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Jun 9, 2010

Peter Carey's a snob: Bryce Courtenay in defence of popular storytelling

"Peter Carey is a perfect example of that kind of inane literacy snobbery,” Bryce Courtenay tells Crikey, in defence of popular culture and “show-offs” like the Booker Prize winner he says have hijacked the cultural debate.

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“Peter Carey is a perfect example of that kind of inane literacy snobbery,” says Bryce Courtenay, with an economy and efficacy of words that has made him Australia’s most wildly successful writer.

Courtenay was stung by Carey’s recent closing night address to the Sydney Writers’ Festival, during which he rebuked a nation “getting dumber every day”; “forgetting how to read” the classics in favour of cookbooks and Dan Brown and “cultural junk … completely destructive of democracy”.

“He’s talking absolute bullshit,” Courtenay spits. “There’s always been the equivalent of the Twilight series, the equivalent of the big blockbuster; historically speaking there have always been novels that have captivated a very broad audience that might not have always understood Shakespeare, but the reading public is homogeneous. I mean, we read everything and not to read is unthinkable. More books are being sold today per capita than at any point in history in the country. So we know that people are reading.”

Courtenay isn’t apologising for selling millions of books in dozens of countries, mounting an extraordinary defence of the ‘popular novel’ and a “deeply suspect post-modernist” culture he believes has been hijacked by the likes of Carey and his “self-perpetuating club” of writing snobs — novels of “literary pretensions” that his books help subsidise.

“Good writing is good writing,” the 76-year-old told Crikey from his home in Bowral in NSW. “There’s no such thing as popular writing versus literary writing. If I’m a popular writer then Peter Carey is an unpopular writer. If I’m a best-selling writer than he’s a worst-selling writer.

“It’s not ‘I am a literate writer and he is an illiterate writer’. My education is every bit as good as Peter’s, possibly better. Unequivocally I could write his kind of stuff.”

Appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program last month, where he stoked the simmering debate on popular literature further, Carey lamented the loss of Shakespeare’s prose in education and the reading consciousness. And yet, Courtenay says, the Bard was the popular writer of his time.

“Shakespeare was attended literally by the mob,” he says. “He had a popular audience, and the reason he had a popular audience is because he told unbelievably good stories. They weren’t sophisticated [the audiences], these were crooks and pick-pockets and wild men and drunks and they came along because the storytelling had a particular power, it exists, it tells us who we are, it tells us where we’ve been, it tells us where we’re going.

“It is human continuity.”

Courtenay talks of a prevailing “stupid dichotomy” that junks traditional storytelling: “It has captivated the tertiary levels in Australia and while it has been disabused in most countries it still prevails here.” This club of “academic snobbery” lives off the success of writers like Courtenay, he says.

“There are writers in Australia who have been dependent on the Australia Council hand-outs for their entire careers. If they had to go out there and make a living as many good authors do they’d have absolutely no chance. They’d capture the school market because their cohorts sit on the boards … and therefore reading in schools has been an appalling process because kids will tell you very happily that the stuff they’re made to read with singular exception is crap. And it’s the crap that the literati will write.”

Courtenay cites The Power Of One, his international best-seller that he says won rave reviews from critics overseas but dismissive censure from the Australian literature community.

“There’s a book that’s sold seven and a half million-odd copies in 17 languages,” he boasts. “Now what are they going to say, are they going to say this is a piece of shit? Or are they going to say that this book has something to say to people?

“There is no such thing as a wonderful book that gets lost. It just doesn’t happen. But what is getting lost is a lot of very, very ordinary books that have literary pretensions. And they’re just very ordinary books. There’s the assumption that just because you’re a literary writer therefore you are writing something of importance, of interest or entertainment or education or ability. It’s absolute crap. A book has to stand between its own covers and you put it on your lap and if it doesn’t engage with you then it’s dead in the water. Now that goes for a classic as much as it goes for anything else.”

