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Sunday, December 5, 2010
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Gosh, so sorry I’ve left this blog alone for so long.
Between my book tour and all the hoo ha over the end of my column and then starting my new Style Notes blog, I just haven’t had time.
Ah yes, the new blog. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do have a look. It’s at http://maggiealdersonstylenotes.wordpress.com/
The idea is that I will post a Style Notes to it each week and if you subscribe (the little button is right at the bottom of the blog), it will land in your in tray each Saturday morning, just like a newspaper plopping through your letterbox.
But obviously better, because it’s free and doesn’t use paper.
Although if you do have any elderly rels or neighbours who used to enjoy my column in that magazine, whatever it was called, and who aren’t on line, do please print out the new online version and give it to them.
I’m also doing an added extra post from the archives mid-week as well, and if you subscribe, that will also just turn up. The miracles of the interweb. I love it more each day.
Especially as I already have subscribers from America, Singapore, Switzerland, Qatar, UK and other farflung spots and none of them could get my column before.
It’s all good.
Now, back to books. The other reason I haven’t blogged on here for ages was that I couldn’t write about the last two books I read because the lovely Jennifer Byrnes invited me to appear on the Christmas special of First Tuesday Book Club, while I was in Sydney last month, and I didn’t want to spoil the show by revealing my thoughts on here.
It has now aired (rather cheekily, considering the first Tuesday of its title isn’t until next week, but whatever…) so for those who didn’t see it here’s what I thought of Carey’s latest.
I THOUGHT IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I’VE EVER READ.
I love, respect and worship Peter Carey’s writing with an unhealthy fervour (except for the one set in Singapore which I just didn’t get at all). True History of the Kelly Gang is one of my top ten books of all time. Possibly top five actually.
And I can now reveal that I wrote the voice of Theo in my latest book without using any commas, as an homage to the master. There isn’t a single comma in the whole of the Kelly Gang and I wanted to see if I could do it and have it still make sense. I hope I pulled it off.
This book charts the lives of two 18th century men – Parrot, the son of an English printer and Oliver, a French artistocrat – as they career around the world (there are journeys to Australia, as well as the America of the title). The chapters alternate the two voices.
It’s fast-paced, ridiculously broad in its scope and very funny. It’s really a study of the rise of democracy, via a compare and contrast of post-revolutionary France and early independent America, but it’s also a marvellous romp. There’s also some very sexy sex in it. Beautifully done.
But what I really loved about it was its flaws. It’s incredibly flawed. The plot hinges on the most outrageous coincidences – I counted five – and the side trip to Australia, with Joseph Banks, was completely unnecessary, but all of that just made me like it more.
I felt about it, just as I did with Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow: the flaws make it all the more alive and interesting. They make you feel somehow very connected to the great artist at work. And I do believe Peter Cary is a great artist. There are sentences in this book, of such glorious perfection they made me squeal with delight.
It was also the first book I read on my tragically lost Kindle *sobs*. About which more, next time.
PS If you live in Australia I think you can watch the First Tuesday Book Club Christmas special on the ABC iPlayer thingo.
Reading satisfaction: 9.5
Recommend to best girlfriend: 9
Recommend to mother: 8
Recommend to niece: 9
Recommend to gay best friend: 9
Recommend to man pal: 10
Recommend to Helen Razer: 10
Read on public transport: on a Kindle 10, in hardback 0, in paperback 10
It's been a diverse career. Not many people have written for Allure and (the late-lamented...) Gourmet mag.
I've been a magazine editor, an op ed columnist on a broadsheet newspaper, and for years covered the fashion shows in Paris, Milan etc.
But while I shifted between the worlds of food, fashion and current affairs, there was one overriding passion: books.
Now I write them - five novels published, with another due out this year, and several books of journalism.
Here I write about them.