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Peter Carey biography

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Peter Carey
Photo: Maron Ettlinger

Peter Carey

Peter Carey Biography

Peter Carey was born in 1943, in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia. His parents, who had a General Motors dealership, sent him to Geelong Grammar School, one of the leading private schools, "where the children of Australia's Best Families all spoke with English accents". He studied briefly at Monash University, but left after failing his first year science exams, after which he left to work as a copyrighter in advertising agencies in Melbourne and London. He started to read passionately, especially the work of Joyce, Beckett, Kafka and Faulkner, and in 1964 he began to write. He moved to Sydney in 1974 where he continued copyrighting. His first collection of surreal short stories, War Crimes, was published in 1979, followed by The Fat Man in History in 1980.

He then wrote three novels, Bliss (1981), about an advertising executive who has an out-of-body experience; Illywhacker (1985), a huge vision of Australian history told through the memoirs of a 100-year old confidence man or "illywhacker"; and Oscar and Lucinda (1988), a complex symbolic tale of the arrival of Christianity in Australia.

In 1990/1991 he moved to New York, with his wife, Alison Summers, a theater director, and his son, to teach creative writing at University of New York.

The Tax Inspector was published in 1991, then came The Unusual Life of Tristran Smith (1994); Jack Maggs (1997), True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), My Life as a Fake (2003) and Theft (2006).

He has also written the film script for Until the End of the World (1992), and co-wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Bliss (1985). Oscar and Lucinda was also adapted for film in 1997, with a screenplay written by Laura Jones.

In addition to his adult fiction, he has written a number of other books including The Big Bazoohley (for children, 1995) and 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (non-fiction, 2001) and Wrong about Japan (2005), a memoir/travelogue of his journey through Japan with his son Charley and their attempts to understand the Japanese culture and heritage.

He still lives in New York, and is executive director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York. He has been awarded three honorary degrees and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Australian Academy of Humanities and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.



Prizes & Awards (partial list)
1979 Miles Franklin Award (Australia) War Crimes
1980 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award War Crimes 1981 Miles Franklin Award (Australia) Bliss
1982 National Book Council Award (Australia) Bliss
1982 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award Bliss
1985 Book Council Award (Australia) Illywhacker
1985 Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) Illywhacker
1985 The Age Book of the Year Award Illywhacker
1986 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Science Fiction Novel Illywhacker
1986 Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction Illywhacker
1986 Victorian Premier's Literary Award (Australia) Illywhacker
1986 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (shortlist) Illywhacker
1988 Book Council Award (Australia) Oscar and Lucinda
1988 Booker Prize for Fiction Oscar and Lucinda
1989 Miles Franklin Award (Australia) Oscar and Lucinda
1994 The Age Book of the Year Award The Unusual Life of Tristran Smith
1997 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) (shortlist) Jack Maggs
1997 The Age Book of the Year Award Jack Maggs
1998 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book) Jack Maggs
1998 Miles Franklin Award (Australia) Jack Maggs
2001 Booker Prize for Fiction True History of the Kelly Gang
2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book) True History of the Kelly Gang
2001 Miles Franklin Award (Australia) (shortlist) True History of the Kelly Gang
2001 Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction True History of the Kelly Gang




Bibliography
War Crimes (1979)
The Fat Man in History (1980)
Bliss (1981)
Illywhacker (1985)
Oscar and Lucinda (1988)
The Tax Inspector (1991)
The Unusual Life of Tristran Smith (1994)
Collected Stories (1995)
The Big Bazoohley (1995)
Jack Maggs (1997)
30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001)
True History of the Kelly Gang (2001)
My Life as a Fake (2003)
Wrong about Japan (2005)
Theft: A Love Story (2006)
His Illegal Self (2008)
Parrot and Olivier in America (2009)
The Chemistry of Tears (2012)
Amnesia (2014)

Peter Carey's website

This bio was last updated on 10/24/2016. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

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Interview

Peter Carey talks about his 2010 novel, Parrot and Olivier, explaining the parallels between his story and the life of Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville (famous for his two volume Democracy in America 1835 & 1840), and whether the future America that Tocqueville (and the fictional Olivier) fretted and feared over has indeed come to pass.

What was your starting point for Parrot and Olivier in America?
 
I might say, "Reading Tocqueville's Democracy in America," but in fact it began before that—years of hearing how Americans quote Tocqueville. If one were to rely on these snippets, one would think that Tocqueville fell head over heels in love with this new Democracy, that he "got" America.
 
Of course, he was in his twenties and was only here for a very short time. It's impossible, you would think, that he "got" everything. He was a child of traumatized survivors of the French Revolution. He had good reason to fear the mob and the rule of the majority. You might think he had no chance of getting anything. But to read Democracy in America, the reader will be astonished to see that he did indeed "get" America, although in a much more complicated way than common quotation suggests.
 
It is eerie, really, to see him fearing the dumbing down of society and the devastating conjunction of capitalism and culture. He is looking at the USA in the 1830s, but he clearly sees the phantoms of Palin and the Bushes.
 
He also thought it was impossible to create culture ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Peter Carey at BookBrowse
A Long Way from Home jacket Amnesia jacket The Chemistry of Tears jacket Parrot and Olivier in America jacket
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Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Peter Carey but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Caroline Alexander

    Caroline Alexander

    Caroline Alexander was born in Florida to British parents and has lived in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. She studied philosophy and theology at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and has a doctorate in classics from Columbia ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    True History of The Kelly Gang

    Try:
    The Bounty
    by Caroline Alexander

  • Julian Barnes

    Julian Barnes

    Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England on January 19, 1946. He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964 and at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated in modern languages (with honors) in ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Parrot and Olivier in America

    Try:
    Arthur & George
    by Julian Barnes

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