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My Life as a Fake Paperback – 3 Jun 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (3 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057121620X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571216208
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 528,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Peter Carey's new novel, My Life as a Fake, is so confidently brilliant, so economical yet lively in its writing, so tightly fitted and continuously startling in its plot that something, we feel, must be wrong with it."--John Updike, "The New Yorker" "Carey has always been a master of high-energy prose, but he is also skilled at the memorable moment -- the scene or tableau so rich or original that it lingers long after the novel."--"The Globe and Mail""exquisitively crafted...a fantastic tale constructed as a story within a story within a story."--"Toronto Star" "Part detective story, part pitiless dissection of the colonial psyche, part gothic horror tale.... Carey makes magic.... In My Life as a Fake, Carey exposes such profound insecurities, invents so many maddened and tender characters, paints such an indelible picture of the sad expatriate life that, like poor 'Bob McCorkle, ' he seizes our imagination and won't let go.... [H]ugely entertaining."--"The Toronto Star" "[L]ikened to prime period Graham Greene with touches of Malcolm Lowry, Mary Shelley, Joseph Conrad, George Gissing and William Somerset Maugham.... It's hard to think of another major writer working in English who has shown the stylistic range, coupled with a refusal to repeat himself, that Peter Carey has."--"The Gazette" "My Life as a Fake is a novel to mull over, to reread and to ruminate upon. True, it teases readers with the questions of morality and mortality it raises. But it also prods us towards examination of the levels of 'fakery' and untruth in our own lives."--"The Edmonton Journal" "There are brilliant, almost phantasmagoric, episodes in jungles, brothels, planters' hotels, tropical tailors' shops, all drawn by a master story-teller."--"Evening Standard "(UK)" ,,"."Peter Carey's new novel comes like a monsoon after drought. It is a magnificent, poetic contemplation of the lying, fakery and insincerity inherent in the act of artistic creation....It's a charismatically furious piece of work, brilliantly meshing its ethical and artistic debate with a rich human drama."--"The Times "(UK)" ""The wrting is precise and beautifully intense, blending imipressions of Malaysia with the ebb and flow of Micks's mental state, recalled, sometimes mistily, after many years...Carey gives profound attention to the mysteries of authenticity and poetry, especially on how fabricated fakes may become supernatural and inspirational....In a beautifully crafted piece of storytelling, Peter Carey has produced an immensely powerful work that will resonate for generations."--"The Independent (UK) ""In My Life as a Fake, Carey brings to the fore the same devices he used so successfully in his Booker-winning Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), as well as in his recent novel, Jack Maggs. A two-tiered love story combines with trickery, secrecy, gothic horror, criss-crossed identities, a reach for power and a search for certainty that marked the earlier books. Carey's new novel is intelligent, complex, strikingly original and oddly (considering its subject) witty. It is what was once called 'a good yarn' -- another good read from an inventive and masterful novelist."--"The London Free Press" Praise for "True History of the Kelly Gang": "Carey has transformed sepia legend into brilliant, evenviolent, colour, and turned a distant myth into warm flesh and blood. Packed with incident, alive with comedy and pathos, True History of the Kelly Gang contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel."--"The New York Times Book Review" "A tour-de-force. . . . Kelly's rough-necked, tender, funny, lyrical and engaging personality shines through."--"National Post" "This is a book born of bone, blood and beauty, as well as piercing social and historical insight. If there is a better novel written in English this year, it will need to be very, very good indeed: for here is a voice that will not let go."--"Ottawa Citizen" "From the Hardcover edition."

Book Description

Peter Carey's My Life as a Fake is a remarkable novel about a creature as indelible as Frankenstein, by the two-time Booker-winning author of Amnesia, Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
Using a real literary fraud from Australia as the basis for his main plot, Carey introduces the reader to Lady Sarah Wode-Douglass, the editor of a small English poetry magazine, always on the verge of financial collapse. Persuaded by John Slater, a poet and friend of her deceased parents, to accompany him from England to Kuala Lumpur in 1972, she is recollecting her encounter there with Christopher Chubb, a refugee from Australia where he had, in the 1940s, perpetrated a major literary hoax, designed to protest the trends in modern poetry. Chubb had written and succeeded in getting published a series of "poems," supposedly by a man named McCorkle.

