The Blagger's Guide To: Peter Carey
When a student went in search of an exciting life
Sunday 01 April 2012
Peter Carey's 12th novel, The Chemistry of Tears, will be published on Thursday by Faber & Faber. The novel is his first to be set in contemporary London, and describes a museum conservator, Catherine, who is set to work reconstructing a 19th-century mechanical swan by a kindly boss who knows that she is grieving the death of her married lover. A journal that is found along with the swan reveals that it was commissioned by a bereaved Victorian father, whose young son was dying of consumption.
Carey is one of only two writers (along with JM Coetzee) who have won the Booker Prize twice: for Oscar and Lucinda in 1988, and True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001.
Carey was born in 1943 in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia. His parents ran a car dealership, and there were not many books in the house, though the young Carey did enjoy The Jungle Book, The Water-Babies and Biggles stories. He attended Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, where the Prince of Wales was later sent. HRH later recalled: "Seventy mile hikes – it was hell in those days – blood-soaked shirt from the rucksack on my back. I'm not making this up. But I loved it. All I can recollect is thinking 'Christ I'm bloody-well bushed'."
After high school, Carey began studying in Melbourne for a degree in organic chemistry and zoology, but abandoned it after a car crash. "I thought science would give me an exciting life of exploration and discovery," he has said, "but then I saw that literature would do that better." During the 1960s he worked in advertising in Melbourne, Sydney and London, while writing short stories that were published in magazines.
Carey's first full-length novel, Bliss, was about an advertising executive and was published in 1981. It won the Miles Franklin Award, and was later turned into a film (Carey worked on the screenplay) and an opera.
Carey's 2006 novel, Theft: A Love Story, was embroiled in controversy when his recently ex-wife and editor, the theatre director Alison Summers, claimed that the character of The Plaintiff, an "alimony whore", was modelled on Carey's embittered view of her and the end of their marriage. During the nearly 20 years they were together, Carey dedicated several books to her, praising her "clear literary intelligence and flawless dramatic instinct". Summers called his novel "emotional terrorism". Carey maintains that it is completely fictional, and that Summers' allegations are "all crap".
There are two Peter Careys associated with Australian rules football; one who played for Leyton Orient in the 1950s; a historian; a character in Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Black Peter"; and a civil servant whose colleagues believed he was the model for TV's Sir Humphrey in the soon-to-return Yes Prime Minister.
Parrot and Olivier in America contains some embarrassing inaccuracies about leeches, according to a 2010 article by Germaine Greer. "Carey seems unaware that some of his readers might know more about leeches than he does," she complained.
Peter Carey currently lives in Manhattan, and teaches creative writing at Hunter College, City University of New York.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he'd killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
The Fall, series 2, episode 3 – TV review: It’s starting to push the realms of plausibility, but who cares?
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Ed Miliband's 'north London set' must be demolished to save Labour, say critics