My Life As A Fake by Peter Carey - review by Geordie Greig

Geordie Greig

The Poet Who Never Was

My Life As A Fake

By

Faber & Faber 276pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

THIS IS THE story of a joke, which backfires big time. Lives are lost, reputations shattered, frailties exposed. And it all starts quite parochially in the backwaters of literary publishing in Melbourne in the late 1940s. A bumptious Australian poet called Christopher Chubb decides to teach his country a lesson by exposing its neediness to appear cultured. He targets a literary magazine and submits some convincing modernist poetry, claiming it to be the work of Bob McCorkle, a working-class genius whose frank and vigorous sexual poems had simply been ignored in his lifetime. Chubb makes up McCorkle's entire life story (conveniently, he is supposed to have died aged twenty-four) as well as his poems, even sending in a faded doctored photograph of this phantom poet.

The magazine's editor thinks he has found another T S Eliot, but what would have been just an amusing little farce becomes deadly serious when the authorities sue the editor for obscenity. The joke unwinds further when, at the trial, a man looking exactly like the phantom poet of the photograph leaps to his feet, and Chubb, to his horror, finds that his very own Frankenstein's monster has been born. The editor then dies in violent

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