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My Life as a Fake Paperback – January 4, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"My Life as a Fake is so confidently brilliant, so economical yet lively in its writing, so tightly fitted and continuously startling." –John Updike, The New Yorker

“Ingenious . . . Carey is as diabolical as the hoaxes that his book includes.” — The New York Times

"Brisk, relentlessly prankish. . . . A virtuoso amalgam of styles, simultaneously a literary conundrum of the Borges variety, an exotic adventure tale evocative of both the settings and the narrative methods of Conrad, and a horror story derived from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." –The New York Times Book Review

"A wholly absorbing, bizarrely madcap comedy and a telling commentary on the sometimes baffling sources of art. . . . Though fiction, the book is anything but fake. It's truth, beauty and comedy wrapped in one sprightly package." –Chicago Tribune

“We have a great novelist living on the planet with us, and his name is Peter Carey."
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Circling from the real to the imaginary and back is as happily perplexing as a drawing by M.C. Escher. . . . Carey can bring a character to life, give him a voice and a history and a psychological topography, in a single paragraph." –The New York Review of Books

"No other Australian writer in our time has succeeded as well as Peter Carey in writing novels that compel the attention of a world-wide audience. His work . . . occupies a high plane of literary brilliance." –The Boston Globe

“Peter Carey’s new novel comes like a monsoon after drought. It is a magnificent, poetic contemplation of the lying, fakery and insincerity inherent in the act of artistic creation. . . . It’s a charismatically furious piece of work, brilliantly meshing its ethical and artistic debate with a rich human drama.” –The Times (UK)

“Reads like the impossible offspring of a fictional ménage-à-trois involving Pale Fire, Lord Jim, and Our Man in Havana. . . . A fabulous book in the original sense of the term--and in the other one, too." –The Atlantic Monthly
“In book after book, Peter Carey has proven that he's incapable of writing a dull page. . . . He’s one of the greatest storytellers alive. . . . A dazzling narrative.” –The Christian Science Monitor

“Fast, furious and fantastical. . . . Carey is Australia's finest living novelist.” –The Guardian

"Carey is that rare artist brave enough to flee success, a tactic that underlies his dazzling track record. Each of his novels sets him a different challenge; in each, he excels. A triumph in its own right, My Life as a Fake leaves us wondering how he's going to delight and disconcert us in his next book." –St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"My Life as a Fake is the real thing." –Time

"Complex and masterful. . . . A haunting story whose surreal events are as captivating and memorable as the misguided aspirations of its characters." –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"In My Life as a Fake, Peter Carey has created a novel that is captivating and haunting, and, in the end, sinfully delightful. For both longtime readers and those coming to his work for the first time, it's a book not to miss." –Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Great rollicking fun. . . . A dazzling, beautifully detailed, intellectually energetic book." –The News & Observer (Raleigh)

"My Life as a Fake dazzles the reader with heady ideas and literary reference points (à la Frankenstein and Pale Fire), then catapults us into madcap action. . . . [Carey] exudes a hallucinatory realism that makes imaginary universes feel concrete and believable." –The Village Voice

"A devilishly engrossing meditation on illusion. . . . My Life as a Fake [is] an ingenious homage to the power of the imagination and to Carey's ability to create–and connect–worlds within worlds." –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

About the Author

Peter Carey received the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda, and again for True History of the Kelly Gang. His other honors include the Commonwealth Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. The author of seven previous novels and a collection of stories, he was born in Australia in 1943 and now lives in New York City. 

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030880
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #985,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on February 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
For a nation with so many fine writers, Australia has an unusual number of "fakes" of one kind or another. Not many years ago, a young British immigrant woman almost passed herself off as a Ukrainian refugee. A white male writer masqueraded as an Aborigine woman. Literary posturing isn't new nor unique to Australia, but writers there seem to be trying to launch a new genre through it. Peter Carey's book isn't an attempt to become a cornerstone of this potential realm. Through a narrative that binds the reader to every page, he re-constructs a fictional account of one of Australia's better known early attempts at literary chicanery.

