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Illywacker [Mass Market Paperback]

Peter Carey
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 3 1985
From the author of OSCAR AND LUCINDA and JACK MAGGS, a humorous novel narrated by the 109-year-old 'illywhacker', or confidence trickster, of the title, who recalls jokes, inventions and characters from his life.

Product Details


Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

First published in 1985, this picaresque tale from Australian novelist Carey presents the life story of a highly unreliable 139-year-old con man.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

"One of the funniest, most vividly depicted, most entertainingly devious and bitterly insightful pieces of fiction to be published in recent years." —Newsday

"Carey can spin a yarn with the best of them.... Illywhacker is a big, garrulous, funny novel.... If you haven't been to Australia, read Illywhacker. It will give you the feel of it like nothing else I know." —The New York Times Book Review

"A book of awesome breadth, ambition, and downright narrative joy.... Illywhacker is a triumph." —Washington Post Book World --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque and interesting Aug. 1 2000
By Ruth
Format:Paperback
Perhaps this is not the best thing that Peter Carey wrote, but that's not really saying much. Ah, Peter Carey, writing at length about Australia without ever resorting to cliches. If you are not Australian, I don't think you can really understand what a relief it is to read something like this about Australia. First of all, there is a nationalistic hero (nationalism and pride in (white) Australia is something so rare that the novelty is enough to sustain the entire book); secondly, the characters (including the women) are interesting and convincing; thirdly, I am completely homesick and this is so Australian; fourthly, he creates a new kind of poetry (new to me anyway). I didn't like the part about snake dancing, and the characters change too quickly (for example, Charles and Phoebe) and you kind of lose the thread. I like the way he dances about with truth, and I like the deep sadness about us losing our identity (whether or not it's true). I recognize a lot of the characters and the patterns of events from my own relatives and ancestors. I've never seen these things outside Australia, and you forget them, so thank goodness someone's documenting it all. This is so impressive if it's his first book. Read it.
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Format:Paperback
Carey is an excellent storyteller, with a gift for witty juxtaposition and dropping plot bombs on his readers. We've all known someone a little bit like Herbert Badgery: "I am a liar. I am one hundred and thirty-seven years old." So it's a shaggy-dog story about a pathological liar who has a lot of charm and can lead people to believe exactly what they'd like to believe in the first place.
However, this book has garnered many awards, and wide critical acclaim, and I don't see why. Many people say it is symbolic of Australian culture and history. Perhaps I, as an American who hasn't even been to Australia, don't know enough about Australian history to fully read Herbert Badgery as a stand-in for Australia itself, or to catch the many historical references that Carey has probably hidden in the book. Yet my position is likely similar to that of most of Carey's prospective readers; he cannot assume a deep knowledge of Australian history from someone who is just picking up the book as a pleasure read. Maybe I will give the book another try, this time explicitly trying to dissect it as an analogy and as "great literature." Right now, I can only see it as a pleasurable and fairly simple read.
In summary, this is a highly entertaining novel, even if its headier aspects are lost on many readers. Carey is a long-winded storyteller, but a very funny one, and the interweaving plot of Badgery, his mythical airplane factory, and the people who surround him is engaging and humorous.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Epic Australian allegory, and fun to boot Aug. 3 1998
Format:Paperback
Peter Carey seems to be a great literary secret -- hugely imaginative, immensely readable, a touch surreal, full of startlingly accurate insight into the frailties of humanity, and just plain funny -- but until I came to Australia I hadn't heard of him and his stunningly absorbing novels. His books are TERRIFIC.
Illywhacker is, on one level, a highly absorbing story about a born liar and showman and his varied life across southeastern Australia during the twentieth century. But on a deeper level, Illywhacker is a complex allegory about Australia itself, with interwoven and tangled images of cages, the uses and abuses of lying, Australia's search for itself vs. the UK and US, Australian animals, and Australia's simultaneous entanglement with and rejection of the Asian cultures with which it coexists. The result is a complicated, thoughtful, and even disturbing portrait of a maturing Australia that has made me reassess my own view of the country. Read Illywhacker! for the amusing liar's tale, read Illywhacker for the thoughtful commentary on Australia's national self-consciousness and insecurity -- but either way, read it!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Thematically brilliant but poorly written. July 28 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Illywhacker is an almost surreal novel and therefore has both strong and weak points. This 600-page decription of the Badgery clan is peopled by extraordinary, larger-than-life characters and touches onto very real themes and ideas - from the opening ("my name is Herbert Badgery and I am a liar") to the bizarre but poignant conclusion, Carey explores dozens of fascinating themes.
The only disappointment is the writing itself. Sometimes painfully difficult to read, it is mundane and long-winded, full of unnecessary passages and incidents. None of the characters are highly sympathetic, and the reader never feels involved in their lives. And while the themes concerned are almost all interesting, he dwells relentlessly on many of them and they lose their novelty.
A book not for the easily frustrated, it is so weakly-written and mundane that it is easy to lose sight of the originality and insight that lies beneath the surface.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Illywhacker, Whacky, Carey March 20 2001
Format:Paperback
Although the cover of this book has a quote from Newsday calling it "one of the funniest...", I never found myself laughing. Maybe a smile occasionally, but no laughs certainly. I kept wondering, what on earth is this book about?? When I was nearing the finish (a mighty 600 pages), I rushed to see what the main point was, but as I half-heartedly predicted, there was no answer. Don't get me wrong, I REALLY enjoyed this story! I was frequently flabbergasted by the strange, surreal, quirky happenings! There seemed to be meanings in everything, but not without taking some time to think about it, for the meanings weren't thrown in your face. So much went on that I feel as though I've read five books! I CAN say that this book is the life story of a man named Herbert Badgery. You will not soon forget this name, nor the abundance of bizarre characters in "Illywhacker".
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