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The Fat Man in History

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  740 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
A landmark in contemporary Australian literature, The Fat Man in History brought early acclaim to Peter Carey for his brilliant and ingenious fiction. These twelve stories introduce visionary landscapes of intense clarity, where the rules of the game are bizarre yet chillingly familiar.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 4th 1993 by Vintage (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,317)
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Ian Vinogradus
As If

Many of the reviews of this fantastic collection of short stories mention the following comment by Peter Carey:

"The trouble with academics is that they try too hard to understand these stories ....

"They should relax. The stories are only about what they seem to be about.

"They are, if you like, a collection of 'what if' stories. I took a dozen or so hypotheses and asked what would happen if ...."

Try as I did to avoid citing this comment, it sums up the appeal of the collection perfectly.

Helen Hagemann
Aug 12, 2012 Helen Hagemann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
Review by Helen Hagemann
The Fat Man in History, first published in 1974 by UQP, is a collection of twelve short stories and the least well known of Carey’s work. The stories contain many aspects of Australian life, its landscape and people. The title story, The Fat Man in History, is about a group of rather large men who live in a share house, yet they are the “Fat Men Against the Revolution" (fat now being synonymous with reactionary). Peeling depicts the relationship of an older man imposing h
Ben Winch
A flippant cruelty animates these clumsily-sketched cartoons.
Jun 16, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it
THE FAT MAN IN HISTORY. (1980). Peter Carey. ****.
This is a collection of ten short stories by Mr. Carey with a common theme of “what if” running through them. They aren’t science fiction, but they all involve a kind-of parallel universe that is different because of some slight change. In the title story, a group of fat men living together in the same house represent a group of counter-revolutionists in their society. Obesity is rare; food is scarce. How they manage to survive and combat the th
Tom O’Connell
May 31, 2012 Tom O’Connell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first five stories resonate the most, but there are many in this collection that will stay with me. Such is their conceptual ingenuity (and, hey, the execution isn't half bad either –Carey knows how to wring weight and implication out of the barest of sentences). While some of the themes border on the surreal side, most of these stories are propelled by pure universal human drama.

The standouts for me were 'Do you love me?', 'The Chance' and the title story, 'Exotic Pleasures'. These three, I
Cid Andrenelli
Mar 22, 2012 Cid Andrenelli rated it it was amazing
A brilliant collection of short stories. The Chance: Set in a futuristic society, where people gamble for new bodies in a genetic lottery was creepy yet beautifully written with stark description and a sense of this could really happen? The namesake story: The Fat Man in History is about a group of fatties. Now ostracised by society where being fat is no longer acceptable and is seen as a sign of greed. Follow the character of Alexander Finch, gross and obese, as he walks out of a department sto ...more
Liz Polding
May 18, 2015 Liz Polding rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a disturbing book on many levels and in many ways. Visceral and dystopian, these little pieces of literary shrapnel each form their own world. Studies in madness, violence, social experimentation with a chilling disregard for human life and indeed humanity itself, where genetic engineering can create a new body for you, but not the one you choose, the one that chance gives you. The high price of pleasure, Machiavelli rewriting management theory so that the embezzling manager is not fired ...more
Mar 26, 2016 Katherine rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
*3.5 stars
“...his face wreathed in a large smile” (17).
“If my theory is grounded in fact, and I am sure it it, it would explain my father’s cynicism about the Festival of Corn” (46).
“‘Everything that is not loved will disappear from the face of the earth. We only exist through the love of others and that’s what it’s all about’” (50).
“Old men lighting cigarettes are careful to put the burnt matches back into the matchbox, a habit one sometimes sees carried on into the city by younger people who d
J. McClain
Aug 03, 2012 J. McClain rated it it was amazing
I found this collection of short stories very refreshing in terms of voice and story content. As an American, part of the experience is probably due at least in part to cultural differences, but whatever the reason I thought these shorts were both striking and fresh. The quirkiness of the "slightly-different-from-reality" element to the stories makes this a fantastic read.
Oct 18, 2014 Julian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blimey! Had to stop reading this on the tube, a lot more penis than I'd expect from Peter Carey!
Dec 16, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this one. Such a great mix of pleasant, even handed approach to life and the inventively bizarre, with a touch of the frightening as well. Enigmatic, yet not too puzzling. Just loved it.
Kathleen Dixon
Jun 13, 2013 Kathleen Dixon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Peter Carey is undoubtedly an excellent author. From what I could find, I think this is the first publishing of his work (1974), and there's no sense of "quite good for a first effort" - each story is proof of accomplishment.

