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Bread and Sirkuses

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Peter Carey

I’m currently reading Peter Carey’s rather fabulous new novel, Parrot and Olivier in America. Since I’m reviewing it I can’t say much more than that, but I thought I might use it as an excuse to upload an essay I wrote for Meanjin about Carey way back in 1997. Entitled ‘Bread and Sirkuses: Empire and Culture in Peter Carey’s The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs, it uses those two books as the starting point for a broader survey of Carey’s work. In places it’s a bit dated, but it’s not a bad piece, so it seemed worth giving it another run.

If you’d like more Careyana, Carey maintains a classy-looking website, with excerpts from his novels, selected reviews and links to a range of interviews and appearances, as well as reproducing this one, which originally appeared in The Paris Review. And if you’d like to read some other pieces I’ve written about Carey’s fiction you might want to check out my reviews of My Life as a Fake and Theft.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Adam G #

    Oh lovely, let us know when the review is out please.

    And do tell if P&O in America is genius Carey, like The Fat Man in History, Bliss, Oscar & Lucinda, Illywhacker, Kelly Gang and possibly Theft, or second-tier Carey, like… well, most of the rest.

    Still, even Pete’s failures host lovely gems. Except The Tax Inspector – he can have that one back.

    September 16, 2009
  2. There’s a wonderful anecdote in Mortification about turning up to a reading and having a man hand back a copy of the author’s last book, with the words ‘It’s crap, you can have it back’, meaning the author in question ended up selling negative one books.

    I mean honestly, who’d be a writer?

    September 16, 2009

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