a self-indulgent society in which 12-year-olds run amok in the streets of Franklin, New South Wales. In a rebellion against order and law, the delinquents steal logos from a Saab Turbo while adult money launderers pretend to support native art as a means of avoiding taxation. Within a blighted society, 16-year-old Benjamin “Benny” Catchprice, bearing the name of the last patriarch of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, struggles against a learning disability and the psychological mayhem caused by his father Mort’s incest and sexual abuse of his two sons. At the nadir of ego, Benny tastes defeat: “He was dog shit. He had no other plan for life” (Carey, 1991, 6). During the boy’s reinvention, he dyes his hair white to symbolize angelic purity, begins an abortive tattoo of wings on his back, and lines his basement room walls with uplifting quotations. From a punk perspective, Benny chooses a flashy silk suit and assertiveness training from pop psychology tapes as a means of transforming himself from gas pump jockey to super car salesman and family rescuer. In a renewed mindset, he exults, “I will be a great car dealer” (ibid., 69). The grotesque religious symbols in Benny’s salvific efforts include prophecy (a scrawl of angels’ names in primary colors on his cellar wall), communion (a sip of preservative from a snake in a jar), and baptism (the release of bundles of his old clothing into the toxic Wool Wash Pool). His Gothic rituals and fetishes take a criminal turn after he kidnaps Maria Takis, the tax auditor, within hours of her delivery of a baby boy. As though seized by the wonder of birth, Benny croons to the newborn and makes him a namesake,



“little Benny” (Carey, 1991, 276). The blow that Maria delivers with a tire iron to her abductor’s forehead appears to kill him, ending his monstrous stalking. On the floor, his tattoo appears like “a serpent — red, blue, green, scales, something creepy living in a broken bottle or underneath a rock,” a suggestion of the traitorous worm of Eden (ibid., 279). The birth/death exchange rids the family of a pervert and supplants Benny with an innocent babe to be reared by a principled mother. To assure the child’s future, Carey concludes the resolution with the sirens of the rescue squad, which, like hovering angels, offer succor.

THE MASKED SELF Carey ramps up visual elements of failure in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), a dystopic fantasy. The narrative incorporates a traditional satiric element of masking into a tale of actors and stagecraft. The title figure, a prodigy born deformed and virtually voiceless, begins to develop a mature persona at age eleven. Because Tristan runs away from his mother, actor-troupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith, the first night in her new nest provided by lover Vincent Theroux, old friends from the Feu Follet Theatre treat him to his initial viewing of the Voorstand Sirkus, the high-tech transmitter of culture. To his fearful shrieks, Roxanna Wonder Wilkenson buys him a papier-mâché Bruder Mouse mask, through which he enjoys the show without being stared at. The normality of a child shielded by a mask takes on magical proportions in Tristan’s outlook: “This ‘horror made of cardboard’ could erase the disgusted faces in which I had seen the effect of my own beastly face” (Carey, 1994, 165). On the edge of his teens, he accepts a more valuable mask from Felicity as well as her blessing to become an actor. Carey confers on his pathetic protagonist the gift of imagination. Tristan exults, “The idea — the vision — of my journey to reclaim my theatre now burst from the tight little place I had been keeping it and gushed, bubbling like lava, towards my destiny” (ibid., 130). To further his emergence from despair, Felicity conceals his twisted form in the costume and makeup of Puck, the trickster and errand boy in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (ca. 1593). By gracing Tristan with the persona of the flying messenger of Oberon, king of the fairies, the mother opens the boy’s imagination to mobility, magical agency, and an enlarged influence on mere mortals. In a later incarnation, Tristan expands on the Bruder Mouse costume by taping paper around his wry legs and gazing at his new self in the dressing room mirror. From the comic rodent, the boy actor recedes into his dark retreat and pushes himself to recite lines from Richard III (ca. 1589). In delight at the freedom of stage roles, he removes his liberating mask only long enough to eat and scurry away from “the unfriendly light of day” (ibid., 185).

NEW LIVES FOR OLD The overturning of disappointment enlivens Carey’s work from the late 20th century into the new millennium. For the title character in the neo–Victorian novel Jack Maggs (1997), a second chance for an ex-con and transportee to Australia appears to demand reclamation of a four-year-old boy, Henry Phipps, from ignominy. Upon return to London under threat of recapture and hanging, Jack locates Henry after a lengthy quest through seamy neighborhoods and fearful encounters. Reintroduced to the city that gave him birth and direction, Jack looks back on the penal colony in New South Wales with loathing for “what it was, to live in such darkness” (Carey, 1997, 317). Ahead stands Henry in the uniform of the cockney warder Rudder and aiming a pistol at Jack, his foster father. By con-



trast with the malice inherent in his ignoble birthplace, Jack’s return to New South Wales confers on him the occluded promise of the colonies— a chance at dignity through industry and the building of family. Reunited with sons Dick and John, Jack finds in Mercy Larkin not only a soul mate, but also a mother for the boys and a source of love and commitment on which to found a dynasty know to be hospitable and civic-minded. After reinstating Jack as a worthy citizen, Carey turned to an Aussie legend, Edward “Ned” Kelly, whose end at age 26 spawned a symbol of resistance to colonial oppression. Born poor and sparsely educated by anti–Irish schoolmaster Mr. Irving, Ned grows up lowly and malnourished as the son of a despised clan of immigrant Catholics. The shriveling of his self-image takes an unexpected turn after the death of his father, John “Red” Kelly, of dropsy, leaving him titular man of the house at age twelve. Ned’s reward is the gift of “my father’s bluchers,” cracked leather brogans retrieved from the grave, softened with pig and sheep fat mixed with turpentine, and stuffed with grass to make them fit (ibid., 52). The ill-fitting symbol of immigration and manhood equates with the character of Red, who set a poor example for his Australian son to follow. Ned suffers betrayal from his mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, who apprentices him to a highwayman, “the great Harry Power,” a model of back-country hero and rebel against corrupt colonial authority (ibid., 53). Mentoring in stage robbery, flight, and hiding in bolt holes prepares Ned for a future of horse thievery, bank holdup, and unending discontent on the run. Unlike Jack Maggs, who finds in Australia a second chance to reshape a sullied reputation, Ned hangs at age 26, never viewing his wife again or his infant daughter. Carey chooses Ned as an exemplar of a doomed caste, the agrarian settlers denied opportunity for a decent life.

FAULTY LOGIC In two views of creativity, Carey faults artists with a toxic egotism and audacity, dual gates to ruin. In My Life as a Fake (2003), Aussie poet Christopher Chubb destroys a Jewish publisher, David Weiss, and ruins his own family by concocting verse under the name of a fictitious poet, Bob McCorkle. For Theft: A Love Story (2006), the inflated self-evaluation of painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone leads him to divorce, theft, and four years in prison for stealing back paintings lost in a settlement with his ex-wife. In both cases, rationalization encourages the creators to minimize personal fault. For Chubb, the retelling of his lapsed career requires extensive recital to the personal least likely to reclaim him, Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass, a greedy editor of the Modern Review. She locates Chubb down crooked streets at a bicycle repair shop, a dual symbol of dishonesty and impaired mobility. For Butcher, the intervention of art authenticator Marlene Cook Leibovitz allies him a false prophet, a guide to artistic reclamation whose methods range from lying and housebreaking to murder. Unlike Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs, both Chubb and Butcher fail at reshaping their former careers. Butcher, who survives investigation by Detective Amberstreet for art fraud, lowers his horizons, mows lawns for a living, and finds limited contentment in partnership with his autistic brother Hugh and in flickers of notice from the art world for one of his fraudulent canvases. Chubb, the skulker in backwater Kuala Lumpur, dies from hacks with a machete, a horrendous death that denies him wholeness of both body and soul. See also belonging; injustice; self-esteem; vulnerability.



• Further readings Arthur, Kateryna Olijnk. “Recasting History: Australian Bicentennial Writing,” Journal of Narrative Technique 21, no. 1 (1991): 52–61. Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003),, accessed on July 10, 2009. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Davison, Liam. “Carey’s Radical Diversion Inspires a Tale of the Familiar Seen from Afar,” The Australian (26 January 2008). During, Simon. “Literary Subjectivity,” Ariel 31, nos. 1 –2 (2000): 33 –50. Liddelow, Eden. “New Model Carey,” Scripsi 7, no. 2 (1991): 93 –100. Ryle, John. “Magic and Poison,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1981): 1350. Shortland, Michael, and Richard Yeo, eds. Telling Lives in Science: Essays on Scientific Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

religion As with a range of human endeavors, Carey toys with the vagaries of religious aims, motivations, and careers. Although he disavows belief in Christianity, he finds it attractive, especially adulation of the clergy and of ecclesiastical hierarchy, an obeisance by believers that he recalls from his early childhood. He chuckles, “If there was a bishop, my mother would have him for tea” (Tausky, 1990, 34). He interjects iconography into “The Fat Man in History” (1974), a dystopic fable about a cell of six disaffected urban men. Alexander “Teddy” Finch treasures a statue of Buddha because it mirrors the obesity of the six counter-revolutionaries, who war against a society that equates body fat with noncompliance. Over three decades later, Carey turns his mockery of the devout into a conceit. In Theft: A Love Story (2006), protagonist Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone describes the money-mad art collector as “some demented Jesus fool living in a cotton town in Bentdick, Mississippi” and the Art Police as swooping down “as unexpectedly as Jehovah’s Witnesses and for reasons just as stupid” (Carey, 2006, 39, 54). As though retracting his blasphemy, five pages later, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, Butcher’s retarded younger brother, recasts the notion of orthodoxy as an obedience to calling, of “[writing] his HOLY WORDS without relent” (ibid., 44). Pondering the goodness of art collector Jean-Paul Milan in giving Hugh a place to stay until his brother exited prison, Hugh recites from Luke 10:35 from “The Good Samaritan.” When Milan turns on Hugh, the loss of a job and a decent room forces Hugh into Samson mode with a recitation of Judges 16:29, a prayer predicting the strongman’s destruction of the temple of Baal, an allusion to the philistine world of art dealership. The social satire of Bliss (1981), Carey’s first published novel, takes a poke at the dilemma of the dying and their spiritual comforters. Facing the Reverend Desmond “Des” Pearce, who is better at discussing cricket than atonement, Harry Stanthorpe Joy reaches from his hospital bed for reassurance that he won’t face hell’s torment for his earthly sins. After establishing that Harry is a lapsed Christian, Des offers no scriptural encouragement, only the subjective judgment that God is not “such a bastard he wants to punish you for all eternity” (Carey, 1981, 45). The inept counseling session annoys Harry, who realizes from bible readings that scripture “doesn’t muck about” on the subject of eternal damnation, a view he shares with Theophilus Hopkins, the preacher to the fundamental-



ist Plymouth Brethren in Oscar and Lucinda (1988) (ibid.). To Des’s lessening of the threat, Harry takes the conservative stance “you can’t just modify hell” (ibid.). From his study of world religions, he reaches a conclusion that there must be an “undiscovered religion,” a more liberal perspective still to be determined (ibid., 46). The outward show of hives on Harry’s tortured face suggests to Des that the patient may be a divine portent, a warning of retribution in the afterlife. Harry’s reversion to the medieval talisman of crossed fingers prefigures his role as storykeeper of a primitive forest commune.

CHRISTIANIZING AUSTRALIA Carey achieved his highest adulation as an author for the neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), a symbolic contrast of paganism and religious fanaticism in an era of doctrinal jealousies and squabbles. Critic Karen Lamb summarized the title confrontation as “the meeting of opposites, of practicality and passion and, ultimately, as a symbol of Christianity’s struggle for tolerance and compromise” (Lamb, 1992, 42). At age ten, Oscar Hopkins is the son of an evangelical preacher named Theophilus (literally “beloved of God”). The boy attempts to set his own theological course through a game of hopscotch, ironically, a game developed by Celtic children after the Roman conquest of Britain. After marking the squares with religious ciphers, he continues to drop his tor or throwing stone on the alpha, his emblem for Anglicanism. The supernatural omen of change in his beliefs becomes a burden directing him away from the Plymouth Brethren, an Irish evangelical sect formed in 1827. He compares himself to a farm animal: “He wished he were a pig, that he had no mortal soul, that he be made into sausages and eaten, and released from the terrible pressure of eternity,” a terror he shares with Harry Joy (Carey, 1988, 30). The author makes the most of his comparison of post–Darwinian and post–Christian skepticism. The drollery of Oscar’s calling develops during his enrollment at Oriel College, Oxford, an august institution where he learns to gamble. From the future curate of Hammersmith, Ian Wardley-Fish, a frequenter of the Epsom Downs racetrack and the Holborn Casino, Oscar observes a future cleric in the grip of sybaritic enticements. Wardley-Fish “most enjoyed about the track — the whispered conversations, the passing of ‘tips for tips,’ the grubby low-life corners, the guilt, the fear of damnation, the elation ... all dissolve together in the vaporous spirit of his hip-flask” (Carey, 1988, 96). Carey turns the corrupting influence into an ironic reaffirmation of spirituality by revealing Oscar’s canny rejection of his model. Instead, Oscar hears a divine voice urging him to bet wisely, thus pegging “Sure Blaze at 9 –1,” a wry subtextual reference to hellfire (Carey, 1988, 97). In the fallout of his gambling avocation, the narrative depicts the youth as more devout than his petty, peevish benefactor, the Reverend Hugh Stratton, who dismisses the hand of God as too simple an explanation for the provider of instant cash.

OSCAR’S ALTER EGO Echoing Oscar’s connection between God’s grace and money, 18-year-old Lucinda Leplastrier, a recently orphaned heiress, clings to cash, not Anglican or Baptist solace, as a relief from loneliness. With a smirk, Carey notes, “She thanks her God in heaven that she had money and was not at their mercy” (Carey, 1988, 104). In reference to the collapse of Christianity, the author chose thistles as a symbol of “what would replace or what was replacing Christian stories in the culture” (Meyer, 1997, 81). He returns to the hardness of the devout in Mrs. Smith’s tender cleansing of Oscar’s prayer wounds and her righteous disapproval of his recuperation in Lucinda’s house, Whitfield’s Farm, in Balmain on



the Parramatta River. Before Lucinda’s first consultation with the Reverend Dennis Hasset, he reveals himself conceited, self-important, and given to wine bibbing, a failing he shares with the Reverend Stratton. Hasset’s worldliness springs fully to light in his delight in Lucinda’s inheritance, for which he “would leave the confusions of the Church tomorrow,” an indication of his latitudinarianism, a rejection of doctrinal restraints in favor of liberality (Carey, 1988, 121). At age 33, he tires of petty committee meetings concerning food and schools for the poor and identifies his fantasy post as “a bishop’s palace with an intelligent dean to work beside him” (ibid., 128). The reverie prefigures the Bishop Dancer, a colonial hypocrite who maintains a veneer of British refinement as a cover for his manipulation of Sydney churchgoers. At his most ludicrous, he disdains Torah, Evangelicals, Puseyites, genuflection, and vestments. He concludes, “The sight of candles— other than for the purpose of illumination — had him going little manoeuvres with his dental plate” (ibid., 276). To Lucinda, church hierarchy smacks of the Middle Ages when wrongdoers suffered ecclesiastical judgment. She moans, “It is like being locked inside the Tower,” and defames St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, a twin-towered Gothic masterwork at 483 George Street, as “the castle of Bishop Dancer” (Carey, 1988, 235, 246). In her “trot” out of the tower, she ventures into south Sydney at 9:30 P.M. to a Chinese gambling den, her solace against a miserable spinsterhood. At the selection of her eight answers on the lottery sheet, she prays an apostate’s prayer, “Jesus Christ Almighty, dear Lord forgive her, she had eight correct” (ibid., 249). In a buoyant state, she exults, “She was going to hell,” yet she moves on to the fan-tan room, jettisoning her “hell-fear” for “this odd electric ecstasy ... beyond salvation” (ibid.). When the croupier tosses brass markers, she has visions of the saved and the outcasts, of sheep separated from goats.

GOD IN THE OUTBACK At the conjunction of the Industrial Revolution with British colonialism, High Church Tractarianism, and Darwinism, the varied Victorian notions of mission work tend toward extremes. It was a period of grand strategies for conversion of heathens as well as a shameful era “in which the missionary himself [was] gambler and fornicator” (Scott and Simpson-Housley, 2001, 98). To the Reverend Dennis Hasset, the raw experience of evangelizing natives carries the thrill of Christ’s early ministry in a field where “the cloth was despised” (Carey, 1988, 403). Before Oscar begins service in New South Wales, he gains an inkling of what awaits him. Mr. Borrodaile, a fellow passenger on the Leviathan, describes the Aborigines as believers in “a devil-devil which they thought would eat them” (ibid., 196). He declares Australians godless and blasphemous and depicts Sydney as rife with opium, gambling, and “bars ... with ‘gay girlies’” (ibid., 196). Oscar’s truncated shrift of Lucinda’s sins concludes, not in absolution for her gambling, but in a rationalization of faith as a wager on the unproveable existence of God and heaven. Ironically, he absolves a woman who describes the mission field as “[preaching] what you do not believe to men who do not care what anyone believes,” a fair estimation of the failure of Church of England proselytizing in Australia (ibid., 237). In his embrace of faults and foibles, Oscar takes solace in the human comedy and exults, “How could we have a sense of humour if our Lord did not?” (ibid., 318). When plans for a glass church give tangible evidence of Lucinda’s yearning for excellence, she risks once more trusting others with her most intimate thoughts. James “Jimmy” d’Abbs’s blueprint of her visionary chapel displeases her for its embellishment into “an



irreligious nightmare, a bloated monument to ignorance and tastelessness—curved canopies, Moorish screens, Tudor gables, Japanese ‘effects’” (Carey, 1988, 352). After waiting eight weeks for the plans, she criticizes them as vain and tawdry. Mr. Jeffris, the expedition leader, disturbs Lucinda for the vainglory of his outfitting and packing. On the approach to Boat Harbour on the Bellinger estuary, he rationalizes his murder of natives: “Churches are not carried by choirboys. Neither has the Empire been built by angels” (ibid., 401). The erection of the prefabricated church energizes and dooms the builder. When Oscar oversees the arrival of Lucinda’s chapel, he earns the name “Bushfire” for his intensity and enthusiasm. The name, applied to his feisty supervision within days of Palm Sunday, April 16, 1865, suggests that voice of Yahweh described in Exodus 3:2 emerging from the burning bush to call Moses into service to the Hebrew Children. Contributing to the allusion is the naming of Miriam Mason Chadwick, whose Christian name echoes that of Moses’s sister Miriam, who saved him from abandonment in the bulrushes of Egypt and elevated his status to palace foundling. The river’s destruction on a lighter, the flimsy basis on which the chapel perches, results in Oscar’s drowning and the deflation of Lucinda’s hopes for industrial achievement. Symbolically, according to critic Graeme Davison, the notion of a “ruined, threatened, or uprooted church becomes a powerful metaphor of the postmodern condition” (Davison, 2000, 155).

DYSTOPIAN MESSIAH For The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey illustrates how veneration of an empire and its icons destabilizes the satellite culture’s self-esteem and fosters ambivalence toward its native lore. According to analyst Mark Bould, the author tackles “the inflexibility of essentialist Western values while simultaneously celebrating utopian thought’s potential for social transformation” (Bould, 20009, 261). Carey designs the circus as the controlling metaphor to “[strike] precisely at all that is fake and fatuous,” including fundamentalism and nostalgia for a better time when settlers survived on beans and rice and a simple law code (Shields, 1995). In the estimation of analyst Sue Ryan-Fazilleau, the title figure, “an immature anti-hero, battles an identity crisis ... to become a cultural warrior capable of safeguarding Australian sovereignty” (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007, 121). Carey’s working title, “The Dog, the Duck, and the Mouse,” projects the trinity of Voorstand, who command reverence for observing the birth of Jesus. The triad, balanced in power by the malefic Hairy Man, is an overt metamorphosis of Walt Disney’s Goofy, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse as uncaged circus performers. The source of print scripture is the semi-sacred Badberg Edition of animal fables. Liturgy dates to the time of the Settlers Free, patriarchs who honor St. Francis of Assisi by abstaining from meat and from caging animals. Eric Korn, a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, surmised that tiny Efica, a cluster of 18 archipelagos, relates to Voorstand’s opportunism in “the posture of Israel to Assyria, Athens to Rome, Christchurch to Sydney” (Korn, 1994,10). The corrupt empire, which analyst Peter Brigg identifies as “puritanical-mythic-ethical-vegetarian,” adheres to an animistic cult based on the Franciscan Free Church and amplified by advanced holography, wide-screen sound and laser light shows, automata, jugglers, underwater acts, and high-wire stunts (Brigg, 2003, 168). In Saarlim City, tents dominate the horizon “like so many Florentine cathedrals clustered densely around the Grand Concourse but then spreading away into the great dark night of Voorstand,” a suggestion of the soullessness of the imperialist state (Carey, 1994, 353). Voorstanders value mythology



as a sinister amusement and propaganda, which they transmit via satellite worldwide to placate their colonies. Although Carey fails to develop either the duck or dog or to elucidate the meaning of the godlike dog statue that smashes to the floor, he uses the mouse to full advantage.

RELIGIOUS PEDOPHILIA At a revealing flashback on quasi-religious abduction and sexual abuse of children in His Illegal Self (2008), Carey speaks through hippie survivalist Trevor Dobbs, an illiterate sanitation worker who listens to the book of Revelation on audiocassette. Trevor relates the bitter memories of his kidnap from London by priests of Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, a series of orphanages in southeastern Australia. Trevor’s attempts to assuage seven-year-old Che David Selkirk of the pain of orphaning come in halting bursts of bile at his own parentlessness. The adult credits the priests with teaching him construction skills, but he regrets the sufferings of vulnerable boys to the caning of Brother Kiernan, a sadistic pedophile. Trevor’s assaults on his own eyes illustrate the terror of a boy who appeals to perverted orphanage officials who like blue-eyed children. In a symbolic gesture, he hurls a tender watermelon rind into the wild and watches it smash into a shower of black seeds and white flesh, a colorful image of black deeds perpetrated against pure-hearted children. See also Hopkins, Oscar; Oscar and Lucinda.

• Further readings Bould, Mark. The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2009. Brigg, Peter. The Span of Mainstream and Science Fiction: A Critical Study of a New Literary Genre. Jefferson, N. C.: McFarland, 2003. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Charles, Ron. “The Accidental Tourist,” Washington Post (10 February 2008). Davison, Graeme. The Use and Abuse of Australian History. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 2000. Harris, Margaret. “Eminent Victorians?,” Southerly 49 (1989): 109 –113. Heyward, Michael. “Parallel Universes,” New Republic 212, no. 15 (10 April 1995): 38 –41. Korn, Eric. “Entertaining Empires,” Times Literary Supplement no. 4770 (2 September 1994): 10. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 76 –89. Petersen, Kirsten Holst. “Gambling on Reality,” Australian Literary Studies 15 (1991): 107–116. Ryan-Fazilleau, Sue. “The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and the ‘Pain of Unbelonging’” in The Pain of Unbelonging: Alienation and Identity in Australasian Literature, eds. Sheila Collingwood-Whittick and Germaine Greer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Scott, Jamie S., and Paul Simpson-Housley. Mapping the Sacred: Religion, Geography and Postcolonial Literatures. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001. Shields, Carol. “Voorstand, Go Home!,” New York Times Book Review (12 February 1995). Tausky, Thomas E. “Getting the Corner Right,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 4 (1990): 27–38.

self-esteem Because of his humanism, Carey regards the devaluation of personhood as a serious assault on the individual. His fiction features the moments when characters realize their nadir, such as seven-year-old Che David Selkirk on the run with his quasi-mother and abductor, Anna “Dial” Xenos in His Illegal Self (2008). Kidnapped from Manhattan to



Queensland and stripped of fantasies of a handsome father, anarchist David Rubbo, Che accepts his orphaned status: He “had had the air sucked out of him. He was lackluster, without hope ... his gut a sloshy sump of misery” (Carey, 2008, 114). The visceral woe of parentlessness and ties to Harvard-style urban terrorism illustrates Carey’s skill at creating psychosomatic symptoms that generate upset stomach and vomiting, Che’s effort to rid his body of insecurity. Because of Carey’s own difficult coming of age, his crusade for pride may stem from his early youth, especially after his unsuccessful first year in college. In a review for the London Independent, critic Henry Sutton pictures the author’s main purpose as “trying to depict Australia’s intellectual inferiority complex” (Sutton, 2003). His short fiction abounds in deflated characters— the title figure in “Crabs” (1972), an alienated husband in “Exotic Pleasures” (1974), an unwanted son in “Joe” (1973), the defeated shepherd in “Life & Death in the South Side Pavilion” (1974), and a floundering sentry in “A Windmill in the West” (1972). Two cases conclude in destruction, the drowning of the unappreciated performer in “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” (1979), and the dismemberment of Nile, the regretful assistant to an abortionist in “Peeling” (1972). In each instance, the defeated lack the strength and self-direction to survive. In the fable “The Fat Man in History” (1974), Carey projects the cost to the underclass of pervasive social devaluation. As Alexander “Teddy” Finch navigates the revolving door of an emporium, an inconvenienced shopper “hisses ‘slob’ at him, and scurries into the store” to avoid his sweaty, massy body, “leaving him with a sense of dull amazement, surprise that such a pretty face could express such fear and hatred so quickly” (Carey, 1974, 9). At home among five other rotund males— Fantoni, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man — Teddy Finch retreats to domestic comforts— blue bed sheets, beer, home cooking, sexual fantasy — as solaces for unemployment and exclusion from society. The dysfunctional state of the commune results in a self-destructive feeding on their own after they roast their leader Fantoni in a backyard barbecue pit. Driven by unhealthy emotions, the survivors, even May, the vegetarian, sicken themselves by cannibalizing one of their own. In long fiction, Carey’s more assailable characters exhibit need for validation and acceptance because of individual circumstances: character



Harry Joy Herbert Badgery Oscar Hopkins Maria Takis Benny Catchprice Tristan Smith Sam Kellow Elizabeth Warriner Ned Kelly Christopher Chubb Mr. Yazaki

guilt advanced age, ill health defrocking, poverty advanced pregnancy child sexual abuse physical handicap, dysphonia fear of poverty unwed motherhood poverty, outlawry terrorism, loss of a child memories of the firebombing of Tokyo in 1944 –1945 autism orphaning displaced intellectual illiterate abuse victim

Bliss Illywhacker Oscar and Lucinda The Tax Inspector The Tax Inspector The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith The Big Bazoohley Jack Maggs True History of the Kelly Gang My Life as a Fake Wrong about Japan

Hugh Boone Che Selkirk Anna Xenos Trevor Dobbs

Theft: A Love Story His Illegal Self His Illegal Self His Illegal Self



With limited severity in Illywhacker (1985), Carey distinguishes the Australian’s diffidence as self-imposed. In a barroom face-off against stage promoter Nathan Schick, protagonist Herbert Peter Badgery admits that his adversary has “the distinct advantage of being American and therefore never hesitant about expressing an opinion,” a stereotype of Yankee chutzpah that recurs in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) (Carey, 1985, 346). The left-handed compliment suits a windbag like Herbert, who is adept at oral aggression. The tendency of locals toward diffidence Herbert blames on low self-regard, “not steel mills or oil wells,” the sources of exorbitant tourist wealth (ibid.). Affirming his charge about his fellow Aussies, he adds that, when Schick orders a round of gin, the Australians do the same, a hint of their inability to assert individuality in the world market, even when buying a drink.