The people in these stories aren't happy, but then nor would you be if you lived in the kind of dystopian societies that they do. But rather than the modern fashion of having ordinary people battling heroically against wrongs, Carey gives us people who are placid and worn do
The worst Peter Carey ever. All the others I loved and are my favourites, except for the History of the Kelly gang, that was not all that exciting.
Dead John Williams
May 31, 2015 Dead John Williams rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
A series of quirky short stories that I probably would not read again.
Nov 20, 2014 Katarzyna rated it it was amazing
Fantastic stories!
May 12, 2010 Femke rated it did not like it
Het boek bestaat uit verschillende korte verhalen, waarvan geen enkel me kon boeien. Elk verhaal speelt zich af in de toekomst en heeft een zwarte, sterk surrealistische sfeer. Wellicht moet je van Peter Carey's stijl houden, hij heeft een bijzondere, artistieke manier om zaken te omschrijven, maar net als het vorige boek dat ik van hem las (Diefstal), vond ik het een last om door de pagina's heen te geraken.
Jan 22, 2014 Jcken added it
Wild mind on the loose. Peter Carey is more conservative today (these stories date back) yet still with an agitated imagination.
Cathy Condon bannister
This is the collection that lit my Peter Carey obsession. I loved delving into his dark imagination and his unsqueamish description of everyday details authors usually gloss over. The novels are far more polished, but these stories are surreal little gems.

In fact, I think I borrowed the book and still have it. Oops.
Jul 13, 2008 Muna rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorite collections of short stories by one author, this book describes the vast pain of the beautiful future. I have had to buy it three times, with each copy getting carefully nabbed by envious others. Which is fine with me. I'll buy it as many times as you need, baby. Only the best for you.
Apr 27, 2011 Daniel rated it really liked it
Wonderfully written, weird stories. Carey takes "what if" scenarios to their extremes in this satirical collection of short stories. This is bizarre fiction that speaks to universal themes of love, alienation, and loss. Stories not to miss: The Fat Man in History, Do You Love Me? Recommended!
Nov 30, 2011 Canova rated it it was amazing
This book is different from everything else that I've read... It is composed of a series of short dystopic stories that are VERY weird yet familiar. It would be interesting to use in a classroom in place of or alongside Brave New World, 1984, and The Handmaid's Tale.

Jen Jewel Brown
Nov 16, 2008 Jen Jewel Brown rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone breathing
Recommended to Jen Jewel by: no one
This knocked my socks off when it came out. Carey builds unique, discrete worlds so convincing I'm still stuck in some of them decades later. The best of his work is transcendental. Left me breathless with possibility.
Tamara Stowe
Aug 14, 2013 Tamara Stowe rated it did not like it
Couldn't even finish it! Learned that my dad picked it up from a seat pocket on a plane. There was a reason why someone left it there! First book ever to go into my recycling bin!
Jun 02, 2008 Nick rated it liked it
I think there are nine or ten stories in this collection. There are a few duds, but the last four made me feel like a bad person for almost an entire week! in a good way.
Dec 03, 2007 Molly rated it it was amazing
carey might be my favorite living writer -- but his early short stories are even better than his novels, especially if you like bleak, wry surrealism.
Dec 17, 2012 Amber rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I don't know if it wasn't very good, or I wasn't in the mood. Eh. Eh speculative fiction. Eh collection loosely taking place in the same universe. Eh.
Markus Whittaker
Jan 23, 2013 Markus Whittaker rated it it was amazing
read an excerpt of this in a collection of Carey's surrealist/sci-fi short stories, and was impressed, so I've been keeping an eye out
Saya Hashimoto
Oct 31, 2009 Saya Hashimoto rated it really liked it
Great and imaginative short stories. Kind of like a book version of a dark and twisty movie such as Delicatessen.
Jun 04, 2010 Emilie rated it really liked it
Very interesting short story style, if the characters are a little difficult to get into. Worth dipping in
This book is weird. I have too many other good books to read. I read a bit and just can't get into it.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943.

He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960 — after Rupert Murdoch had graduated and before Prince Charles arriv
More about Peter Carey...

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