And Carey? “This guy has won the Booker Prize twice or three times, I don’t remember, but certainly that’s impressive,” he says (twice, in fact: Oscar and Lucinda in 1988 and True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001, one of only two authors to win the honour multiple times). “I’m not sure I’d like to win it but it’s certainly in a literary sense impressive. However, if you look at Peter Carey’s latest book it would be a very interesting idea, and I suggest you do it, that you look at it and see how many it sold in Australia. Then look at a Matthew Reilly or me or some other popular author and see how many they sell. (Crikey couldn’t find the closely-guarded figures, though Courtenay suggests it may be as few as 10,000.)

“It’s just bloody stupid. If the Peter Careys only existed then we wouldn’t have any books at all because nobody could afford to publish them. The disappearance of Bryce Courtenay means in effect the disappearance of Peter Carey, no matter how good he is. So we are forever reliant on each other.

“I’m not knocking his work; my personal opinion of Peter Carey’s work is not important here. But what I am saying is we are all in this together.

“Right from day one they’ve said this so-called ad man who’s written this so-called best seller has got to be a dud because he’s an ad man. Now, Peter Carey was an ad man. He wrote me a letter once and begged me not to mention that to anyone because it would destroy his career.”

That cat is now out of the bag… “Eventually he had to,” Courtenay explains. “But he was terrified that that would go against him. Whereas I didn’t give a sh-t. And in fact copy-writing is as good a training in the use of words … as there is. So we both had very good training. He decided to throw that training out of the window, I decided to use it, that’s all.”

But surely Courtenay is aware of the commercial demands of his work? Surely his popularity is deliberate, his prose purposefully accessible?

“Never even occurs to me,” he chides. “Why would it? I never wrote for money anyway; I started at 55 and said ‘well you know I’ve always wanted to do this, let me have a go, I’ll probably fail but what the hell’.

“Words don’t make stories, they are simply the means of telling them. And sometimes you get good stories reasonably badly told, and sometimes you get stories beautifully told. I’d like to think I was somewhere in the middle there. That my language is accessible and wasn’t showing off, but it wasn’t silly or poor or badly done.”

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45 thoughts on “Peter Carey’s a snob: Bryce Courtenay in defence of popular storytelling

  1. Michael Beggs

    It was a dark secret that Carey was a copy-writer? Wasn’t the main character of Bliss, his first novel, an ad man?

  2. HB

    “but the reading public is homogeneous.” Implying that the reading public has “a property of a mixture showing no variation in properties”?

  3. kathleen1

    Reading in schools is crap for a number of reasons. I remember my 10 year old son was told to stop reading Lord of the Rings to do an assignment on a book of no consequence that nobody can remember because “not everybody in the class can read Lord of the Rings”. Of course, once interrupted and refocussed elsewhere he didn’t go back. Took him another 8 years to finish a piece of great literature.

  4. dirt armature

    Carey is increasingly offensive–full of profound self-importance and ex-pat hubris. His increasingly irritating non-fictional incursions are designed to garner attention for his boring writing. Makes sense then that Old Louie the Fly wants a piece of that action. Boring, boring boring. Nothing to see here, move on . . .

  5. kebab shop pizza

    Tony Martin unwraps this everyman theory like a christmas present:

    http://www.thescrivenersfancy.com/scarcely-relevant/2010/05/26/child-abuse.aspx

    Don’t mind the url, it is quite safe. It refers to the ABC book club show featuring UK airport novelist Lee Childs.

  6. Wombat

    Hear bloody hear. I’ve read both Peter Carey’s and Bryce Courtenay’s latest novels. Carey’s was the epitome of literary snobbery. I didn’t understand everything he was trying to say, but I am glad that I read it. It was smart and interesting. The only trouble was that it took several weeks to read because it was such hard work. Whereas Courtenay’s latest was a pleasure to read, light and entertaining, written very much for an audience that wanted a nice holiday read.

    I can understand Carey’s point, but I fundamentally disagree with it. His books don’t sell well because the public doesn’t want to read them, not because the public is too stupid to understand them. Keep up the good work Bryce, and I look forward to the next book.

