His Illegal Self
Carey is not particularly interested a la Philip Roth in the destructive passions that politics can unleash but the novel does set out a pointed contrast between the countercultures of Australia and the US.
The American radicals, for whom the narrative displays no sympathy whatsoever, are self-important and ruthless. They are full of passionate intensity and are genuinely dangerous: they rob banks and build bombs. The Australian hippies, with whom Dial and Che eventually come to reside after a series of on-the-road travails, are hapless ferals in Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland, which the omniscient narrator not a character describes at one point as "a police state run by men who never finished high school".
Would it have improved matters, one wonders, if they had finished high school?
They are not apolitical but they are mumbo-jumbo spouters, bumbling and ineffectual. Dial and Che might have no knowledge of the country in which they have sought refuge but there is more than a hint of mockery in the way some of the Australian characters' understanding of the US is revealed to be little more than a jumble of preconceptions. But if there is mockery in Carey's portrayal of the hippie commune, there is affection too. Trevor, a dodgy character who is an illiterate but smart petty criminal, as well as a keen nudist, is revealed to be a soft-hearted chap, who becomes an unlikely ally for Dial and Che.
Even the unwelcoming Rebecca, a minor character who is initially portrayed as the kind of laid-back fascist who doesn't care what you do as long as you obey the rules, is granted a degree of empathy towards the end of the book. This is reflective of the overall movement of the novel and is ultimately more significant than its contextualising politics. His Illegal Self is concerned with loss of innocence but also with the painstaking creation of personal trust.
In the book's gently paced second half the fragile and evolving relationship between Dial and Che is deepened. Che's conflicted feelings about his estranged father are explored and the two exiles slowly come to develop something like a sense of affinity for their shambolic new home, whose landscape the novel affectionately evokes. He studied briefly at Monash University, but left after failing his first year science exams, after which he left to work as a copyrighter in advertising agencies in Melbourne and London.
He started to read passionately, especially the work of Joyce, Beckett, Kafka and Faulkner, and in he began to write. He moved to Sydney in where he continued copyrighting. His first collection of surreal short stories, War Crimes , was published in , followed by The Fat Man in History in He then wrote three A heartwarming memoir of motherhood and adoption told through an African American lens. Reader Reviews. It's also compulsively readable.
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Losing His Voices
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