PATHFINDING For Theft: A Love Story (2006), the author creates typist Marlene Cook Leibovitz, the backcountry trucker’s daughter from Benalla who flees the small town to better herself. She wavers at her attraction to Olivier Leibovitz, a sophisticated European Jew and son of the Picasso-like modern artist Jacques Leibovitz. Hesitant to express her lack of artistic taste and knowledge, she floods her mind with self-approbation for being an Aussie: “We Australians are really shit. We know nothing. We are so bloody ugly” (Carey, 2006, 130). The diffidence suits the social status of a staffer at an advertising agency when confronted by a handsome, refined, and rich executive. While paying for mentoring in art from Milton “Milt” Hesse at the rate of $5 per week, she feels herself beneath Olivier in looks, charm, and sophistication. Through education and visits to museums, she builds assurance that sets her apart from the ordinary. In the end, the typist becomes an art maven and wheeler-dealer as well as Oliver’s wife. Carey pairs Marlene with artist Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, a ranting unreliable narrator who debases his talents as innately out of style. He claims to eat shame and selfloathing for breakfast. Christine Thomas, a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, declares that “Carey describes spot-on” the Aussie artist and his quandaries. Michael Fitzgerald, a book reviewer for Time South Pacific, pities Butcher for being up against a double whammy —“an ex-wife (his unnamed ‘alimony whore’) and an art-world elite (including ‘the idiots of Sotheby’s’) intent on stripping him of all worldly assets and selfesteem” (Fitzgerald, 2006, 65). The novel reprises the disclaimer of Australian worth in Boone’s historical self-effacing question, “Why is it when an Australian does well outside the country everyone thinks it’s a scam?” (ibid., 147). The question hangs over Boone as he prepares for his first showing in Tokyo, but not over Marlene, who has reinvented herself as an art authenticator, a career title that bears cachet and empowerment. See also achievement; misfits; reclamation; vulnerability.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Fat Man in History, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Illywhacker. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. Fitzgerald, Michael. “Literary Steal of Approval,” Time South Pacific no. 14 (10 April 2006): 65. Sutton, Henry. “The Non-existent Poets Society,” Independent (14 September 2003). Thomas, Christine. “Art World Setting Spins Brother’s Keeper Story,” San Francisco Chronicle (14 May 2006): M2.



Selkirk, Che An enraged innocent in a generational battle, Che David Selkirk, the protagonist and central point of view of His Illegal Self (2008), undertakes a serious task for a seven-yearold. At first, he romanticizes the thought of going “underground,” a term rife with 1970s adventure without the threat of joining his parents, anarchists Susan Selkirk and David Rubbo, on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. The reality of a global chase from Manhattan to the Pacific coast and south to Australia produces what Caroline Moore, a critic for Spectator, describes as “a world that comes at him in dislocated gobbets of intense sensory experience, in which the voices of adults swirl above his head” (Moore, 2008). In what analyst James Ley of The Age terms a “deep emotional undertow,” Che must sink or swim largely by exerting his developing faculties and perceptions (Ley, 2008). He collects bits of truth and secures them in his bag as a means of sifting out his identity —“the Uno cards, the poker pack, his ticket to Shea Stadium, a business card, a coin, three bills, a stone, and the folded page from Life magazine,” evidence of his limited experience (Carey, 2008, 187). Critic Cathleen Schine, in a review for New York Review of Books, refers to the child’s paper stash as “childish documentation, visas to a nation of which he has no memory” (Schine, 2008). Like the unnamed boy in Cormac McCarthy’s end-of-time novel The Road (2006), Che has to trust a shifting progression of adults and dodge a clutch of authority figures during fearful scenarios and inexplicable encounters, one involving a pistol and another, a jungle raid. Carey stresses the free-floating curiosity that charges Che’s senses: “He understood the names of hardly anything, himself included” (ibid., 24). After his father burns his draft card in 1966, he sets his course toward Harvard-style radical civil disobedience and more treacherous criminality. Because the boy’s mother joins a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) bank robbery in 1968 in Bronxville north of New York City, a judge passes the three-year-old to his stern Grandma Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, a wealthy Manhattanite separated from her philandering husband. The grandmother begins the child’s alienation from his family and reality by rearing him incognito in the New York lake district under Victorian strictures. In the estimation of reviewer John Preston of the London Telegraph, the boy “is paying the human cost of other people’s idealism” (Preston, 2008). Che requires constant surveillance because of his parental connection with a terrorist cell of the SDS underground. Giles Harvey, a reviewer for the New York Sun, notes that the boy’s naiveté and house arrest “provide fresh purchase on the tenacious pathologies and illusions of society” (Harvey, 2008). Because Che has no access to television, he relies on his babysitter, 15-year-old Cameron Fox, for details of his parents’ alternative lifestyle. After his former nanny, Anna “Dial” Xenos, returns to take him to his mother, Dial conceals unsavory elements of the past, cloaking her face in smoke from her cigarette. He clings to her marsupial fashion, a foreshadowing of their future together on Remus Creek Road four miles south of Yandina, Queensland. The ambiguity of unexplained gestures, secret identities, and phone calls heightens the boy’s anxiety in a new and menacing milieu. Dial warns him about misplaced trust: “You’ll go mad with this, not knowing who you are” (ibid., 83). Undeterred, he imagines living in a house in Yandina near a road where his father will pass by. During their sojourn at a safehouse in Seattle, Che fantasizes that Dial is a giant among underlings and that his birth father is a handsome leader of the radical counterculture. When the truth dawns, the boy rationalizes his father’s parental apa-



thy as “a code the father must live by so no matter how his heart was hurting he could not speak to his son” (ibid., 114). In an outback shack in the Crystal Community, he accepts a new identity as “worse than trailer trash,” a prejudiced view of poverty inculcated by his arrogant grandmother (ibid., 115). To him, the escape attempt is folly. The setting can never be home because it bears “the color of sadness” (ibid., 141).

EMOTIONAL DRIFT With flourishes of improbability, Carey develops the protagonist’s quandary along the lines of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Dial cleverly distracts Che from worrisome details, like where are his parents and when are he and Dial going to a motel, Che’s favorite distraction. At Coolum Beach, she promises pizza, games of poker, swimming, and reading from Huckleberry Finn, the kinds of amusements meant to soothe the boy’s unease in Queensland. Nonetheless, he misses Grandma Phoebe, who once drove him from her retreat on Kenoza Lake in rural New York State to Ted’s Diner at Jeffersonville. During a rough-and-tumble recovery of his stolen bike, Che takes pride in decking the thief. The satisfaction of justice done is short-lived when Che realizes that the thief has something that Che lacks: “He kept seeing the [boy’s] father, the tenderness in his dull eyes as he put his arm around his son” (ibid., 125). Essential to Che’s adaptation to Crystal Community is his struggle with fantasies and concealed regrets. He develops self-destructive tendencies, slicing his fingers some 20 times with a clasp knife filched from the box of James “Adam” Adamek, former owner of Dial’s 14-acre plot. Like Buck, the displaced sled dog in Jack London’s escapist novella The Call of the Wild, the boy must assess for himself the menace of Trevor Dobbs, a naked male survivalist, and of the natural threats of the rainforest, which Abigail Deutsch, reviewer for the Village Voice, calls “a strange and lovely analog to Jay’s mysterious parentage” (Deutsch, 2008). He ricochets between loving and hating Dial for concealing his father’s name and for subjecting him to rural Queensland. After she leaves him with Trevor Dobbs to mulch the cauliflower bed with composted waterweed, the fragrance of Lake Kenoza triggers tears, “secretly, mourning everything he lost, all the cold empty hollow, the marrow stolen from his bones” (ibid., 150). Against the drift of father fantasies and homesickness for his grandmother, Carey interweaves myriad images of FBI surveillance, phone taps, webs, vines, garden tendrils, forest tracks, ropes, and the shawls and quilts that entangle Che in a tangle of primordial love for Dial and Trevor. See also His Illegal Self; Selkirk-Rubbo genealogy.

• Further readings Anderson, Sam. “Losing His Voices,” New York Magazine (10 February 2008). Brandmark, Wendy. “The Odd Love between Boy and Hippie,” The Independent (15 February 2008). Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. Deutsch, Abigail. “Peter Carey’s New Novel Plays Disorienting Identity Games,” Village Voice (22 January 2008). Harvey, Giles. “Children of the ’60s” New York Sun (30 January 2008). Ley, James. “Review: His Illegal Self,” The Age (28 January 2008). Moore, Caroline. “Dial M for Mother,” Spectator (13 February 2008). Preston, John. “Peter Carey, the Outback Dickens,” London Telegraph (10 February 2008). Schine, Cathleen. “The Call of the Wild,” New York Review of Books 55, no. 4 (20 March 2008).



Selkirk-Rubbo genealogy Through hints, false clues, and deduction, readers untangle in His Illegal Self (2008) the ironic connection between Buster and Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, a snobbish New York City couple, and their illegitimate grandson Che. The blood ties link the privileged with an anti-establishment terrorist cell and a kidnapper, Anna “Dial” Xenos, who becomes Che’s foster mother. great-grandfather=great-grandmother endows a chair | actor and library at | Harvard | Poison Dwarf=/=Pa Buster Selkirk=Grandma Phoebe Daschle Selkirk separated in 1968 | | wife=George Xenos | died butcher from Samos | 1966 wounded in the palms by | fascist bullets | | | ----------------------| | | | brothers Anna “Dial” Xenos=/=David Rubbo=/=Susan Selkirk Vassar professor Jewish radical | SDS member Turko-Greek leader of SDS | killed by bomb kidnapper | in 1973 foster mother | birth mother | | ----------------------------------------| Che David Selkirk b. 7/23/1965

See also His Illegal Self; Selkirk, Che.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. Smith, Wendy. “Review: His Illegal Self,” Los Angeles Times (17 February 2008).

sex The author avoids clichéd musings on gender and sexuality to exercise his penchant for “what ifs,” as with Anita’s fellatio on Vincent’s blue penis in “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” (1974), the rooftop copulations of teen siren Phoebe McGrath and experienced con artist Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker (1985), gay sex in 30 Days in Sydney (2001), and the afternoon trysts of lesbian lovers Annabella and Sarah Elizabeth Jane “Micks” Wode-Douglass, the editor of the London-based poetry journal the Modern Review in My Life as a Fake (2003). Carey’s touches are subtle, ranging from the unacknowledged presence of Yuka, a cartoonish transdresser in Wrong about Japan (2005), to Butcher Bones’s thoughts of the inner pumpkin, “a moist secret cache of bright slippery seeds,” an understated lust for Marlene Cook Leibovitz, his American visitor in Theft: A Love Story (2006) (Carey, 2006, 14). Carey incorporated sexual images in his earliest fiction. The allegory “Peeling” (1972),



a commentary on the writing process, illustrates his subversion of the expected through surreal images of the shocking and repulsive. By depicting an elderly male retiree divesting his neighbor Nile of her stockings, girdle, and suspenders, the text reveals the broken interior of a fellow fetishist, an assistant to an abortion provider who dramatizes her guilt by scalping and dismembering dolls and painting them white. Readying Nile for seduction, the male aggressor destroys his pornographic fantasy of the cloaked female. He loses control of the disrobing process, concluding with “a blouse which I unfortunately ripped in my haste. I apologized but she only bowed her head meekly,” a suggestion of her acquiescence to the manipulative male (Carey, 1974, 41). He strips her of skin, hair, and limbs, reducing her to altering genders, first male, then female again, then to fragments. Without his imposed notions of femininity, she is desexed, lifeless, dehumanized rubble, his punishment for seizing his prize in one plunder, like the killer of the prize in Aesop’s fable “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg” (ca. 575 B.C.). In the same horrific vein, Carey’s fable “The Fat Man in History” (1974) turns the motif of the Grimm brothers’ “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1812) into a Gothic cannibalistic feast by depicting sexual frustration as a motive for murdering and barbecuing a fellow sufferer. Within the house rented by six obese males— Fantoni, Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man — the monthly flirtations of Nancy Bowlby, the rent collector and author of “Revolution in a Closed Society — A Study of Leadership among the Fat,” ignites smoldering lusts and suspicions that one of the six receives her sexual favors. At her arrival, she taps on the door, smiles shyly, and coos, “Hello Cuddles,” a maternal introduction to her monthly provocative visit and an explanation of her comfort-giving nickname, “Florence Nightingale” (ibid., 17). With a siren’s insincerity, she declares, “You are all wonderful ... I love you all” (ibid., 31). Finch admits that the group’s pervasive desire for Nancy: “In sleep and half-sleep he has made love to her many times” (ibid., 18). The revelation of an affair between Nancy and the-man-who-won’t-give-hisname illustrates one of Charles Darwin’s principles of survival of the fittest. The unnamed male, who is larger and stronger than his fellows, slips into the leadership position, an unenviable reward for a martyr, the next in line for cyclical murder of the head misfit. With the grace of a royal mistress, Nancy provides the quintet with a new unnamed man to groom as the next “heir-apparent” (ibid., 32).

SEXUAL DIVERSITY Carey’s descriptions of sexual perversions present divergent behaviors as though they are less than rare. In Oscar and Lucinda (1988), he fleshes out an emotional competition that he introduced in the initial courtship of Eddie Rayner with Daphne in “Withdrawal” (1974) as “emotional strip-tease” (ibid., 123). On the voyage from England to Australia aboard the steamer Leviathan, the flaunting of risks and the breaking of social taboos by closeting with the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins in her stateroom testifies to the defiant feminism of the heiress Lucinda Leplastrier, an 18-year-old industrialist. She emerges from the strangled gendering of the Victorian era through the potency of her will and unconventionality, two essentials of the sexually aggressive “New Woman.” Oscar’s subsequent violation of Anglican proprieties by leaving drapes open while they play cards at his vicarage at St. John’s, Randwick Parish in Sydney, causes him to suffer under local hypocrisy, a gendered punishment more frequently foisted on unmarried females, such as the feminist classic characters Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter (1850), Molly Farren in George Eliot’s Silas Marner (1861), Lyndall in Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an



African Farm (1883), and the title figure who goes to the gallows in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891). Rescue and reclamation of a demoralized male push Lucinda into more active roles. The enforcers of Balmain’s sexual mores eventually ostracize both Oscar and Lucinda after she rescues him from tramping the streets and huddling in a grimy boardinghouse following his defrocking. Unlike Helen Schlegel, the savior of the unemployed ne’er-do-well bank clerk Leonard Bast in E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End (1910), Lucinda maintains the propriety of a maiden lady who sublimates conjugal union through meal preparation, nurse care, and domestic chores shared with Oscar in sisterly fashion. In chapter 77, she discovers that “happiness snuck up on her like a poacher in the night” (Carey, 1988, 302). To her, Oscar seems like another female housemate who is “as near to a sister as I am likely to get” (ibid., 305). The cross-gendering of expectations turns the Hopkins-Leplastrier affair into a platonic admiration of housemates. The intimacies of meals, a visit to the Prince Rupert Glassworks, and walks in the village lead Lucinda to expect a marriage proposal. Oscar, a diffident, penniless cleric, “held out his arms as if he might embrace [Lucinda] and then brought them back across his chest and hugged himself,” an indication that he feels affection for her, but is inept at romance (ibid., 318). Despite Lucinda’s innocence of fornication, her flagrant co-residence with Oscar at her cottage at Longnose Point leads to a general neighborhood assumption of carnal misconduct, an ironic misinterpretation of her emulation of Christ’s Good Samaritan. As though paralleling a sacrament, Carey orchestrates their final bet like the exchange of nuptial vows. The factory reception graced with garlands of flowers and a serenade by workers implies a folk marriage sanctioned by well wishers.

VIOLENT COUPLINGS To examine the bigotry of self-appointed censors, Carey outlines the widowhood of Mrs. Mildred Burrows, whose husband, Captain Burrows, lies hacked and plundered by the Aborigines of Manning wielding axes and spears. With parallel brutality, her discovery of her husband’s collection of 16 sadistic postcards leaves her wondering at a career soldier’s duality. She ponders his nestling at her bosom and compares tender domestic canoodling to images of Cossack atrocities against victims “with hacked breasts, with women’s mouths screaming wide with pain, eyes bulging with terror” (ibid., 142). Her confused fantasy of the captain’s closet voyeurism identifies Australian natives with Cossacks and her martyred husband as a ravisher of women. In her visions, he menaces the female gender armed with knife-bladed teeth, instruments of carnal sadism and cannibalism. The linkage of intercourse with coercion worsens as Oscar’s expedition breaches the frontier. The control of Mr. Jeffris, the sadistic organizer and leader of the convoy up the Bellinger River, requires humiliation of underlings, whom he treats like army dogfaces. By the light of a campfire, he sodomizes the carpenter in a display of mastery of his crew, body and soul. The racism of whites in the outback takes on a business-as-usual air at Urunga tavern, where a flimsy curtain ill conceals the cyclical rape of an Aborigine, the paternal aunt of storyteller Kumbaingiri Billy. Male tipplers press her into service as a comfort girl, a sexual diversion during nightly male carousing and letting off steam. Fittingly, the concubine points the way to Jeffris’s burial in a cesspool, a touch of poetic justice to a barbarian. Carey concludes the novel with a gender flip. In the last hours of Oscar’s life,



the widowed governess Miriam Mason Chadwick, under the guise of first aid for his cuts and sunburn, seduces the minister. The text reduces their coition to a spot of evidence, a single wet spot on the skirt of her widow’s weeds, a premeditated befouling of respectability to gain a second husband and a reprieve from domestic drudgery to the Trevis family.

CARS AND PEDOPHILIA Set in the next century, The Tax Inspector (1991), a darkly humorous commercial saga, allies sexual satisfaction with the pleasures of new car ownership, a standard ploy in advertising. When greengrocer Gino Massaro approaches Catchprice Motors in search of a car, he compares dealings with Benny Catchprice, a 16-year-old salesman, to the just-pretend transactions of a client with a whore: “You knew it was not true, but you pretended it was” (Carey, 1991, 172). Sitting in a red Barina, Gino enjoys the smell and dark beauty of the car’s interior, which reminds him of getting a post-coital toe rub at a Surry Hills brothel. The text extends lurid implications by picturing Benny’s damp cellar lair under the lube bay, a reminder of the use of lubrication to ease penile intromission. A later incident involving tax auditor Maria Takis’s ride with the rakish Jack Catchprice in his Jaguar stretches the connection between cars and seduction. Even Jack admits to the appeal of luxury: “Every now and then I ‘feel’ it — just like you’re feeling it now” (ibid., 194). Sodomy and fellatio take on central significance to the theme of commercial negotiations. Carey features the spite of Mortimer “Mort” Catchprice and the guile of Mort’s son Benny as the result of child sexual abuse that Mort has aimed at Benny from age three as well as at Benny’s brother Vish. Incidents of abandonment —first the departure of Benny’s mother Sophie, who accidentally shoots her toddler; then the disappearance of his uncle Jack; and finally his brother Vish to the Hare Krishnas— increase Benny’s vulnerability and intellectual dysfunction, which doctors combat with Ritalin, a standard treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The boy fails his classwork and, because of his discalculia (an inability to remember and categorize numbers), he loses a job in the spare parts department, a grim pun on his disconnection from reality, from Catchprice Motors, and from the family that owns and operates it. Pathetically, the family’s “spare part” intends to “care for them the way they never cared for him” (ibid., 6). Because the troubled teenager reverses pedophilia, tries to seduce his father, and threatens blackmail and exposure on the television program “Hinch at Seven,” Mort falls back on a lame rationalization, that Benny’s grandfather, Albert “Cacka” Catchprice, abused Mort and that Mort’s grandfather, Hughie Catchprice, abused Cacka (ibid., 153). The four-generational deviance becomes a sick heritage passed from father to son like a loathsome chronic disease, one tacitly approved by Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, Cacka’s 86-year-old widow. Mort predicts perpetuation of sexual victimization — that Benny “will have a kid and do it to his kid, and he will be the monster and they’ll want to kill him” (ibid., 158). Mort surmises that such degeneracy in the male line must be natural and, therefore, acceptable. His twisted logic illustrates the moral turpitude of the Catchprice family, whose confrontation with a tax auditor jolts them to take stock of their dysfunctional household. The rush toward Armageddon illustrates what critic Bill Marx identifies as Carey’s original intent —“social retribution in devilish forms” (Marx, 1992, 346).



SEDUCTION FOR LOVE AND PROFIT Carey’s perceptive take on the amoral female in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) incorporates opposing views of coitus. For Felicity “Flick” Smith, the actor-manager of Feu Follet, coupling is a natural expression of love, desire, and affection for a married banker, Vincent Theroux, and for actor Bill Millefleur. Her ability to maintain amity with lovers adds to her entourage 50-year-old Wally Paccione, a stage manager who accepts unrequited love for her. Of her three admirers, it is Wally who performs the role of inhouse father to Tristan, a child who may have been sired by either Bill or Vincent. Bill lies to himself about his role in Felicity’s life: she “had been with him when she conceived. It was him she loved” (Carey, 1994, 11). To the delivery room nurse, Vincent explains the unusual situation: “There is no Mr. Smith. There is a Ms. Smith, but no Mr.” (ibid., 14). Amicably, men come and go in Felicity’s ménage, but she remains the controller of her fate and of Tristan. After abandoning the theater for politics, she lives in the Belinda Burastin house, Vincent’s fashionable love nest, but she continues visiting Wally at the theater to train Tristan for the stage. Secure in her new persona as a candidate for parliament, she views Wally in the part of foster parent and admits to the troupe’s broad circle Wally’s new paramour, Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson, who further complicates the in-house ménage. Unlike Felicity, Roxanna has a weak grasp on autonomy, which she bolsters with fantasies of marrying a rich antique hunter and acquiring “a park, peacocks, a fountain ... a white carpet, a brass bed with lace-covered pillows” (ibid., 206). By investing $635 in beauty treatments and $450 in a black dress, she stalks self-confidently through an auction in search of a suitable replacement for her husband Reade. After homing in on the suitably dressed Gabe Manzini, a secret Red Party insurgent who passes as a banker, she goes through the ritual of dinner and hotel seduction with a lover who seems like “the answer to my prayers” (ibid., 218). For posing like a willing bed mate, she castigates herself ruefully, “Once a whore” (ibid., 201). Carey creates situational irony in Gabe’s undercover work for the Voorstand Intelligence Agency (VIA) and his delight in “sexual fizz” in “a perfect gig in Efica,” a devaluation of Roxanna as short-term fun (ibid., 202).

