Peter Carey was all over the posh papers on the weekend, with spreads in The SMH, The Age and The Weekend Australian. The reason, of course, is self-interest: his new book, Theft: A Love Story (Knopf), hits the bookshops today.

But
as a former ad-man, Carey should know that while you can bring a
journalist to the PR water, that doesn’t mean they’ll lap it up.
“There’s an unholy alliance,” he acknowledges to Susan Wyndham in The SMH. “I need you to write about me and you’re going to do it in your way and then I’m going to complain about how you do it.”

So he can hardly complain when Wyndham homes in on what she sees as the most interesting aspect of the story: parallels between Theft
– a “divorce novel” – and Carey’s own marriage break-up from theatre
director Alison Summers. Carey refuses to play ball. “It’s all sorts of
novels … Where did we start this interview? Is it about me? No.”

Wyndham
writes that Carey’s publishers at Random House then “make urgent
warning calls to me and my editor against exposing his personal life”.
But, she says, “how can we ignore it?” Over at The Age, Jason Steger took a softer line: “He is reluctant to talk about it all – and who can blame him?”

Determined
to do it in her way, Wyndham speaks to Summers, who is more candid than
her former husband – she wants to set the record straight on Carey’s
portrayal of her as a “career-obsessed spendthrift who claimed credit
for his success”, says Wyndham. According to Summers, “I finally saw
that the man I thought I had married didn’t exist”. She has begun
writing her own novel, Mrs Jekyll.

Maybe free publicity does come at a price after all.

Peter Fray

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