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
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)
Peter Carey's website
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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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