SEXUAL INSULTS In Aussie history, Carey explains the sexual insults that deflate and debase. To dramatize the disrespect of Northern Irish police officers in Australia for poor Irish Catholic immigrants in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey cites a cruel taunt. Sergeant Kevin O’Neil, a womanizer and reviler of children, chortles about seeing Red Kelly dressed in rose-sprigged women’s garb. The gibe, intended to demoralize Edward “Ned” Kelly and his little brother Jem, enhances its implications of transvestism and homosexual copulation by implying that Red goes to “be serviced by his husband” (Carey, 2000, 15). Simulating the erotic and reproductive realities that elude children’s understanding of their parents, the humiliation of a father in a dress haunts Ned with the terror of being “a sissy and the son of a sissy” (ibid., 16). His reasoning implies that sexuality is a family trait that a son inherits from the father. The childhood aspersion becomes Ned’s lifetime burden. Into adulthood, he clings to hypermasculinity as a shield against what he perceives to be Red’s shame. Upon seeing outlaw Steve Hart in a dress, Ned vows to grind him into sausage, a virulent phallic image of emasculation to Steve for threatening Ned’s rigid notion of social order. In a woman-



less environment, Ned and his mates identify with an egalitarian frontier spirit in which men collaborate on survival and rare amusements, usually drinking, horsemanship, athletic competition, storytelling, or music making. Carey embroiders on the standard male tension breakers with Joe Byrne’s opium indulgence and Ned’s reading of American Civil War news from old newspapers stuck to a cabin wall as insulation. Encountering boxing shorts for the first time, Ned jerks away from a garment he describes as “ladies scanties” (ibid., 185) and recoils from a man’s fingers unbuttoning his shirt before the match against Isaiah “Wild” Wright. The acute reaction divulges Ned’s rejection of female paraphernalia and any public behavior that questions his power and virility. Ironically, it is Ned’s common-law wife, Mary Hearn, who recalls the transgendering of fictional male bandits in Ireland called Sons of Sieve. She elucidates for Ned the implications of his father’s criminal life. Because she is a first-generation frontierswoman, she is closer to the source. She reminds Ned of the Celtic lore and bandit code that the Irish convey to the South Pacific colonies. The phallic nature of the torturing the horse Mercury with a stick, like the anal stabbing of the pig in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1963), suggests an instinctive need to penetrate, abase, and eviscerate the patriarchal enemy. In so savage an act, cross-dressing confers anonymity on roisterers, frees tenant farmers from authoritarian restraints, and relieves them of responsibility for sexually violating and murdering pasture animals, a class of mammals tied closely to maternal instincts and pacifism. The repositioning of Red Kelly within the covert politico-historical movement elevates him in Ned’s esteem, providing the boy with a negation of shame, a release of self-doubt, and a stimulus to a republicanism that mirrors the rebellion of the Irish landless against the English landlord.

MANHOOD AND PATRIOTISM Carey depicts Ned Kelly as an image of man of the house to his fatherless siblings and as pseudo-mate to his mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly. Ned’s loyalty to gang members, especially his younger brother Dan, affirms nationalistic legend, which exonerates Ned’s combative anti-authoritarianism and the semi-military gang mentality of the Anglo-Celtic freedom fighter, a forerunner of the Irish Republican Army. Shreds of confession link Ned with outlaw Steve Hart, whose flirty eyes attract attention and force Ned to aver, “That were a door I did not wish to open,” a hint at Ned’s revulsion at the thought of same-sex intimacies (ibid., 204). In jail, he characterizes Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick’s attentions as intimate: “He got my arms behind my back and told me he admired me more than any man he ever met” (ibid., 224). On a subsequent mention of Fitzy, Ned acknowledges that the constable loves his prisoner, an affection that Ned avoids as unwholesome and unmanly. On a larger canvas, in the estimation of analyst Heather Smyth, the “novel unburies a host of cultural anxieties about gender and sexuality that circulate around the historical record of Ned Kelly himself and around the nationalist functions he iconically performs” (Smyth, 2009, 185). Smyth enlarges on the subversive nature of transvestism as a form of rebellion and grievance that draws volunteers to a community of rebels like Ned and his gang. At the height of shifting gender roles, it is the female dress owner who sets up a howl against gang members who raid her closet and tear her Sunday clothes. For the Kelly gang, the ruse becomes a means of ridiculing as weaklings the frontier police, who chase Ned and his three mates for two years without success. Only after adopting a dehumanized iron armor in June 1880 does Ned fall victim to his stalkers. At the siege at Glen-



rowan, the capture enlarges the irony of Red’s successful forays in women’s clothing and Ned’s collapse with bullets into the legs at connective points in his crusader’s armor, a graphic allusion to the Catholic warriors who fought Islamic infidels over possession of the Holy Lands.

SPECULATIVE ROMANCE Carey explores female duplicity in My Life as a Fake (2003), an appropriate title for the revelation of incest, sex-triggered suicide, and closet lesbianism. At a central point in the text, editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglass confesses her secret life, which began around 1945 at Allenhurst academy with the arrival of 15-year-old Annabelle, Sarah’s beloved. The narrator characterizes their life-long affair as a slow arousal to desire in the first year and Sarah’s joy in shocking “my clever, pretty darling” with a full study of her anatomy (Carey, 2003, 136). A pensive, overly contemplative figure, Sarah admits to bimonthly shopping trips to Kensington and afternoons at Old Church Street for languor, makeup sessions, and esteem-building compliments. Erotic memories of Annabelle force Sarah to “[deal] with myself,” a 4:00 A.M. release by masturbation to relieve solitude and doubt during her search for a master poet in Penang, Malaysia. The focal male character, Aussie poet Christopher Chubb, hoards his sensuality as dearly as he does his secretive existence. At a breaking point in his life story, a seven-foot monster abducts Chubb’s week-old daughter Tina. Upon meeting Kanagaratnam “K. G.” Chomley, a Tamil chemistry and physics teacher from Southern India, at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Georgetown, Chubb hesitates to accept free room and board that might involve K. G.’s sexual demands. For Chubb’s benefit, K. G. ferries them by Vespa to the True Parrot, a cabaret where taxi dancers lure Chubb away from his despair at the kidnapping of his baby girl. By making “flowers on a narrow hospital bed upstairs,” he experiences brief sexual release and a reprieve from desolation when “I completely forgot my child” (ibid., 182). At novel’s end, the vengeance of Tina and Chubb’s second wife, Mrs. Lim, results in slashing with a machete and the dumping of Chubb’s remains from the second floor of their home and bicycle shop.

SEX AS JUSTIFICATION In the disjointed world of art production and sales in Theft: A Love Story (2006), Carey awards the disgruntled artist a satisfying relationship with a trickster. Upon first meeting Marlene Cook Leibovitz, an Australian typist turned art authenticator, painter Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone is too demoralized by divorce, imprisonment, and poverty to attempt seduction. After Marlene returns to his life, he enjoys lengthy periods of carnal bliss with her on their mattress within sight and earshot of his autistic brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone. The brother fantasizes about penetration while he stirs the firelogs: “I poked her, bless me, what blazing logs, she squealed and HOLLERED as if consumed by BUSHFIRE, crimson edges on the floating leaves,” a metaphoric vision of copulation (Carey, 2006, 238). He enjoys a glimpse of her “batty” and crows, “Bless me, it was so pretty I had to look away” (ibid., 221). Hugh perceives that Marlene is a thief and manipulator and that Butcher loves her anyway. Hugh smirks, “His fat dick being in no way deterred by having condemned her without a trial” (ibid., 89). Carey accounts for Butcher’s prioritizing of sex over morality. The artist separates his feelings for Marlene and his anger at her duplicity. In a concluding scene, he understands that she can’t be trusted, but he snuggles against her length, savoring the feel of her



genitals against his thigh. In the comment “her whole lithe body fitted my lumpen Butcher mass,” Butcher clings to his original belief that Marlene is too good for an uncouth, unsophisticated painter (ibid., 246). Still bedazzled by her warmth and sensuality, he accepts her murder of her husband, Olivier Leibovitz, and declares, “I loved her and I will not stop” (ibid., 269). In an ostensibly permanent separation from Marlene, Butcher appears to nurture a true platonic love of his former sex partner and co-conspirator.

SEX AS POWER In the hippie settlement of Crystal Community four miles from Yandina, Queensland in His Illegal Self (2008), a connection between genitalia and ripe fruit creates antipathy. The menace of the situation, like that of “Room No. 5 (Escribo)” (1974), encourages the reader to experience similar frissons to those of fearful characters. After survivalist Trevor Dobbs, an illiterate former garbage collector, slits a papaya and offers it to Vassar English professor Anna “Dial” Xenos, she bridles at implications of cunnilingus and “felt some double entendre which she did not like at all” (Carey, 2008, 65). She extends the metaphor with thoughts of her large Greek nose, an intrusive phallic symbol transposed on a female face. Memories of oral sex return as Dial reflects on an SDS leader at Harvard, whose “silky penis” she held in her mouth (ibid., 79). The oral image suggests the seduction of ingenuous college students, who “swallow” radical philosophy. Memories of kidnap from London by priests of Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, a series of orphanages in southeastern Australia, satisfy reader suspicions of the relationship between Trevor and seven-year-old Che Selkirk. A free-floating unease in scenes of tending Trevor’s vegetable patch focuses on the adult rather than the tender child. Trevor recalls the terrorism of caning by Brother Kiernan and of the lust of priests who preferred blue-eyed boys. The orphaned English child tried to beat out his irises with a rock as a means of warding off pedophiles. In adulthood, Trevor ends his flashback by hurling a watermelon rind into the wild, an image rife with vulnerability and certain destruction. See also abortion; feminism; religion.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Collected Stories, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Fletcher, M. D. “Peter Carey’s Postcolonial Australia II: Oscar and Lucinda: Misunderstanding, Victimisation and Political History,” Australian Political Ideas. ed. Geoff Stokes. New South Wales: University of New South Wales, 1994. Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –348. Smyth, Heather. “Mollies Down Under: Cross-Dressing and Australian Masculinity in Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 18, no. 2 (May 2009): 185 –214. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

siblings Carey’s perspective on family surveys out of kilter interaction between siblings, who play contrasting parts in his casts:






David & Lucy Joy Sonia & Charles Badgery Vish & Benny Catchprice Jack Maggs & Sophrina Smith Kelly siblings Hugh Boone & Butcher Bones

greed vulnerability retreats from home vulnerability strength, need need, perception

Bliss Illywhacker The Tax Inspector Jack Maggs True History of the Kelly Gang Theft: A Love Story

He toys with surrogate brotherhood in the fable “The Fat Man in History” (1974), which depicts six obese male pariahs— Fantoni, Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man — sharing a rented house like frat boys hovering on the edge of a college campus. Their unity derives from the public perception of “fat ... as a synonym for greedy, ugly, sleazy, lazy, obscene, evil, dirty, dishonest, untrustworthy. It was unfair. It was not a good time to be a fat man” (Carey, 1974, 11). The brotherhood shares food and homemade beer in a communal kitchen, but abandons camaraderie when a single women, rent collector Nancy Bowlby, creates jealousy by bedding down with one of their group. Carey describes the realignment of fraternal affection in an atavistic ritual of murder and cannibalistic feasting. The rule of the leader, called the Fantoni, passes to the man-who-has-no-name, the newest member of the klatch, whom Nancy sends to the residence with a letter of introduction. The re-forming nature of the group suggests a cyclical demand in society for the martyrdom of misfits who rebel against a faulty status quo. The notion of delinquents and their mutual corruption dominates limited glances inside the Joy family in the satiric anti-capitalist novel Bliss (1981), Carey’s first published long fiction. Harry Stanthorpe Joy’s devotion to advertising undermines his marriage to Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy and promotes unhealthy values in his son and daughter, David and Lucy. Worsening the quality of parenting and character building is his wife’s immersion in materialism and in blatant adultery with Harry’s junior partner, Joel Davis. As a result of lax morality, David, at age 17, develops criminal tendencies as well as erotic attraction toward Lucy, a 15-year-old Marxist. He ponders “the Americas from New York to Tierra del Fuego” (Carey, 1981, 34). While dealing coke, Valium, marijuana, speed, and MDA, he fantasizes about establishing a drug connection with a Colombian cartel, a subversion of Harry’s success in the ad game. Lucy’s focus strays from David’s profiteering to idealism. In private dealings, she pursues Marxist ideals and anticipates a class war and anarchy, the opposite of Harry’s commercial career. With childlike fantasy, she rhapsodizes on a time “when the world is over.... We are the first people to come to the end of time” (ibid., 213, 214). She bears a “dreamlike detachment,” yet observes David closely enough to know about his stash of profits, which he stows in the rear of the Fiat (ibid.). After he threatens to kill her for spying on him, she recognizes in him a darkness and menace that supercedes sibling attachments. At his demand that she “be nice to” him, she fellates him in payment for marijuana (ibid., 36). Carey implies a need for affection in David, who croons to his “little sister” and who fails to conceal from his canny mother that Lucy regurgitates his ejaculate in the toilet. Later in the novel, she rebuts one of her father’s fables and snarls, “We never touched each other as a family” (ibid., 222). From a mounting fatalism, she asserts that “it’s too late” for the family to stop hurting each other and to develop true respect and affection (ibid.).



CANARIES IN THE MINE Carey’s views on human corruption depict the significance of children hurts as evidence of social decline. Just as David and Lucy personalize their parents’ faults, the three generations in the neo–Gothic novel The Tax Inspector (1991) survive under an uneasy truce that subdues regrets and sibling anguish. For Mort, Cathy, and Jack Catchprice, the predations of their pedophiliac father Cacka against Mort and Jack initiate a household breakdown that forces Jack out of the family business, Catchprice Motors in suburban Franklin Heights. He assumes a new identity as a suave, refined entrepreneur and property developer in league with Sydney’s underworld financiers and criminals. The two who remain at home with their bitter, chain-smoking mother, 86-year-old Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, plot their self-rescue. After Mort withdraws from his father’s career as a car salesman, Cathy and her husband, Howie McPherson, maintain the car parts department while planning a music breakthrough with Big Mack, a country and western band. More caricature than real people, the siblings provide a limited source of comic relief to the doom overhanging the younger generation. Complicating the grotesqueries of The Tax Inspector is the younger generation, Mort’s motherless, emotionally damaged sons, 18-year-old Vish and 16-year-old Benny. Reviewer William Grimes, in a critique for the New York Times, describes the siblings as “equal parts Ariel and Caliban,” a reference to the sprite and demon in William Shakespeare’s romance The Tempest (ca. 1610) (Grimes, 1992, C11). Lacking stable parenting, both Benny and Vish revere their grandmother Frieda, who offers only surface stability to the crumbling household. As brothers, Vish and Benny display more camaraderie and mutual concern than the previous generation. Hampering sibling support, the two flee their roots in suburban Franklin Heights to extremes of escapism. For Vish, there is a growing fear that “the angels are not winning” (Carey, 1991, 202). His life of free food and adult direction at a Hare Krishna ashram replaces the shaky car lot environment and the vagaries of Benny, whose behavior Vish diagnoses as an insect-like schizophrenia. For Benny, suppressed rage seethes in his soul like the untapped power of gelignite, the plastic explosives that Granny carries in her pockets and lights with matches. He mourns, “I cannot be what I am,” an echo of Randall Jarrell’s poem “The Woman at the Washington Zoo” (1960) (ibid., 21). The tattooing of half a set of wings on his back is as close as he comes to flight. A demonic subterranean getaway mirrors his ghoulish fantasies of the angels of downfall, ice, lightning, and plague, delusions paralleling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which he is unable to articulate or justify. He dreams of developing a smooth alter ego as a car salesman and of raping Maria Takis, the tax auditor who threatens to topple the tenuous stability that holds the family together. Just as Mort, Cathy, and Jack carom from the degenerate center, survival of the younger generation creates a centrifugal force that drives Benny and Vish farther from reality and from dependence on each other. After Benny abducts Sarkis Alaverdian for nefarious doings in the cellar, the younger brother berates the older and abandons him. Before grappling with Vish, Benny snarls, “You left it too late.... I found another brother,” a hint at the sadistic attachment Benny intends to make with his new victim (ibid., 181).

BROTHERS IN CRIME From a more fraternal perspective, Carey makes a strong case for character strength in outlaw Edward “Ned” Kelly, using as evidence his love of mother and family. In True



History of the Kelly Gang (2000), after the death of John “Red” Kelly from dropsy, Ned identifies himself as “a man with 4 sisters & a mother,” a gendered burden requiring the oldest male to assume the role of head of household (Carey, 2000, 260). He further honors and protects women by surveying and evaluating their relationships with men, particularly his mother’s marriage to the youth George King and sister Kate Lloyd’s affair with Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick. The deaths of baby Ellen Kelly in 1871 and of Annie Kelly Gunn in 1872 reveal a paternal strength in Ned, who takes seriously his role as provider for young, vulnerable siblings. More detailed is Ned’s view of brotherhood as a form of influence of the elder on the younger. He regrets that brother Dan Kelly, seven years his junior, hangs out with hooligans and involves himself in Ned’s troubles with corrupt law officials. In late October 1878, as the four gang members ride north from their burned hut on Bullock Creek toward Beechworth, Dan vacillates between demanding adult respect and turning to Ned for courage. As a branding iron heats for cauterizing Dan’s suppurating shoulder wound, he rejects treatment by Aaron Sherritt and holds his hand out to Dan. Hesitating before applying the brand, Ned still envisions himself as a father figure walking Dan to school across the creek. Mirroring the majesty of human anguish from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930), Carey afflicts his desperadoes with elemental suffering, fire followed by flood and more fire. After Ned’s capture and Dan’s immolation by police at the Jones Hotel after the siege of Glenrowan, in the older brother’s place, sisters Kate and Maggie “fight the police for possession” of the remains (ibid., 364). See also Butcher Bones; Kelly, Ned; mothering; parenthood.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. The Fat Man in History. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Grimes, William. “An Australian Novelist with a Full-Tilt Pace and Ferocious Humor,” New York Times (28 January 1992): C11, C15. Koenig, Rhoda. “Taxes and Death,” New York (13 January 1992): 62.

Smith, Tristan The “lipless little tragedy” born to actor Felicity “Flick” Smith in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Tristan is the outgrowth of the author’s far-ranging ingenuity to create worlds inhabited by an artist who is both genius and loner. He bears the name of a knight of the Round Table, a tragic figure in Arthurian romance. As with Bob McCorkle, the literary hoax in My Life as a Fake (2003), the source of Tristan’s phobias and eccentricities derive from the author’s experience. While reading to his children Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1740), Carey encountered a deformed boy in a wheelchair at the corner of Bleecker and McDougall streets in Greenwich Village. In a gesture to the politics of disability, the author spawned an allegory of a birth-damaged homunculus who is astoundingly white, a parody of the racism of Australia’s motherland, and wretchedly disabled and voiceless, a stab at imperialism and its damage and silencing of the colonized. Tristan, like Herbert Peter Badgery in Illywhacker (1985) and like Kumbaingiri Billy in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), serves as storyteller and defender of a compromised colony, a postcolonial sci-fi setting echoing the dystopian features of Carey’s story “The Chance”



(1977). A model of the haphazardly conceived Australian culture struggling to invent itself, the misbegotten Tristan begins life as an intelligent, but piteous anomaly with a “gaunt little praying mantis head” (Carey, 1994, 37). In the maternity ward, the delivery nurse meets the infant’s three fathers, “each ... having a different social and biological claim on the mewling scrap of life [actor Felicity “Flick” Smith] has produced” (Maclean, 1994, 19). At three foot six, Tristan shocks people with his triangular skull, twisted legs, garbled speech, and “striated marble eyes— terrible, beautiful” (ibid., 88). Through toddlerhood, his pathetic status as a lusus naturalis draws actresses like an emotional magnet to the object of their mothering instincts. In the safety of the Feu Follet, he flourishes in a surrogate household of actors and acrobats to whom he “[becomes] their emblem, their mascot,” a disfigured mime, climber, and orator (ibid., 66).

LIFE AS A FREAK As a symbol of postcolonial Australia struggling under the neo-imperialism of the United States, Tristan, a postmodern version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” (1843), faces multiple obstacles to selfhood. In the analysis of critic Sue RyanFazilleau, he represents a country attempting “to burst the bonds of ‘childhood’ and thus prepare the ground for its blossoming into an ‘adult’ nation” (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007, 140). Discounted by outsiders as a subhuman oddity, Tristan has little hope of cobbling together even the rudiments of a normal life. In puberty, he struggles toward manhood while relying on daily nurse care, which infantilizes him as it has from his birth. Only Wally Paccione, his ex-con foster father, understands the strain on Tristan’s self-esteem. At Wally’s death, Tristan acknowledges, “He had more love in his heart than any of us” (Carey, 1994, 410). The title figure pictures himself and his surrogate father as “a perverse Pietà” (ibid.). The subtext exudes pity for the unloved outsider and outrage at child endangerment on a par with Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (2002) and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (2003). Like the title figure in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), Tristan is an intelligent, assertive anomaly. He squirms in the public view and retreats from gawkers into a foul-smelling tail-to-ears costume and voice synthesizer of Bruder Mouse, a “simi” or simulacrum of a religious icon of Voorstand. Once inside, the Efican outsider, like an Elvis impersonator, is “gone, submerged, consumed by Bruder Mouse,” the jolly amuser (Carey, 1994, 316). The transformation, in Carey’s words, “is very much the Australian condition: the passion to be loved by the parent (Britain) that’s rejected you” (Meyer, 1997, 78). To gain love and professional acceptance, however, Tristan must submerge and mask his cultural self. Carey reprises the childhood joy of transformative exteriority in His Illegal Self (2008), in which seven-year-old Che David Selkirk, a privileged rich boy on the run with his abductor from Manhattan to Queensland, examines a Batman comic book in which the hero wears “a pure white costume to make him invisible in the snow,” a purification that rids Che of guilt for slipping away from his grandmother and legal guardian (Carey, 2008, 112). He rejoices that “he had become a completely new person,” a joyous metamorphosis he shares with Tristan. The creation of Tristan Smith presented personality hurdles to Carey. After placing his protagonist in such bizarre straits, the author asserted, “I had to engage his humanity. He had to stop being an idea and start being a person” (Polito, 1996,1). Unlike the tough, psychotic rapist Benny Catchprice in The Tax Inspector (1991), Tristan Smith, a wheelchair-bound mutant at 65 pounds, is what Tim Wynveen, a reviewer for Maclean’s,



identifies as “one of Carey’s courageous fools” (Wynveen, 1995, 65). Through his mother’s lessons in acting, he outgrows protective mothering and embraces realism: “My ugliness was all around me. I was vile, on my own stage, in my own home” (Carey, 1994, 195). Oppressed by social norms of appearance, demeanor, and behavior, he sidesteps imperial rules of conformity. He develops into a clever thespian and passionate adult male capable of self-acceptance and heterosexual love.

TRISTAN IN MANHOOD To guide his protagonist into maturity, Carey orchestrates an efficient household mélange of dressers, sitters, feeders, mentors, and dandlers, capped by Tristan’s biological father, actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur, and the cross-dressing nurse Jacques/Jacqui Lorraine, Tristan’s caretakers at novel’s end. A delayed coming-of-age and training in stage method sets Tristan free of an elongated babyhood. At age 23, he longs for a dark-haired Zeelung girl, who rewards his humanity with the gift of a flower, and he regrets his “heart aching at what I could not have” (ibid., 254). In a tense situation ten miles from the Voorstand border, he experiences overt symptoms of distress: “My nose streamed. I dribbled, and my head jerked and rolled,” debilitating weaknesses that increase his strangeness to onlookers (ibid., 261). The emotional amplification of his deformities broadens the separation between Tristan and normal human relations and limits his expression of manhood. Tristan’s sorrow at Felicity’s murder in a fake suicidal hanging proves paradoxical by liberating him from his dark hermitage at Feu Follet to a wider knowledge of the world. Analyst Graham Huggan notes that the author “[plays] on the conventions of the picaresque to undercut notions of historical veracity” (Huggan, 2008, 194). For all Tristan’s physical ailments, he emulates the super spy by entering Voorstand illegally with 50,000 guilders fastened to his chest with surgical tape. Ironically, his nurse, Jacqui/Jacques Lorraine, is a spy who advances her career at considerable risk to Tristan. Department of Security agent Wendell Deveau, “an Efican stooge,” targets Tristan for assassination after Jacqui makes “the poor little fuck a terrorist” (ibid., 391, 374). Nonetheless, according to Marie Maclean, a reviewer for Australian Book Review, Tristan surges into the role of “the new messiah of the grotesque,” a role thrust on him at conception and actualized through his search for his birth father and for his mother’s killers (Maclean, 1994, 8 –10).

FROM ANTI-HERO TO HERO Carey risks repelling his audience with so ungainly, so unappetizing, so petulant a hero. Fittingly, in the end, Tristan, like his charismatic mother, advances from soap opera to legitimate theater. He achieves stature by posing as the techno-mouse, a paradox of charm and ambiguity. In the critique of Claire Messud, a reviewer for the London Independent, the mimicry becomes an “appropriation of the nation’s most powerful icon.... It is a political act with complex implications” (Messud, 1994). Through stagecraft and mimicry, Tristan realizes a self-reclamation limited by the size and shape of a Chaplinesque mechanical rodent. He not only masks his external features, but also takes on the animality of his persona, a carnivalesque transformation that dates to prehistory and to the replication of bestial behaviors as part of animistic ritual. At investor Peggy Kram’s Saarlim City penthouse at Demos Platz, Tristan tricks himself out in the irresistibly cute Bruder Mouse suit with a voice modulator in the snout adapted from the Water Sirkus. At his formal debut as an actor, Tristan wraps himself in what his father calls “the power of the



mask,” a concept developed in Aristotle’s Poetics as a reliever of pity and fear (ca. 335 B.C.) (ibid., 394). Tristan ignores the danger to soak up the glory of being the center of attention. Newfound acceptance places him on a par with “kings, princes, and stars of only the most dangerous types of Sirkus” (ibid., 387). Swept up in his performance, “I did not give a damn for anything except how to get more of whatever it was I had” (ibid., 388). Like industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier in Oscar and Lucinda (1988), new mother Maria Takis in The Tax Inspector (1991), and the title ex-con in Jack Maggs (1997), in the final view of the protagonist, Tristan looks ahead to a better life. His liberation comes at a high price — the abandonment of his duplicity as a mytho-religious icon of Voorstand. His selfunmasking before circus owner Peggy Kram and her attorneys generates the standard revulsion at his grotesque physique. With a stunning lacklogic, she proclaims the crippled homunculus a threat to Voorstand. His comic flight in the arms of acrobat Bill Millefleur takes on a Superman mystique as the two plunge down the banister of 20 stories of fire escape stairs. Along with Jacqui, Bill and Tristan set out like innocents abroad. They take a northern route to Bergen, Norway, via the Arctic, the flight path of the selfliberated monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). The invention of Tristan Smith earned a negative critique from reviewer Melissa Bellanta, who described the unsightly protagonist as “too obviously invented” and too nuanced to “[escape] the two-dimensionality of a cartoon character” (Bellanta, 2003). In an alternate evaluation of character, David Coad, in a critique for World Literature Today, views “the deformed mutant” as a miracle worker “transformed through art and theater” (Coad, 1996, 757). See also Smith-Millefleur genealogy; The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith.

