Monday, July 02, 2012

Parrot and Olivier in America

Author: Peter Carey
Faber and Faber 2010

Here is the last of my holiday books worth recommending.

Peter Carey is an author who deals in ideas. Reading his wonderful stories one can choose simply to take them as a face-value, riveting read. Or one can dwell on the critique being offered of some aspect of contemporary life. It is quite fun to try and work out what it is that is being critiqued. This often involves ignoring the blurb on the jacket which can assume you are stupid and tell you.

So Carey takes the son of a French aristocrat who escapes the revolution and the son of a poor English printer with a knack for forgery and makes the latter end up as the servant of the former, although via Australia where most men in the early nineteenth century had to work out what it meant to be the son of thief. Carey is an Australian who lives in the USA.

The couple travel to America at the dawn of democracy during Jackson's presidency and both get to reflect on where they have come from, who they are and where they might end up. Democracy, someone observes, might be considered a failure if any old fool can become president. And without an aristocracy who will have the time to judge what makes good art?

All tables get turned. All comments can cope with being set 200 years in the future.

Oh, and on church chairs, Parrot says, 'My seat had been made by someone who disapproved of sitting.' Ouch.

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