Picks and Pans Review: My Life as a Fake

UPDATED 12/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

By Peter Carey
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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At a London dinner party, literary magazine editor Sarah Wode-Douglass runs into a writer who invites her on a trip to Malaysia. There she meets an aging poet who was once at the center of an Australian literary hoax, and becomes consumed with his past. Years earlier, in an attempt to hoodwink a pretentious colleague, he had created a fake writer and placed the fake's terrible verse in the colleague's hoity-toity journal. But then did the made-up writer somehow actually come to life?

In this pseudo-horror tale the author of the Booker Prize winner The True History of the Kelly Gang combines a Frankenstein story with a real literary hoax that happened in 1944 Australia. In Carey's hands it's a fantastic fireside yarn. The only flaw: Frustratingly, Sarah keeps hinting at a broader scope, alluding to exotic continent-hopping hunts for clues that we never hear about in detail. Much is left to the reader's imagination, though that may be justified in a novel that takes an eerie, questioning look at the art of storytelling.

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