My Life as a Fake

My Life as a Fake

4.0 3
by Peter Carey, Susan Lyons

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Sarah Wode-Douglass, the editor of a London poetry magazine, had grown up knowing the famous and infamous John Slater. And because he figured prominently in the disaster that was her parents' marriage, when Slater proposes that she accompany him to Malaysia, Sarah embarks out of curiosity on a journey that becomes, instead, a lifelong obsession. Her discoveries spiral…  See more details below


Sarah Wode-Douglass, the editor of a London poetry magazine, had grown up knowing the famous and infamous John Slater. And because he figured prominently in the disaster that was her parents' marriage, when Slater proposes that she accompany him to Malaysia, Sarah embarks out of curiosity on a journey that becomes, instead, a lifelong obsession. Her discoveries spiral outward from Christopher Chubb, a destitute Australian she meets by chance in the steamy, fetid city of Kuala Lumpur. He is mad, Slater warns her, explaining the ruinous hoax Chubb had committed decades earlier. But lurking behind the man's peculiarity and arrogance, Sarah senses, is artistic genius, in the form of a manuscript he teases her with and which she soon would do anything to acquire. The provenance of this work, she gradually learns, is marked by kidnapping, exile, and death - a relentless saga that reaches from Melbourne to Bali, Sumatra, and Java, and that more than once compels her back to Malaysia without ever disclosing all of its secrets, only the power of the imagination and the prices it can exact from those who would wield it.

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Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
From the two-time winner of the New Zealand Booker Prize (Oscar and Lucinda, True History of the Kelly Gang) comes an enthralling tale based on a nearly unknown incident in Australia's past that uses gothic trappings to highlight the battle between artistic passion and personal integrity.

When London poetry editor Sarah Wode-Douglass accompanies a rebel writer to Malaysia, she meets the notorious Christopher Chubb, a now-homeless bicycle repairman who concocted a literary hoax in the 1940s that destroyed several lives. Using the pseudonym of "Bob McCorkle," Chubb forced a young female editor to face an obscenity trial that eventually got out of hand and led to her suicide. As if this were not enough, a seven-foot giant claiming to be the real Bob McCorkle appeared out of nowhere and, acting out of revenge against his "creator," kidnapped Chubb's daughter.

Carey weaves a complex, imaginative plot that uses clashing narratives to build conflict and suspense,as mysterious characters confront each other and revelations are disclosed in rapid-fire succession. You'll find yourself waiting impatiently for the eventual throwdown between Chubb and his creation McCorkle, a face-off that will draw all the novel's threads together in a wondrous and thrilling finale. A mesmerizing, innovative work of fiction, My Life as a Fake is as much a thoughtful exploration of conscience as it is a lyrical mystery concerning the creative soul. Tom Piccirilli

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Recorded Books, LLC
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In his remarkable new novel, the two-time Booker-winning author Peter Carey creates a Creature as indelible as Frankenstein.
In Melbourne in the 1950s, an arrogant young Australian poet named Christopher Chubb decides to teach his country a lesson about pretension and authenticity. Choosing as his target the trendiest of the literary magazines, he submits for publication the entire oeuvre of one Bob McCorkle, a working class poet of raw power and sexual frankness, conveniently dead at twenty-four and entirely the product of Chubb’s imagination. Not only does the magazine fall for the hoax, but the local authorities also sue its editor for publishing obscenity. At the trial someone uncannily resembling the faked photograph of the invented McCorkle leaps to his feet. At this moment a horrified Chubb is confronted by the malevolent being he has himself manufactured.
Using as a springboard a real literary hoax that transfixed Australia in his boyhood, Peter Carey wickedly and ruefully explores how the phantom poet taunts, haunts and otherwise destroys his maker, pursuing Chubb from Melbourne to a seedy, sweaty, bitter ending in the tropical chaos of Kuala Lumpur. Inexorably the Creature steals Chubb’s life, eclipsing him as a poet and a man. In a twist that is truly devilish, Chubb’s own existence finally comes to depend on the Creature’s “real” unpublished poems.
Peter Carey has composed a manic, endearing and penetrating ode to fakery at its most truthful and truth at its most fake, a novel that penetrates to the heart of the alchemy of literature itself.

