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My Life as a Fakeby Peter Carey
"There's lots in My Life as a Fake for scholars to have fun with — questions about identity and authenticity and the cultural anxieties of a colonial society. But Carey's hand is as light as a pickpocket's, and unless you're looking for such things, you won't see them at all; certainly there's less here of obvious weight than in this Australian writer's last novel, the Booker Prize-winning True History of the Kelly Gang....This is a fabulous book in the original sense of the term — and in the other one, too." Michael Gorra, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
"In book after book, Peter Carey has proven that he's incapable of writing a dull page. He's a literary Robin Hood, stealing from rich moments of history or literature and giving to poor readers. The brazenness of his recent projects makes their success all the more exciting....Reading his new work, My Life As a Fake, about a celebrated case of fraud after World War II, is like falling into an Escher drawing. With stories nested in stories, narrators narrating the narratives of other narrators ? it all sounds like the kind of poststructural challenge A.S. Byatt would twist into a migraine of complexity, but Carey never forgets that it's about entertaining a reader. As the Booker Prize has noted ? twice ? he's one of the greatest storytellers alive, the perfect qualification for this novel all about storytelling." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
Synopses & Reviews
Following the triumph of his Booker Prize–winning True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey ventures into the Far East with a novel shot through with mysteries at once historical, literary, and personal.
Sarah Wode-Douglass, the editor of a London poetry magazine, had grown up knowing the famous and infamous John Slater. And because he figured prominently in the disaster that was her parents’ marriage, when Slater proposes that she accompany him to Malaysia, Sarah embarks out of curiosity on a journey that becomes, instead, a lifelong obsession. Her discoveries spiral outward from Christopher Chubb, a destitute Australian she meets by chance in the steamy, fetid city of Kuala Lumpur. He is mad, Slater warns her, explaining the ruinous hoax Chubb had committed decades earlier. But lurking behind the man’s peculiarity and arrogance, Sarah senses, is artistic genius, in the form of a manuscript he teases her with and which she soon would do anything to acquire. The provenance of this work, she gradually learns, is marked by kidnapping, exile, and death—a relentless saga that reaches from Melbourne to Bali, Sumatra, and Java, and that more than once compels her back to Malaysia without ever disclosing all of its secrets, only the power of the imagination and the price it can exact from those who would wield it.
Astonishing, mesmerizing, and ultimately shocking, My Life as a Fake is the most audacious novel yet in Peter Carey’s extraordinary career.
"Delectably suspenseful and wildly inventive, Carey's spellbinding modern Gothic is a shrewd and seductive inquiry into the diabolical dimension of the imagination." Booklist
"Carey's corker of a plot...delivers surprise after surprise and peaks with a masterly extended set-piece....Issues of artistic inspiration, integrity, and authenticity are thus brilliantly allegorized in a wonderland of a yarn....A Nabokovian masterpiece." Kirkus Reviews
"The tale is a tour de force....As so often before, this extravagantly gifted writer has created something bewilderingly original and powerful." Publishers Weekly
"My Life as a Fake...should sit comfortably on a shelf beside Oscar and Lucinda or True History of the Kelly Gang, [Carey's] most accomplished works, even though it seems hastily composed at times." Jay Parini, The Boston Globe
"Given the amply demonstrated brilliance of its author, My Life as a Fake is also replete with its own poetic echoes and allusions....My Life as a Fake is serious about art, but Mr. Carey's down-to-earth Australian wryness is also much in evidence." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[S]o confidently brilliant, so economical yet lively in its writing, so tightly fitted and continuously startling in its plot that something, we feel, must be wrong with it....Carey's prose is up to any task he sets it." John Updike, The New Yorker
"My Life as a Fake is, on its shiny surface, a virtuoso amalgam of styles....
"[D]elightful....My Life as a Fake is not one of those books in which the novelist revels preeningly in the artificiality of what novelists do and in the process bores his readers to tears....At some point the creator's original intention evaporates and a new set of imperatives takes over, and it can happen to gifted writers like Carey even when they're at their most playfully insincere. Then, let the writer beware. And the reader rejoice." Laura Miller, Salon.com
Using as a springboard a real literary hoax that transfixed Australia in his boyhood, Peter Carey wickedly and ruefully explores how a phantom poet taunts, haunts, and otherwise destroys his maker, pursuing him from Melbourne to a seedy, sweaty, bitter ending in the tropical chaos of Kuala Lumpur.
About the Author
Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943 and now lives in New York City with his family. The author of seven previous novels and a collection of stories, Carey has won the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book twice, and the Booker Prize twice — for Oscar and Lucinda and for his most recent novel, True History of the Kelly Gang, which was also a finalist for the 2002 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
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