  7. Jim Sutherland

    Ihave read a number of Peter Careys books and consider him an uneven author. Bliss and Oscar and Lucinda were both good reads but a lot of his novels are undermined by his constant belittling and demeaning of Australian life and values. Frankly I thought The True History of The Kelly Gang to be a turgid catty and highly inaccurate putdown of Kelly and his legend . Carey seema to have a real problem with Australia.

  8. Michael R James

    @KEBAB SHOP PIZZA at 1:58 pm

    Yes, it barely deserves comment but Lee Childs and Bryce Courtney prove the point every time they open their mouths. Childs was very instructive about the entire carefully planned strategy to write best sellers. No problem with that but at the same time, can there be any doubt that our society is being dumbed down. One doesn’t have to think Carey is a great writer (personally I still believe what I thought decades ago reading his early works: too mannered) to agree with his claim. The dominance of best sellers and the likes of Twilight is proof enough. Childs and Courtney seem to have some complex–dare I say inferiority complex–much more than Carey and say, other Booker winners. They seriously claimed that they would love to write best sellers like Childs; pretty weird because the likes of Carey and Amis do quite nicely and I reckon it is ridiculous to imagine they would ever hanker to write one of those genre books (it is true that they might find it difficult because it does take amazing discipline to write such stuff–what, other than $$ is the motivation?)

    But let’s not forget the current Labor front bench (but perhaps sole Liberal, Malcolm T) who set an excellent example. From the PM to Lindsay egghead Tanner, Peter Garrett (who appeared on ABC book club this year), Craig Emmerson and others.

  9. Kaitlin Walsh

    I’m with Wombat.

  10. Fiona Scott-Norman

    Go read the Tony Martin piece. It’s a peach.

  11. Jenny Morris

    Looking forward to seeing Bryce Courtenay writing Peter Carey’s “kind of stuff”.
    Bad writing is bad writing, whatever the size of the font on the front page.

  12. CarlitosM

    Interesting that after the initial sparring, they both seem to agree in a lot. Sure, there needs to be better education, more books, more accessible and even fun, exactly how both writers are at their best.

    Yet the key is where are the new Careys and Courtenays coming from, how easy or hard is their path and what support/help can be provided.

    Otherwise, not much to see here, move on… Just like Dirt said above.

  13. MichaelT

    For as long as novels and plays have existed, there have always been ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ authors.

    It’s a bit of a sterile debate. We need both.

    It is a rare talent that can achieve the heights of both popularity and literary value. Dickens comes to mind. Shakespeare was ‘a’ popular author in his day, but not ‘the’ most popular one. There were heaps of even more popular plays then that are unreadable now. Realistically, Bryce Courtenay probably fits into this category.

    Whether Peter Carey is fit to rank with the greats is something we could debate long and hard. But I don’t agree that The True History of the Kelly Gang was a turgid and inaccurate putdown. IMHO Carey managed to pull off an uncannily accurate rendition of the language in Ned Kelly’s own ‘Jerilderie Letter’. Almost as if he was channelling him.

    No need for Carey to put down the popular page-turners, though. Courtenay is kidding himself when he maintains he could write high literature (I’ll believe it when I see it!), but most of the rest of what he says makes a lot of sense.

  14. Halya Slobodniuk

    There are multitudes of “literary” Australian authors I prefer to Peter Carey – Mandy Sayer and J.M. Coetzee (can we claim him, yet?) for two. I find his style ponderous and clunky and unpleasant to read. Additionally, my pubescent, Stephen Dorff induced lust could not induce me to finish Bryce Courtenay’s Thandia.

    I could not disagree more with Courtenay’s comment that , “There is no such thing as a wonderful book that gets lost. It just doesn’t happen.” I mean, this is patently BULLSHIT. Great books get lost in the shuffle printed, and they get lost when out of print years later.

    “But what is getting lost is a lot of very, very ordinary books that have literary pretensions.” He’s on the money here, though. If I could have a dollar $1 for every book I have read about a man in his late 30s, making his living as an artist/poet/university professor who returns to his small town/suburban home to attend his father’s funeral, and has a fight with a blue-collar brother with a chip on his shoulder, I’d be driving a new car. There’s writing what you know, but is there any need to take that advice so literally?

