Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Alison Summers is furious. The mother of two says the book that prize-winning author Peter Carey has just published is slanderous. But Carey strenuously denies that the novel Theft: A Love Story is autobiographical. Summers says that he regularly referred to her as “The Plaintiff” at the time of their divorce. In the novel, a character often called “The Plaintiff” is not seen or heard. But she is described as “the Alimony Whore” by the protagonist, her ex-husband Butcher Bones.

Bones was born in the same place — Bacchus Marsh, Victoria — and in the same year — 1943 — as Carey. Both are artists who move from the Australian countryside to Sydney and then on to New York. Both had acrimonious divorces. "He created the central character to be identified as him," Summers told a British journalist. She says it is “emotional terrorism”. But Carey says that if he had wanted to write a memoir, he would have.

And that’s not all she’s angry about. Summers says that she suffered financial hardship while Carey bought luxuries. He became angry about the divorce. He told friends there was "blood splattered on the walls of the slaughterhouse". They heard that Summers was after his money. In 2003 his declared income was $US840,000. She says she has seen little of it.

They were happy for 20 years. But Carey became “increasingly cold, controlling, self-absorbed and angry,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The dedications in his earlier books were to Summers, but the new novel has none. She recalls that she frequently helped him work. One book she helped with, True History of the Kelly Gang, won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2001.

Summers has now started writing a book of her own. It will be called Mrs Jekyll but, she says, “I’m not into revenge”.

The above was written for a university assignment in May 2006. Now, Summers has used a Web site called Dating Psychos to show how not into revenge she is. Her post, which was put up on 4 July 2005 (!! Why wasn't this publicised earlier? First I heard of it was in the 'Strewth!' column of today's Australian, 18 months after the fact) details some of the points she wants to make against her ex-husband:

He planted stories that I was crazy, money hungry, ruthless and unfaithful. He was so persuasive that today I spend my days out of work, mostly friendless, and in recovery from a major depression and PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]. He has joined forces with another psycho, and they have formed a network of influential friends old and new, who repeat these awful stories about me. My professional reputation has been ruined.

But she's not alone. One commenter, JoannaEris, had this to say:

This is pretty rich. What kind of person, used to being in the public eye, dumps on their ex ON A WEBSITE, and expects to be seen as anything but a demented freak? It's also pretty amusing, Alison, since I remember, from the beginning of your relationship, reading a story in a newspaper, in which you said (and I paraphrase only slightly), "I looked across the room and saw him, and my heart missed a beat. I asked my friend who that man was ..." Let's be honest, here: no woman would look at Peter Carey - who's no oil-painting, let's face it - and, knowing nothing of who he was (or, more to the point, what he was worth), think, wow, there's the man of my dreams. You pursued him, I've since been informed by some people who knew you both then - and did so, furthermore, for the status he could give you.

And beatmaster said: "Anyone who debases past relationships on the internet for the general public to view and judge has no class or morals."

Pretty tawdry, the whole thing, if you ask me.


Meredith said...

Woman scorned and all that... Carey wants future runs of his old books to have the dedications to Summers taken off. No doubt he's a prick.

Dean said...

No doubt. He was in advertising for, what, twenty years. But, as you say, 'Hell hath no fury...'.