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 advertisign 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 still teaches Creative Writing at New York University. 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)
War Crimes (1979)
The Fat Man in History (1980)
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)
This biography was last updated on 05/08/2012.
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Peter Carey talks about Parrot and Olivier
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 thatyears 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 ...
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