Monday, March 2, 2009

My Life as a Fake

This is the first of anything I've read by Australian writer Peter Carey and I'll definitely be returning to his work--True History of the Kelly Gang is supposed to be excellent. My Life as a Fake reimagines the events of the Ern Malley hoax, in which two poets created a fictional character, Ern Malley, and passed him off as a poet savant to the pretentious editor of a literary magazine. With very authentic-sounding letters attributed to Malley's sister, she laments her deceased brothers genius that seems to have gone unnoticed (the two poets cast Malley as a mechanic).

In Carey's version, the fake poet, named Bob McCorkle, has come to life to torment his creator. Carey's narrator, the editor of a British literary magazine, has traveled to Malaysia at the request of the famous poet, John Slater, an old family friend and nemesis (she believes Slater is somehow responsible for her mother's suicide). Once there, she meets Christopher Chubb, a strange white man living a meagre existence among the Malaysians. Chubb turns out to be the perpetrator of the infamous "McCorkle hoax" and relates the story to the narrator, enticing her with a glimpse of some brilliant poetry supposedly written by the hoax come to life, Bob McCorkle.

Carey manages to weave themes of identity and the artistic process through a riveting tale that takes the reader around the Pacific Rim with a plot that involves kidnapping, murder and exile.

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