Monday, December 6, 2010

Peter Carey

Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America is a Finalist for the National Book Award in fiction.

From his Q & A with Bret Anthony Johnston:

BAJ: Do you remember your original idea for Parrot and Olivier in America? How closely does the finished book correspond to what you first had in mind?

PC: My original idea came from Tocqueville's Democracy In America where I found a much more qualified and complicated view of the young democracy than I had expected.

Tocqueville allowed me to walk through a door and imaginatively inhabit the country which had been my home for twenty years. I was not interested in ‘channeling’ Tocqueville but in imagining a parallel universe in which my aristocrat traveled, not with another aristocrat (as Tocqueville did) but with the son of an itinerant printer. The printer would be the aristocrat's reluctant servant. They would dislike each other, have different views and values. The book would be funny but not frivolous. Sparks would fly. They would come to like each other but never agree.

This plan still represents the final work, although the plan is more like a ‘mud map’, something scratched roughly in the earth. If the novel succeeds it is because of all the thousands and thousands of discoveries I made along the way involving people I had never known in places I had never seen.

BAJ: Parrot and Olivier in America is dedicated to Frances Coady. Do you have a reader in mind as you write?

PC: Frances Coady is not only a gifted New York publisher and editor. She is also my wife. She lived the book as I wrote it, day after day, many times over— not necessarily a relaxing second job to have – reading at all sorts of levels with all sort of intents, from providing simple encouragement to the close editorial questioning that writers once were able to take for granted. Her light touch is one of her...[read on]
Read a 2006 blog post on "Cultural cringe" and Peter Carey's Theft.

--Marshal Zeringue