Sympathetic Stupid

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Tax Inspector: Peter Carey

I've previously seen Peter Carey as being somewhat similar to Patrick White; great Australian literary novelist. But as The Tax Inspector is the first Carey I've read, there's been no knowledge to back up that comparison. My conclusion after one book is that I was wrong.

Carey is less 'literary' (whatever that means) than White. This book has a similar feel to that of White's The Eye Of The Storm. Both are presenting a view of a family with an aging matriarch. The deep psychological studies of the characters are somewhat similar. But that's fairly simplistic comparison.

I didn't like The Tax Inspector because it seemed to become a little crude. Well-drawn portrayals of ineresting characters degenerated into (admittedly compelling) sex and violence. It was a good picture of Sydney in the late 80s, but then it became a caricature of some sort of fraught family situation. Maybe this was a metaphor which I'm not perceptive enough to get, but I didn't love it, anyway.

Despite that, I can see why he's won the Booker twice. Smart writing without being too dense (as White often gets). I know little about the craft of writing but it reads well, which is my main metric. So I'll definitely follow up with more Carey.