  15. Vincent Matthews

    It takes a Bryce Courtenay to state the bleeding obvious. I’ve listened for many painful hours to publishers and agents at writers’ meetings waffling on about “literary” novels and “popular” novels. I once asked a Harper Collins executive what was the difference. She couldn’t tell me but took a long time saying so. Just as Peter Carey takes a long time in his novels to say very little.
    As Kingsley Amis said of his “literary” novelist son: “Martin could never write that someone got up and left the room.”
    I wish publishers and agents would take Bryce’s comments on board. Some talented would-be authors might then get published.

  16. Michael Butler

    ‘Literary’ fiction is a genre just as much as any other. The suggestion that one genre or style of writing is superior to another strikes me as very silly.

    Poe, Chandler and Bradbury were all popular, ‘genre’ writers but they’re also considered great authors. I’ve read good and bad books in all genres – crime, sci-fi, ‘literary’, you name it. Genre gives you a framework – it’s up to the author to make the writing good or not.

    M

  17. MapoHat

    Just a small point, but if (as was the case) the proles showed up to a shakesperean think-fest in ye olden days, doesnt this count as a point against Courtney’s contention? Seems to me something of an own goal.

  18. edwin coleman

    Lee Child made the same claim on The Tuesday Night Bookclub, that he and Bryce and their ilk could write literary fiction if they chose, but the Careys and McEwans couldn’t write their stuff. No evidence of course. Suppose it true. Child et al choose to write popular novels in order to entertain and make a lot of money. What motivation do they impute to Carey et al which is less worthy of action? Apparently, they are writing bad and unentertaining novels despite having no hope of making lots of money. Why? Could the aim be something more valuable than entertainment – to which I have no objection , per se – maybe to show us something?
    Why is, say, Pride and Prejudice a great novel? Not because it was and is popular, but because it has qualities which support it’s being read over and over again with enjoyment [even, dare i say, when zombies are mashed in for fun]. Popular novels are the ones you can read once on a plane if you are bored but will never open again. Of course, there are intermediate cases, especially in the genres, like Edmund Crispin’s detective stories or Clarke’s science fictions. What ‘s wrong with Courtenay’s novels is that they are not genre so they can be fairly compared to Austen and come off poorly. Child’s may be good thrillers but very few in that genre can be re-read. When they can – think LeCarre – it’s because the author tried to do more than entertain and make money.

  19. davejm@tadaust.org.au

    I disagree with the proposition that if many thousands of people enjoy a novel then it must be ‘good’. There are many popular novels which are just plain tosh. They are simply skilfully written to suit the tosh readers. There are also popular writers whose material is intrinsically good enough to satisfy the most carping critic.
    The debate between ‘literary’ and ‘popular’ will rage on as long as people continue to read and many struggling writers (possibly ‘good’) will continue to wonder why their taxes are subsidising writers who are not and never will be ‘popular’.

    David Mercer

  20. Rox

    I wondered whether someone would mention Dickens – the Courtenay of his day and a Carey in ours (to lots of people).

    The last scene in Oscar and Lucinda creeped me out so much I’ve never been back.
    Maybe in another 20 years. The Power of One I still reread regularly and I love Lee Childs, but rarely reread.

    It’s a brave person who would say any one of these is “better” than the others. And people who think that if a novel is popular it must be crap (or indeed vice versa) are tossers.

    What do you think of Peter Temple? Spans the popular and the “literary”.

  21. nicoleholyer1

    Sorry, but there’s no way you can accuse Bryce Courtenay of efficacy or economy. His tomes are lessons in dreary, self indulgent writing – don’t know how many I’ve started and have been unable to finish. They’re just dull. How he qualifies as the epitome of popular fiction, I don’t know.

    “Unequivocally I could write his kind of stuff,” he rants of Peter Carey. Really? In my humble opinion that’s a pretty telling declaration of his own insecurity.

