The Guardian has a nice piece on Australian novelist Peter Carey, one of only two people to ever twice win the Booker Prize. The UK paper examines the cultural snobbery of 1960s London, and it’s a revealing indication of our patchy shifts towards a globalized world. (Coincidentally, the other dual Booker winner, JM Coetzee, recently moved from London and South Africa to Australia.)
Carey worked in advertising in Sydney – a job so well paid he could write most days of the week (?). He taught himself to write from finding examples of his own predilections inside the precedents of his idols.
He was mainly working on short stories then; gamely sending them out and absorbing the rejections … The brevity of his style, which doesn’t waver no matter how long a novel he is writing, comes down to boredom as much as aesthetics. Oscar And Lucinda is a 500-page novel made up of 111 tiny chapters, which he thought of as tiles tessellating into a perfect whole. “I was very anxious when I was writing Oscar And Lucinda. I would take other books off the shelf to check my chapter length was OK. John Irving did it, so it was OK. Four pages.
Carey shifted to New York and won fame for seeming “fun and bitchy and the antithesis of the typically agonised literary novelist … the levity of his prose never at odds with the seriousness of his ideas”. Staying in New York for twenty years, he avoided the ‘real pain’ of homesickness by realising his true home was the past, and not a place. His new novel, The Chemistry Of Tears, is out soon, through Faber & Faber.