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PETER CAREY


Peter Carey Peter Carey was born at Bacchus Marsh, thirty miles west of Melbourne, Australia in 1943. He attended one of the country's leading private schools, Geelong Grammar and later studied science at Monash University, Melbourne.

Carey began copywriting in advertising agencies, winning a reputation with award-winning campaigns. In 1974 he joined Bani McSpedden in Sydney and opened a highly successful advertising agency, McSpedden Carey Advertising Consultancy.

The Fat Man in History (1974), his first published book, was a collection of short stories which received wide critical acclaim. A further short story collection, War Crimes, was released in 1979 and won several awards.

His next book, Bliss, a darkly comic novel, won Australia's foremost literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award, in 1982 and was made into a movie three years later. Peter Carey's next novel, Illywacker (1985), featured a 139-year-old central character Herbert Badgery (the title is an Australian slang expression meaning 'con man').

The novel that thrust Carey on to the international scene followed in 1988. Oscar and Lucinda, set in the 19th century, was the first of his two Booker Prize-winners; the other was True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001.

In the early 1990s Peter Carey moved to New York with his wife, theatre director Alison Summers, and their son, and began teaching creative writing at the University of New York. Further novels followed: Exotic Pleasures (1990), The Tax Inspector (1991), The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), and The Big Bazoohley in 1995.

In 1994, Peter Carey's English publisher released a book titled Collected Stories. It contained the stories already published in The Fat Man in History (1974) and War Crimes (1979), plus a few additional ones (four, from memory). For copyright reasons, this book was not released in Australia or the US.

Carey's 1994 A Letter to Our Son is a short reflection on the emotional experiences surrounding their child's birth. It reveals the writer, a little of his autobiography, and his justifiable apprehensions leading to this traumatic moment. In 40 brief pages, Peter Carey demonstrates his mastery of delineating mental anguish.

Jack Maggs (1997) won the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize for him the following year, as did his next major work, True History of the Kelly Gang (2001). This book evolved from the life of an Australian bushranger/folk-hero Ned Kelly who was hanged for murder in 1880, and whose final words were said to be "Such is life!"

His second publication in 2001 was A Wildly Distorted Account, about a month-long visit to Sydney.

The inspiration for Carey's My Life as a Fake (2003) also came from his native homeland. The Ern Malley hoax rocked Australia's literary circles in the mid-1940s when two poets submitted fabricated material to an avant-garde literary magazine to teach a lesson about pretension and authenticity. Almost fifty years later, Peter Carey’s novelist's mind built an even greater fictionalized extension to these circumstances in My Life as a Fake.

© BARRY JOHN WATTS 2004

   
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