• Further readings Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003). Buffington, Sean. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Boston Book Review (May 1995). Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Coad, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” World Literature Today 70, no. 3 (summer 1996): 757–758. Hasluck, Nicholas. “Joining the Sirkus,” Quadrant 39, no. 1 –2 (January/February 1994): 102–104. Heyward, Michael. “Parallel Universes,” New Republic 212, no. 15 (10 April 1995): 38 –41. Huggan, Graham. Interdisciplinary Measures: Literature and the Future of Postcolonial Studies. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008. Maclean, Marie. “Carey Goes Cybersurfing,” Australian Book Review 164 (September 1994): 18 –20. Messud, Claire. “The Robbers of Bruder Mouse,” Independent (17 September 1994). Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 76 –89. Polito, Robert. “Peter Carey,” Bomb no. 54 (winter 1996): 1. Ryan-Fazilleau, Sue. “The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and the ‘Pain of Unbelonging’” in The Pain of Unbelonging: Alienation and Identity in Australasian Literature, eds. Sheila Collingwood-Whittick and Germaine Greer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Schwalm, Tanja. “‘Relax and Enjoy the Show’: Circensian Animal Spaces in Australian and Latin American Magical Realist Fiction,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41, no. 3 (2006): 83 –102. Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59. Wynveen, Tim. “A Stranger in a Strange Land Spins His Tale,” Maclean’s 108, no. 8 (20 February 1995): 65.

Smith-Millefleur genealogy The unusual nature of the title character’s fathering in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) creates three pseudo-households in which Tristan thrives. After the murder in a faked suicidal hanging of Felicity “Flick” Smith, Tristan’s over-protective mother,



nurturing of the handicapped 11-year-old passes to the pseudo-household of stage manager Wally Paccione and his mate, Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson. The restoration of the 23year-old son to his birth father, actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur, restores a one-sided order to the unconventional family free settlers named Smutts | Felicity “Flick” Smith=/=Bill “Billy-fleur” Millefleur=wife=/=Malide actor from | =/=Vincent Theroux=Natalie Voorstand | shot in her laundry room hanged by the VIA | on 1/20/382 C.E. | Wally Paccione=/=Roxanna =Reade at age 43 | Efican colonists Wonder =/=Gabe Manzini | foster father Wilkinson VIA agent | foster mother | | Rene=Jesse Lorraine | factory| deceased Ph.D. | worker| | | Tristan Smith=/=Jacques/Jacqui Lorraine=/=Gabe Manzini “Actor-Manager” nurse/VIA spydouble agent b. 1/371 C.E.

See also Smith, Tristan; The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith.

• Further reading Carey, Peter. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994.

social class Carey examines the barriers between castes as obstacles to community, justice, and human fulfillment. Of his country, he muses, “We have a more compassionate view of the unfortunate. Basically Australians will identify with the lower class rather than the higher class” (Boswell, 2008). Compassion for the misfit controls the action of much of Carey’s fiction, such as a Turko-Greek butcher’s daughter, Anna “Dial” Xenos, a newly hired Vassar English professor and the abductor of a poor little rich boy, Che David Selkirk, the seven-year-old protagonist of His Illegal Self (2008). She conceals from the child the truth about his real father, anarchist David Rubbo, and mother, socialite Susan Selkirk, 1960s–1970s Harvard radicals whom reviewer James Ley of The Age identifies as “two disaffected children of the privileged classes, both of whom have joined the militant fringe of the counterculture” (Ley, 2008). While a privileged 16-year-old Dalton graduate and freshman at Radcliffe, Susan protects the fetus from an abortion. In the company of the boy’s WASP Manhattanite grandmother, Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, Dial, Che’s nanny in babyhood, feels “too indelicate ... too coarse, like a rough mud doll beside something fine” (Carey, 2008, 42). Carey overturns the social separation in later chapters as Dial deals with hippie James “Adam” Adamek and his attorney, Phil Warriner, who adopt an unconventional method of settling property rights. To express her doubts about the lawyer’s professionalism, Dial asks a sarcastic question about his education. Rather than establish his credentials, he merely laughs at her, a suggestion of the Aussie’s refusal to play caste games with outsiders.



In his early writings, the author accords sympathy to the obese unemployed men in “The Fat Man in History” (1974), the lowlife in “Withdrawal” (1974), and the hungry rioters in “War Crimes” (1979). In Oscar and Lucinda (1988), a neo–Victorian social study, he makes droll comparison between people who keep calling cards or cigarette papers in their pockets. He finds occasions to insert small gems of insight, for example, a ship captain’s disdain in censuring a woman’s behavior “like a glove salesman in Harrod’s who feels he should not be called to wait upon colonials” (Carey, 1988, 225). A straightforward Sydney parishioner, Mr. Judd, reverses snobbery by disdaining the “tangential shilly-shallying which was the hallmark of the ruling classes” (ibid., 259). In counterpoint to Judd’s outrage, Bishop Dancer shuns the rising middle class parishioner, the “jumped-up shopkeepers and stable hands, rag and bone men ... now dressed up in clothing of the classes they used to serve” (ibid., 267). He fosters a vision of Sydney as a city of orphans playing dress-up, an allusion to the colonial port as the orphan child of Great Britain. In the opening chapters of Oscar and Lucinda, snobbery demeans the Reverend Hugh Stratton for sinking to the bottom of the Anglican pecking order at an out-at-elbows parish. His protégé, Oscar Hopkins, arrives at Oriel College, Oxford, in such penury that he earns the name “Odd Bod” for his skinny frame, ill-fitting clothes, and lack of sociability, the result of being the son of a minister to the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist sect (ibid., 211). When Stratton and his wife escort Oscar aboard the sidewheeling steamer Leviathan, a supercilious twit, Melody Clutterbuck, daughter of a bishop, disdains stewards as mere servants and dismisses the countrified Strattons as “[smelling] of dust and sherry and [having] shiny patches on their garments” (ibid., 173). Despite the Strattons’ cultured voices, Melody judges them to be members of a grubby caste with “a set place in the menagerie of life,” a rigid caste designation that Carey developed in Illywhacker (1985) (ibid.). Meanwhile, Lucinda Leplastrier, an 18-year-old heiress, expends half of her £10,000 legacy on the Prince Rupert’s Glassworks in Sydney, where she perceives the vast divide between plant owner and worker. She interprets her fear and hatred of the laboring class as the result of distinctions of age, gender, and rank. She identifies with “‘proper’ people [who] hoot and laugh and point at anything outside their narrow experience,” especially her costumes adopted from feminist pathfinder Amelia Bloomer (ibid., 126). Despite Lucinda’s wealth, in her first three weeks in town, gender restraints deny her the relaxation of the George Street library, where males “tsk, tsk” at the assertive female, leaving her “a foreigner, friendless, without a map,” a foreshadowing of the expedition she bankrolls up the Bellinger River to Boat Harbour (ibid.). Her consultant, the Reverend Dennis Hasset, ponders marrying her, but deems her unsuitable for being a subject of social criticism. Carey brings Melody, Lucinda, and the stewards together in chapter 50, in which the steamer Leviathan parodies the strict caste structure of Australian colonialism. First class accommodates the monied European; second class houses the under-educated white working class; below decks offers a hot, oily milieu for stewards and engine room crew, Carey’s mockery of racism against Australia’s blackfellows. Travelers take their places on the ship according to the price of their tickets. The first-class passenger salves her compulsive need to gamble by eavesdropping on the stewards’ games on the mostly vacant first-class deck. The narrative rights Melody’s faulty judgments by labeling her the snob and the stewards as proud perfectionists—“the ‘crème de la crème’”— who are used to satisfying the demands of the elite (ibid., 188). To Lucinda, the only essential in her relationship with the servants



is their value as companions and fellow gamblers. She admits that there is “so much to be said in favour of a game of cards” (ibid., 189). In exchange for the company of “ordinary people” in a round of Blind Jack or poker, she even forgives the stewards their smoking and tippling, two relaxations denied 19th-century women (ibid.). To her, escape from “the corsets of convention” is the risk of corruption in a “vulgar house” (ibid., 188).

SCHOLARSHIP AND OPINIONS Education becomes an obstacle to shipboard camaraderie. For Mr. Borrodaile, who apprenticed as a wheelwright, dining with the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins creates a mental rift because he views “the clergyman well above him” (ibid., 200). The thought of sharing a dinner table with a female irks Borrodaile even more for the restraint a woman places on man-talk and brandy. After Lucinda identifies her shipboard reading as the work of French essayist Michel de Montaigne, Borrodaile dismisses learned reading as no more elevating than standing on a brick, a self-revelatory criticism. Carey turns the table exchange into a witty debacle after Borrodaile misunderstands “Montaigne” to be “a foreign word for ‘mountain’ where an English one would have done” (ibid., 201). Because of Lucinda’s familiarity with social-climbing Australians, she correctly identifies the joker as a rich, powerful, and barbaric land speculator who “[names] streets after himself ” (ibid., 202). The text develops the shipboard dinner conversation as a display of good intentions in the face of discourtesy and crude railery. Borrodaile proves himself boorish by his drunken japes. Unlike the other two gentlemen at table, he engages in an argument with Lucinda over investments. His social inhibitions neutralized by burgundy, he swears, splutters, and allows his mouth to gape open, revealing the same emptiness that occupies his thoughts. Capping his evening, he strides the length of the dining room mocking Oscar’s parson-like posture and walk, which “[makes] all that was good and kind in the young man appear to be weak and somehow contemptible” (ibid., 205). Oscar’s true innocence of derision saves Borrodaile from rebuke and restores equanimity to the evening’s exchange.

APPROACH-AVOIDANCE Carey widens the divide between haves and have-nots in The Tax Inspector (1991), a black comedy of the battle between socio-economic ideals and capitalistic corruption. The Catchprice family, a set of caricatures that dominates the tension, fluctuates between an appealing family comedy and an incongruous household peopled by perpetrators, deniers, and victims of sexual abuse. The arrival of Maria Takis, the title figure, to audit the ledgers of Catchprice Motors in suburban Franklin Heights begets catastrophe that ends in a suicidal explosion of the car lot with sticks of gelignite. She intents to conduct “investigations that brought millions into the public purse ... major corporations, multinationals” (Carey, 1991, 123). Setting the clash in motion is Maria’s unscripted attendance of a toney dinner party at Rose Bay at which upper-level tax evaders discuss the passage of Droit de Suite legislation. A new law will increase the artist’s share of profits and, simultaneously, will divulge the shady world of art collection, a lively source of money laundering for the rich that Carey later attacks in Theft: A Love Story (2006). On her arrival, Maria imagines herself posed in a television commercial featuring the good life. Her face-to-face table encounter with rapacious tax cheats jars her moral foundation, reminding her of the reason she investigates and collars lawbreakers. She regrets not taking the opportunity “to stand up and shout and make speeches about poverty and homelessness” (ibid., 249).



The gap between classes widens in Carey’s next novel, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), with actors and stage performers falling far below the bourgeois in social value. A carnivalesque scene develops outside Mater Hospital as 11-year-old Tristan, a malformed runaway, slides five stories down the drainpipe into the arms of his foster father, Wally Paccione, stage manager of the Feu Follet Theatre. Carey depicts an onlooker, a rude eight-year-old, as a British brat with “Anglo features, brown coat, white gloves, little turned-up nose” (Carey, 1994, 157). More damning is the appearance of the mother, “so near, so fucking Protestant — thin lips, straight white teeth,” a prototypical WASP (ibid.). The author’s satire of superiority and un–Christian attitudes concludes accusations from Roxanna Wonder Wilkinson that the sneering WASP is both stupid and cowardly. In his next book, The Big Bazoohley (1995), the concept of life as acting forces Sam Kellow into rebellion against bourgeois snobbery. Just as the description of Tristan’s grab for normality, Carey pictures Sam lobbing a plate of spaghetti at a poseur in what Elizabeth Deveraux, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, describes as “daring exaggeration with cozily wrought details for an exquisitely balanced comedy” to deflate the pompous (Deveraux, 1995, 134).

WHITE PARIAHS In works saturated with outrage and canny comeuppances, Carey champions the cause of white criminal, political, and social transportees against English squatter bigotry in Australia. He reminds the reader, “We are descended from people who were cast out, exiled from the center and locked away on the periphery,” a pariah status re-enacted by hippies in Bliss and His Illegal Self (Polito, 1996, 1). He noted the social division among those who either honor or spurn outback adventurers. Of the latter, he stated, “By and large, they’re the genteel types who care what the British think about them — the same people who won’t have Waltzing Matilda as their national song” (Bemrose, 2001, 2). A case in point, the title figure in the historical pastiche Jack Maggs (1997), lives out the promise of his initial appearances as the convict in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861). Literary historian Ankhi Mukherjee explains how Carey’s sequel provides “a return from the London and the social order pickled in Dickens’s novel, with a desire to make real its substantial but unlived-out life” (Mukherjee, 2005, 117). To make his case for acceptance of the outcast, Carey must skin down to the evidence, the scourging marks that attest to “the sea of pain etched upon the footman’s back, a brooding sea of scars, of ripped and tortured skin” (Carey, 1997, 86). By connecting lethal lashing with the ocean’s whitecaps, Carey jolts the reader with the ongoing tides of savagery imprinted on Australia’s first European pioneers. As a salve to Australian ostracism, Jack Maggs provides a dais for the convict to justify his return from a colonial prison. His intent is altruistic — to spend his honest pounds for the edification of Henry Phipps, a foppish and ungrateful foster son oblivious to the source of his stipend. To function as an outcast risking arrest and hanging, Maggs must lurk about the shadowy streets of London and disengage himself from his earnings in an Aussie brickyard by posing as a footman. The social demotion robs him of mobility and access to the elite, the people to whom Phipps gravitates. The disillusion that violates Jack’s plan turns into the physical pain of facial spasm: “This tic pulled long cords of pain which ran from his left eye down to his back teeth” (ibid., 24). Ironically, novelist Tobias “Toby” Oates’s attempt to limit Maggs further by hypnotizing him, stealing his memories, and turning them into a profitable potboiler fail to kill off the survivor of New South



Wales. No longer at home in the motherland, Jack returns to the freer atmosphere of family and business in his adopted country.

OUTCASTS, OUTLAWS In True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), the author pities the pre-teen burden of Edward “Ned” Kelly, son of Irish Catholic immigrants. In school, he bears the brand of schoolmaster Mr. Irving as an ignorant, barefoot mick lower than cattle. In 1865, attendance in class among children with English names further degrades Ned for being the ragged son of John “Red” Kelly, a jail inmate charged with rustling. During his criminal career, Ned maintains an understandable folk skepticism toward justice and fairness. His dealings with squatter R. R. McBean and superintendents Hare and Nicolson amaze the 16-year-old, who has little experience with the wealthy privileged class. After Ned’s transportation to Melbourne, he gawks at a Turkish rug and at gentlemen playing billiards and challenges Police Commissioner Standish to a fistfight in exchange for freedom. The opponent avoids the arranged match by naming Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick to replace him in the ring. Ned discovers no honor in the ruling class, which prefers genteel comforts and amusements to lessen the shame of seeing Ned handcuffed and returned to custody. Fitzy corroborates Ned’s outlook on the sham of upper-class justice by declaring them the corrupt “bosses of the effing colony,” a force capable of outlawing Ellen Quinn Kelly from her land (Carey, 2000, 150). Later, Ned rationalizes his murders of corrupt Protestant police: “I shot them fair and square” (ibid., 272). Ned’s memoir expresses a truth common to outback lore. On the mad dash from Wangaratta into the foothills, the Kelly gang makes the most of “hard & gnarly country unloved by squatters and relegated to the poor,” who thrive on “its dried dugs its swollen knuckles” (ibid., 267). The retreat accounts for the outcast’s love of hard country. In terrain spurned by the powerful class, the underdog finds respite and some degree of sovereignty. Ned returns to maternal imagery by picturing “the Warbies folded ... around us like a mother” (ibid.). Out of unity with the locals of the Warby Ranges, Ned acknowledges assistance from the lowest caste without endangering their identity. He exonerates them as victims of police harassment and the financial marginalizing of squatters. With a sympathy for the Australian skulker, Ned pictures himself and his brother Dan “like blackfellows in the night,” Ned’s acceptance of his loss of public respect (ibid., 271). The mood bobbles upward after the birth of the next generation of Kellys. Bush telegraph reports the June 1879 birth of the daughter of Mary Hearn and Ned Kelly in San Francisco. A surprising outpouring of some 200 people and their bonfires honor the newborn and celebrate the fact that “we had showed the world what convict blood could do” (ibid., 337). Ned declares that the night sky itself dazzles the eye like crystal shards. Laura Miller, a reviewer for Salon, exults that Ned “[finds] his final glory in the embrace of the class that he ultimately found inescapable” (Miller, 2001). The pairing of hero with defenders of the downtrodden explains the foundation and longevity of Australia’s Kellymania.

CASTE, MONEY, AND EDUCATION For the diminution of another major character, Australian poet Christopher Chubb, in My Life as a Fake (2003), Peter Carey poses public ostracism of the lower working class among staff at restaurants and hotels. Public rejection derives from Chubb’s sore-covered body, a parallel to the biblical Job. Doormen reject Chubb’s pathetic wardrobe, which consists of a tattered wool suit dating back several decades. The interviewer, Sarah Elizabeth



Jane Wode-Douglass, editor of the Modern Review, interprets the age of the outfit and tie as late 1940s: “He had done his best, as he had promised, yet the loose fit of his frayed collar gave him the appearance of even greater poverty and disenfranchisement” than when she first saw him (Carey, 2003, 24). At the destruction of the suit during dry cleaning, he finds himself bereft of entree at gathering spots of the upper caste, who look only so deep as the outer man. The situation worsens in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, where Chubb arrives to search for his kidnapped daughter. Upon arrival at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Georgetown, a bastion of colonial snobbery, he witnesses a Scots waiter’s deliberate insult of Kanagaratnam “K. G.” Chomley, a Tamil chemistry and physics teacher from Southern India, by serving unacceptable scrambled eggs at a table barely screened from the going and coming of servers from the kitchen. Carey creates irony out of K. G.’s sympathy and charity toward a stranger at his quarters at the Bukit Zamrud English School. Increasing the uncertainty of Chubb’s presence among the Penang elite is his encounter with Headmaster David Grainger, a terse, dismissive educator who quizzes Chubb about his educational background and tosses a greasy lamb bone to a Scottie dog, a gesture enlarging on Grainger’s treatment of lesser men. Chomley proves knowledgeable in matters of snobbery. He reports on color discrimination from his mother-in-law, a light-skinned Tamil Hindu who demeans her daughter’s husband for being dark and for coming from a Christian family. Chomley makes light of the difference between his mansion on Queen Street and his drug stores and rubber plantation as compared to the mother-in-law’s spice shop, a proof of her lower status.

REVENGE OF THE HAVE-NOTS For Theft: A Love Story (2006), Carey returns to his roots in Bacchus Marsh to a declassé family of butchers for the passionate temperament of artist Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, a scrapper raised in the sawdust of an abattoir. He describes himself as peasant stock, delineated by brawn, bulgy lower lip, sloped shoulders, and hairy torso. His turbulent affection for and identity with a felon, former typist and art maven Marlene Cook Leibovitz, derives from shared beginnings outside the pale of art, a place that critic Cora Kaplan calls a “subaltern status in class and [culture]” (Kaplan, 2007, 163). Both outsiders make their way upward through knowledge and appreciation of painting as an art. Like gate-crashers, Butcher and Marlene shoulder into the art world through bluster and guile, he as painter and she as art authenticator. To extend her knowledge, she seeks training by a tutor, art expert Milton “Milt” Hesse. For the petite, delicate-featured Marlene, the revelation of a jemmy bar and other burglary tools in her luggage symbolizes the thrust and energy of her attack on the pretentious. Critic John Updike describes the couple as “half mad ... with ambition and rapacious dreams of gaining attention and riches in the cultural centers ... far from Down Under’s sea-girt isolation” (Updike, 2007, 357). Contributing to the aura of get-even meanness, Carey intersperses the lovers’ conversations with the spasmodic commentary of Butcher’s retarded brother, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, who expresses the outrage of the powerful against the lowly. On his walk to Gramercy Park in New York City, his scruffy appearance and autistic behavior put him in danger when “on Houston Street three taxis tried to run me down,” evidence of urban hostility toward marginal people (Carey, 2006, 209). See also belonging; injustice; Kelly, Ned; True History of the Kelly Gang; violence.



• Further readings Bemrose, John. “Dialogue with a Desperado,” MacLean’s 114, no. 13 (26 March 2001): 48 –49. Boswell. “Interview: Peter Carey,”, accessed on November 25, 2008. Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Deveraux, Elizabeth. “Children’s Books: The Big Bazoohley,” Publishers Weekly 242, no. 38 (18 September 1995): 134. Jones, Malcolm. “An Outlaw Down Under,” Newsweek 137, no. 5 (29 January 2001): 64. Kaplan, Cora. Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. Krist, Gary. “Classics Revisited,” Hudson Review 51, no. 3 (autumn 1998): 623 –630. Ley, James. “Review: His Illegal Self,” The Age (28 January 2008). Miller, Laura. “Review: True History of the Kelly Gang,” Salon (11 January 2001). Mukherjee, Ankhi. “Missed Encounters: Repetition, Rewriting, and Contemporary Returns to Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations,” Contemporary Literature 46, no. 1 (spring 2005): 108 –133. Polito, Robert. “Peter Carey,” Bomb no. 54 (winter 1996): 1. Quinn, Anthony. “Robin Hood of the Outback,” New York Times Book Review (7 January 2001). Schillinger, Liesl. “Child of the Revolution,” New York Times Book Review (10 February 2008). Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007.

storytelling Carey maintains that writers owe allegiance to truth and to the celebration of human potential. In the estimation of John Freeman, an interviewer for the London Independent, “Making things up isn’t just Carey’s job; it has been his obsession” (Freeman, 2006). In explanation, the author exulted that in writing stories, “You have a sense ... that you can do anything. The page is still blank. We really can make ourselves up,” a life-affirming challenge to the Aussie inferiority complex (Wachtel, 1993, 104). The result of his composition on white pages is what Ali Smith, a reviewer of Theft: A Love Story (2006) for the London Telegraph, calls a “merry infectiousness, the persuasive relentlessness of his literary energy” (Smith, 2006). In an analysis for Australian Literary Studies, Bruce Clunies Ross praises the author’s “genius for weaving a story ... where things happen next with a combination of surprise yet inevitability, so that they have the power to arouse our dormant capacity to wonder” (Ross, 1981, 178 –179). Ross describes the basis of Carey’s skill as “re-orientations of experience”— excursions into strange settings that the text anchors to reality with details from the lives of patchwork figures (ibid., 179). By pacing the departure from the real to the unlikely or the bizarre, Carey conceals the break with the familiar and moves surefootedly into visions of the unknown and mysterious. Ross declares that the purpose of these ventures along the axis of realism is “to disturb our sense of the present,” a quality that buoys “The Chance” (1977), a treasured tale of romance and permanent separation in “possible grim futures” (ibid.). Carey applies metafictional technique to valorize what critic John Ryle calls “a nostalgia for the spoken word ... and a pantheistic yearning for the silence of the forest” (Ryle, 1981, 1350). Bliss (1981), a fairy tale quest for human communication, depicts the coming to knowledge of Harry Stanthorpe Joy, a successful shill for the advertising market. According to his colleague, Alex Duval, truth is less integral to Harry’s sales spiels than “the damn way you said it,” an appealing delivery that eventually boosts Harry into a priest-bard (Carey, 1981, 138). Alex’s left-handed compliment carries a hint of admiration for Harry’s



ability to impress and prevaricate with aplomb. Abandoning what theorist Scott Hess calls the “masque of technology,” Harry withdraws from civilization into the bush to become resident sage and mythographer (Hess, 2004, 71). Carey uses a homey image to domesticate the nature of narration, “sewing together the bright patchworks of lives, legends, myths, beliefs, hearsay into a splendid cloak” (ibid., 290 –291). In the spirit of Irma, the sirkus storykeeper in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Harry honors narration as a craft rather than an art and places it on a par with building a residence or dam, both contributions to the commune on Bog Onion Road. By giving up the urban scrabble for affluence and prestige, he finds the peace and introspection to mine subconscious wealth, “things he had not even known he knew” (ibid., 283). Recovered narrative enriches Harry Joy, but not his materialistic nuclear family. His skill at repackaging Hopi lore and the anecdotes of his father, New York–born storyteller Vance Joy, influences Harry’s 17-year-old son David, a liar and dope dealer intent on a career in the narcotics mecca of Bogota, Colombia. The boy seizes his father’s method, but gets into trouble at school for lying, an apostasy of the oral tradition. David’s fault, like crossed bloodlines, derives from mixed parental messages. He justifies the “swordsharp edges” of Harry’s narrative style with the monetary motivation of his mother, Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy, who values narrative composition of sales campaigns as a means to wealth (ibid., 32).

