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My Life as a Fake


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Peter Carey's My Life as a Fake is a remarkable novel about a creature as indelible as Frankenstein, by the two-time Booker-winning author of Amnesia, Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang.

About the Author

Peter Carey received the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda and again for True History of the Kelly Gang. His novel, Parrot and Olivier in America, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2010. His other honours include the Commonwealth Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. Born in Australia, he has lived in New York for twenty years.


Hoping to gain some insight into her parents' troubled marriage, London poetry editor Sarah Wode-Douglass accepts an invitation from novelist and family friend John Slater to accompany him to his Malaysian retreat. Her focus, however, quickly turns to another Malay resident, the enigmatic Christopher Chubb, who in the 1940s devised a literary hoax to embarrass a young poetry editor at a fashionable magazine. Using the pseudonym Bob McCorkle, Chubb submitted poems that were admittedly imitative and, for the era, racy; their subsequent publication led to an obscenity trial for the editor, who came to a bad end. Strangely, no one seemed interested in Chubb's confession, and things became more complicated when a seven-foot giant claiming to be Bob McCorkle appeared in the flesh. This strange golem cursed Chubb's life; born at 24 and determined to possess a childhood he never had, he absconded with Chubb's young daughter. When Sarah learns this story, she becomes obsessed with what McCorkle means to Chubb and Chubb's efforts to reclaim his daughter. Carey's fans won't find this novel as rich in background and characterization as earlier works like Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang; the narrative is pared down, and there's a definite emphasis on action in the closing pages. But this is no flaw-the book reads like a shot, and as before, the author peoples his tales with charming and intelligent rogues, albeit 20th-century ones this time around. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Carey, who won the Man Booker Prize for his True History of the Kelly Gang, takes another strange but much less well-known episode in Australian history as the basis for this hypnotic novel of personal and artistic obsession. He tells it through the eyes of Lady Sarah Wode-Douglass, editor of a struggling but prestigious London poetry journal, who one day in the early 1970s finds herself accompanying an old family friend, poet and novelist John Slater, out to Malaysia. There they encounter an eccentric Australian expatriate, Christopher Chubb, who concocted, Slater says, a huge literary hoax in Australia just after the war, creating an imaginary genius poet, Bob McCorkle, whose publication by a little magazine led to the suicide of the magazine's editor. Now Chubb offers Lady Sarah a page of poetry that shows undoubted genius and claims it is from a book in his possession. Lady Sarah's every acquisitive instinct is inflamed, but to get her hands on the book she has to listen, as Chubb inflicts on her, Ancient Mariner-like, the amazing story of his own epic struggle with McCorkle. In the end, the vaunted manuscript is revealed to be in the care of Chubb's fierce daughter (long ago kidnapped and raised by McCorkle) and a deranged Chinese woman. To what lengths will Lady Sarah go to get it, and how will the women keep it from her? The tale is a tour de force, with a positively Graham Greene-ish relish in the seamy side of the tropics, a mix of literary detective story and murderous nightmare that is piquantly hair-raising. And just when it seems that Carey's story is his greatest fantastic creation to date, he lets on that the hoax at the heart of it actually took place in Melbourne in 1946. As so often before, this extravagantly gifted writer has created something bewilderingly original and powerful. (Nov. 30) Forecast: There is no denying the fascination of Carey's tale, but his devoted readers may find it more difficult to succumb to the allure of a neglected poet than to the more obvious thrills of an outlaw life. 75,000 first printing. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Peter Carey's new novel, My Life as a Fake, is so 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."--John Updike, "The New Yorker" "Carey has always been a master of high-energy prose, but he is also skilled at the memorable moment -- the scene or tableau so rich or original that it lingers long after the novel."--"The Globe and Mail""exquisitively crafted...a fantastic tale constructed as a story within a story within a story."--"Toronto Star" "Part detective story, part pitiless dissection of the colonial psyche, part gothic horror tale.... Carey makes magic.... In My Life as a Fake, Carey exposes such profound insecurities, invents so many maddened and tender characters, paints such an indelible picture of the sad expatriate life that, like poor 'Bob McCorkle, ' he seizes our imagination and won't let go.... [H]ugely entertaining."--"The Toronto Star" "[L]ikened to prime period Graham Greene with touches of Malcolm Lowry, Mary Shelley, Joseph Conrad, George Gissing and William Somerset Maugham.... It's hard to think of another major writer working in English who has shown the stylistic range, coupled with a refusal to repeat himself, that Peter Carey has."--"The Gazette" "My Life as a Fake is a novel to mull over, to reread and to ruminate upon. True, it teases readers with the questions of morality and mortality it raises. But it also prods us towards examination of the levels of 'fakery' and untruth in our own lives."--"The Edmonton Journal" "There are brilliant, almost phantasmagoric, episodes in jungles, brothels, planters' hotels, tropical tailors' shops, all drawn by a master story-teller."--"Evening Standard "(UK)" ,,"."Peter Carey's new novel comes like a monsoon after drought. It is a magnificent, poetic contemplation of the lying, fakery and insincerity inherent in the act of artistic creation....It's a charismatically furious piece of work, brilliantly meshing its ethical and artistic debate with a rich human drama."--"The Times "(UK)" ""The wrting is precise and beautifully intense, blending imipressions of Malaysia with the ebb and flow of Micks's mental state, recalled, sometimes mistily, after many years...Carey gives profound attention to the mysteries of authenticity and poetry, especially on how fabricated fakes may become supernatural and inspirational....In a beautifully crafted piece of storytelling, Peter Carey has produced an immensely powerful work that will resonate for generations."--"The Independent (UK) ""In My Life as a Fake, Carey brings to the fore the same devices he used so successfully in his Booker-winning Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), as well as in his recent novel, Jack Maggs. A two-tiered love story combines with trickery, secrecy, gothic horror, criss-crossed identities, a reach for power and a search for certainty that marked the earlier books. Carey's new novel is intelligent, complex, strikingly original and oddly (considering its subject) witty. It is what was once called 'a good yarn' -- another good read from an inventive and masterful novelist."--"The London Free Press" Praise for "True History of the Kelly Gang": "Carey has transformed sepia legend into brilliant, evenviolent, colour, and turned a distant myth into warm flesh and blood. Packed with incident, alive with comedy and pathos, True History of the Kelly Gang contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel."--"The New York Times Book Review" "A tour-de-force. . . . Kelly's rough-necked, tender, funny, lyrical and engaging personality shines through."--"National Post" "This is a book born of bone, blood and beauty, as well as piercing social and historical insight. If there is a better novel written in English this year, it will need to be very, very good indeed: for here is a voice that will not let go."--"Ottawa Citizen" "From the Hardcover edition."

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