Thursday, 16 November 2006

The Hours of My Life Peter Carey Stole from Me

Apparently it's a proven fact that women's bodies physically forget the pains of childbirth, or else they'd make damn sure they never got pregnant again. Personally i believe this theory, based on my own ability to forget certain things despite how much i know they pain me. For instance why do insist on wearing socks to bed when my feet are cold when i know i'll wake up and rip them off later? And why do i continue to read books by Peter Carey when i know how annoyed i get by them?

I read The True History of the Kelly Gang and My Life as a Fake a couple of years ago, and after not being too impressed with either of them (i'm being pretty harsh here) i would have needed a good reason to read another. The combined circumstances of finding Oscar and Lucinda in a gutter (also meaning i could carry it around with me without the fear of blemishing it's already tatty cover), having recently heard it mentioned as brilliant, and the picture of the Crystal Palace on the cover, led me to naturally assume it was destiny that i should read it.

And it was good. It took a while to get into, some of the characters were so irritating (i just wanted to shout "tell him before he goes on a massive trip in which he will probably die!") but there were some passages so beautifully written i had almost changed my opinion of Carey. Untill i got to the end. I know not every story has a fairytale ending. But this is just so annoying! Gah! (A bit like the ending of Boytown for anyone as cool as Cath or i whose seen it.) But i'll move on...

So as you would assume, i did not have any great plans to read the rest of his works. And my life would have continued on Carey free except for the single most frequent reason i read a book: A BOY. (Probably not statistically true, but it seems like it.) Just so i don't sound like the crush slut that i am, let me clarify that he read a book i said i liked (i didn't even say "you should read this") so when he recommened i should read Theft i thought i'd return the gesture.

And i must say it's the best book by him i've ever read. Firstly it was funny and i didn't want to scream at all the characters. It's written from the perspective of an artist Butcher Bones, who just got screwed over from his divorce and lost his son and his paintings (Carey’s ex-wife had a whinge that the book was too autobiographical as it was published shortly after their divorce, portraying her as the evil woman and he as the wronged artist) and is forced to live in the country and care for his mentally disabled brother, Hugh. The parts written from the brother’s perspective are the most interesting. Basically it's about art, fraud and love. To use my favourite highschool line: it questions the nature of “what is art?”. But to be fair it does raise some insightful questions into who should own art and who determines it's value. And for us cognoscenti there are some cute art jokes in the way Hugh perceives the art world – such as the “Bower House” – without becoming tacky or condescending. The book is well-written and tackles the use of the various perspectives without being pretentious. Despite the fact Carey continues his obsession with certain themes from his previous novels in Theft (his characters always seem to get themselves dragged into obvious situations where they can’t see what’s going on) and that it received much less literary acclaim (he’s won the Booker Prize twice previously), i found it much more satisfying. Probably its just my lack of taste, but for anyone interested in the art world, i definitely recommend it as a pleasurable and worthwhile read.

As you can probably tell i’m procrastinating, hence the fact this review is so epic! Get back to work elsa!


sophie said...

get back to work elsa!
also that review was immaculate.
i have the true history of the kelly gang sitting on my shelf - should i bother reading it?

cate_p said...

don't do work elsa! i know i wouldn't!
instead spend your time doing more worthwhile things such as writing AWESOME and immaculate reviews such as that one...actually made me want to read peter carey after i struggled through the first 50 pages or so of 'true history' and gave up out of boredom..the best thing i can say about that book soph is that my version had awesome old-fashioned pages and was quite aesthetically pleasing! and i need to get my art knowledge up so might peruse it sometime..and give oscar and lucinda a go - the ending can't possibly be worse than boytown or 'the riders'

els said...

cath, nothing could be worse than the riders - and how mrs sex-crazed o'farrel thought she became a lesbian at the end - when that was in no way implied. freak!

soph, i would say kelly doesn't seem like your type of book - but give it a go. start with no expectations (ie a booker prize?!?). fun for the aussie factor i guess?

cate_p said...

hahaha i forgot about that old nymphomaniac's rather unusual interpretation..

Anonymous said...

Painting not a Van Gogh, says gallery
Friday Aug 3 12:26 AEST
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) says a painting it believed to be by Vincent van Gogh has turned out to be a fake.

Gallery director Gerard Vaughan said a specialist curatorial team in Amsterdam which carried out tests on the painting, Head Of A Man, had concluded that it was not by the Dutch Master.

While the painting, which it has held for over 60 years, is not by Van Gogh, Mr Vaughan insisted it was not a forgery.

"It is very important to make the point that it's not a forgery," Mr Vaughan said.

"There is no evidence to suggest that someone produced this picture at a later date to pass it off as a work by Van Gogh."

The painting was brought to Australia in a collection of modern art by newspaper owner Sir Keith Murdoch in 1939.

It was meant to be returned to its owners, but became trapped in Australia with the outbreak of World War II and was purchased by the NGV in 1940 for 2,196 pounds ($4,392).

The authenticity of the painting was called into question in August last year while on show at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Critics said the work, dated 1886, was a different style to other Van Gogh paintings of the same period, was the artist's only horizontal portrait and was not mentioned in any of the Dutch master's letters.

The NGV sent it to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for authentication.

If the painting was proven to be an authentic Van Gogh, it would have been worth about $25 million, but as a fake, it is almost worthless.

The NGV had traced the history of the work to 1928 at the Abels Gallery in Cologne, in Germany.

The Abels Gallery's files were destroyed during World War II, making a trace on the painting's history after that difficult.

Although the work is not mentioned specifically in any of Van Gogh's letters, the NGV pointed out the artist did mention a number of unspecified portraits produced at about the time the work is believed to have been painted.

"I lately did two heads which I dare say are better in light and colour than those I did before", Van Gogh said in one letter.

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