STORIES AS IDENTITY The destabilization of Harry Joy’s identity jolts him into an appreciation of recorded events. At Alice Dalton’s Merry Lands asylum, he meets a patient named Nurse who worries that electro-convulsive treatment will permanently blitz his memory, a fear of Chief Bromden in Ken Kesey’s anti-establishment novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) and in Sylvia Nasar’s biography of economist and mathematician John Forbes Nash A Beautiful Mind (1998). At each turn of the knob, the current produces “a darkness you can’t imagine. A blackness. Cold black ink. Like death” (ibid., 161). The nothingness of mental erasure motivates Harry to annotate his days. To the annoyance of his family, he observes their tiffs and drinking bouts and scribbles details in a notebook. Carey portrays this apprenticeship in storykeeping as the introit to Harry’s final incarnation as pundit and bard of homogenized tales for the community at Bog Onion Road. With his new-found position, he tells hopeful, strengthening stories that impart “a richer glow to all their lives” (ibid., 291). According to a critical essay by Teresa Dovey for Australian Literary Studies, Harry Joy employs narrative as a life-saving strategy in a style introduced by Scheherazade, the resourceful heroine of the anonymous A Thousand and One Nights (ca. A.D. 942), a classic feminist montage dating to the Umayyad Empire (Dovey, 1983, 197). In a moral disengagement with his former life of unscrupulous deals and lies, he tells his father’s New York tales alongside Hopi Indian lore garnered by holy tellers. To gain release from Constable Box and Police Sergeant Hastings, Harry invents a parable of Little Titch. By depicting the child’s admiration for his undersized mother and his escape from tormenters by an alliance with Billy-boy, an abused gelding, Carey depicts victimization in a bestial alter ego. Little Titch saves himself from pummeling by his father and older brothers, a motif that recurs in Illywhacker (1985) in the childhood of Herbert Peter Badgery. Like Billyboy, Harry uses oral aggression to his own advantage. Although officer Hastings dismisses Harry as a “silly cunt,” he falls silent in the storyteller’s presence, a proof of the power of narrative over lies and intimidation (ibid., 79).



JOY FOR JOY Harry’s on-the-spot story creates its own reality while conferring a temporary euphoria on the creator. Harry’s new delight in numinous powers prefigures his validation of oral illumination. As understanding of nature’s sacred rhythm replaces his reliance on posturing and glib anecdote, he gradually emerges as a master raconteur to commune members at Bog Onion Road. For humanistic purpose, he develops true voicing, performs at weddings and births, and recites tales to rectify cultural fragmentation. In Carey’s explanation, timing is all: “He knew when it was right to tell one story and not another” (ibid., 290). As clarified by critic and literary theorist Robert Scholes, author of Fabulation and Metafiction (1979), the telling is transcendent: it “can rejoice and refresh us. And his ability to produce joy and peace depends on the skill with which he fabulates.... Of all narrative forms, fabulation puts the highest premium on art and joy” (Scholes, 1979). Critic John Eustace adds a side note on telling as self-validation. Like Vance Joy and his son, the third generation of Joys perverts verbal art for selfish reasons. From the perspective of Harry and Honey Barbara’s dynasty, the novel’s speakers have “a vested interest in recuperating [Harry] as an ethical subject and legitimizing his position as patriarch of the meaningful, indigenizing rituals at Bog Onion Road,” a network of holistic communal liturgy (Eustace, 2006, 112). Symbolized by tangled roots feeding the iron trees, repetitive ritual hand-fasting and tree-cutting incantations reaffirm the commune and satisfy spiritual hunger of people who have only “the flotsam of belief and ceremony to cling to,” a detritus that the text compares to relics from ancient temples, a hint at the Dead Sea Scrolls (Carey, 1981, 291). Upon Harry’s death, he dematerializes into a gas as thin as breath at an epic moment when “his mantle of legitimacy — storytelling — is conferred upon his children” (Eustace, 2006, 113). Because of its cultural significance, the post of tribal priest and bard becomes both burden and blessing.

STORIES AS RECLAMATION Carey’s second novel, Illywhacker (1985), glories in the lies of the unreliable narrator as the artificer’s regeneration of a flawed national history. The epigraph declares in the words of Mark Twain that “Australian history is almost always picturesque; indeed, it is so curious and strange, that it is itself the chiefest novelty the country has to offer” (Carey, 1985, 5). Like Aunt Ester Tyler’s soul-cleansing slave myths about a City of Bones under the Middle Passage in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (2003), Peter Carey’s storieswithin-stories reveal a philosophy of survival as an ongoing complication of the past. Narrative enlightens by broadening possibilities and by enabling the perpetual flight from downfall. For actor Leah Goldstein, a hard-headed socialist, the failure of Communism forces her into soul-satisfying fantasy: “She sat at the kitchen table celebrating imaginary birthdays and picking fruit from unplanted apple trees” (ibid., 397). True to her nature, she turns her dreamscapes into fiction as a source of income. Ironically, the creation of a literary career places her within the capitalist ideal. Critic M. D. Fletcher, in an article for Span, characterized Carey’s bumptious satire as a reminder of the function and purpose of fiction. Like Scheherazade, the clever romancer to a brutal, wife-killing Arab husband, Herbert Badgery, Carey’s nomadic yarn spinner, “[reminds] us of the urgency of inventiveness and of postponing closure in political discourse” (Fletcher, 1991, 14). He undercuts his tall tale with frequent claims of truth. Upon studying Geelong, he suspects village “might have the capacity to let me down, to



be one more malicious, small-minded provincial city with no vision, no drive, no desire to do anything but send young men off to fight for the British and buy T Model Fords” (ibid., 44). Nonetheless, through imagination, the salesman offers his listeners a chance for change, for ameliorating Australia’s sordid beginnings and for freeing the nation from British manipulators and American and Japanese opportunists. Like the aboriginal concept of dreamtime, he gleans from Australia’s collective consciousness the basis for hope and material for an unending history that is both playful patter and indigenous scripture.

TRUTH AND SYMBIOSIS In an article for Southerly, analyst Helen Daniel noted the reciprocal nature of verbal chicanery. Leah, Herbert’s lover, states the corrosive nature of his self-deception: “You believe whatever falls out of your mouth because you don’t really believe anything” (Carey, 1985, 328). Analyst Anne C. Hegerfeldt explains the teller’s gloating over Rabelaisian hyperbole by “deliberately piling one stretcher upon the other, gleefully watching the listener teeter on the brink of disbelief until it finally dawns on the poor innocent that he or she is being put on” (Hegerfeldt, 2005, 111). For Herbert to succeed, he must encounter a gullible cocky, the bush term for rube or yahoo. The serendipitous landing near the home of Jack McGrath unites Herbert with the ideal dreamer. Herbert chortles, “We were elements like phosphorus and air which should always be kept apart,” a reference to the selfcombustive nature of phosphorus when exposed to oxygen (Carey, 1985, 29). In Helen Daniel’s estimation, the duo— Herbert and Jack, the shill and his mark — thrive on the “double-sided reality of the lie”: “For every liar there has to be a believer, for ever confidence trick a dupe, for ever lie a pattern of self-deception, for every fiction a reader” (Daniel, 1986, 158). The pairing of hoaxer with sucker relieves Herbert of some of the guilt and places substantial blame on the easy mark whom the serpentine stream of lies ensnares. Herbert crows, “I had never been in a situation before where my lies looked so likely to become true ... the nasty speck of grit was fast becoming a beautiful thing, a lustrous pearl it was impossible not to covet” (ibid., 60). The paradigm expands to describe the symbiosis of writer and audience, a fortuitous encounter between the fabricator of fiction and the credulous listener. To elevate his status to oracle, Herbert surveys his womanish body and implies a connection with Teiresias, the Greek seer who lived as both male and female and who alerted the unwary to looming ill fortune. Through a century-long metamorphosis, Herbert declares that he has “become almost kind,” his term for benevolent (ibid., 12).

FAMILY LEGENDS For Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey achieves a hypnotic narration, which critic Edmund White, in a review for the London Times Literary Supplement, described as “dense with characters, breathlessly paced, visionary” (White, 1991, 21). He sets up a framework story through the reflections of the speaker “Bob” on his great-grandfather, the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, and his biracial great-grandmother, widowed housekeeper Miriam Mason Chadwick. The teller explains, “In order that I exist, two gamblers, one Obsessive, the other Compulsive, must meet” (Carey, 1988, 225). In revealing his family story, he repudiates the formal history of Australia by stripping it of daring and glory. Bob shares with Oscar a childhood bereft of fiction because their fundamentalist parents equate made-up stories with attempts to interpret scripture, a sin in their families’ sectarian beliefs. The perversity of Oscar’s personality and actions, comprised of piety turned to altruism through bets placed at the racetrack and gaming table, creates awe in the great-grandson.



In his 60s at the time of the storytelling, the narrator puzzles out Oscar’s difficulties with a hide-bound Christianity as the protagonist advances from an evangelical reared in a congregation of Plymouth Brethren to a Church of England scholar. By linking Oscar with the imitative snobbery of Sydney and with the crudities of late-night gamblers, cedar cutters, factory workers, and barroom toughs, the storykeeper discloses the eccentricities of Australian society that shaped its uniqueness in the colonial order. Oscar’s martyrdom in 1865 at age 24 generates both comedy and poignance to a novel rich in both. In the final days of the protagonist’s short life, he impresses a native bard, Kumbaingiri Billy, with the terrorism in the life of Christ and the violence that shaped the mythos of St. Sebastian, whom the Emperor Diocletian tortured with arrows, and St. Catherine of Alexandria, who died broken on a wheel. The peculiar arrival of Oscar on a throne in a glass-and-cast-iron chapel underlies the aboriginal story “How Jesus came to Bellingen long time-ago” (ibid., 471). Analyst Bill Ashcroft notes the centrality of language and wealth in erasing the Aborigines’ originary stories. Against a backdrop of imperialism, the colonists’ “relative prosperity and officially monolingual character excludes all except their indigenous inhabitants from post-colonial discourse” (Ashcroft, 2001, 128). Outside the parameters of Australian talk-story, the title of Billy’s tale suggests the symbolic role of Oscar in self-sacrifice for the sake of outback pagans like Billy and his paternal aunt, whom explorers and exploiters threaten with cultural obliteration. Ashcroft vilifies the us-against-them mentality as an “egregious polarity” (ibid.).

STORIES REVERENCING THE PAST In the satiric fantasy The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Carey elevates grassroots theater to the level of a cultural incubator devoted to “life, death, catharsis” (Carey, 1994, 222). Intricate illusions sustain both Voorstand and, through mimicry, its satellite culture in Efica. In the summation of reviewer Sean Buffington for the Boston Book Review, the text models a literary truth, that “words are our selves: they make us, mimic us, and reveal us” (Buffington, 1995). According to analyst Claire Messud in a review for the London Independent, the enemy of truth is Voorstand, a nation that “disseminates bastardised version of [its] founding myths” (Messud, 1994). History becomes what critic Elizabeth Hardy, in an essay for Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, calls “an incomplete record of past events that demands to be augmented and reinterpreted by those living in the present” (Hardy, 1997, 22). For this and other reasons, Sirkuses employ Vertellers, literally “truth tellers,” reciters “whose epic songs formed the narrative backbone of the Sirkus” (ibid., 277). Carey’s text outlines the self-ameliorating ideal of creativity: “Artists and poets ... are pleased to criticize its shortcomings and to celebrate its charms” (Carey, 1994, 5). On a local level, performances “cheer up the lonely liberals [and] annoy the fascists,” the intent of Tristan’s mother, Felicity “Flick” Smith, actor and troupe manager of the Feu Follet Theatre (ibid., 93). Because actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur accepts a job in Saarlim City, the world’s art and leisure mecca, he berates himself for singing Voorstand’s lyrics and telling its stories rather than those of Efica. He feels the job far offshore from the island cluster “undercut the whole notion of who he thought he was” (ibid., 52). At the Feu Follet, Felicity promotes his nationalism by reminding him that Efican acting troupes “have the whole damn country to invent” because Voorstand denies its colony its own story (ibid., 53). Carey enlarges on the funny, crude agitprop plays the troupe writes to express both the story and subtext of original works by Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen, and Chekhov. The actors parody



foreign relations and the Communist Party and harass the secret police with crank phone calls. Carey concludes that the cast of the Feu Follet breaks “the obscenity laws, the alliance laws, the secrecy laws,” a subversive game that grows deadly after the Voorstand Intelligence Agency (VIA) murders Felicity and after members of the troupe touring Voorstand encounter a VIA plot to kill Tristan (ibid., 55).

STORIES AS PROPAGANDA When the title character gets his first glimpse of the Saarlim Sirkus, he recognizes propaganda from the Voorstand perspective. As his mother warned, the technological wizardry comprises “a horror made of cardboard, plastic and appalling coloring, a deathdealing construction of hardened chewing gum and degraded folklore, a loopy mix of Calvinism and cynical opportunism” (ibid., 163). In adulthood, he affirms the danger of an alien ethos affirmed through entertainment: “Every ticket we buy to the Sirkus weakens us, swamps us further, suffocates us. If we wish to escape the vile octopus, our escape must be total” (ibid., 231). Clowns wear the uniforms of prisoners of war captured by Voostander armies; farmers nail to their barns tin cut-outs of Bruder Mouse, an amalgam of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and the beloved Br’er Rabbit of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus fables published in 1881. Irma, the star attraction, appears in the second half and “[dares] recite our own stories on the stage,” consisting of “Farewell, Sweet Faith!” and “The Story Teller from the Isles” (ibid., 167). Tristan interprets the performance as an adaptation for local audiences and feels “flattered, and moved to hear our own tragedies and Pyrrhic victories celebrated in her exotic accent” (ibid.). Through minimal gesture and elocution, she brings to life “drowned fishermen ... and abandoned dyers,” the peasant colonizers of Efica (ibid., 168). Sparrowgrass, a Voorphobe who lifts Tristan for a better glimpse of Irma, admits that the conquering nation possesses decency and greatness, a truth “we keep forgetting when we’re trying to get their hands out of our guts,” a satiric jab at England’s artistic greatness and colonial rapacity (ibid.). Tristan worsens the charges against Voorstand by recalling bombs falling from their dirigibles on “some poor country who tried to renegotiate their Treaty” (ibid.). As the boy presses for a stage career, he joins his mother in a familiar story, “The Chef of Efica,” in which Tristan pretends to cook at the command of menacing colonial soldiers in red coats. After Bill deserts Tristan a second time, the 11-year-old accuses Voorstand of building Sirkus Domes that “spread their stories, your stories, not ours, in every corner of my nation’s life” (ibid., 311). Like Bill, the stories are traitors. More insidious, the Ghostdorps (theme parks) set up by investor Peggy Kram crank out a stage version of history that she extols as a pop culture archive of national lore, a subtextual slap at Walt Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida. To circumvent the structural and ethnic decay of Saarlim, she morphs into a cultural Mao Tse Tung by proposing to purchase from foreign investors the crime-ridden streets and parks and to propagandize Saarlimites with the conservative cant of her Dutch ancestors. Her actions confirm the critique by James Bradley in the New York Review of Science Fiction in which he describes Carey’s fictional milieu as a “[realm] where history and truth constantly reveal themselves as fabrications and stories of dubious veracity” (Bradley, 1997, 17).

STORIES AS SURVIVAL Carey elevates narrative in Jack Maggs (1997), a neo–Victorian Gothic thriller that establishes for the title figure the truth about his mother country. The setting, as delin-



eated by Gary Krist, a critic for the Hudson Review, is a “place of more troublesome halfshadows and nagging contradictions [that] runs ... via the powerful engine of social climbing and self-interest” (Krist, 1998, 624). The personae groom and publicize their stories, whether true or fabricated, as sources of self. To Henry Phipps, a four-year-old “orphing” risen to sybaritic rake, filial letters to his foster parent demand the lies of Oxford tutor Victor Littlehales (Carey, 1997, 313). To Percival Clarence “Percy” Buckle, the faux gentrification of his formal dinner party establishes his rise from grocer/fried fish seller to resident gentleman and arts patron. The occasion is the setting for Jack’s collapse from tic douloureux, a painful facial nerve spasm, and the intervention of Tobias “Toby” Oates, a novelist in need of colorful characters who creates his own “orphing” in a fabulized phantom. Carey pictures Oates collecting the ex-con like a lepidopterist pinning a butterfly to a collection box. Like an early Sigmund Freud on the prowl for human fault, Oates the voyeur sets out in search of literary plunder: “What a puzzle of life exists in the dark little lane-ways of this wretch’s soul, what stolen gold lies hidden in the vaults beneath his filthy streets” (ibid., 98). Ironically, it is Oates rather than the convict who seeks ill-gotten gain. Jack, the colonial revenant, soon realizes that Oates is less rescuer than leech, a siphoner of anecdotes to be turned to profit and contracted out “with not a word yet written” (ibid., 216). Worse than a housebreaker who swipes silver, Oates loots souls to turn into sensationalized crime fiction, a staple in England’s Gothic market. On a stage journey to Gloucester, in defense of civil rights, Jack growls, “You’d tell my frigging secrets to the world” (ibid., 276). Carey gives equal time to his protagonist’s story and to his blackmail of Oates, the history thief. As explained by critic Alice Brittan in an article for Australian Literary Studies, the “contents of [Jack’s] mind are commodities of greater economic and social value than the contents of any house, no matter how well appointed” (Brittan, 2004, 50). Parallel to sessions with Toby are Jack’s late-night scribblings of his autobiography, which he writes with disappearing ink in mirror image, a perversion of accounts symbolizing his misunderstanding of the past. To ensure his safety from recapture and hanging, Jack, the exiled convict, overpowers Toby, tosses his ink and quill pen into the Severn River, and scatters to the wind Toby’s notes, which take flight over water “like a pair of wings” (Carey, 1997, 263). The triumph of truth over lies occurs at the fireplace, where the manuscript of The Death of Maggs bursts into flames. Liberated from criminality, Jack restores his “treasure house,” an allusion to the value of his life story (ibid., 96). Returned to Aristotle’s tabula rasa (blank slate) state, he eludes the evils of the colonial overlords who flogged him and repatriates to New South Wales, the source of his true character and liberty.

STORIES AS SOLACE The anecdotal history of Jack Maggs and the Old World nostalgia of the Irish-Australian Kelly family in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), a masterwork of historical sham, earned Carey a second Commonwealth Booker Prize plus multi-national respect for championing the frontier underdog. Literary historians remarked on Carey’s replication of folk communion through “boot-level poetry” and convict and bandit anecdote, the kind of tall tales that energize Illywhacker (Taylor, 2001, 42). Robert Edric, a reviewer for the Manchester Guardian, summarized Carey’s belief that history “is just as cruel to those figures it remembers (whether well, badly, or indifferently) as to those it decently forgets” (Edric, 2001). Critic Elizabeth Ho, in an article for Antipodes, noted that the



author’s “19th-century heroes and heroines have been instrumental in the recuperation of pieces of history that allow primarily Anglo-Australians to recover (from) their national past while still embracing the foundation of Australia as a settlement as well as a penal colony” (Ho, 2003). After the arrest of John “Red” Kelly in 1862 and again after the family breakup over the arrest of relatives, Red’s illiterate wife, Ellen Quinn Kelly, comforts her children at night by reciting stories and verse, a “treasure she had committed to her memory” of Irish heroes of the Ulster cycle — King Conchobor, the warrior Cuchulainn, Dedrieu, and Mebd (Carey, 2000, 25). Edward “Ned” Kelly delights in the wartime details of chariot fights and their combat equipment. He describes upbeat family tales as “stories [of pirate kings] to be saved for happy days,” his term for gatherings not involving rumors and false charges of treachery (ibid., 157). With a backward glance at reality, he wishes for “some equal defence against the world” where corrupt Protestant Irish police bedevil and impoverish Irish Catholic immigrants (ibid., 162). The story returns to Ned in June 1879, while he hides out in the Bogong High Plains and ponders “Great Cuchulainn in his war chariot,” the impetus to Ned’s decision to arm himself in metal (ibid., 338). Oral sharing extends and heightens camaraderie within the Kelly-Quinn clan. When Ned’s Uncle James reunites with the family at Greta, he perpetuates the family’s oral solace with “a hoard of stories” about gold prospecting, sailing a reef, and finding unbranded horses (ibid., 42). The tales revive the spirits of Dan Kelly, who is only five years old when his father dies of dropsy. The stories embolden Ellen to take a swing of the axe at a Banshee, whom Celtic stories identify as the “Death Messenger” (ibid., 91). The narratives prove true by predicting the death of Tom Buckley, a loner with no one to mourn him. Ned, who finds Tom’s corpse, immediately identifies Irish lore as “teeth [ripped] from the mouth of their own history,” a stunning oral image of stunted verbal ties to the motherland (ibid., 92). An extension of the image of death following convict ships from Ireland pictures the Banshee combing her hair on the bow as she sails from Cork to Botany Bay. On a first incarceration for highway robbery in 1870, Ned, at age 15, turns more attentively to the folk accounts of jail torture that embolden him to conceal information about his mentor, outlaw Harry Power. As a comfort, Ned states, “I were raised on stories of Irishmen being tortured and would not go home a traitor” (ibid., 103).

CULTURAL SURVIVAL The author confided to interviewer Nathanael O’Reilly, another writer for Antipodes, a cultural hope for underclass storytelling —“some form of return to the old-fashioned close-reading of texts” as a means of “keeping literature alive” (O’Reilly, 2002, 167). In testimony to his intent, Carey salts his outlaw memoir with appropriate parallels, beginning with Harry Power comparing his situation in a bulletproof cabin on Bullock Creek in the Wombat Ranges to the cave hideout of Ali Baba in A Thousand and One Nights and extending to a motherly cautionary tale about a changeling who makes an image of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus in patchwork. Another source of ancestral narrative, the stories that Australians sing about Harry parallel Arthurian lais and the corrido— outlaw lore of North American rough rider and freedom fighter ballads of Mexico, Texas, and California. The story of Harry Whitty and the Devil, a basic “outwitting Satan” trope, ridicules lawyers while building on Harry’s temerity in desecrating church windows depicting the Stations of the Cross. Unfortunately for Celtic lore, Ellen Quinn Kelly’s plaiting of beneficent straw crosses of St. Brigit of Kildare (ca. 451 –525), a patron saint of Ireland, to protect the flock during lambing lacks the supernatural power to keep the saint from



“[withering] in Victoria” before she “slowly passed from our reckoning” (ibid., 92). Despite St. Brigit’s demise, the Banshee continues “about her deadly business” of gathering souls well known to Ned and his mother (ibid., 93). Because Harry refuses to answer Ned’s question about belief in the Banshee, Harry’s silence fills Ned with foreboding. Critic Graham Huggan explains how “the superimposition of Irish folk memory onto recent Australian colonial history produces a double effect in which the fear of renewed betrayal lurks beneath the sanctioned pride of violent dissent” (Huggan, 2007, 63). In a fateful metamorphosis from horse wrangler and farmer to outlaw, Ned Kelly, an unlettered man, struggles with letter writing in an attempt to set straight the Kelly family’s bouts with class prejudice and against police conspiracy. His love of story takes on a steely respect for raw history when he quiets gang member Steve Hart, who sings “some mournful song in the old language,” a reference to Celtic balladry (Carey, 2000, 255). Ned insists that individualists have a responsibility to themselves: “We would write our own damned history from here on” (ibid.). Returning to Hart’s point of view, Carey suggests that the outlaw might wish “that his daddy hadnt filled his head with all them rebel stories” (ibid., 258). Subsequent stories carom from Mary Hearn’s cautionary tale about the hanging of six Donegal rebels for torturing Lord Hill’s horse Mercury to the satire in Melbourne Punch skewering inept police posses. Irishman Aaron Sherritt adds details of the raid on Mrs. Byrne’s property and the image of Commissioner Frederick Standish soiling his boots in a “cow pat” (ibid., 295). Ned looks out on police activity around him and describes it as “a drama writ by me” (ibid., 318). Mary Hearn, Ned’s common-law wife, supports his crusade for justice by assembling published details in a scrapbook, a legacy intended for her unborn child. After she deserts Ned, he composes 88 pages in two letters to Mary in Melbourne, but police intercept his mail and leave her uninformed of Ned’s thoughts. For their value to Ned’s self-exoneration, 58 pages accompany him on the February 7, 1879, robbery of the Bank of New South Wales in Jerilderie. At their loss, he sits in the rain composing a new copy. In his view, the text is “the terror of the government,” a composition of 13 “parcels” of eyewitness detail, a pun on the “partial” knowledge that circulates after Ned’s martyrdom (ibid., 332). In his final go at writing a personal history, he hears from Schoolmaster Thomas Curnow a truism about fact: history “should always be a little rough that way we know it is the truth” (ibid., 351).