    Nicole Holyer

  22. Noiresque

    Peter Temple is probably someone who will last longer than either Courtenay OR Carey.

    I am a firm believer that the best “genre” writing (be it hardboiled noir, sci-fi, detective, fantasy “women’s” fiction) that deals with character and humanity will probably be read better as a document of the times in 50 or 100 years than someone actively as “literary” as Carey, or actively “potboiler-ish”as Courtenay.

  23. John

    Hear Hear Bryce! Well said (written even). Back in 1975? our English teacher let us choose between the standard book list or LOTR. The class voted for LOTR, I’ve read like a fanatic ever since. He also let us do “Stairway to heaven” as our poetry piece, but that’s another story. Thanks Mr Zander…

  24. msellen

    “It was a dark secret that Carey was a copy-writer? Wasn’t the main character of Bliss, his first novel, an ad man?”

    I logged on to make the same point. Courtenay is full of crap. On top of that he is a misogynist. I have read three of his novels, and have never been subjected to such drear, passive, stupid, two-dimensional female characters. He is also clearly an ego-maniac. I’m all for people enjoying a wide breadth of literary genres, but to try and claim that a writer like Courtenay could stretch the intellect or reach the emotional depths of a literary writer like David Malouf, for example (or even Peter Carey, who I agree can be a little uneven, but in my opinion, his talent far outweighs Courtenay’s) – get real.

  25. Hugo Furst

    Both Courtenay and Carey are unreadable, each for their own reasons. But whenever Carey comes out with a new book, he is promptly given every Premiers Literary Prize in the country. Any resident writer, high or low, literary or genre, who has the misfortune of publishing a book in the same year simply does not stand a chance – whatever the quality of their work.

    The State Library of Victoria paid tens of thousands of dollars for the laptop on which Carey wrote The True History of the Kelly Gang. They keep it in a glass case. It’s a 1999 laptop.

    As they used to say, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Or kicked off a literary prize committee for giving $50,000 to Peter Carey.

    Frankly, the man’s an inspiration.

  26. wyane

    This is a great piece … best thing I’ve read in Crikey in the past couple of weeks. The distinction to be made here is that of a fair-dinkum story-teller and a fair-dinkum wanker.
    Although he wouldn’t stoop to this description, Courtenay makes some valid points on the pretentious nature of Aussie-lit (and the local art scene in general).
    I struggled writing essays in high-school English classes (was more of a maths/science kid). The thing with high-school was that you read the text (often tripe prescribed by the syllabus which was developed by dear friends or fans of the publishers or writers), and you were expected to write in a style set by the teacher’s crib-notes.
    Thankfully, essay writing in uni was the complete opposite, and I found insightful thought or interpretations of a text were rewarded.
    Courtenay is genuine, while Carey is part of a self-appointed elite who only serve to disillusion many young readers while pandering to, what was it?, several thousand aloof, niche snobs who seek to cling to an imagined standard.

  27. tenpem

    Stephen Knight, writing in Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction (1980), argued that literary criticism was ignoring the very books they ought to be studying.

    These were “books which have been bought or borrowed, enjoyed and so assented to by many people. The fact of success in itself is an important, even a compelling reason for choosing certain books to examine. Literary criticism has shied away from commercial success as a ground for treating a book seriously. Literary critical skills have not been used to study the interests and needs of mass society; they have been turned inwards in a fully ideological way to gratify and ratify the taste – and needs too – of the highly educated minority who validate their position by displaying a grasp of complicated cultural artefacts. In universities in particular it is striking that humanities departments study what interests them while other areas – medicine, engineering, economics, political science, anthropology, sociology – study the workings and needs of society at large. A good literary critic should be able to say why a mass seller works, and how it works. The dismissive certainties of most comments on popular culture do not satisfy those requirements.” (p.2)

    Thirty years on and not much has changed, eh?

  28. Robert Giles

    There is certainly the churn it out – written for the return type stuff – and there is the literature. You have got to say that the churn it out stuff seems more readily soaked up than the other. The question is – is better to have people reading than not reading.

