Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Peter Carey

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. My contribution is from the Australian novelist Peter Carey.

Photograph by John DoneganPeter Philip Carey was born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, on May 7th, 1943. He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960.

In 1961, he studied science for a single unsuccessful year at Monash University. It was at university that he met his first wife, Leigh Weetman, who was studying German and philosophy, and who also dropped out. He was then employed by an advertising agency where he began to receive his literary education, meeting Faulkner, Joyce, Kerouac and other writers he had previously been unaware of. He was nineteen.

For the next thirteen years, he wrote fiction at night and weekends, working in many advertising agencies in Melbourne, London, and Sydney. During this time, he read widely, particularly the works of Samuel Beckett, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and Gabriel García Márquez, and began writing on his own, receiving his first rejection slip in 1964, the same year he married Weetman. Finally, The Fat Man in History — a short story collection — was published in 1974. This slim book made him an overnight success.

From 1976, Carey worked one week a month for Grey Advertising, then, in 1981 he established a small business where his generous partner required him to work only two afternoons a week. Thus between 1976 and 1990, he was able to pursue literature obsessively. It was during this period that he wrote War Crimes, Bliss, Illywhacker, Oscar, and Lucinda. Illywhacker was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Oscar and Lucinda won it. Uncomfortable with this success he began work on The Tax Inspector.

Carey has won the Miles Franklin Award three times and is frequently named as Australia’s next contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Carey is one of only four writers to have won the Booker Prize twice—the others being J. G. Farrell, J. M. Coetzee and Hilary Mantel.

“When I write I look at what’s lying on the floor of my life”

// Peter Carey, The Art of Fiction No. 188

With writing and blogging, it can feel like you have nothing to say or nothing to share. You look out of the windows of your soul, out into the world, hoping to find something worth turning into an epic. Something other people don’t see, something you see in just the right way. You hope something out there will spark something inside of you and turn you into an overnight success too.

But you can’t see the things no one else has seen and you watch ideas pass you by because you have no idea what the mean. You don’t know how to turn them, shape them, or make them something bigger through words on a screen. So you look to the sky.

You look up and plead with the Gods to give you the spark you need. You want the gift of creativity and of genius. You shake your fist and scream your frustration when no answer comes to you.

The Gods do not care about your plans. They will not give you what you must work harder to find. Writing is hard magic to wield and only the worthy, the ones who know the gift is not given but must be sought after in the right places, will know it’s power.

I will tell you a secret, though. The answer is not outside nor will you find it in the sky. The answer is in you and in all you have felt and been through.

Look among the discarded moments littering the floor of your life. Pick each one up and look it over again. See it with new eyes and with a new heart. Notice every detail. Pick up another moment, one you thought was nothing but trash. Combine it with another, or pull it apart. Shape it, transform it, and make it something new.

There are many ideas around, hundreds walk by you every day, but you must start with your own story.

Look inside yourself and take the things you didn’t think mattered and make them grand.

At least….that’s the way that I would like to do it.


2 Replies to “Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Peter Carey”

  1. Interesting stuff on Peter Carey. I agree with the complex of pulling scraps and ideas off the floor of your life and fusing the elements into a bigger composite. As I imagine all good writers will join in my protest, it takes a building knowledge of ideas and tools to develop as a writer. I myself am very influenced by beat writers, such as: Kerouac, Solomon, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Mailer. I know I wouldn’t be half the the writer I am now without having imbibed the prose of their brilliant manuscripts; it’s a lifelong conquest…

    Therefore, the complex expands when young writers–like myself–take into account the deficiency of knowledge that stems from a lack of reading. I feel like innumerable bloggers forget to read the great writers and just feel they can simply pick, or, rather, ravenously pull a glut of scraps up off the floor of their souls and create something novel; in addition, these tyros need to read in order to become fluent, sophisticated writers.

    I’m glad to see read appreciation for great writers like Carey, and, finally, look forward to seeing both of our wiring styles develop in the future. Keep up the good work!



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