HOMAGE TO THE PAST In a state of regret over Australia’s lost epos, Carey composes in 30 Days in Sydney (2001) a melancholy scolding of white ancestors for dismissing the first peoples whom the British killed off. He recognizes a huge seashell cairn as a remembrance of pagan worship and honors Aborigines for their devotion to conservation. He explains the source of unwritten scripture: “Their stories grew from the land and were laced through the land and provided detailed instructions for the care of the land” (Carey, 2001, 55). Like studies of North American first peoples, Carey’s essays admit the huge loss to earth of people driven west by British insurgency. He rues the fact that “to know the land itself is like the index to a bible which we cannot read” (ibid.). White Aussies, he asserts, gained one character trait from the destruction of Australia’s indigenous culture — an intolerance for socio-economic bias and injustice. In a subsequent pseudo-memoir, Wrong about Japan (2005), Carey views the stories of his son’s generation during a trip to Tokyo. To build father-son camaraderie, he takes



12-year-old Charley on a fact-finding mission that introduces them both to the artistry and appeal of manga comics and anime film. A hint of past history tears at Carey when he analyzes the robotic warriors in popular comics. The pose of individual fighters in mechanical modules reminds him of the isolation of children during the firebombing of Tokyo and its environs during World War II. For corroboration of his suspicions, he incorporates in the text the eyewitness account of Mr. Yazaki, who was Charley’s age when much of Tokyo was destroyed by American B-29s and hosts of children orphaned and pressed into labor at a munitions factory. Producers of postmodern comic books deny subversive retaliations against the West: “Gundam was launched just to sell toy robots, to create a product that people would buy” (Carey, 2005, 95). Nonetheless, Carey departs Tokyo with unanswered questions about the symbolism of manga and the impact of international violence on tender minds like those of Charley and his Japanese friend Takashi. A more poignant salute to the past emerges in His Illegal Self (2008) in the reminiscences of orphans. Survivalist Trevor Dobbs consoles Che David Selkirk, a parentless seven-year-old, with the story of the cup handle, which Trevor compares to a piece of bone in a reliquary. The story is based on an ancient motif of the reunion of disparate parts of a solid talisman, like those described in humanist theologian Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim’s De occulta philosophia (On Occult Philosophy, 1531). The narrative pictures an Aussie orphan driving north with the china handle to locate his elder brother, the possessor of the cup. The uneven sizes depict the searcher as sparsely compensated for blood brotherhood and eager to contribute his small evidence of belonging to join siblings. James Wood, a critic for the New Yorker classifies Trevor’s narratives as “free indirect style, or the bending of third-person narrative around the viewpoint of the character who is being described” (Wood, 2008). The result is a tailoring of commentary to the character and a glimpse of the individual thought processes in “sentences [that] jerk us forward like a leash” (ibid.). See also achievement; language; The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith.

• Further readings Ashcroft, Bill. On Post-Colonial Futures: Transformations of Colonial Culture. New York : Continuum, 2001. Bradley, James. “A Slippery, Ripperty Thing: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 9, no. 5 (1997): 17–19. Brittan, Alice. “A Ghost Story in Two Parts: Charles Dickens, Peter Carey, and Avenging Phantoms,” Australian Literary Studies 21, no. 4 (2004): 40 –55. Brown, Ruth. “English Heritage and Australian Culture: The Church and Literature of England in Oscar and Lucinda,” Australian Literary Studies 17 (1995): 135 –140. Buffington, Sean. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Boston Book Review (May 1995). Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. Jack Maggs. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. _____. 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account. London: Bloomsbury, 2001. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. _____. Wrong about Japan. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2005. Charles, Ron. “Novel Gives the Dickens to Historical Fiction,” Christian Science Monitor 90, no. 92 (8 April 1998): 14. Daniel, Helen. “‘The Liar’s Lump’: or, ‘A Salesman’s Sense of History’: Peter Carey’s Illywhacker,” Southerly 47, no. 2 (June 1986): 157–167. Dovey, Teresa. “An Infinite Onion: Narrative Structure in Peter Carey’s Fiction,” Australian Literary Studies 11, no. 2 (1983): 195 –204. Edric, Robert. “Remaking Ned,” Guardian (6 January 2001).



Eustace, John. “Going Bush: Performing the Pastoral in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Antipodes (1 December 2006): 108 –116. Fletcher, M. D. “Post-Colonial Peter Carey,” Span 32 (1991): 12–23. Freeman, John. “Peter Carey: Art and Lies— and Money,” Independent (26 May 2006). Hardy, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey Returns to SF : Postmodernism vs. Postcolonialism,” Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature 14, no. 1 (1997): 21 –25. Hegerfeldt, Anne C. Lies That Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen Through Contemporary Fiction from Britain. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. Hess, Scott. “Postmodern Pastoral, Advertising, and the Masque of Technology,” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 11, no. 1 (winter 2004): 71 –100. Ho, Elizabeth. “Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and the Trauma of Convictism,” Antipodes 17, no. 2 (1 December 2003): 124 –132. Huggan, Graham. Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Kemp, Peter. “His Illegal Self by Peter Carey,” London Sunday Times (3 February 2008). Koval, Ramona. “The Unexamined Life: Peter Carey Interviewed,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3 –4 (1997): 667–682. Krist, Gary. “Classics Revisited,” Hudson Review 51, no. 3 (autumn 1998): 623 –630. Letissier, Georges. “Dickens and Post-Victorian Fiction” in Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film, ed. Susana Onega and Christian Gutleben. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004. Messud, Claire. “The Robbers of Bruder Mouse,” Independent (17 September 1994). Natale, Antonella Riem. “Harry Joy’s Children: The Art of Story Telling in Peter Carey’s Bliss,” Australian Literary Studies 16, no. 3 (1994): 341 –347. O’Reilly, Nathanael. “The Voice of the Teller: A Conversation with Peter Carey,” Antipodes 16, no. 2 (2002): 167. Riemer, Andrew. “Review: His Illegal Self,” Sydney Morning Herald (4 February 2008). Ross, Bruce Clunies. “Some Developments in Short Fiction 1969 –1980,” Australian Literary Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 165 –180. Ryle, John. “Magic and Poison,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1981): 1350. Scholes, Robert. Fabulation and Metafiction. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1979. Smith, Ali. “The Business of Art and Love,” Telegraph (28 May 2006). Taylor, D. J. “A Ventriloquist’s Tale,” New Statesman 130, no. 4519 (8 January 2001): 42. Turner, Graeme. “American Dreaming: The Fictions of Peter Carey,” Australian Literary Studies 12, no. 4 (1986): 431 –441. Wachtel, Eleanor. “‘We Really Can Make Ourselves Up’: An Interview with Peter Carey,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 9 (1993): 103 –105. White, Edmund. “Recognizing Jack,” Times Literary Supplement (30 August 1991): 21. Wood, James. “Notes from Underground,” New Yorker (3 March 2008). Wynveen, Tim. “A Stranger in a Strange Land Spins His Tale,” Maclean’s 108, no. 8 (20 February 1995): 65.

superstition Carey’s flare for Gothic atmosphere and details relies heavily on the folk beliefs of Australia’s immigrant population, including the global belief in shapeshifting, a motif in the story “He Found Her in Late Summer” (1979), the ghost-bird that swoops into a mansion in My Life as a Fake (2003), and the pagan face carved into stone at Adam’s 14-acre plot on Remus Creek Road in His Illegal Self (2008). To seven-year-old Che David Selkirk, the images “suggested superstition, witchcraft and some very lonely lost life reduced to a hidden corner of the earth,” a predictable interpretation from a boy reared on Park Avenue in Manhattan (Carey, 2008, 100). In Carey’s first published novel, Bliss (1981), he creates a commune on Bog Onion Road as a “peculiar hotch-potch of religion and belief and superstition” (Carey, 1981, 163). By settling Ananda Marga, animists, Buddhists, Horse people, and Krishnas in one community, he creates the storyteller’s need to appeal to varied beliefs about nature, the ultimate life’s work of protagonist Harry Stanthorpe Joy. In Illywhacker (1985), the story of an admitted liar, Carey toys with the subject of metamorphosis. After a fight with the herbalist Goon Tse Ying, over the old man’s journal, protagonist Herbert Peter Badgery, Goon’s foster son, rips off the man’s finger. Following



Herbert’s arrest for assault, he receives from a policeman Goon’s finger in a Vegemite bottle, an image of grotesque tissue preservation that recurs with jars of preserved snakes in the lair of a psychopath seeking voodoo power in The Tax Inspector (1991). When Herbert returns to his family from spending 1937 to 1947 in a cell at Rankin Downs Gaol, he exhibits the finger floating in the bottle and proclaims its powers of transmogrification extends to anything the imagination might want. Carey turns the grotesque finger into a symbol of change by which Australia can shift itself into whatever its citizens desire. A more familiar talisman, the caul of the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins, co-protagonist of the neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), serves as a bon voyage present from his father, Theophilus Hopkins, a stony-hearted evangelical and preacher to the Plymouth Brethren beset by irrational fear and religious superstition. The gift, along with a soldering kit, attests to severe poverty as well as the symbolism of parenthood. The solder box implies a mechanical tie between father and son that fails to re-activate their love after Theophilus smacks Oscar on the back of the head for eating a Christmas plum pudding. From the affective domain of Oscar’s deceased mother, the gift of a neo-natal helmet of birthing tissue bears centuries of reverence for an amniotic membrane symbolizing the magic of procreation. A mystic protection of the fetus, the sac becomes a unique heirloom and token of individuality and vulnerability ironically parodied by the cage that transports Oscar to the deck of the steamer Leviathan for passage to Australia and by the glass and cast iron chapel in which he drowns.

IRISH CATHOLIC BELIEFS To attest to the ignorance and gullibility of Irish Catholic immigrants in Australia, in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Carey describes their home customs and illogical beliefs. The ridicule of poorly educated newcomers becomes the focus of cartoons in the Argus about “Superstitious Mick or Ignorant Bridget the Irish maid” (Carey, 2000, 295). For Harry Power, a bushranger troubled with bunions and bowel complaint, a red string knotted seven times relieves an inflamed toe joint if wound by a strict pattern accompanied by recitation of a two-line jingle. More Celtic in origin, the appearance of the Banshee outside Ellen Quinn Kelly’s cabin in 1858 on Eleven Mile Creek reminds Ellen not to hinder the “Death Messenger” (ibid., 91). Harry later asserts his suspicion that Shan, an expert rider, is “not a human boy but a substitute that had been left,” a changeling or fairy child endowed with supernatural powers (ibid., 116). Harry corroborates claims about changelings by telling of a boy from Tipperary who sews a patchwork image of the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. Each of the irrational notions links divinity to the human expectation of suffering and death. The interlacing of religion and sorcery emboldens the last quarter of the text. After Superintendent Brooke Smith seizes George, the infant son of 17-year-old Mary Hearn and Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, Detective Michael Ward aggravates the home invasion by tossing the boy into the air and snapping the child’s head back. Mary’s mothering instincts turn demonic with Celtic bile. She curses Ward’s unborn children, wishing them deformed with reptilian eyes and feet and predicting that Ward will produce red, scaly genitals, a damning of his future reproductive powers. She envisions Ward a homeless black whose wife whores for the military. Like the biblical Job, Ward appears coated in loathsome sores and warts. The hex summons Ward’s Irish Catholic superstitions, turning him “white and waxy as an altar candle” (ibid., 264). Ned, the narrator, declares an instant shapeshifting in George, whose blue eyes turn the yellow brown of a cat. Ned cor-



roborates the power of Mary’s curse by connecting her retribution toward Ward’s wickedness as a throwback to times of alchemical changes of lead into gold. Ned’s shift to address his daughter heightens his telling with prediction of a time when “we poor uneducated people will all be made noble in the fire,” an allusion to refinement in the crucible of suffering (ibid., 265).

GHOSTLY INTRUDER Of the ephemeral veil between truth and reality, Joy Press, a reviewer for the Village Voice, assessed the author’s take on reality: “The boundary between art and life has always been pretty porous for Carey, whose oeuvre exudes a hallucinatory realism that makes imaginary universes feel concrete and believable” (Press, 2003). The summation suits the edgy mysticism of fictional Penang, Kuala Lumpur, in My Life as a Fake (2003). Carey layers a variety of obstacles to editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane “Micks” Wode-Douglass’s investigation of a literary hoax. From mistaken identity, lies, and ostracism of poet Christopher Chubb at the door of the Hotel Merlin in Kuala Lumpur, the barriers to firsthand information advance to mysticism. When she presents Chubb at the tailor shop of Arthur Fatt, the snobbish owner describes Chubb as a ghost who arrived in the neighborhood with no legs. She finds it hard to believe that “an urbane, even sophisticated man” would charge Chubb with alienating neighbors by his ghostly form (Carey, 2003, 120). The novel’s resolution steps away from overt Gothicism to state an essential theme, Peter Carey’s aversion to literary pomposity. In a final insult to the pariah, Fatt alleges vampirism: “That man drains blood” (ibid.). Carey uses the supernatural to mock the literary snob, who values the vampiric Chubb over a real poet, Bob McCorkle, the fabricated author of poems that Micks hopes to snare to pump new vigor into the Modern Review, her moribund London-based literary journal. Of Carey’s satiric framework, James Bradley, a reviewer for The Age, finds the totality unsettling: “It is an angry, uncomfortable book, as well as a curiously claustrophobic one, hemmed in by its echoing of Frankenstein’s structure” (Bradley, 2003, 5). Michael Gorra, a reviewer for the Atlantic Monthly, takes Bradley’s praise a bit farther by viewing My Life as a Fake as a remarkable fable. See also Gothic; healing and health.

• Further readings Bradley, James. “Carey and His Caliban,” The Age (9 August 2003): 5. Carey, Peter. Bliss. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981. _____. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008. _____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Gorra, Michael. “Fabulous Forgeries,” Atlantic Monthly 292, no. 4 (1 November 2003): 163. Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. “A Family That Only Appears Zany: It’s Really Much Worse,” New York Times Book Review (16 January 1992): C21. Press, Joy. “My Little Phony,” Village Voice (4 November 2003). Tausky, Thomas E. “Getting the Corner Right,” Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 4 (1990): 27–38. Zamora, Lois Parkinson, and Wendy B. Faris, eds. Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

symbolism Carey’s skill at universality emerges in jagged revelations aimed at both characters and readers, such as the Model T Ford in Illywhacker (1985) which morphs into the locust



devouring the fecundity of Australia and the robotic warriors in Wrong about Japan (2005) that remind the author of the American B-29s that firebombed Tokyo in 1944. In “Journey of a Lifetime,” a prize story in War Crimes (1979), he wrenches the title from a destination to a death warrant with a deft confrontation. While Louis Morrow Baxter Moon travels 2,000 miles from Victoria into Australia’s Great Eastern Desert, the steady surge of the locomotive takes on lethal thrust by bearing him to his mission as state executioner and, ultimately, to his own demise. Along the way, he finds his drinks chilled with ice scooped from the packing around a corpse, a Gothic image. The frigid effect ends his illusion of escaping an unfulfilling life as recorder of births and deaths for the state and condemns him to the ineluctable train ride awaiting all humankind. For the neo–Victorian novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Carey sets up an emblematic house of cards, a relationship built on a shared religious skepticism and a mutual compulsion for gambling. In evidence of cultural hubris, the structure of a gift chapel reprises the author’s domed assembly hall in “Kristu-Du” (1979) and the glass towers of New York City fabulized in Bliss (1981) and anticipates the Demos Platz penthouse of investor Peggy Kram in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994). Lucinda’s glass-and-cast-iron church achieves its purpose, to contrast the “vague and rather frightening picture like ... factories, smokestacks, soot, the Empire,” the ominous claptrap awaiting the Australian colony from the motherland (Carey, 1988, 102). Unlike the intractable red brick of St. John’s in the Reverend Mr. Oscar Hopkins’s Randwick parish in Sydney, the structure flaunts glass as evidence of technological advancement, an alleged civilizing influence on colonial frontiers and an obvious parallel to its makers’ guilelessness. To industrialist Lucinda Leplastrier, glass is “invisible, solid, in short, a joyous and paradoxical thing, as good a material as any to build a life from,” a definition implying the ethereal nature of the soul (ibid., 135). Thus, the author discloses her downfall from a willingness to gamble on an elusive material that can both shatter and cut.

BETTING ON GLASS Fascination with glass enables Lucinda to achieve stature in a male-dominated world. Structured in Sydney at the Prince Rupert’s Glassworks out of panes set in a cast-iron aerie, the miniature of London’s Crystal Palace relieves diverse inadequacies— Lucinda’s inability to claim the prestige of the male investor/manufacturer and Oscar’s loss of integrity as a Church of England minister. At the same time, the incursion into the outback imposes what Robert Fraser terms “a distinctive Anglo-Catholic spirituality upon a tract of terra incognita perceived as spiritually barren” (Fraser, 2000, 157). As with prophecy in Greek myths, scripture, and fairy tales, the Reverend Dennis Hasset’s prediction that glass may shatter into a “dangerous thing” goes unheeded (Carey, 1988, 148). Aboriginal bard Kumbaingiri Billy reduces the expedition to simpler terms: “Glass cuts” (ibid., 397). By prefabricating and dispatching a see-through church up the Bellinger River, Oscar and Lucinda empower the trail boss, Mr. Jeffris, to impose a symbol of their times—the transparent interest of British missionaries in the Australian Aborigine. In a period of doctrinal wrangling over Tractarianism and Darwinism, the fragile institution offers no spiritual support to a troubled seeker like Oscar or to his fellow pastors, Dennis Hasset, Theophilus Hopkins, Hugh Stratton, Bishop Dancer, and Ian Wardley-Fish. Analyst Graham Huggan summarizes the glass motif as symbolic of “fated love and a solitary reminder of the misguided idealism which attended the ‘founding’ and forming of the new crown colony of Australia” (Huggan, 1990, 4). To transform the ending with irony, Carey labels Oscar’s glass



church a model of “his ancient enemy,” a personal bugaboo shrouded in hints of satanism (Carey, 1988, 514). The pragmatic Australians of Gleniffer replace broken panes with weatherboard painted lime green, allotting an inglorious remodeling to British idealism and a serio-comic comeuppance to the hated clergy who demean animistic worshipers of nature.

THWARTED PROMISE The imposition of nature symbols recurs in Carey’s late 20th-century works. In a review of The Tax Inspector (1991), Jen Craig, a critic for Southerly, imagines subtextual references to eggs as indicators of fragility. She finds associations with compact ovules in Ghopal’s Hare Krishna restaurant, in Granny Catchprice’s eggshell scalp and her superintendence of a poultry farm, and “the shape of the roof of Jack Catchprice’s beach house that opens to reveal ‘moon-edged clouds’ and a baby brush-tailed possum” (Craig, 1992, 152). In Jack’s seduction of tax auditor Maria Takis, he serves her bacon and eggs, a common meal suggestive of domestic pairing following a night of lovemaking. Craig posits innocence, renewal, and homely duty surrounding the featured arrival of Maria Takis’s baby boy. The review interprets the egg in ritual context: “As in traditional Easter ceremonies, ... the egg has come to symbolize a life ongoing, even renewed, through death and apparent destruction,” a description of Maria’s murder of Benny Catchprice, her abductor and the deliverer of Maria’s infant (ibid.). The concept of new life encompasses passivity in Mort Catchprice, who voices no rage at Cacka Catchprice for molesting his son, and in Granny Frieda McClusky Catchprice, an 86-year-old widow who conceals within her ovate cranium her awareness that her husband is a child abuser. Granny’s self-blinding requires circular rationalization: “I couldn’t have loved a man who was doing that to my children” (ibid., 246). Carey dramatizes Granny’s violation of women’s role in reproduction and protection of offspring by picturing her armed with gelignite, a source of witchy power out of bounds to a female nurturer. By abandoning the role of farm wife and mother, she accepts men’s work as her lot and loses her breasts to surgery, an amputation suggesting the lopping of her femininity. Critic Craig leaps to the conclusion that the Catchprice children might have retained their sexual innocence if Granny had dedicated her life to woman’s work and to guarding the nest. The destruction of Catchprice Motors requires that Granny martyr herself by “planting” seeds of gelignite around the perimeter and dying in the ensuing cataclysm.

TRUTH IN PIECES The author’s pervasive perusal of truth and its enemies reaches greater palpability in his more recent works. For the story of outlaw Edward “Ned” Kelly in True History of the Kelly Family (2000), Carey focuses on the historical use of plowshares and buckets to form armor to protect the four gang members from a police fusillade. As a comparison of the Kelly family’s Old World mores to segmented medieval military dress, the image of Ned clanking into a rainy night outside the Glenrowan inn and depot on June 28, 1880, implies serious gaps in philosophies unsuited to a colonial setting. To signal his advance to his men, Ned bangs his revolver against the chest piece, a demonstration of his role as head man of the gang as well as a gesture crediting him with the scheme of creating 120-pound metal suits as shields against police corruption. Carey uses the slow walk toward the police line as a symbol of martyrdom, Ned’s flailing strokes against his shield as plaintive as the creaks of a damaged cyborg. At the same time that the scenario ties him to crusaders’ methods, the behavior of the police sinks to atavism, “like a pack of dingoes. They ripped



him, kicked him ... thudded on his armoured chest” (Carey, 2000, 364). The many-againstone melee, ironically, assures Ned a place in Australian mythos as a defender of the immigrant underclass from imperialism. In his elaborate layered hoax story, My Life as a Fake (2003), Carey turns a kind gesture into a stripping of lies and chicanery. Aussie poet Christopher Chubb, a literary curiosity to editor Sarah Elizabeth Jane Wode-Douglas, arrives at a private discussion at the Hotel Merlin in a rain-drenched wool suit. Dating to the 1940s, the sole outfit that links him to the British ruling class bears a mélange of odors that Sarah finds offensive. As a kindness, she has the suit cleaned by the staff, who return it in tatters. Like the convoluted story of literary chicanery that he tells, his suit is a ruin —“now broken on the creases, papery and crumbling in his hand like the wing of a dead butterfly” (Carey, 2003, 100). By comparing it to a fragile insect, Carey extends his metaphor to reflect the human effort to write verse that defrauds publisher David Weiss, destroying his life. Like Ned’s awkward metal armor, Chubb’s suit becomes more hindrance than help. To Chubb, the destruction carries an unsubtle ouster from the hotel staff, who reject him from the premises for being poor and declassé. Carey broadens the symbolism in a subsequent image of Chubb wearing a bicycle chain around his neck, a self-imposed restraint illustrating the result of his literary hoax and his self-banishment from Australia to Malaya. His death from machete slashes once more dismembers shreds of truth into a hopeless pile of waste. In Theft: A Love Story (2006), Carey pursues the subject of authenticity in art, this time in painting. He turns the name of the protagonist, Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, into hyperbole brought to fruition through the cannibalizing of a period masterwork amid fickle critiques and fraudulent showings. Essayist John Updike pictured Butcher as a “slaughterer as he works ... rhapsodizing over paint like a vampire feasting on a vein ... brutal, strenuous, sucky” (Updike, 2006, 85). In a review for World Literature Today, critic Carolyn Bliss characterized the novel’s action as “[collusion] with the devil” in “piracy, vanity, imitation, and appropriation” (Bliss, 2007, 60). Similarly broad is the depiction of a retarded adult, Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, the work’s co-narrator. Critic John Updike visualizes Hugh’s dim-wittedness as “the lumbering epitome of Australian backwardness” (Updike, 2007, 361). Carey’s ambiguous delving into peril in the thriller His Illegal Self (2008) operates on two levels, the anxieties of a seven-year-old named Che David Selkirk over his separation from his grandmother, Phoebe Daschle Selkirk, and the terror of Anna “Dial” Xenos, the kidnapper who suspects police surveillance. The jangled odyssey that takes the duo from Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan to Yandina, Queensland, besets them with a cyclone and an ominous pair of hippies, Jean “John Rabbitoh” Rabiteau and Trevor Dobbs. At Yandina, the men force Dial and Che into the car to extort cash from Dial. Carey exerts the power of details by picturing the slosh of black flood water and the dislodging of five soaked Uno cards, two symbols of the elements that impact the travelers’ destiny. The foursome ends up in Crystal Community on Remus Creek Road, a tangle of vegetable patches, wild fruit trees, and vines reminiscent of the briar patch in the Uncle Remus tales of Joel Chandler Harris. Just as the warren suits the wily Br’er Rabbit, it becomes a hermitage for Dial and Che.

• Further readings Bliss, Carolyn. “Review: Theft: A Love Story,” World Literature Today 81, no. 2 (March/April 2007): 59 –60. Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2008.



_____. My Life as a Fake. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2003. _____. Oscar and Lucinda. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1988. _____. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. _____. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. _____. War Crimes. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1979. Craig, Jen. “The Real Thing,” Southerly 52, no. 1 (1992): 152–156. Edwards, Brian. Theories of Play and Postmodern Fiction. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1998. Fraser, Robert. Lifting the Sentence. Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press, 2000. Griffin, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 97 (1996): 14 –17. Huggan, Graham. “Is the (Gunter) Grass Greener on the Other Side? Oskar and Lucinde in the New World,” World Literature Written in English 30, no. 1 (1990): 1 –10. Meyer, Lisa. “An Interview with Peter Carey,” Chicago Review 43, no. 2 (1997): 83 –84. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007.