  29. CathieT

    I’ve read Oscar and Lucinda (because it won the Booker Prize and I thought it important). Slow going.

    I’ve read just about everything that Bryce Courtenay’s written – because they’re a bloody good read.

    ‘Nough said.

  30. Holden Back

    So much resentment and insecurity, to say nothing of poor argument.

  31. deccles

    Peter Carey can well lecture us from his SOHO loft in NYC. Like the Sydney Push expats before him (Germaine Greer, Clive James, Robert Hughes) it’s much easier to come back and criticise Australia from a distance even though he hasn’t lived her for more than a decade.

    Cultural Cringe alive and kicking.

  32. Socratease

    “If I’m a popular writer then Peter Carey is an unpopular writer. If I’m a best-selling writer than he’s a worst-selling writer.”

    Well put.

    “and therefore reading in schools has been an appalling process because kids will tell you very happily that the stuff they’re made to read with singular exception is crap. And it’s the crap that the literati will write.”

    Plus ça change. There are only two prescribed books that I recall reading and actually enjoying during 12 years at school: Treasure Island and Wake in Fright, and the latter is the only book that I have read a number of times since and it is still a bloody good read.

    The rest bored me shitless — at the time. I recall throwing Trollope’s Barchester Towers out the bus window, and gave the Bard the biggest miss I could. I just boned up on Cliff Notes or equivalent to pass the exams.

    The education department’s list of prescribed books held no interest at all for me, or most of my mates. Outside of school it was Biggles, or Agatha Christie … anything with a story that appealed to young guys. But we did read! It’s just that we read what interested us. For kids, reading should never be a chore or an academic exercise. It must first be enjoyable — after that it can be educational.

    In my late twenties I picked up Trollope and Shakespeare and found that I enjoyed them because by then I was an adult with some life experience and could appreciate the plots, the irony and the subtext.

  33. michaelwholohan1

    The trouble with many “bloody good reads” is while you may relish the pace of the plot, the suspense & the anticipation of coming action; suddenly it can be like chalk screeching on the blackboard as the most banal cliche, tautology or just the most jarring phrase or sentence soils the page. For vivid proof of these, the Tony Martin piece tagged by ” kebab shop Pizza” is a must read. I cannot imagine Peter Carey ever penning such atrocities, that is not to say his writing appealing. I find it generally a bit contrived, mannered not to my taste, but not a chalk screecher.

  34. Socratease

    ^ Yeah, but Kenneth Cook seemed to get it right back in the 60s when he wrote Wake. I was surprised myself that I found it just as readable and engrossing today as I did back when, allowing for the change to decimal currency, etc. Cook’s menacing characters and descriptive prose rung true to me as a kid. Although today I can see a few plot flaws, they don’t diminish my enjoyment of the tale.

    I think Cook’s experience as a journo and doco-maker kept his style from wandering into “literature” and that appeals to me.

    The movie, now remastered and available on DVD, was quite faithful to the book, too.

    [end of plug] 🙂

  35. Bob the builder

    Boring, boring….

    Like wine, if you like it, it’s good. I love Peter Carey and think Illywhacker is fantastic. Such brilliant observation of speech and blah, blah, blah….

    I’m sure he’s a wanker, but that doesn’t invalidate his writing and I’m supremely uninterested in what either he or Bryce Courtenay have to say about each other. His more recent writing seems to have gone along the Thomas Keneally path of writing about the world of a late-in-life successful arty person (who’s gone to live in NY!) and their preoccupations, but his earlier stuff was great. And I really enjoyed Kelly Gang too.

    Can’t see why anyone would think he’s another self-hating Australian (although I think the same of the ex-Push too) – mustn’t criticise Ostaya must we, ‘specially if thay’ve gorn away.

    The argument that popular is better is fantastic, stops all that bother of thinking and evaluating. That must mean So you want to be a trillionaire is better than Four Corners and the Stinking Moaning Herald is better than Crikey… All you wankers who read Crikey, get back to your Heralds and Courier-Mails you elitist bastards.

