Photo by Ohm17 used under a Creative Commons license.
Peter Carey, 30 Days in Sydney (Bloomsbury, 2001).
Carey, a prodigal son who had lived in New York City for ten years, was commissioned to return to Sydney for a month. His notion was to ask friends for stories of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, and that is what he gives the reader, though the book is subtitled “A wildly distorted account,” and it is hard to say whether it is fiction or non-fiction or to know whose stories they are. Though the result is unconventional, these stories express much of the place.
Rebecca Vaughan of Flinders University has a useful Carey site. Here is Carey’s site and here is his Wikipedia page. Perry Middlemiss has the first paragraphs, and an impressive array of Carey links. The New Statesman has several paragraphs more. According to Phillip Knightley (The Independent), Poms looking to have their prejudices about Australians confirmed will both love and hate this brilliant, eccentric book. Peter Conrad (The Guardian) says Carey’s approach is partial, peripheral and ultimately frustrating, and that the book evokes Sydney flats which, unable to boast harbour views, are said by the anxious estate agents to possess ‘harbour glimpses’. Bibliofemme calls it a great story and a sensory experience. Jeff VanderMeer says it’s raucous and raw and full of wonderful details, one of the coolest little nonfiction books he’s read in recent years. Gary Krist (The New York Times) says this frank and restless book percolates with ambivalence, evincing a complicated attitude toward everything from the language used by Australian airline employees to the oddly genial attitude of Sydney’s bike thieves. Peter Porter (The Spectator) says Sydneysiders are inveterate nourishers of their local legends, the majority of which are self-serving, and the book perpetuates some of the most venial of them, though it gives them a high-gloss magical polish. Kristen Conard says don’t pick this up if you are looking for dry facts and a straightforward narrative; pick it up if you want to be enchanted with Sydney, with history, with people and with story-telling. Deacon liked it as unlike other travel writing. And Dina wishes she was Australian but doesn’t think she’d like the book.