My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey

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Following the triumph of his Booker Prize–winning True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey ventures into the Far East with a novel shot through with mysteries at once historical, literary, and personal.

Sarah Wode-Douglass, the editor of a London poetry magazine, had grown up knowing the famous and infamous John Slater. And because he figured prominently in the disaster that was her parents’ marriage, when Slater proposes that she accompany him to Malaysia, Sarah embarks out of curiosity on a journey that becomes, instead, a lifelong obsession. Her discoveries spiral outward from Christopher Chubb, a destitute Australian she meets by chance in the steamy, fetid city of Kuala Lumpur. He is mad, Slater warns her, explaining the ruinous hoax Chubb had committed decades earlier. But lurking behind the man’s peculiarity and arrogance, Sarah senses, is artistic genius, in the form of a manuscript he teases her with and which she soon would do anything to acquire. The provenance of this work, she gradually learns, is marked by kidnapping, exile, and death—a relentless saga that reaches from Melbourne to Bali, Sumatra, and Java, and that more than once compels her back to Malaysia without ever disclosing all of its secrets, only the power of the imagination and the price it can exact from those who would wield it.

Astonishing, mesmerizing, and ultimately shocking, My Life as a Fake is the most audacious novel yet in Peter Carey’s extraordinary career.

About Peter Carey

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Born in Bacchus Marsh, a country town in the southern state of Victoria, in 1943, Peter Carey has put his Australian background to good use. Yet, even though he consistently writes about Australia, he is far from a regionalist. His writing is marked by its wit, flights of imagination, clear style, solid characterization, and rich texture. He brings to all his fiction a cosmopolitan quality and metaphysical dimension that has led critics to compare his work with that of Jorge Luis Borges Jorge and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When asked about the debt to Borges, Carey replied: "It is there, it cannot not be there." Carey's first volume of short fiction, The Fat Man in History (1974), with its original and unrealistic use of Australian materials, gained immediate acclaim in Australia. One critic noted that Carey at last fills "a vacancy in the Sophisticated Fantasy Section of the Short Story Industry." A second book of stories, War Crimes (1979), was equally well received and won an important Australian literary award. His first novel, Bliss, appeared in 1982. At the time Carey was balancing his writing career with the operation of an advertising agency in Sydney, and his books were not generally known outside of Australia. When Illywhacker was published, in 1985, followed by British and American editions, he began to receive international attention. The novel, whose title employs an Australian slang word for con artist, retells Australian history and looks into the nation's future, stressing all the while the lies that constitute the national myth; the work was short-listed for the British Booker Prize. Carey's next novel, Oscar and Lucinda (1988), did receive that prestigious prize, and his reputation as an Australian writer with international stature was firmly established. In 1989 he moved to New York, where he still lives, teaching part time at New York University and writing. Even though The Tax Inspector (1992) was written in New York, it continues Carey's exploration of the Australian myth and its effect on the individual. Yet all of Carey's work transcends the Australian experience. His title Parrot and Olivier in America made The New York Times Best Seller List for 2011.
Published October 28, 2003 by Knopf. 288 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Action & Adventure, Crime. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for My Life as a Fake

Kirkus Reviews

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The two-time New Zealand Booker winner (The True History of the Kelly Gang, 2000, etc.) traces the honeycombed ramifications of a brazen literary hoax (based on a real incident that occurred in 1943 in Australia).

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

Publishers Weekly

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Carey, who won the Man Booker Prize for his True History of the Kelly Gang , takes another strange but much less well-known episode in Australian history as the b

Oct 13 2003 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

The Guardian

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In Shelley's story, Frankenstein's creation finds the scientist's notebook and comprehends his monstrousness, but here, book and knowledge flow in the opposite direction: Chubb's poetry is never more than adequate, but McCorkle's verse, written in a language he has made his own, is 'worth being b...

Sep 14 2003 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

The Guardian

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Though he died tragically young and unpublished, his sister Ethel had the wit to post his typescripts to an editor called Max Harris, who acclaimed his unique talent - "In my opinion a great man, and in the opinion of many people a major poet" - and devoted an issue of the magazine Angry Penguins...

Sep 13 2003 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

Publishers Weekly

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Carey's novel approach to the narrative-the entire tale is in the form of Tristan's direct testimony to formal authorities of Voorstand culture-is brilliantly maintained throughout, and the fairy-tale quality of its figuration makes for a surpassingly rich feast of metaphors and mercurial meaning...

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BC Books

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In Kuala Lumpur she discovers the story of Bob McCorkle's fabled poetry, the fake created by Christopher Chubb.

May 08 2008 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

AV Club

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Convinced that the publication of McCorkle's poems will both save her magazine and make her reputation, Sarah listens to Chubb's Conrad-esque tale of foreign journeys, shape-shifting pursuers, and lost children, hoping to snag the mysterious book at the end of it all.

Jan 20 2004 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

Reviewing the Evidence

When it is clear her escort recognizes the man as the poet Chubb, Sarah persuades her companion to begin to tell her Chubb's story.

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My Life As a fake asks the reader to understand the obsessiveness of poetry based on the real life Ern Malley affair in Australia.

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The Sunday Times

The opening chapters provide a close retelling of Australia’s greatest cultural hoax, the Ern Malley scandal of 1944, in which an avant-garde magazine editor was persuaded to publish poems concocted under a pseudonym by wily writers pretending to be an undiscoveredTo see the full article you need...

Sep 07 2003 | Read Full Review of My Life as a Fake

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