  36. mareekimberley

    thanks for the Tony Martin link, kebab shop. I enjoyed reading that much more than Courtenay’s rant.

  37. Noiresque

    Like Bob the Builder, I don’t buy into the notion from Deccles that “it’s much easier to come back and criticise Australia from a distance even though he hasn’t lived her for more than a decade. Cultural Cringe alive and kicking.”

    Huh?!

    C’mon, this line of thinking is mired in petty jingoism and demonstrates an inability to consider any criticism, positive or negative with an inferiority complex flaring up. Why bring nationalism into it? To negate Carey’s argument with ripostes about being self-hating and “un-Australian” is middle-class and reeks of low self-esteem.

    I care for the opinions of neither Courtenay nor Carey, but it is obvious that neither of them is criticizing “Australia”. They are criticizing how the publishing industry and the education system translate into cultural attitudes regarding high and low art. In short it is all about their egos, and jostling for position as cultural mouthpieces.

    It has little to do with being AUSSSSSIEEEEEEEEEH.

  38. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    I have neither read Courtney or Carey, but I have read Dan Brown – and Dan Brown is a pretty mediocre writer. It’s not that he writes for mass markets, but that his prose is sloppy and characterisation is flat. It’s like he went to trouble of removing all traces of style from his work. He doesn’t look good when you compare him to a fairly mainstream spy novelist like Len Deighton – a man who has style, and isn’t afraid to use it.

    So Courtney slams Carey for blasting Brown? What a cheek.

  39. Ron E. Joggles

    I read Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and Huckleberry Finn 2 or 3 times each as a child, and then HG Wells, Rider Haggard, RL Stephenson, Somerset Maugham, FX Herbert, EA Poe, John Brunner, CS Lewis and Tolkein of course, as a teenager, and what all these had in common is that they transported an unhappy boy to a preferable, if unreal, place.
    Neither Courtenay nor Carey can do that – Carey is turgid and affected, Courtenay superficial and formulaic – one is tedious, the other just eye-glazingly boring.
    These days reading time is precious, so it’s usually Raimond Gaita, Daniel Dennett, JR Saul, or other actual information – the inadequately described “non-fiction” – Stephen Jay Gould’s “Wonderful Life” I admire above all.
    So fiction is limited to the time spent ill and miserable in bed, and it has to be engaging and preferably humorous – like a Cliff Hardy yarn. Mr Corris, please bring back Ray Crawley!

  40. Ron E. Joggles

    And I still don’t know how to attach a photo to my username! Any hints, Holden Back, Down and Out of Sai Gon?

  41. 44fx290

    @ NOIRESQUE

    Hop down before you get a nosebleed.

  42. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Ron – the first thing to do is set up a Gravatar for yourself: it “Lets weblogs and similar sites display user-provided pictures from a central database.” Basically put, it associates email addresses with photos. Sign up, enter your details (as much as you think is desirable), and plop in a pic of whatever you want. It could be you, or it could be your favorite dinghy.

    Secondly, ensure the email address for both Crikey and Gravatar are identical. And the third thing? Complain to staff if things don’t work. 🙂

    On the topic of Courtney, he believes the title “The Power of One” is inspirational, and perhaps it is to many. Speaking for myself, it sounds like a slogan for an ad from Westpac or MBF or your least-favorite superannuation fund. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t get the respect that he expects – the language has already been cheapened by the corporations.

  43. stephen

    Don’t have anything to say about Carey vs’s Courtney, but Carey’s concern about what we are feeding our minds is fair enough.

  44. Socratease

    @R E Joggles: My introduction to Cliff Hardy was through Peter Corris reading ‘The Empty Beach’ on 2BL each day.

  45. davirob

    – Carey is turgid and affected, Courtenay superficial and formulaic – one is tedious, the other just eye-glazingly boring. +1 from me,have glanced at Courtney and read 2 or 3 Carey but MR.Joggles has said it for me.Pretty much describes oz movies too.

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