Author Biography: Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943 and now lives in New York City with his family. The author of seven previous novels and a collection of stories, Carey has won the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book twice, and the Booker Prize twice -- for Oscar and Lucinda and for his most recent novel, True History of the Kelly Gang, which was also a finalist for the 2002 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

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Meet 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. 

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 7, 1943
Place of Birth:
Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia
Monash University (no degree)

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My Life as a Fake 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
archetype67 More than 1 year ago
Peter Carey based My Life as a Fake on a real incident in Australia where a writer perpetrated a hoax by publishing the poems of an individual he claimed was dead, but never really existed. While the actual incident would be interesting enough, Carey takes this further by have the supposedly imagined poet show up in the life of the individual who created the hoax. The story is told by Sarah - the editor of a London Lit journal who has followed another writer, Slater to Malaysia. Slater, knew Sarah's mother and part of her reason to go there is because she wanted to know what really happened between Slater and her mother. That subplot is a perfect subtle way of getting the reader to question the narrator's reliability. Added to that, a layering of stories told to the narrator that sometimes include another told to them. The reader receives conflicting stories through this technique and one finds oneself wonder which is true.  Sarah, while in Malaysia, she runs into Christopher Chubb, the man who created the poetry hoax. He shows her a poem he insists is the work of Bob McCorkle, the supposedly made up poet. She realizes it is a brilliant piece of writing, but Chubb says he must tell her his story. His story is also told by Slater, giving the reader two different sides. As the story continues, Chubb tells his story, and the story of the hoax, of Bob McCorkle come to life, of his daughter, his lover, and the stories of others who help or hinder him along the way, as well as telling the stories they have told to him. We also hear directly from the daughter through the narrator and Slater tells Sarah versions of some events he participated in, heard, or witnessed that differ to the point that the are sometimes in direct conflict with what we learn before or after. The narrator herself begins to question things, but her own desires color what she chooses to believe. Slater also tells her what really happened to her own mother, even though she remembers it differently.  In the end, the narratives weave in and out, closer and further from the narrator and the reader is left to question what did or didn't happen - and is left to the reality that none of the characters are all that likable. Does a character's likability make it more like we believe their version? Sarah starts as likable, but as the story progresses I found her less and less so. Her obsession reflects that of Chubb and at least one version of McCorkle, and while the end is of course in question, one imagines she end up similarly.  It is rare to find a book where the characters aren't especially likable, yet My Life as a Fake is wonderfully engrossing. Carey does an excellent job at recreating post-war Australia, and 1950's and 70's Malaysia for the readers, and in creating engaging characters that are fully drawn if not particularly sympathetic. I found that even though the story was being told to the narrator, each of the characters in any given story had their own voice. He also has created a sort of literary Frankenstein in Bob McCorkle that keeps the plot moving and building to the shocking end. The story is action packed and full of vivid details — an impressive feat when you realize that during the course of the narration, only a short time passes in opposition to the decades the stories told to her take, and, other than moving from place to place where characters meet and the story is revealed, there is little real-time action.  Carey's characters are epically flawed - they are greedy, selfish, amoral, and vengeful (often for slights perceived as far worse than most of us would see them) and more often than not under the sway of one of those flaws, although they cannot see it, even when reflected in others they accuse of the same. While the end is shocking, it feels inevitable and unavoidable, and the sadness is not for the consequences, but rather for the fact that they couldn't see it coming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've never been able to get into Peter Carey before, but I bought this to put into my book club (it is already available here down under!) and started to read it to fill in time waiting to pick the kids up from school. I could not put this down, I was drawn into this improbable and fantastical tale almost without realising it. I haven't enjoyed the EXPERIENCE of reading like this since I read Dirt Music and Cloud Street (also good Aussie titles!)