In Australia, the "Ern Malley" affair remains notorious - poems supposedly penned by an unknown genius of the 1940s. Carey bases his tale on this scandal, bringing a fresh sense of life and place to his characters. He introduces Sarah Wode-Douglass, London literary magazine editor, and the man she's long considered her family's nemesis, John Slater. Sarah - known to Slater as "Micks" is lured to Kuala Lumpur, leading her to a disheveled old Australian, Christopher Chubb. Chubb has a secret, which he dangles enticingly before the editor. It's a collection of poetry by a Bob McCorkle, who Chubb invented. The invention was to have highlighted the failure of the Australian literary elite to understand real poetry. In doing so, it would provide a comeuppance to Chubb's former classmate and editor of "Personae", David Weiss.

The situation gets out of hand when Weiss issues the work and is charged with "publishing obscenity" by an over-zealous Melbourne policeman. Worse for Chubb, Bob McCorkle emerges as a "real" figure pursuing Chubb and demanding recognition as the "poetic genius" he's been depicted.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am generally very suspicious of novels whose plotlines revolve around writers and the world of letters, doubly so in this case, as it involves poetry, which I tend to dislike. However... this is Peter Carey at work, and by the end of this book I'm convinced he could rework an appliance manual into a penetrating and thoughtful story. What he's done here is take a real-life Australian literary hoax from the 1940s, fictionalized it, grafted the gothic Frankenstein story to it, and then superimposed a running theme on the construction of identity by the self. It's the kind of fictional razzle-dazzle that might have seemed arch or pretentious or self-congratulatory in the wrong hands, but Carey pulls it off with style.

The story is narrated on its outer layer (there are numerous stories within stories and narrators within these) by Sarah, the editor of a prestigious, if perpetually bankrupt, English poetry magazine. She writes in the early 1980s, some ten years after the main events of the story, which take place in Kuala Lumpur in 1972. She was taken there by a friend of her deceased parents (and, she suspects, her mother's lover), and seeks to use the trip as a way to talk to him about the suicide of her mother when she was a child. However, one day while strolling the streets of KL, she sees a decrepit white man sitting in a hovel of a bike-repair shop reading Rilke. This piques her interest and she is soon drawn into the strange tale of Christopher Chubb, a man who thirty years previously perpetuated a hoax on a modernist literary review.

Chubb found trendy modernist poetry to be vapid stuff and so submitted some nonsense material from a fictitious blue-collar mechanic poet to an editor he used to go to school with.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on November 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Following from Carey's hugely successful True History of the Kelly Gang, the author plucks another charismatic figure from history to reform in his fiction. This time he has taken the Ern Malley hoax and rewritten it using a bounty of sumptuous detail. In the 1940s a couple of writers sought to play a joke on the surrealist movement of the time. Their hoax got out of hand. They composed poetry using a mixture of their own original work, Shakespeare, a rhyming dictionary and a US army report. However, it was taken seriously, published and then caused a scandal because the content of the work was considered indecent. In many ways the editor who first received the work considered that the fake poet really did come to life. Stemming from this thought, Carey creates the story of Christopher Chubb who similarly sets up a literary hoax. This time, the fictional poet really does come to life.
The narrator of My Life is a Fake is the English poetry editor Sarah Wode-Douglass. She travels to Kuala Lumpur on the invitation of her acquaintance, the poet John Slater, with whom she has a long and complicated past. By accident she meets Chubb who is working in a bicycle repair shop. He gives her a glimpse of a poem by the poet he created named McCorkle. Sarah is desperate to retrieve this poet's work to make her own claim to fame. However, first she must hear the whole gruesome story behind it. It is a complicated affair leading Sarah and the reader to wonder what is real and what is fake. McCorkle comes to life and discredits Chubb's own life. Not only is Chubb's past revealed, but through conversations Slater Sarah's own past is examined. Another fake is revealed.
Carey does a magnificent job at evoking the environment of Kuala Lumpur in this time period.
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