Carey and Capital in Jack Maggs
Perseus wore a magic cap so that the monsters he
hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic
cap down over our own eyes and ears so as to deny
that there are any monsters.1
I suppose I've always been interested in monsters, and
the monsters within us.2
THROUGHOUT HIS FICTION, Peter Carey has been concerned with unsettling the illusions of capitalism. Critiques of contemporary capitalist society figured significantly in his earlier works. Among the stories, “American Dreams” exposed the illusions of consumerism, offering a sarcastic view of tourism as commodification; in “War Crimes,” capitalism entered “its most picturesque phase”3 with two hippy-punk capitalists acting as literal troubleshooters for an ailing business, while “The Puzzling Nature of Blue” investigated the relationship between capitalism and colonialism. Carey's first novel, Bliss, tackled the advertising industry, proposing a metaphoric view of capitalism as cancerous. Illywhacker displayed the evolution of Australian society as “a kind of degeneration from entrepreneurial cap
1 Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, tr. Ben Fowkes (Das Kapital, 1867; Harmondsworth:
Penguin, 1976): 91. All further references are to this edition.
2 Joanna Penglase (co-writer) & Don Featherstone (co-writer and director), The
Most Beautiful Lies: A Film About Peter Carey (BBC 1, Omnibus, 1986–87).
3 Peter Carey, Collected Stories (London & Boston MA: Faber & Faber, 1995): 314.