The fraud, which took place in the 1940s, is told in flashbacks from the 1972 trip, mainly by Lady Sarah and Chubb. Its wry humor and social commentary are fun to read, with Chubb mocking the state of literary awareness in Australia at that time and providing information about the obscenity trial which resulted from his hoax. When Chubb cleverly shows her one page from another work by "McCorkle," Sarah sees it as a masterpiece akin to "The Wasteland," and tries to obtain the whole manuscript, the publication of which would save her magazine. Sarah's life in 1983, and shocking revelations by John Slater about Sarah's parents, their marriage, and her mother's death in the late 1930's widen the focus and time frame. The reader quickly recognizes, as all the characters play their parts and the story develops, that all are guilty of some sort of fakery.

The second half of the book, however, becomes a wild, often wacky adventure story as separate new plots develop, the time frame changes to World War II, and several new characters, unrelated to the main plot, tell their own stories.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 10 Sep 2003
Format: Hardcover
Following from Carey's hugely successful True History of the Kelly Gang, the author plucks another charismatic figure from history to reform in his fiction. This time he has taken the Ern Malley hoax and rewritten it using a bounty of sumptuous detail. In the 1940s a couple of writers sought to play a joke on the surrealist movement of the time. Their hoax got out of hand. They composed poetry using a mixture of their own original work, Shakespeare, a rhyming dictionary and a US army report. However, it was taken seriously, published and then caused a scandal because the content of the work was considered indecent. In many ways the editor who first received the work considered that the fake poet really did come to life. Stemming from this thought, Carey creates the story of Christopher Chubb who similarly sets up a literary hoax. This time, the fictional poet really does come to life.
The narrator of My Life is a Fake is the English poetry editor Sarah Wode-Douglass. She travels to Kuala Lumpur on the invitation of her acquaintance, the poet John Slater, with whom she has a long and complicated past. By accident she meets Chubb who is working in a bicycle repair shop. He gives her a glimpse of a poem by the poet he created named McCorkle. Sarah is desperate to retrieve this poet's work to make her own claim to fame. However, first she must hear the whole gruesome story behind it. It is a complicated affair leading Sarah and the reader to wonder what is real and what is fake. McCorkle comes to life and discredits Chubb's own life. Not only is Chubb's past revealed, but through conversations with Slater Sarah's own past is examined. Another fake is revealed.
Carey does a magnificent job at evoking the environment of Kuala Lumpur in this time period.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Aug 2005
Format: Paperback
I am generally very suspicious of novels whose plotlines revolve around writers and the world of letters, doubly so in this case, as it involves poetry, which I tend to dislike. However... this is Peter Carey at work, and by the end of this book I'm convinced he could rework an appliance manual into a penetrating and thoughtful story. What he's done here is take a real-life Australian literary hoax from the 1940s, fictionalized it, grafted the gothic Frankenstein story to it, and then superimposed a running theme on the construction of identity by the self. It's the kind of fictional razzle-dazzle that might have seemed arch or pretentious or self-congratulatory in the wrong hands, but Carey pulls it off with style.
The story is narrated on its outer layer (there are numerous stories within stories and narrators within these) by Sarah, the editor of a prestigious, if perpetually bankrupt, English poetry magazine. She writes in the early 1980s, some ten years after the main events of the story, which take place in Kuala Lumpur in 1972. She was taken there by a friend of her deceased parents (and, she suspects, her mother's lover), and seeks to use the trip as a way to talk to him about the suicide of her mother when she was a child. However, one day while strolling the streets of KL, she sees a decrepit white man sitting in a hovel of a bike-repair shop reading Rilke. This piques her interest and she is soon drawn into the strange tale of Christopher Chubb, a man who thirty years previously perpetuated a hoax on a modernist literary review.
Chubb found trendy modernist poetry to be vapid stuff and so submitted some nonsense material from a fictitious blue-collar mechanic poet to an editor he used to go to school with.
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