Peter Carey, The Art of Fiction No. 188 – Radhika Jones

When I arrived at Peter Carey’s apartment on a chilly March morning for the first of the two conversations that make up this interview, Carey took my coat and hung it up. When we met again ten days later, he gestured toward the closet and said, “You know where the hangers are.” He is a casual man, usually found in jeans and sneakers, and given to genial profanity. For much of our four hours of conversation he reclined in his chair, his feet up on the kitchen table. But if his posture was laid-back, his expression was lively, and he laughed frequently. When talk turned to his childhood in Australia, he hopped up to show me family photographs—of his grandfather, Robert Graham Carey, an aviator, posing in a monoplane in Adelaide in 1917; and of Carey Motors, the car dealership Carey’s parents ran in Ballarat, near the small town of Bacchus Marsh, where he was born in 1943. From a kitchen drawer Carey produced a fistful of comment slips from his boarding-school days, which he displayed with self-deprecatory glee. “Very hard-working,” wrote his house master at Geelong Grammar School, in 1960. “Very intense and serious-minded. He needs to have his leg pulled and learn to laugh at himself. It may be better to concentrate on the Pure Maths next term.”

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