Takis, Maria The title figure and hero in Carey’s The Tax Inspector (1991), Maria Takis, the daughter of non-English-speaking Greek immigrants, epitomizes Australia’s resilient newcomers. Her escape from an ancestral burden represents the rising Australian professional class as well as the independent single parent who jettisons the baggage of an unworthy sire for her unborn son. A people’s Madonna, she atones for an affair with her married boss Alistair, for which she performs civil service scut work for an annual salary of $36,000. In the role of tax auditor protecting the equitable collection of state revenues, she respects the citizens of Franklin Heights, the crumbling west end of Sydney. She suffers the isolation and monomania common to principled idealists. Her goal is distributive justice, a highmindedness symbolized by her homey fragrance of apples as opposed to the “smell of rubber radiator hoses, fan belts, oil, grease, petrol vapour” that pollutes Catchprice Motors, the company she investigates (Carey, 1991, 60). Her motto—“I’m crazy enough to think the world can change”— sets her apart from Sydney’s amoral elite, who care nothing for social welfare programs for the poor and homeless (ibid., 216). Initially, Maria Takis fits the description of other stout-hearted second generation middle-class Euro-Australians. She looks back on her mother and recalls eyes “made of steely grey stuff, ball-bearings.... She did not lack confidence. Fear had not shifted her” (ibid., 37). At age 20, Maria abandons her husband and family and returns to Letkos, her birthplace, to visit Great-Uncle Petros, her father’s brother, a touchstone of folk integrity among the Greek Orthodox. The reunion suggests the source of her character and of her respect for law and the work ethic. She acknowledges grassroots morality in her disdain for the rich: “We never did like people with money in this house. We grew up mostly thinking they were crooks” (ibid., 191). During twelve years auditing tax avoiders for the Taxation Office, she targets owners of big boats in Port Stephens, drivers of Rolls-Royces, purchasers of expensive art, and patrons of “off-shore tax havens ... Slutzkin schemes, Currans, and sham charities” (ibid., 123). At age 34, except for legs, fingers, and belly swollen by edema in the eighth month of her pregnancy, Maria fits the prototype of the committed detective.

MARIA’S DILEMMA Both morally and personally, Maria is the novel’s only realist. She believes in her job and in the purpose of taxation as a social leveler: “It makes me sick ... to see all these skunks with their car phones and champagne and I see all this homelessness and poverty....



You don’t need socialism to fix that, you just need a good Taxation Office” (ibid., 216). In the words of critic Jen Craig in an article for Southerly, the tax auditor “exists as a shadow of impressions, of moods” enhanced by her hormonal state (Craig, 1992, 154). In the review of Francine Prose for the New York Times, Maria “[sees] herself as a kind of Robin Hood bringing the tax cheat to justice and reclaiming fortunes that the rich had skimmed from what they rightfully owe the poor” (Prose, 1992). Maria regrets having to investigate the meager finances of Catchprice Motors of Franklin Heights, a comedown from her visits to prosperous Sydney businesses owing millions of dollars. Her affair with Jack Catchprice alters her thinking about the job of auditing the tax debt of the rich scofflaw. In his company, she sits at the sea wall at the Rose Bay home of Corky Missenden and imagines taking part in a television commercial among people wealthy enough to bid on major art works at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City, an issue that Carey explores in detail in Theft: A Love Story (2006). Maria’s distrust of the wealthy jolts her with the realization that she is “sexually excited by a criminal,” whom she thinks of as a stereotypical superficial yuppie (Carey, 1991, 239). Carey extends the lascivious thought by picturing the harbor “licked and lapped” by waves (ibid.). In a Newsweek review, critic Malcolm Jones, Jr., summarizes Maria’s frustration at “badgering, wheedling, flirting, whining,” with the “mulish Catchprices,” for whom “her pity turns to exasperation and then to disgust” (Jones, 1992, 60). She longs to elude the tight circle of tax auditors at a romantic dinner with Jack at Chez Oz and to express feelings that broaden her everyday outlook and relieve her bureaucratic doldrums. At the dinner party in Rose Bay, she sits near artist Phillip Passos and realizes that his paintings taught her to admire Australian topography, “which she still saw, everywhere, in their terms” (Carey, 1991, 242). The irony of her last-minute invitation to a gathering discussing the rights of artists to profits on their works regenerates a tax auditor’s passion for the poor and homeless. Carey describes her feeling as a personal response to the mega-rich, who exerted in him “the kind of anger I never thought I’d feel” (Craven, 1991, 47). At an epiphany, Maria, speaking Carey’s revulsion for moneyed excess, identifies Jack as a member of “an alien culture” (Carey, 1991, 251). See also Catchprice-Takis genealogy; mothering; The Tax Inspector.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. Craig, Jen. “The Real Thing,” Southerly 52, no. 1 (1992): 152–156. Craven, Peter. “Doubting Peter,” Business Review Weekly Spring Supplement (spring 1991): 47. Floyd, Chris. “Review: The Tax Inspector,” Span no 33 (May 1992): 179 –181. Gray, Paul. “Australia’s Family Ties,” Time 139, no. 3 (20 January 1992): 54 –55. Jones, Malcolm. “The Down-Under Car Dealers from Hell,” Newsweek 119, no. 4 (27 January 1992): 60. Prose, Francine. “Would You Buy a Used Car from This Family,” New York Times (12 January 1992). Stewart, Miranda. “Australian Stories of Tax and Fairness: A Feminist Reading of Peter Carey’s The Tax Inspector,” Australian Feminist Law Journal 18 (June 2003): 1 –25.

The Tax Inspector (1991) Carey’s fourth novel, the anti-capitalist black comedy The Tax Inspector, pictures a Monday–Thursday assignment to regulate a loosely controlled contemporary family in what the author terms “a disturbed and difficult home” (Carey, 1991, 203). Set in a milieu as scrappy as the drive-in in “Crabs” (1974) and as worthless as the depleted society of “The Chance” (1974), the wire-fenced compound surrounding a car lot represses a caged



family, a parallel of the incarceration of the Badgery clan in Illywhacker (1985) and anticipating the social confinement of the Kelly-Quinn clan in True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). The author asserted to the media that he abandoned the postmodern gambit for something “more human, more real” (Liddelow, 1991, 98). For the author’s candor about civilian barbarism, child molestation, and a foundering society, the novel, a print version of film noir, is perhaps his least popular and most inaccessible work. Critical opinion tends toward harsh criticism of Carey’s premise and setting. Despite the plethora of religious metaphor in the text, according to critic Bruce Woodcock, the novel is Carey’s most savage, ending in what reviewer Bill Marx, in a critique for The Nation, terms “the clang of extinction, the thump of doomsday” (Marx, 1992, 346). Eden Liddelow, in an essay for Scripsi, dismisses Carey’s work as a “white trash novel” for its investigation of incest and family dysfunction (Liddelow, 1991, 96). Rhoda Koenig, a reviewer for New York Magazine, describes the cast as having “the feel of brightly colored cartoon characters” (Koenig, 1992, 62). Miranda Stewart, in a critique for the Australian Feminist Law Journal, notes the pitting of one national myth against the other — the nation’s sense of fairness vs. the myth of the outlaw tax evader as hero, a national type that Carey returned to in True History of the Kelly Gang. Between the anti-mythic extremes fall the noble social champion Maria Takis and men like seducer Jack Catchprice and champagne-quaffing gangster Wally Fischer, people who “have beautiful things and ugly minds” (Stewart, 2003, 16).

MENACE IN THE ’BURBS Influenced by the Bundren family, an agrarian white trash clan in William Faulkner’s Southern Gothic novel As I Lay Dying (1930), Carey delves into the bizarre motivations and vicious grudges of individual members of the Catchprice household. In reference to their predilection for personal attacks and violence, critic John F. Baker, in an interview for Publishers Weekly, termed the cast “a Grand Guignol family of car dealers” (Baker, 1991, 37). For landscape, the author chooses a semi-defunct car lot in Franklin Heights on the western outskirts of Sydney. The menacing nature of the settings, according to analyst M. D. Fletcher, is a place where “people do not share the landscape but, rather, avoid being out in it, especially at night,” when the matriarch, 86-year-old Gran Frieda McClusky Catchprice, a former shire councilor, locks the gate as a symbol of power over the household (Fletcher, 1997, 180). The gesture fails to ward off a greater power from the Australian Taxation Office, wielded against the Catchprice clan by auditor Maria Takis, a gung-ho warrior for tax fairness. Regret sets the tone of a family dwelling in a claustrophobic purgatory. In widowhood, Frieda sinks into the infirmities of old age and grieves for the dream of her youth to establish a flower farm. Her hold on the compound’s keys weakens, a symbol of the shift in financial and moral control of a household beyond rescue. Her son Mort retreats from the sales career modeled by his father Cacka; Mort’s brother Jack drapes himself in refinement and wealth at his Bilgola beach house by allying with Sydney’s underworld, represented by gangster Wally Fischer. Frieda’s daughter Cathy, a 45-year-old would-be rock star, abandons opera for country-western and a place in the band Big Mack. Capping family extremes, Mort’s 18-year-old son Johnny sheds name and persona to become Vish, a neophyte Hare Krishna who finds more family stability and vegetarian contentment among anonymous converts at the local Buddhist ashram. The existence of Buddhist devotees in Australia served Carey once more in Theft: A Love Story (2006) as a source of food and protection for street people.



Graced with what reviewer Melissa Bellanta calls angel-beauty, the 16-year-old son Benny, a psychopath whom the author pictures as “cynically predatory,” is a walking time bomb (Bellanta, 2003). He seeks affirmation as a hero within the family’s core, a motif that Carey repeats in his children’s book The Big Bazoohley (1995). Benny bears the facial charisma of a Veronese altar boy. Reviewer Paulette Jones depicts him as “the enigma who mostly inhabits the other side of reality,” an allusion to his schizophrenia (Jones, 1991, 58). As though dressing for Halloween, Benny first strips himself of body hair, as though he “had been peeled of history” (Carey, 1991, 132). He bleaches his hair and decks himself in punk finery prefatory to taking over Mort’s place as head salesman. The veneer is so shallow that, like a transmogrified Superman, “he undressed ... and — zap — he lost it” (ibid., 98). Exploding tenuous relationships into dark corners of grief, fear, and anguish is a dramatic crisis— the visit of Maria Takis, the state tax auditor, whose investigation threatens a rickety family business in the sale of used vehicles and car parts. The assessment suggests a study of the Australian underclass, the ragged commercial basis of towns and cities that the author recalls from his youth in Bacchus Marsh.

THE ROT WITHIN The assessment of ethics brings to light a morass of immorality. The arrival of Takis at the car lot interjects an honest, achievement-oriented perspective from a woman with “a clear sense of the moral imperatives” (ibid., 170). Critic Karen Lamb describes the Catchprice family landscape as “peopled almost exclusively by the devious and the damned,” obvious opponents of Maria’s mindset (Lamb, 1992, 49). Of the freakish assembly, only Jack, the self-confident networker, is “not angry and threatened and who seemed ... to be in control of his life,” an achievement he maintains by shadowy relations with the gangster underworld (ibid., 169). At a tense point for the members who remain on Catchprice land, Vish states a painful truth in the form of a rhetorical question: “Why do we keep hurting each other?” (ibid., 162). He concludes that the family car business inhibits contentment. For Frieda, his grandmother, Catchprice Motors, a GM dealership, represents marital loyalty, the kind of compromise a woman makes to satisfy her husband’s ambitions. In retrospect, she looks out over the family’s compound and sees the source of pollutants: “They’re pumping out poison,” her term for exhaust fumes and an allusion to family relations (ibid., 163). Her son Jack’s reflections reprise the lethal image of the company as “a badly tended family grave” crumbling, reeking of mold and decrepitude (ibid., 167). His appearance at the time of the tax audit equates with voyeurism, “like a politician who must be seen at the site of a disaster” (ibid., 168). Critic Paul Kane identified The Tax Inspector as “a novel of disjunctions— a playing out of the master trope of irony” (Kane, 1993, 519). Jack, who has donned the mask of the exemplary citizen, cashes in favors with the underworld to stop the investigation. He regrets that “the steps were dirty and the connections dangerous” (Carey, 1991, 236). As the novel hurtles to a close, Carey orchestrates an unexpected antiphony, a tour de force that required 12 rewrites. Its lurid appeal has the same attraction as the carnage of a roadside smash-up to a voyeur. Contrasting operatic scenes depict Mort Catchprice revealing to Frieda his father’s obscene sexual fantasies involving his own children and Jack Catchprice’s admission that he makes deals with criminals: “I crawled down sewers. I shook hands with rats” (ibid., 238). The labyrinthine image harks back to the Greek myth of the Minotaur, a man-beast engendered by perverse coitus between a bull and Queen Pasiphaë of Crete.



Both sons teeter on the edge of reclamation. Mort recalls a time when “we didn’t wind our speedos back. We paid our taxes. We told the truth” (ibid., 69). He tries to protect his elderly mother by divulging only so much of the seamy past as necessary. Jack vows to change his extravagant, illicit lifestyle to secure Maria’s love. His speech honoring parenthood and survival of the species sounds oddly self-serving when he predicts, “The world is just going to slide further and further into the sewer” (ibid., 252). Suspense seizes the final scene as Frieda sets gelignite charges around Catchprice Motors and lights fuses while Benny holds Maria in the cellar at the point of a sawed-off shotgun. In his search for love, he observes her delivery of an infant son that he names for himself, a grafting of the Christian myth of the fallen angel Lucifer to the divine birth of a messiah to the Virgin Mary. Carey observed, “I wanted birth to win and somehow transform the other person. But then I saw it was impossible for that to happen. I was unable to invent the happy ending I wanted” (Grimes, 1992, C15). See also Catchprice-Takis genealogy; mothering; Takis, Maria.

• Further readings Baker, John F. “Interview with Peter Carey,” Publishers Weekly (13 December 1991): 37–38. Bellanta, Melissa. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Australian Public Intellectual Network (April 2003). Carey, Peter. The Tax Inspector. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991. Fletcher, M. D. “Political Identity in Contemporary Australian Literature: David Malouf and Peter Carey,” The Politics of Identity in Australia, ed. Geoff Stokes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Floyd, Chris. “Review: The Tax Inspector,” Span no 33 (May 1992): 179 –181. Grimes, William. “An Australian Novelist with a Full-Tilt Pace and Ferocious Humor,” New York Times (28 January 1992): C11, C15. Jones, Paulette. “Inspecting ‘Civilised’ Worlds,” Social Alternatives 10, no. 4 (December 1991): 58 –59. Kane, Paul. “Postcolonial/Postmodern: Australian Literature and Peter Carey,” World Literature Today 67, no. 3 (1993): 519 –522. Koenig, Rhoda. “Taxes and Death,” New York (13 January 1992): 62. Lamb, Karen. Peter Carey: The Genesis of Fame. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992. Liddelow, Eden. “New Model Carey,” Scripsi 7, no. 2 (1991): 93 –100. Marx, Bill. “Dystopia Down Under,” The Nation 254, no. 10 (16 March 1992): 346 –347. Stewart, Miranda. “Australian Stories of Tax and Fairness: A Feminist Reading of Peter Carey’s The Tax Inspector,” Australian Feminist Law Journal 18 (June 2003): 1 –25. Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1996.

Theft: A Love Story Carey’s Theft: A Love Story (2006) is a seductive and farcical thriller about a backwoods painter’s attempt to understand the vagaries of popularity in the art world. The text, which reviewer Karen Lamb in a critique for Australian Book Review calls an “ode to misunderstanding,” reads like an invention on a symphonic theme (Lamb, 2006). In writing it, the author reprises the raw obsessions of the literati in My Life as a Fake (2003) and tidbits of literary marketing from Wrong about Japan (2005). Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, a divorced ex-con attempting to revive his painting career, falls in love with a facilitator, felon and murderer Marlene Cook Leibovitz, an art authenticator. The pair become comically codependent in reconnecting Butcher to galleries and investors and in enabling Marlene to palm off a stolen Leibovitz, painted by her father-in-law, abstract artist Jacques Leibovitz. Carey makes it hard for the reader to cheer for the good guys, who are in short supply among venal, double-dealing art exploiters. Negative elements dominate the narrative. To John Freeman, reviewer for the Lon-



don Independent, Carey’s mutinous novel is “a dark, cackling tale” suited to the Gothicism of noir fiction (Freeman, 2006). Freeman envisions the setting as an ethical atmosphere for fiction because of its “ooze and suck like the marshland that surrounds the rivers,” a metaphor for external chicanery and the protagonist’s subjective self-miring (ibid.). According to John Haber’s essay for the New York Times, Carey “shares the belief in a secret society” of a marketing underworld, which his novel sets in the money-grubbing Reagan era (Haber, 2006). The author informed Freeman of the gist of his research into mendacity and investment the 1980s: that artists’ widows, investors, marketers, and authenticators ravaged each other in an ongoing round-robin of manipulation. At the far edge of global art dwelt Australians, the provincial know-nothings of professionalism and dupes of hucksters. In the belly of protagonist Michael “Butcher Bones” Boone, an out-of-style painter and ex-con, ferments contempt for the philistine world. He lumps its denizens into one image —“the Fifty-Seventh Street Gang”— a reference to an internationally famous art venue, a clean shot through Manhattan noted for tony lounges and galleries (Carey, 2006, 40). In an authorial aside, Carey, like William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury (1929), speaks through the counterpoint of 34-year-old Hugh “Slow Bones” Boone, Butcher’s autistic younger brother. The retardate, who appears to gain credibility as his voice gains strength, describes the true artist’s curse. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the talented are constantly “MAKING ART the labour never ends, no peace, no Sabbath, just eternal churning and cursing and worrying and fretting” (ibid., 23). To assure a future for himself and Hugh, Butcher uses Hugh’s disability checks to buy Dulux house paint and purloined canvas, his only means of resuscitating an art career stunted by an acrimonious divorce and a four-year stretch in Long Bay Prison in Malabar, New South Wales. Butcher’s crime — trying to steal back the canvases the judge awarded the ex-wife. In reference to alienation, Butcher later characterizes his immersion in work in nihilistic terms: while he labors, “everyone was dead to me. R. I. P.” (ibid., 38). Accentuating the dark-souled hunger to turn perception into two-dimensional art, Carey mentions Latvian painter Mark Rothko, a nihilist abstractionist dead in 1970 at age 66 after he slashed his arms with a razor.

SHAPING SATIRE The geometrics of Theft is a socio-economic vortex. As a backdrop, Carey sets the action in what John Freeman describes as “Bellingen and its wild energy — its machines and their grinding differentials, the river’s mercurial violence” (Freeman, 2006). Susan Wyndham, a critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, summarizes the resurgence of a working-class painter and ex-con as “revenge on the centre by the periphery,” the metaphoric despoiler of prime wood flooring with stapling and splashes of varnish and Dulux (Wyndham, 2006). Carey expresses the character’s heightened emotion with sharpened diction. Of the entrepreneur’s role in history, Butcher Bones curses “the market, the rich guys” for seizing the right to authorize art (ibid., 33). He later asserts, “The problem with art is the people who buy it,” a broad smear of the endorsement that assigns a dollar value to creativity (ibid., 41). He describes Bellingen’s self-important law enforcers as “the midgets of officialdom” (ibid., 51). The incisive criticisms precede the artist’s forced sale of the canvas If You Have Ever Seen a Man Die to art grabber Jean-Paul Milan for $10,000. Following in March 1981 is the artist’s necessary move to a new studio location at Bathurst Street in north-central Sydney. After a lengthy dodge-and-weave through the international art set, the novel proves the credo of the Bones brothers’ fatalistic mother, the enigmatic observation that God’s wheels grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.



In a review for The Age, James Bradley looks closer at the author than do less fastidious critics. Bradley finds Carey’s examination of the Bacchus Marsh moorings “an unsettling and peculiarly working-class mixture of sentimentality and violence,” two motivators of the Bones brothers’ grimly righteous mother and their two-fisted father, “Blue Bones” Boone (Bradley, 2006). Through the eyes of brothers reared in the stink and squalor of a village abattoir, Bradley locates ambivalence toward the homeland as well as a countryfed energy and wit that the reviewer calls self-parody. Because the novel ends on a barely optimistic disjuncture of Butcher from Marlene, Bradley labels the novel a starkly disquieting mockery of “Australian philistinism” as well as of the protagonist, “a monster of his own making, a nightmare of overweening ego, self-satisfaction and surprising ignorance” (ibid.). A rebuttal comes from Karen Lamb. She muses that, through “petty hatreds strewn across the unlucky paths of the characters..., Carey somehow manages once again to place a loving hand on the shoulder of humankind” (Lamb, 2006). See also Boone-Leibovitz genealogy; “Butcher Bones”; humor; parenthood.

• Further readings Bradley, James. “Peter Carey’s Latest Novel Is an Excursion into Fraudulent Art,” The Age (8 April 2006). Carey, Peter. Theft: A Love Story. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2006. Freeman, John. “Peter Carey: Art and Lies— and Money,” Independent (26 May 2006). Haber, John. “Fraud and Theft,” New York Times (15 November 2006). Jeyan, Subash. “The Angry Periphery,” The Hindu (5 November 2006). Lamb, Karen. “Carey’s Love Affair with Fakery,” Australian Book Review (April 2006). Matthews, Charles. “The Art of Theft,” Houston Chronicle (11 June 2006): 16. Stayton, Jeff. “Review: Theft: A Love Story,” Missouri Review 29, no. 3 (fall 2006): 173 –174. Updike, John. Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. New York: Random House, 2007. Wyndham, Susan. “A Love-Hate Story,” Sydney Morning Herald (1 April 2006).

30 Days in Sydney Carey provoked a mini-storm of contention with his glimpse of home in 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001), which he based on a journey made alone from New York City in April 2000. The ambivalent encomium opens on the author craning to view Sidney Harbor from a 747 and his admission of a “typical Melbournian distrust of that vulgar crooked convict town” (Carey, 2001, 2). On reintroduction to the terrain from Kingsford Smith Airport to a friend’s house, Carey launches a stream of impressions. He establishes Sydney’s uniqueness— the absence of a middle class among its servile settlers, a tendency toward individualism and anti-intellectualism, the officiousness of Australian bureaucracy, and the boozing and good-timing of pals who epitomize the Sydney élan. The Aussie touchiness over issues of pride and historical lies precedes Carey’s observation that “The past in Sydney is like this, both celebrated and denied, buried yet everywhere in evidence” (ibid., 9). Overcome by nostalgia for his homeland, Carey considers bringing his wife and family back to Australia. To capture the city in a memoir, Carey focuses on the four elements— earth, air, fire, and water. The premise generates what Peter Porter, a critic for Spectator, calls “mythopoeic force” through a connection to the elements (Porter, 2001, 35). Commentary favors risk takers who enjoy raw nature, particularly sailors of the 54th annual Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race of December 1998. At unforeseen moments, Carey dips into serious matters of aboriginal swidden agriculture, a primitive slash-and-burn method called firestick farming that purified and renewed the primeval land for 40,000 years. Much of the text



meanders through private memories of old friends and excursions, stopping frequently to muse over the imperial lie that Australia was open land when the British colonized it. Gleeful adventures rappelling into a gorge, sailing into a gale, lambasting ugly housing units overlooking Bondi Beach, trekking in the Blue Mountains, and fighting a bushfire establish a masculine perspective on storytelling. In the style of long-parted comrades with plenty to share, Carey and friends punctuate with plenty of “fuck” and “shit,” the swear words common to man-talk. On a less exuberant note, he relives a panic attack on the harbor bridge and a dream of climbing through holes in the steel girders. He discloses the refusal of officials to record the high number of leapers who commit suicide from the Gap, a sandstone escarpment overlooking the Pacific.

STYLE AND TONE Carey’s enterprising travelogue fluctuates in tone from judgment to mystical impressionism to self-indulgent bursts of witty repartee with buddies. At a significant point in the author’s summation, he compares island history to a bloodstain that refuses to disappear under successive coats of paint. For corroboration of his memories and his perceptions of the Australian frontier, he gains perspective by taping the anecdotes of an attorney, an architect, a veteran of the Vietnam War, a squatter in a shed overlooking Darling Harbour, and a brawler at Coluzzi’s Bar, a landmark on Victoria Street in northwest Sydney. To shield their anonymity, he gives them made-up names and conceals the location of a writer’s cave and the location of a cascade where two climbers die. To the male-heavy mix, he adds an outraged wife and a female wrecker driver, an Aborigine who treasures, yet shreds the medals her father earned at Gallipoli, Turkey, a World War I landing site for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) that cost 26,111 casualties. Criticisms ranged to extremes. For Carey’s obvious pose and his artsy exhibitionism, critic Jeremy Fenton, a reviewer for the Northern Rivers Echo, found the book gimmicky. Peter Porter charged Carey outright with patronizing island blacks and with deliberately avoiding Sydney’s more appealing landscapes and attractions. Gary Krist, an analyst for the New York Times, called the narrative “frank and restless” for its ambivalent attitude toward home territory and Australia’s racist past (Krist, 2001, 34). Phillip Knightley, in a critique for the London Independent, reverenced the rollicking travelogue as “a hymn to all those characteristics that make Australians who they are: collectivism, mateship, courage, disdain for authority and love of life, a people forever on holiday” (Knightley, 2001). See also Carey, Peter.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account. London: Bloomsbury, 2001. Carlson, Joseph L. “Review: 30 Days in Sydney,” Library Journal 126, no. 13 (1 August 2001): 144. Conard, Kristin. “Review: 30 Days in Sydney,” Feminist Review (25 April 2009). Conrad, Peter. “A Bridge Too Far,” Guardian (9 September 2001). Fenton, Jeremy. “Word on Books,” Northern Rivers Echo no. 733 (5 May 2009). Hooper, Brad. “Review: 30 Days in Sydney,” Booklist 97, no. 22 (August 2001): 2078 –2079. Jones, Rhadika. “Interview,” Paris Review in The Paris Review Interview, II. New York: Macmillan, 2007. Knightley, Phillip. “This Convict Town Turned Stylish Metropolis Enjoys Tall Stories and High Spirits,” Independent (4 August 2001). Krist, Gary. “A Month Down Under,” New York Times (16 September 2001): 34. Maliszewski, Paul. “Review: 30 Days in Sydney,” Review of Contemporary Fiction (22 June 2002). Porter, Peter. “A Month in the City,” Spectator 287, no. 9029 (25 August 2001): 35 –36. Review: 30 Days in Sydney,” Publishers Weekly 126, no. 13 (20 August 2001): 144. “Sunny Side Up,” Economist 360, no. 8237 (1 September 2001): 73.



