The postcolonial search for national identity dominates Peter Carey’s fiction. An Australian by birth, Carey moved to New York in the late 1980’s, but he continued to address the concerns that have characterized his work from the outset: Australian national consciousness (or that of any postcolonial country), the inherited burden of colonialism, history’s lies, and a fascination with the center—that is, New York or London. To enlarge on these themes, Carey has experimented radically in fictional forms.
Born in a country town—Bacchus Marsh, Victoria—Carey grew up in a family whose men worked as car salesmen and aviators. He attended Geelong Grammar School, a venerable Australian institution patterned after a British boys’ school. He then moved to Victoria’s capital, Melbourne—one of those almost London-like cities that dot the world’s far-flung English-speaking outposts. After a year studying science at Monash University, Carey joined a Melbourne advertising agency. During 1968 he made the requisite stay in London, then settled in Sydney, where he continued his advertising career, interrupted by spells in a commune in Queensland’s rain forest. After serving as artist-in-residence at New York University in 1990, he remained in New York, where he writes and occasionally teaches classes in creative writing, including stints at Princeton and Columbia universities. He has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, giving readings and attending conferences, where he promotes not only his own work but that of fellow Australian writers as well.
When Carey’s short stories appeared, first in Australian journals, then in two collections, they immediately attracted admirers at home and abroad. Both The Fat Man in History and War Crimes record the Australian experience in ways far afield from the social realism that long dominated the country’s fiction. At times futuristic and apocalyptic, in other instances revolutionary and paranoid, always satirical and ironic, the stories usually have no specific settings, nothing local about them, as they squarely confront the issues and problems faced by a postcolonial people.
Although Carey’s first novel, Bliss, is his weakest, it displays the energy, fantastic qualities, and originality that saw better use in his following work. The...
(The entire section is 965 words.)
Peter Carey was born in suburban Melbourne, where he grew up the son of a prominent local car dealer. He graduated from Geelong Grammar School, one of the most prestigious high schools in Australia, which later was attended by Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. In 1961, Carey matriculated at the University of Sydney, where at first he studied biology. Though his original ambition was to be a scientist, he soon realized his ambitions were in the literary sphere. He spent about a decade working in advertising, for two years in London and for the rest of the time in Australia. He also spent some years living in an alternative commune in southern Queensland. In 1985, he married theater director Alison Summers, with whom he had two children. In 1999, they settled in New York City, making frequent visits back to Australia.
Peter Carey was born May 7, 1943, in the small town of Bacchus Marsh in Victoria, Australia, about thirty miles from the state capital of Melbourne. His parents ran a car-sales franchise for the American company General Motors. After attending the local elementary school, Carey progressed to a prestigious boarding school called Geelong Grammar, which he attended from 1954 to 1960. After graduating from Geelong he entered Monash University, Melbourne, with the intention of majoring in zoology and chemistry. After one year at Monash, however, he dropped out after surviving a serious car accident and after losing interest in his studies.
Carey began a career in advertising from 1962, which coincided with his involvement in protests against the Vietnam War. In 1964, he married Leigh Weetman, a marriage that lasted until 1970. Previously uninterested in literature, he began to read heavily in the English and modern European classics. He also began writing short stories, both science fiction and surrealist, and by 1967 had also attempted three novels, all without success. He left Australia in 1968, traveled throughout Asia and Europe, and finished up in London. He returned to Australia in 1970, and by this time, his short stories were being published in magazines and newspapers.
In 1974, still working in advertising, Carey moved to Sydney; in 1976, he moved north to Queensland, where he became involved in a hippie community. It was while living in this community that he wrote his first published novel, Bliss, and more short stories. By 1980, he had moved back to Sydney and cofounded an advertising agency. At the age of thirty-eight, he was finally a published novelist. His big breakthrough as a writer, however, came in 1985 with his novel Illywhacker. Its Australian themes drew instant acclaim and garnered several prizes. Also in 1985, he married Alison Summers, a theater director.
After the success of his next novel, Oscar and Lucinda, in 1988, Carey decided to sell his advertising business and move to New York City, where he continued to write books with Australian themes. He divorced Summers, his second failed marriage. He started teaching creative writing and, in 2003, was appointed director of the graduate creative-writing program at Hunter College, City University of New York.
Peter Philip Carey was born on May 7, 1943, in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia, where his parents ran a General Motors dealership. He studied at the prestigious Geelong Grammar School between 1954 and 1960 before moving to Monash University in Melbourne to enroll in a science degree program, intending to major in chemistry and zoology. Boredom and a car accident cut short his studies, and he left the university to work for what he later described as an “eccentric” advertising agency. Two of his colleagues, the writers Barry Oakley and Morris Lurie, introduced him to a broad range of European and American literature. He read widely, particularly the work of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, and William Faulkner, and by 1964 he had begun to write fiction himself. In the next four years, he wrote several novels and a number of short stories. Although some of his early work was initially accepted for publication, it was later rejected and he remained unpublished as a novelist until 1981.
Carey traveled in Europe and the Middle East during the late 1960’s, also spending two years in London before returning to Australia. He worked for a number of advertising agencies in Melbourne and Sydney and published a number of short stories which were later collected in The Fat Man in History (1974). In 1976, Carey joined an “alternative community” called Starlight at Yandina in Queensland. Here, he wrote the stories that were collected in...
(The entire section is 494 words.)