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Collected Stories

door Peter Carey

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1783118,982 (3.7)5
Peter Carey is justly renowned for his novels, which have included the Booker Prize-winning titles Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. He is also a dazzling writer of short stories and this volume collects together all the stories from The Fat Man in History and War Crimes as well as three other stories not previously published in book form. The stories, persuasive and precisely crafted, reveal Carey to be a moralist with a sense of humour, a surrealist interested in naturalism and an urban poet delighting in paradox.… (meer)
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Peter Carey has rapidly become one of my favourite authors, so reading some of his short stories seemed in order. He’s had a few collections published; this 2001 edition is, I think, the most comprehensive, combining his previous volumes The Fat Man in History and War Crimes, and adding a few extra stories which had previously been unpublished.

Although most of them take place in no particular time or place, the majority of these stories were written in the 1970s, before Carey turned his hand to writing novels. Carey was self-admittedly suffering from cultural cringe at the time, and therefore he usually avoids naming the setting, despite the fact that nearly all the stories are clearly set somewhere in Australia or an Australian-like nation. The effect, when combined with his usual surreal and magical style, is to create a sort of fantasy Australia – a land of dusty country towns and strange cityscapes built around anonymous harbours, stifling factories at the edge of the desert, bleak motels and seedy bars, secret rivers and dark forests. It actually reminded me, in a wonderful way, of the artwork of Shaun Tan – clearly Australian, yet also strange and fantastic. I said in my review of Illywhacker that I loved the way Carey took Australian place names and turned them into something beautiful and lyrical, but there is equally something marvellous about the mythical not-Australia of his early fiction.

As in any collection, I have varying opinions on the stories. Some of my favourites included Kristu-Du, about an architect building a monument for a third-world dictator and turning a blind eye to his role in the dictator’s human rights abuses; Crabs, a strange story about a man who becomes trapped in a drive-in theatre in a sort of post-apocalyptic world in which possession of a car is paramount to survival; A Windmill in the West, about a soldier guarding a fence in the desert who becomes confused about which side is which; The Puzzling Nature of Blue, about an Australian who must confront what has actions have wrought upon a tropical island nation; Exotic Pleasures, about an alien bird which gives intense pleasure to all who stroke it; A Schoolboy Prank, about an act of revenge and intimidation a group of alumni perform upon their former teacher; and The Journey of a Lifetime, about a clerk obsessed with travelling on a luxury train.

Carey’s prose is brilliant as always, and his stories range across a variety of post-modern anxieties and unease: Australia’s relationship with America, the stultifying effects of consumer culture, the lip service people pay to the notion that physical beauty isn’t important. Sometimes these themes can be buried deep within complex allegories – beautifully written allegories, but nonetheless difficult to extract. I can’t say I enjoyed every one of these stories, and I do still think Carey is a better novelist than a short story writer. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Collected Stories a lot. ( )
  edgeworth | Jul 13, 2014 |
This review has been crossposted from my blog Review from Rose's Book Reviews Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me.

'Collected Stories' by Peter Carey is a set text for one of my literature classes, as it is a good example of Post-Modernism. As such, I was not very interested in reading it, but my other alternatives were Feminism and Constructions of Gender! The short stories are clearly critiquing society, and so are not particularly comfortable to read.

These collected stories are numerous in both theme and setting. Some, such as 'Exotic Pleasures' are set in our world, but in a future time. Others are in a complete fantasy world, such as 'Do You Love Me?'. Possibly the most famous two short stories are 'War Crimes' and 'The Fat Man in History', so if you don't read any other stories from this collection, read those.

Carey aims to shock and appall at all times. Why else would he have someone eat a dog turd, or consume the flesh of a fellow human? Other elements include vivid imagery, such as the snakes of 'The Uses of Williamson Wood', and interesting characterization 'Life and Death in the South Side Pavillion'. He makes his reader think, and doesn't encourage compassion for his characters.

Because I had to analyse these stories, and I'm not that fond of short stories to begin with, I could almost say I hated this book! Sure, the stories were interesting in an abstract way, but it certainly required a lot of thought. I like to have cohesion between short stories, some central theme, but there wasn't anything. People who enjoy post-modernism and metafiction (exposing the constructs of fiction) will probably like this book, but it just wasn't for me. ( )
  Rosemarie.Herbert | Feb 14, 2013 |
I did not expect a mix of fantasy and science fiction (although all in various degrees of these genres) and I did not expect such darkness and pessimism. It all seemed to work however. Carey has a knack for tightly constructed stories, surprise endings and thought provoking themes. A thread of class struggles and political commentary runs in sotto throughout his stories but each stands on its own. A discovery I'm glad I made. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Sep 30, 2008 |
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Peter Carey is justly renowned for his novels, which have included the Booker Prize-winning titles Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. He is also a dazzling writer of short stories and this volume collects together all the stories from The Fat Man in History and War Crimes as well as three other stories not previously published in book form. The stories, persuasive and precisely crafted, reveal Carey to be a moralist with a sense of humour, a surrealist interested in naturalism and an urban poet delighting in paradox.

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