Apr 26, 2011


taken from SALON.COM by Laura Miller

Peter Carey's delightful new novel asks whether democracy and art are incompatible

Although he's won the Booker Prize twice (for "Oscar and Lucinda" and "True History of the Kelly Gang"), Peter Carey doesn't quite match the American notion of a great novelist; for one thing, his books are too much fun. (Tellingly, the least comic products of his pen tend to be the most celebrated.) Shouldn't literature taste more medicinal — like, say, the works of that other double Booker winner, J.M. Coetzee? Also, Carey has mostly written about Australia (both the country and the state of mind), which Americans find perplexing. We regard Australia as too much like America to be interestingly foreign, so why harp on it? Why not just act as if you're already American? It works for half the movie stars in Hollywood, after all.

So while Carey has lived in New York for two decades, he still feels like a Commonwealth novelist, the kind of writer who consistently produces a satisfying, well-shaped, inventive and entertaining book every two or three years without excessive fuss or bother. This is not how we do it stateside. To read any novel more challenging than an airport thriller, Americans usually need to be persuaded that the book is epochal, the result of a heroic effort to define our times, undertaken by a stormy and (ideally) clinically depressed genius. We figure that if we have to exert ourselves to read it, we want a guaranteed pay-off in cultural capital.     read more....

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