Peter Carey, Theft, 2006.
Theft is the only one of Carey’s novels that I’ve read. No Oscar and Lucinda, no True History of the Kelly Gang for me. Clearly I have no respect for people who have won the Booker twice? I dunno.
At any rate. It’s an uninspiring book. Alternating in direct, first person narration by two brothers--“Butcher”, a brilliant painter, and Hugh, a person who is not balanced--the novel is not easy to get into. The oscillation between their styles makes it more difficult than I would like to find the rhythm for reading the book, and once found, the plot does not, to my mind, provide enough sustenance for one to remain interested. It's not overly intricate, but too detailed in too much depth. It's a fun story, though, of art-world manipulation and theft.
What Carey does well is the characterization: both Butcher and Hugh are phenomenally self-absorbed, though Hugh less so, and care for the other brother deeply. Perhaps Butcher’s problem is that he cares too deeply for his art to care enough for his brother? Or perhaps that’s too trite an assessment: I’m still not sure.
What’s difficult, to my mind, is to tell a story so enmeshed in the world of art that pictures have to be real for the reader. Carey kept me interested in the various canvasses that inhabit the world of Theft, and interested me in them enough that I’d like to see them.
Having read this book, I’m not sure that I’ll be in a rush to go near Carey’s Booker winners. It was a quick weekend read, but not worth the three-days’ worth of library fines that I’ll incur when I return the novel tomorrow evening.