True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) Carey relates his neo-historical memoir True History of the Kelly Gang, his second Booker Prize winner, as a tribute to the Australian wild and to a gut-deep myth of the folk hero emerging from class warfare. Clea Simon, reviewer for the Boston Phoenix, charges the author with a yen to depict Australia “as the land of proud outlaws, heir to the largely British and Irish criminals who founded the Australian republic in their own roughhewn image” (Simon, 2003, 28). Like novelist Michael Shaara, author of soldier memoir in The Killer Angels (1971), and Charles Frazier, recreator of Civil War angst on Cold Mountain (1997), Carey relies on the words of desperado Edward “Ned” Kelly and encourages the reader to self-interpret the lawbreaker’s choices. According to literary historian Andrew R. L. Cayton, the need for subjective judgment is implicit in the memoir: “The engine of the action is personal, a motive undecipherable in extant records” (Cayton, 2003, 337). Carey puts a personal slant on the fictional account. To Jessica Murphy, an interviewer for Atlantic Unbound, the author explained his intent to enlighten readers on “what was in the unwritten dark,” particularly Ned’s relationship with his mother (Murphy, 2003). Through stream-of-consciousness, Carey professes sympathy for the burgeoning criminality in a dispossessed Anglo-Celtic family and community in north central Victoria. In the words of Ron Charles, a reviewer for the Christian Science Monitor, the novel’s style “rips like a falling tree” (Charles, 2001, 20). In a harrowing progression from the title figure in Jack Maggs (1997) to Ned Kelly, Carey develops an oxymoron — the mindset of the noble picaro. According to reviewer Ken Foster, he gives the rural scapegrace sincerity, spontaneity, vehemence, and “a Pip-like combination of soul and haplessness” (Foster, 2001). The author explained to interviewer Donna Seaman his purpose in revisiting legend: “We’ve tried with lies and silences as Ned Kelly would say, and so we obsessively return and try to find the whole truth” (Seaman, 2005, 57). That truth, according to critic Janet Maslin, in a review for the New York Times, gives the text “an angry backbone” (Maslin, 2001). To extend fairness to young men killed in the flower of manhood, Carey applies a generosity toward Ned and his brother Dan that views them as sons, wranglers, pals, and renegades. The brothers develop the principles of the Western hero and the outlook of orphans, a direct connection to Australia’s “lost child” lore.

THE OUTLAW’S MILIEU A purveyor of Gothic convention, Carey opens on a lumbering robot, a cyborg with a metal headpiece and body armor that protects the humanoid from police sharpshooters armed with Martini-Henry rifles. Ned Kelly, the mock hero and remembrancer, alludes to the U.S.S. Monitor, the first U. S. Navy ironclad, which served during the Civil War for nine months until its disappearance at sea off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on December 31, 1862. The link to a heroic loss implies the gangster’s split vision of himself as the invincible champion of the poor and as a victim of an historic tragedy, the persecution of Irish Catholic immigrants in Australia. He shifts the bush narrative to the perspective of his flinty, vindictive mother, Ellen Quinn Kelly, a fireside storyteller whose personal tale bears the defiant, self-martyring tone of traditional Celtic bard and ballad. As a psychological study, Ned’s engrossing monologue reveals lean times in the lives of Aussie frontier poor, whom Protestant officials attempt to uproot and scatter. The recipient of the novel’s 13 letters, the fictional infant daughter of Ned and his common-law wife,



Mary Hearn, particularizes the author’s pity for widows, one-parent households, and orphans, a prevalent theme in Australia’s postcolonial literature. Carey reprises the concept of imposture in Ned Kelly’s childhood battle with outsiders’ gibes that his father dresses like a woman. Upon locating a small tin trunk containing a rose-edged dress and feathered mask in 1861, the seven-year-old boy rebels against John “Red” Kelly’s alleged transvestism, the disguise for the Sons of Sieve, a secret brotherhood of Irish rebels. Without understanding his father’s old country loyalty, Ned burns the evidence in a thistle patch, a symbol of the contradictions tormenting his thoughts and robbing him of a father and family support. The roil of antagonisms— homophobia, hostility, guilt, shame — thrust Ned into a complex grief that he ponders into adulthood until his wife Mary elucidates the violence of Irish rebel societies. He mourns, “Father son of my heart are you dead from me are you dead from me my father,” a lament echoing the I-thou conscience delvings of David’s threnody in II Samuel 18:33 (Carey, 2000, 33). The narrative depicts Ned in an existential bind. In adulthood, his multiple woes thrust him, young and rudderless, into a rapacious society of grifters, horse thieves, informers, and rogue police officers, a type Carey reviles more thoroughly in Theft: A Love Story (2006) and in a police raid of a hippie commune in Queensland in His Illegal Self (2008). By age 20, Ned’s grudge against Isaiah “Wild” Wright for tricking him into receiving a stolen horse eats at Ned’s contentment while he works in a lumber camp as a tree feller. To ease his vengefulness, he begins mocking Wild Wright’s mute brother Dummy. The ploy becomes “a poisoned bait I lay out for my bear,” a phrase permeated with the bitterness blighting Ned’s heart with thoughts of “how I would punish the mongrel for my ruined life” (ibid., 180, 183). As dreams and wicked fantasies infest his thoughts, Ned rues turning against his own father, a sin that takes on biblical proportions for its betrayal of the family patriarch.

HIERARCHY AND BANDITRY Regret sets the tone of the memoir’s second half, in which the Kelly family begins losing its cohesion. Ned faults his American stepfather, horseman George King, for luring Ned’s brother Dan, at age 16, into crime and gang membership. Dan’s involvement in the Greta Mob takes the form of exhibitionism in galloping snorting horses through the streets, “the riders dressed very flash like desperadoes their hat straps beneath their noses and coloured sashes round their waists” (ibid., 193). With little effort, Ned wrests from the boy an admission, “I’m such a fool” (ibid., 194). Upon returning Dan to his friends, Ned acknowledges a truism about teenage gang membership — the mob is “just young lads galloping to and fro to kill the time,” but public reaction to their noisy marauding leads to a confrontation with the locals (ibid., 196). Because Protestant English squatter R. R. McBean advances anti–Irish slanders against the Kelly clan, Ned sullies himself by allowing vengeance against McBean to become “a serpent inside his arteries a plague rat in his bowels” (ibid., 199). No wiser than Dan, Ned, the marginalized farmer and pariah, falls victim to anti-immigrant prejudice, the same bias that empowers Carey’s Jack Maggs (1997). Though semi-literate at best and near doggerel at its worst, Carey’s dialogue is both compelling and persuasive. After Ned’s fictional affair with Mary Hearn, the novel’s twisted loyalties, urgent debates, reckless crimes, and abrupt escapes ensnare him in dilemma. Already dishonored by Constable Alexander “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, the father of her infant son George, Mary learns of the posse hunt for Ned the same night that Fitzy suggests a



way to secure money from the Stock Protection Association: “They’ll think you the Blessed Virgin if you help them catch Ned Kelly” (ibid., 241). A temptation blending perfidy with mention of Irish Catholicism’s maternal icon, the suggestion carries a threat of seizure of her child if Mary refuses to cooperate. The scene teems with ethnic implications as Mary attempts to escape from the Arundel Street brothel in Benalla while “the floor were shuddering beneath the heavy tread of RESPECTABLE squatter’s boots” (ibid., 242). Carey implies that the same corrupt social order that pays for sex from Irish women undermines their loyalty to Irish men. Like Ned, Mary fights the lies and rumors that impugn her reputation.

A DOOMED CRUSADE Ned’s idiosyncratic reminiscence builds on the chanciness of trust in lost causes. In the estimation of critic Ralf Hertel, the text is like a tattoo, “a story written on the body, a story steeped in Ned’s own sweat and blood” (Hertel, 2005, 180). It reaches a chilling epiphany late in the telling, when Ned rides to a ridge overlooking Mount Cobbler and admits, “The bush protected no one,” an existential charge against nature itself for betraying the underdog (ibid., 298). Comparing stage robber Harry Power to the English outlaw Robin Hood and the Scottish highwayman Rob Roy, Ned recognizes the reciprocity between the outlaw and police. Harry’s luck runs out when he bids too low for his freedom and incites the police to tempt a traitor with a blood price of £500, a buyout that prefigures the betrayal of the Kelly gang. Carey pictures the informer, schoolmaster Thomas Curnow, as a fastidious snob repulsed by the 13 bundles of sweaty pages that Ned hands over, a “rank untidy nest” filled with “conceit and ignorance” (Carey, 2000, 343). The irony of Curnow’s devaluation of outlaw autobiography dramatizes contrasting values of Australia’s educated class and its agrarian folk. Through mimetic idiom and kaleidoscopic gallops over the outback of Victoria and New South Wales, Carey generates a headlong immediacy in Ned’s last days of liberty. Never still, he lives in the saddle, his eyes scanning the horizon, a nervous wariness of the outlaw that Carey reprises among hippies at Crystal Community in His Illegal Self (2008). Hertel describes Ned’s language as “[allowing] no gaps, no breaks, no stops, no moments of catching breath ... an impenetrable layer of words,” an immortalizing armor that assures his reputation (Hertel, 2005, 181). Betrayal, stoicism, and loss dominate the final scenes after Ned collapses from bullet wounds to both legs and his left arm. Curnow, who cowers in his cottage as police pour a fusillade into the gang’s hiding place at the Glenrowan inn, retains Ned’s protective epidermis, a metaphorical skinning of the hero that justifies his choices and deeds. His final wishes for his mother’s release and his burial in a cemetery summon no mercy from his traducers and the first-time executioner, Upjohn. Carey allows only glimmers of folk respect for Ned, the embers that later blaze into Australia’s enduring outback romance. For its epic grandeur, Robert Ross, a critic for World & I, called the novel a “chronicle of Australia’s quest for national identity” (Ross, 2001, 251). See also injustice; Kelly, Ned; Kelly-Quinn genealogy.

• Further readings Carey, Peter. True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. Cayton, Andrew R. L. Insufficient Woe: Sense and Sensibility in Writing Nineteenth-Century History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Charles, Ron. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in One Man,” Christian Science Monitor 93, no. 37 (18 January 2001): 20.



Coad, David. “Review: True History of the Kelly Gang,” World Literature Today 75, no. 2 (22 March 2001): 314. Edric, Robert. “Remaking Ned,” Guardian (6 January 2001). Foster, Ken. “Outlaw in the Outback,” San Francisco Chronicle (14 January 2001): RV1. Gray, Paul. “Sympathy for an Outlaw,” Time 157, no. 3 (22 January 2001): 82. Hertel, Ralf. Making Sense: Sense Perception in the British Novel of the 1980s and 1990s. Amsterdam: Rodolfi, 2005. Huggan, Graham. Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Joyce, Simon. The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007. Maslin, Janet. “A Wild Criminal in a Wilder Australia,” New York Times (4 January 2001). Murphy, Jessica. “A Living, Breathing Hoax,” Atlantic Unbound (22 October 2003). Ross, Robert. “Heroic Underdog Down Under,” World & I 16, no. 6 (June 2001): 251 –255. Seaman, Donna. Writers on the Air. Philadelphia: Paul Dry, 2005. Simon, Clea. “Dead Poet’s Society: Peter Carey’s Game of Literature and Life,” Boston Phoenix (7 November 2003): 28.

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) showcases the reach and sprawl of Peter Carey’s imagination and the pincers of his satire. Critic David Griffin, in a review for the New York Review of Science Fiction, terms the action “a three-ring war, a battle between fantasy-makers set in a world that is itself a fantasy” (Griffin, 1996, 15). The themes of confinement and transformation evolved over two decades following his composition of “American Dreams” in a first collection of short fiction, The Fat Man in History (1974) and “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” in War Crimes (1979). The memoir’s title is, according to New York Times Book Review critic Carol Shields, a “tossed pebble of understatement” (Shields, 1995). Set at the politically inconsequential city of Chemin Rouge (French for “red highway”), the capital of the quasi-republic of Efica, a covey of 18 archipelagos, the first-person thriller-memoir of Tristan Smith is an on-target assault on colonialism. Liz Heron, an essayist for the Times Educational Supplement, validated Carey’s parade of actors, acrobats, grifters, spies, migrant workers, fringe-theatre patrons, and vapid audiences as “a cast of characters who convince with their messy humanness” (Heron, 1994, 21). The political arena narrows to alternative theater. Marie Maclean, in a critique for Australian Book Review, describes “the idealism, the bitchiness, the energy, the wild flashes of actor and audience rapport, the shoe-string budgets, the adrenalin and the envy, and all heightened ... by the sudden birth of a monstrous, misbegotten scrap of genius” mistakenly identified on his birth certificate as Tristan Actor-Manager (Maclean, 1994, 9). An anonymous reviewer for Publishers Weekly saluted the author for the story’s novelty and a “fairy-tale quality of its figuration [which] makes for a surpassingly rich feast of metaphors and mercurial meanings— George Orwell and Lewis Carroll wrapped into one” (“Review,” 1994). Peter Carey based the clever Gothic allegory on his reaction to a family visit to Disney World and his bemusement at “the Christian idealism that led to this tacky, tawdry business” (Woodward, 1995, 59). Like the topographical fantasy lands of George Orwell’s 1984 (1949) and Ursula Le Guin’s earthsea cycle, the action focuses on the island of La Perouse (a pun on “peruse”), a segment of the cluster along with the isles of Baker, Inkerman, Nez Noir, and Shark. Although infuriatingly grand, but rambling, the action, according to Philip Hensher, writing for the Guardian Weekly, thunders out in a “great tumult of incident” to create a “dream-like and memorable” work (Hensher, 1994, 28). The dialogue forms a framework



narrative to explain to the Voorstand Guildcourt why Tristan involved himself in crime tantamount to sedition against the motherland. Unlike the protagonist of Bernard Pomerance’s stage bio-tragedy The Elephant Man (1979), Carey’s handicapped title figure transcends extreme congenital malformation through the love and acceptance of an ad hoc family, a free-form household that remains in a constant state of flux. He relates his rearing among countercultural actors and circus performers of the Feu Follet Theatre, a small leftist collective that counters the dogmatism and imperialism of Voorstand, a country that critic Claire Messud, in a review for the London Independent, described as “mired in decadence, flooded with refugees from the lands it has conquered, and globally dominant through its cultural imperialism” (Messud, 1994). The colonizer, in the words of Tim Wynveen, a book critic for Maclean’s, represents “contemporary America’s war-mongering sleaze and corruption, interwoven with the religious sobriety and Dutch manners of South Africa” (Wynveen, 1995, 65). With a Voorstander’s sneer, spy Gabe Manzini delivers a left-handed compliment to Eficans in Chemin Rouge as likeable for “their lack of slickness, their sense of privacy, ... their lack of bullshit, their pragmatism, their sense of realpolitik” (Carey, 1994, 98). The description fits Carey’s summation of Australian strengths.

LIFE AS A PERFORMANCE Central to the text is the image of the avant-garde Sirkus as a microcosm, mythology as a legitimate element of historiography, and the performers’ lives as the self-limiting acts of trained animals. Like the celled exhibits in Hissao Badgery’s Pet Emporium in Illywhacker (1985), the troupe members of the Feu Follet realize their self-imposed immurement as both imprisonment and a life-invigorating fascination with propagandist performance. To actor-troupe manager Felicity “Flick” Smith, creator of an agitprop stage program to redeem Eficans from Voorstandish control, the effort targets a “northern hemisphere people who have been abandoned in the south. All we know is what we’re not” (Carey, 1994, 117). Pulling the levers of state, the Sirkus takes on a dangerous air of Old Testament sobriety, pop opera, commedia del’ arte farce, and folk pantomime. Critic James Bradley points out the obvious self-righteous dogma of leftist theater as opposed to the allure of the semi-religious Sirkus: “Its glitz and sex and spectacle, a seductiveness all too absent from the Feu Follet’s ... strident need to demonstrate the existence of a genuine Efican culture” (Bradley, 1997, 663). In short, radical players like Felicity try too hard. Wowed by vicarious thrills from the arena and stage, Tristan develops a personal philosophy of acting as a way out of his wheelchair. At a turning point in his home schooling, he decides to become an actor in the Voorstand Sirkus, an imaginative version of Hollywood film. His mother damns the Sirkus before his birth for being a “great slick machine” that desensitizes the masses to treachery and manipulation by their colonizers (Carey, 1994, 10). After the Voorstand Intelligence Agency assassinates Felicity in a mock suicide by hanging, Tristan inherits an empty theater and the heartache of losing his mentor and chief promoter. According to Richard B. Woodward, a writer for the Village Voice, the political situation is daunting, especially for a disabled teen who lacks mobility and an orator’s voice. The overwhelming presence of Voorstanders in the lives and lore of Eficans represents what the author calls cultural “baggage”: “The incredible love of the small culture for the big culture, at the same time the feeling of being unnoticed and interfered with and used” (Woodward, 1995, 59). The line captures the thwarted loves of Felicity for actor-acrobat Bill Millefleur, stage manager Wally Paccione for Roxanna Wonder



Wilkinson, and Tristan for the Voorwacker (spy) Jacqui Lorraine, the doomed pairings that spawn passion, but not longevity. At a hermetic plateau in his development, Tristan recedes into an under-stage burrow to read banned treatises and write anti-imperialist pamphlets declaring, “If we wish to escape the vile octopus, our escape must be total” (Carey, 1994, 231). Carey wrings irony out of an Efican Thomas Paine, a grieving boy who walks on his ankles and speaks garbled ideology, a mockery of the colonial essayist.

ROAD TRIP At a pinnacle in the fantasy, Carey shifts from apologia to a quest narrative suggestive of the haphazard wanderings of Voltaire’s Candide. Like the alliance of a trio of tragedies with a satyr play in classic Greek drama, the alteration of tone and style enhances the author’s parody of the political underworld of Voorstand and its cultural stranglehold on Efica. In the words of reviewer Marie Maclean, like the spectacle in the Roman Colosseum, the Sirkus is “the thrill for the elite, the pabulum of the masses [that] combines the vast screens and acoustic and visual magic of the latest technology with primitive blood lust” (Maclean, 1994, 9). The rotting heart of the nation, Saarlim City, is doubly dismaying for what Michael Heyward, a reviewer for the New Republic, calls “lavish private wealth and public decrepitude,” the standard socio-economic clash that precedes revolt (Heyward, 1995, 40). The metropolis bears an amalgam of American history with its convoluted reference to the New World Dutch settlement in Harlem and to Salem (Hebrew for “peace”), the center of Puritan prudery and witch torment in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Carey reprises the 1960s Cold War spy thriller in Tristan’s arrival in Voorstand. Like a covert birth in reverse, the illegal Ootlanders enter through a tunnel into the mother country. Their emergence on ill-kept roads lined with abandoned wrecks precedes an epiphany, the introduction of Tristan at age 11 to the Sirkus. The amusement mecca is a cultural determinant that his leftist mother, Felicity “Flick” Smith, loathes and castigates for its manipulation of stage performance with holography and death. The arena offers a fast-paced mélange of zany clowns, propaganda, and the singing and storytelling of Irma, the star attraction. Problematically, the Ootlanders glory in fearful feats of daring, yet resent the intrusion of Voorstand culture in Efica. Tristan mourns, “I sought wealth in a way that would have upset her dreadfully, but life is never simple and I remained loyal to some of her ideals while I betrayed others” (Carey, 1994, 233). The admission reveals the painful beginnings of manhood and individuality. Through the perspective of Sparrowgrass, a Voorphobe, Carey presses to the footlights of his satire and remarks that Eficans are the same race and language group as their suppressors and they “know the words of all their songs ... and love their heroes like they were our own” (Carey, 1994, 169). The reverence for the motherland and its classic lore and literature proves foolhardy because “we don’t count with them ... we’re beneath their notice unless they want to use us for something,” a statement rife with the imperialist trickery of gullible colonials (ibid.). Countering the deceit and connivery of Voorstand, Tristan becomes a sidewalk busker, acting out the myths that Voorstanders revere. He accepts coins from bystanders in awe of a celebration of the time when “Bruder Mouse walked among the Settlers Free,” a farcical extension of Mickey Mouse into a Christ figure (ibid., 405). In a salute to the ingenuity of the Feu Follet and its collection of skills, Carey rescues Tristan and his nurse, Jacques/Jacqui Lorraine, in the muscular arms of Bill Millefleur, Tristan’s biological father. A tricky slide down 20 floors of fire escape banisters whisks the



trio out of range of a mock–CIA hit team toward a future of subversion through stage performance. See also Gothic; Smith, Tristan; Smith genealogy; wisdom; women.

• Further readings Bradley, James. “A Slippery, Ripperty Thing: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 9, no. 5 (1997): 17–19. Bradley, John. “Bread and Sirkuses: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs,” Meanjin 56, nos. 3-4 (1997): 657–665. Carey, Peter. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994. Dawson, Carrie. “‘Who Was That Masked Mouse?’ Imposture in Peter Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Southern Review 30, no. 2 (1997): 202–211. Griffin, David. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” New York Review of Science Fiction 97 (1996): 14 –17. Hensher, Philip. “Heaven, Hell and Disneyland,” Guardian Weekly (23 October 1994): 28. Heron, Liz. “Fiction,” Times Educational Supplement 4084, no. 7 (October 1994): 21. Heyward, Michael. “Australia’s Literary Ambassador,” The Age (25 July 1992): 8. Maclean, Marie. “Carey Goes Cybersurfing,” Australian Book Review 164 (19 September 1994): 8 –10. Messud, Claire. “The Robbers of Bruder Mouse,” Independent (17 September 1994). Rauwerda, Antje. “Multi-nationality and Layers of Mouse in Peter Care’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Antipodes 20, no. 2 (1 December 2006): 117–123. “Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith,” Publishers Weekly (19 December 1994). Shields, Carol. “Voorstand, Go Home!,” New York Times Book Review (12 February 1995). Woodward, Richard B. “Out of Efica,” Village Voice 40, no. 9 (28 February 1995): 59. Wynveen, Tim. “A Stranger in a Strange Land Spins His Tale,” Maclean’s 108, no. 8 (20 February 1995): 65.

vengeance Carey’s characters live out a reader fantasy of recompense against oppression and mean-spiritedness. Reprisals in his works take unique forms, from the hanging of murderer Francis Morgan, whose remains are left to rot in chains from the bridge over Sydney Harbor in 30 Days in Sydney (2001), Christopher Chubb’s sneer at critics and journals in My Life as a Fake (2003), and an implied swipe at the inventor of Godzilla and manga violence in Wrong about Japan (2005) to a direct accusation of fraud against the art world in Theft: A Love Story (2006). In an early story, “The Fat Man in History” (1974), a tale of the Gothic absurd, five obese men — Finch, Glino, May, Milligan, and an unnamed man — retaliate figuratively against a tyrannical government by slaying, roasting, and devouring Fantoni, one of their own. The ritual feast suggests the misdirection of rage and a compensation for powerlessness in a society that dehumanizes overweight people. “American Dreams” (1974), the story of Mr. Gleason’s mirroring of village faults in a scale model Australian town, offers a negative inheritance to Aussies greedy for tourist dollars. Gleason manages to punish them for pettiness by incarcerating the citizenry in a living theme park stuck in a time warp. Another posthumous comeuppance in “The Last Days of a Famous Mime” (1979) deprives audiences of the compassionate performances of a stage mime who kills himself rather than amuse the unappreciative. A more martial revolt in “War Crimes” (1978) vents the anger of the proletariat at capitalist parasites who enrich themselves on low-cost TV dinners that feed the impoverished on meals of questionable quality. At the end of their patience, the proles attack the gates of the factory in a no-win frontal assault likely to inflict casualties on both sides. Carey sides with the underclass for its courage in facing down Bart, the privileged industrialist who lives off wealth acquired from the poor. The feminist allegory “The Uses of Williamson Wood” (1979) reduces the battlefield to a one-on-one war against an employer, Mr. Jacobs, and his 19-year-old ware-



house clerk, whom he sexually abuses daily. By forcing her into a fight-or-flight mode, Jacobs ignites a ferocity that results in his bombardment with cement bags and burial in concrete. In each case, the author exonerates the vindicator for extremes of guile and payback in the name of requital. In his early novels, Carey generates egregious models of grudges that burst like bombs in the marketplace. In Bliss (1981), ad campaigner Bettina “Betty” McPhee Joy uses her suicide to escape a lethal cancer as an opportunity to punish producers of carcinogenic petroleum products. Her illness derives indirectly from her talent. She outlines for Monsanto the oxymoronic slogan “Organic Poison,” a bit of black humor charging pesticide manufacturers with toxic mayhem against the planet (Carey, 1981, 234). To the doctor who offers her ten milliliters of Valium, she retorts, “Nothing can make you feel better ... when you have been made a fool of ” (ibid., 252). At the eighth-floor boardroom of the Mobil Research Department in New York City, she ignites containers of gasoline that torch the room at the same time that they rid her of a slow, torturous death. For Herbert Peter Badgery, the vulpine trickster of Illywhacker (1985), retribution takes the opposite approach. He lives into unheard-of old age in the “Best Pet Shop in the World” as retaliation against his manipulative grandson Hissao (Carey, 1985, 443). Exhibited in cages alongside “lifesavers, inventors, manufacturers, bushmen, aboriginals,” his longevity allows him to display his intransigence to t