Parrot and Olivier in America
Just a quick note to say my review of Peter Carey’s new novel, Parrot and Olivier in America, is available on The Australian’s website.
It’s been interesting speaking to people who’ve read the piece, not least because it’s difficult to escape the feeling Carey’s burned through some of his goodwill in recent years. The reasons for that seem to be complex – certainly there’s a view the last few books have been a bit patchy – but I also suspect changing literary fashion has left his brand of big, rough-hewn post-modernity looking a little awkward in the contemporary landscape (I’d say something similar about Doctorow and Rushdie, though I have to say I think Carey’s streets ahead of either of them). Of course that’s always a problem for writers as distinctive as Carey, but I do hope it won’t stop readers seeking out this new one, not least because it’s his best book in years, and definitely up there with early masterpieces like Illywhacker. Nor am I alone in this judgement: in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald Andrew Reimer calls it a tour de force (not online), and Jennifer Byrne says something similar in Saturday’s Age.
And if you’re interested in reading more about Carey you might like to check out this piece I wrote for Meanjin a while back. It’s a bit long in the tooth these days but it’s got some good moments.
What I liked about your review of the new Carey over the weekend was that I came away from it with the firm understanding that you considered it one of the author’s best for years. And, therefore, worth my money buying it.
For that, and the fact that you reckon ILLYWHACKER is an early masterpiece I thank you. Nice to know someone agrees with me about that book.
All of Carey’s philosophy as a novelist is there in ILLYWHACKER’s second paragraph: “I am a terrible liar and I have always been a liar.” The rest is embellishment – some outstanding, some so-so, but it’s never been less than interesting.
It’s too early to tell, of course, but maybe Carey’s Australian-centric period is now over.
Carey has definitely given Australia the heave-ho – it gets a passing scene in his latest. I saw an interview where he talked about his interest in being between cultures which seems like a very contemporary theme.
Have this one in my pile.
I’m glad it was clear I liked it, because I did. It’s not perfect, but it’s big and exuberant and takes big risks, most of which pay off, which is about the best thing you can say about a book as far as I’m concerned. Indeed I’d say pretty much the same thing about Illywhacker, which I think is one of his best (I actually think Tristan Smith is the unacknowledged masterpiece).
Yeah, that’d be right – TRISTAN SMITH – one I haven’t read. Gotta catch up, just not sure how.
P&O IZ IN MY CHRISTMAS STOCKING.
I just love the voices that come out of his characters. The disabled brother in Theft was spot on, just magnificent. And FUNNY.