Adrian Stumpp's Reviews > My Life as a Fake

My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
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Nov 09, 09

bookshelves: australian, contemporary, fiction, novels, mystery
Read in November, 2009

Ern Mallory, apparently, was a famous Australian literary hoaxer circa 1940. The hoax consisted of a handful of faux-T.S. Eliot highbrow modernist poems written by a pair of anti-modernist poets as a sort of a joke. The poems were intended to be cliche parodies illustrating all the worst, most self-indulgent, hyperbolic aspects of modernist poetry. The fictitious poet, Mallory, was conscientiously packaged as a Marxist class hero--a well-read, erudite, self-educated working man (bicycle repairman, in fact). The poems were published and heralded as works of great modernist genius. The hoaxers had a good laugh. But when the truth came out, as it is sometimes wont to do when the fictitious poet becomes an overnight sensation, it caused quite the scandal in literary circles. This much is historical fact.

Carey's (fictionalized) version of the literary hoax takes a decidedly Frankensteinian twist that makes for some good reading, if, in the end, the conclusion doesn't quite live up to the novel's early promise. Traditional fans of Carey should beware. This is basically a literary thriller in the vein of The DaVinci Code or The Book of Air and Shadow. It poses as high literature, but really its just a well spun mystery yarn marketed towards book geeks. Christopher Chubb is a convincingly creepy and ambivolent character but otherwise all the personages who populate My Life as a Fake are functional because, as I said before, this is at heart a straight forward mystery novel and in straight forward mystery novel, however literary their trappings, the primary purpose of all characters is to serve a practical function. A damn good read, but not the usual fare from Peter Carey.
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11/05/2009 page 105
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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben Good review. I've had this on my reading list for a while... guess it's time to pull it down.


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