The first book I read by Peter Carey was Illywhacker and I was intrigued enough to read Oscar and Lucinda. But since then I haven't picked up any of his books. If you had asked me why I wouldn't have been able to give you a real reason, save there were other books I was more interested in reading, or that he wasn't on my watch list for new releases.
It wasn't that either Illywhacker or Oscar and Lucinda were badly written or anything, or even that they weren't readable and likeable, it's just I wasn't particularly moved by either one of them. The real problem was that I had no real memories of either book save that both started to feel like a chore to wade through in order to get to the finish.
But it's been a number of years since, and with the release by Vintage Canada of his latest book Theft I decided to take the plunge again. Once more Mr. Carey takes us to that strange land of Australia so that he can show off the local fauna in its natural habitat.
On this occasion we are dealing with the sub-species of Australian known as a visual artist, or painter if you will, and the misadventures that befall him as he attempts to win back his place in the pantheon of "importance". It seems that the star of our erstwhile protagonist, Michael Boone by name, had been on the rise back in the seventies, with his work making sizable chunks of change among the artistic set.
But it all went bad, his marriage ended, his wife took possession of his paintings, and for breaching a restraining order he ended up in jail. Unlike death, it seems that jail does not appreciate a modern artist's work either in terms of cash or in terms of recognition, and he is quickly relegated to the scrap heap of the passé.
While he may be forlorn and forgotten, Michael is not forsaken. Upon his release from jail he is set up in country retreat by his patron/former neighbour so he can paint and be kept away from his ex-wife and child. Any work he produces now will be outside of the "martial possessions" so he will be able to keep whatever monies he earns.