Saturday, February 09, 2008

His Inestimable Self

There's a very nice interview with Peter Carey in the Scotsman. I've just bought his new novel His Illegal Self which is yelling, nay shrieking, at me louder than all the other books on my TBR shelf. ReadmereadmereadmenownownownowNOWNOWNOWNOW!

Carey is my darling* and I'm so scared of even the teensiest spoiler in Jackie McGlone's piece that my eyes skip over (for the moment at least) all mention of the novel, but fasten onto all the little snippets about Carey the man and Carey the writer.

Some insights into his creative process:
... What really fascinates me ... is the power of the imagination. I believe that writers should write about what they don't know, not about what they do know. Some of my students become trapped in their own lives, churning over the crimes of parents and siblings, which stops them discovering the incredible joys of invention.

... Perhaps it was writing The True History of the Ned Kelly Gang that really freed me up – maybe it was being brave enough to abandon all punctuation in that book that did it. Getting rid of punctuation means you have to get rid of all sorts of sloppiness in your writing, you have to be really, really exact. And it allowed me to be playful with language, which is what I'd admired in serious literature when I first started to read it when I was about 18.

... Writing's a mysterious process. It doesn't do to analyse it too much. This will sound romantic coming from me, but I do feel it's often like I've been through a fit of madness. When I'm a little anxious or insecure, I'll take down one of my earlier books to try and cheer myself up. It never works. I either think, 'God, this is crap!' or 'This is good, I couldn't do that again!' Sometimes, though, it's like someone else wrote a particular book."
McGlone adds some previously quoted Carey nuggets:

On creating characters:
I do not speak to them outside working hours, although the pleasures of creating proper characters is enormous, especially since novelists are prone to magical thinking anyway. You write something; then you meet someone who's exactly like the person you invented. My novel Illywhacker has some of that argument about it – the storyteller, Badgery, tells lies which later become truths."
On writing novels:
It's a privileged way to spend your mornings. When you have made some nice sentences, how thrilling is that? And then you get to go to lunch – I'm enthusiastic about lunch.
On the unexamined life:
For a writer it's the only one worth living. As a human I'm better off knowing why I do things, but as a writer I don't want to know. Everything that happens to me goes down like sediment to the bottom of the river. I do draw on that swampy stuff, but it's better not to know where it came from; also it's a good excuse not to improve my character.
Here's the trailer for the new novel:



*Reminder to self, try to be more cool and detached as a literary blogger ...

Postscript:

The Guardian podcasts an interview with Carey about the novel.

3 comments:

savante said...

Damn, I love his lines. Simple yet I find myself smiling :)

And then you get to go to lunch – I'm enthusiastic about lunch.

a.a.g said...

"I believe that writers should write about what they don't know, not about what they do know... which stops them discovering the incredible joys of invention."

I LOVE THIS MAN!

bex said...

Wow novel trailers? So cool! :)

I haven't tried Carey yet, I'll have to look out for his books!