“Parrot and Olivier in America”September 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Fiction | 2 Comments
I could have told you that Parrot and Olivier in America would make the cut for the Booker short list, but unfortunately I forgot the announcement was coming up and I missed my chance. Not yet having read the other five books, I’m putting in my vote that Peter Carey will win the Booker this year. It would be difficult to beat. There are only three conceivable reasons Parrot and Olivier will not win: Peter Carey has already won the Booker Prize twice; this book might not be as good as his others; or there is somehow a better book in that pile. We’ll see how many I can get ahold of in the next three weeks so we can sort it out together.
This is the sort of writing that requires only one paragraph to reveal its sublimity. By the second, we begin to become aware that a great deal of research has gone into the topic, which is a fictional version of the life of Alexis de Tocqueville. We are transported to the 18th century, a fine place to be. This epistolary novel bounces between the two protagonists, the somewhat effete Olivier and the guttersnipe Parrot. It’s got love stories, sex, intrigue, betrayals, strange inventions, fabulous costumes, journeys by many antiquated modes of transport, and all sorts of other things. If you hang on until the end, it’s got some opinions about the American Experiment that ought to get your attention. Most of all, though, it’s got grace, style, ideas, and a depth and breadth rarely encountered in a novel, especially one that could easily have run to a thousand pages.