Peter Carey, the Booker, and the Repatriation of
S INCE THE PUBLICATION OF PETER CAREY'S LATEST WORK, My Life as a Fake (2003), its author has received extra ordinary media attention, particularly on his frequent visits to Australia to promote the book. In almost every public utterance, Carey has taken pains to direct attention towards his new novel and its core intrigue: that one can imagine an untruth into full being, that myth can become reality. Ironically, these imaginative preoccupations are by no means remote from the circumstances in which Carey now finds himself – an author struggling to separate his literary achievements and aims from the near-mythical figure, created in the media, of the “famous Booker Prize-winning Australian author Peter Carey.” A publicist may argue that this is a wholly positive outcome, but the publicity multiplier effect of winning the British Booker Prize for fiction is not all advantage: this most prominent award drives a process of cultural iconography that is every bit as protean and powerful as any of Carey's fictions. Moreover, a marriage between the effects of a global, commercially driven book culture and the national speaking position Carey occupies as a celebrity-status Australian author may not boast the positive outcome for literature, or Australia, that is currently keeping the publishers and booksellers smiling – not if his main public role is as “an import–export industry for rebadged Australiana.”1
1 Luke Slattery, “The Curse of Ern Malley,” Weekend Australian (26 July 2003): 7.