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Posts Tagged ‘Peter Carey’

Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel ‘A Long Way From Home’, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a car rally that captivated the nation. 

Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Carey charges full speed into this story, with characters, ideas and narratives bouncing off each other, until it settles down to a manageable rhythm. Probably an apt metaphor as the real hero of the story is the amazing Redex Round Australia Reliability Trial of 1954 (second of three). 

Among the larger-than-life central characters he even manages to invent a blond, German background, part aboriginal man, and reflects on our inglorious 20th century indigenous history.

Regular KC readers might recall my father John (Jack) in Berlin 36 Redux. Well, he’s also in the background of this story, as he competed in this 15,400 kms trial, driving a Chevrolet (car 36) for Christey’s Motor Auctions. Only 120 out of 263 entrants managed to finish the punishing event, with points lost for late arrivals and replaced parts. Dad’s car finished 97th.

His mate, legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray won in a Ford V8, incredibly with no points lost, and Carey draws on his character. My childhood memories include calling in to Murray’s Bondi garage with my father for a chin wag with Jack later on.

If you want to know more about him, get ‘Gelignite Jack Murray, An Aussie Larrikin Legend’ by his son Phil Murray – it’s not literature, but lots of photos and cars, and O’Hara too.

The Christey’s crew learned a few tricks, as in 1955 they entered the Trial again, with a longer 16,900 kms route round the country: their Ford Customline (car 76) came a very creditable 20th out of 54 finishers and 276 starters! 

I reckon Carey captures the hardships of the Trial and devil-may-care attitude of the self-reliant bunch of individuals who threw themselves into this ‘adventure of a lifetime’ – overall, a rollicking good read, as the cliche goes. Highly recommended.

1954 redex 1

1954 redex 2

1954 redex 3

 

 

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‘Amnesia’

Peter Carey’s new book is a curious tale of young cyberattack heroes with backgrounds in the early days of computer culture in Melbourne. He wraps it around the dramatic political events of 1975 in Australia and the idea of CIA impetus in the downfall of the Whitlam government. The story unfolds retrospectively from a disabling intrusion into the networks of a US provider of prison services in present day Australia.

The cipher for the story-telling is the heroic but ill-fated leftist journalist Felix, who reconstructs ’heroine’ Gaby and her actress mother Celine’s lives from recorded tapes of their memoirs. An unconvincing literary device. The portrayal of activist and Labor party circles rings true, and the ‘love story’ of Gaby and her best friend co-conspirator is cute enough.The action rolls along through the gritty backdrop of inner Melbourne and the Hawkesbury River.

With flagging interest as the story becomes more surreal, although entertained in parts I was finally unfulfilled. As always with Carey, it brims with exaggeration and over-blown characters bordering on the caricatural. I found ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ rather indigestible too. Maybe his style just doesn’t suit me. As Margaret and David might say: I give ‘Amnesia’ three stars.

Thanks are due to neighbour Rob for lending me his fresh new copy of ‘Amnesia’, which I won’t forget to return, ha! Let’s see how the book prize judges handle it and whether Carey’s latest razzle-dazzle impresses them again. I must confess that I also didn’t really get the significance of the title.

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