I never have suspected that the life of poets was filled with so much adventure.
Carey’s characters are defined by the search for an extraordinary work of genius. They search it in one of the strangest places, Malaysia. Here they unravel the mystery of a man that came into being from a hoax created in Australia by Christopher Chubb. An editor (Sarah Wode- Douglas) in search of her own piece of information that can put order into her life finds herself gripped by the power of the hoax, in which she sees an opportunity to publish one of the greatest poetry of her decade. Although her family friend (John Slater) tries to warn her of the danger of this endeavor, she finds herself gripped firmly into a morass of fine deceiving and drama. She must record the history of the hoax creator in order to get the product of the man which came into being from the hoax. Christopher Chubb created a fictional character, Bob McCorkle, in order to mock the Australian society for its lack of literary culture. When his friend is being prosecuted for his hoax, he tries to hold himself accountable, but cannot undo the wrongdoing. Even worse, a man claims the name of Bob McCorkle and then pursues in assuming this identity, in the process claiming Chubb’s sanity. McCorkle kidnapped Chubb’s daughter, and so the pursuit of the man and his daughter commence.
The entanglement of fiction is maintained in a fine balance by personal details and a great deal of events which seem so unreal and yet so powerfully human. The writing appeals to a hidden part of humanity, one that can carry us through great trials in order to achieve our goals. Maybe this is the book’s charm, in that it carries you through a world so far and exotic and still being an expression of an inner need and fear (the need for a purpose in life and the fear of losing a thing/person that defines our existence).
Because the work of Bob McCorkle is never and published we can speculate that the hoax becomes real only when the creator realizes the destructive potential of his creation. Maybe this is the moral point of the novel: that we must be careful in what we want to obtain when deceiving other because we might end up deceived.
The author draws his inspiration from a real hoax devised by Harold Stewart and James McAuley, in which the poet’s name is Ern Malley and exceeds this by adding details of personal dramas and creating a world full of feelings and angst.