May 19, 2006


If not for Alison Summers’ frequent apoplectic spewing to any journalist who will listen, I would never ever have know that she was supposedly a central character and theme in her ex-husband Peter Carey’s latest work of fiction – Theft: A Love Story.

I would also never ever have known that Summers may well be some sort of career-obsessed money grubbing harpy who lays claim to all credit for her ex-husband’s success.

Nor would I have ever known that she wanted to “eviscerate” – actual or a mere attempt – his works and wealth as part of what must have been a jolly good time had by all during divorce settlement negotiations.

Summers is taking the moral high ground, as you would have already deduced. That’s why she can’t keep her mouth shut about her alleged less than anodyne qualities and why she won’t brook the alleged theft by Carey of her very being as grist and gristle for his latest novel.

Peter Carey, meanwhile, declines to discuss the “ex” and will concede only that he writes with the resources at his disposal at a point in time – a not unreasonable observation, from any writer. What else would a writer be using as they proceed from one fiction to the next, other than their current intellectual ponderings or emotional preoccupations? But to assume that a fiction writer is only ever a thief is to negate all human imagination, fanciful thought and story telling skills: the minimum bedrocks of fiction; whether the highbrow variety or the catchy cultural trash that entertains and distracts us all too well.

Reading interviews with Summers one could be forgiven for garnering the impression that Carey has zilch imagination, writes pure non-fiction, rather than stories, and that his latest novel is embedded with a germ of some horrible truth – about Summers. Not a mere sliver of ice in his heart, but an entire ice making machine, churning out not-so-cutely-shaped little ice cubes by the minute. He allegedly takes real lives and transcribes them, nothing more.

Summers claims that her media crusade is not about convincing people who do not know her – and I believe her, because why on earth would she care what I think, or what you think, why would she be trumpeting about things we would not otherwise have known about her? No, we are not her motivation. She is, she claims, solely concerned that people who do know her, or have ever met her, will have their opinion of her contaminated by reading Carey’s novel. Or, we presume, reading the articles and publicity to which she has so generously contributed.

“It's the people who know me - from my schoolteachers to my great-aunts and uncles to friends all over the world - that I want to assure that I have not changed, that I have not become corrupted into this nasty stereotype of a gold-digging, shoe-obsessed bimbo.”

Yes, seriously: her means for communicating with her family, friends, acquaintances and old school mates is via mass media outlets. Apparently she has neither an address book nor a list of phone numbers in her mobile. Everyone she knows must be contacted via newspaper, but not a paid advertisement, nor a letter to the editor, it must be a feature article, because that’s where her relatives and loved ones go looking if they want to find out what kind of person Summers has become – hey, isn’t that what we all do when want to defend our reputation to those who know us personally? Either that, or give Jay Leno a call.

Drawing parallels between a writer’s fiction and their own life is always a dodgy business. Is Carey’s Theft a “divorce novel”? I’ve only read the reviews and the interviews, but I gather the present circumstances of the key character, and the point at which the story begins, are preceded by a colorful divorce. Divorce is a common enough event and Carey had that freshly on his mind. A published fiction writer has a form for venting denied to the rest of us, so he has probably let rip, within the bounds of his imagination and the framework of his fiction. That’s all we needed to know, until Summers insisted we needed to know differently.

On the one hand Summers insists that Carey is a beastly man who has falsely and publicly painted her in a less than flattering light, on the other hand she baldly states: "I see him as a vampire. He consumed everything in my life". If the latter is the case, it would suggest that he has sucked and portrayed the very real essence of her in his novel. Which is it to be?

If, on the other hand, she means to suggest that he sucked the life out of her during marriage, then all we can observe is that it took her 20 years, plus 4 years of separation, to reach that particular conclusion, in which case there appears to be no-one eligible for blame for her own slow learning.

She insists: "I don't feel angry any more.” Which is great. I know I was very pleased for her, as it means she won’t have to keep taking those calls from journalists all over the world, who make her relive what was obviously a bitter end to a long and fruitful marriage.

If I remember correctly, both Carey and Summers were in New York on 9/11/2001. Not a remarkable fact, since they were living in that city. I’m also sure that both of them wrote articles after the event. Summers had actually been out shopping, or catching a train, or such, right at the World Trade Centre that morning. We have such grand expectations and hopes for human nature, don’t we? An innocent belief that shocking and sobering events will transform individuals into better people. We are almost always wrong. Petty grievances and self-obsession are reinstated at front and centre stage all too promptly.

Summers is intent on maintaining her dignity and her newly acquired tranquil countenance by writing her own novel, already with the title Mrs Jekyll. Obviously it will be a work of pure fiction: the moral high ground.

Yes, that’ll show him, cupcake. That’ll show us all.

Ex-wife comes out swinging


  1. God help me, I read the SMH story. A pox on both their faces.

  2. Anonymous12:56 PM

    A pox indeed. BUT what would you have done in her position? I'm curious. She'd already kept silent for years, so obviously that wasn't working.It's so easy to throw stones, isn't it? But if she's truthful, let's have some wild conjecture here, that would have meant she'd withheld comment for 5 years, while he used his powerful position to cast himself as her victim, talking from 2003 on to any newspaper he could use. It's hard to believe that in our celebrity revered age that a non celeb could be trying to clear her name, but maybe she wants to exercise that right and self-respect. remember what Arthur Miller's character John Proctor says in The Crucible about why he would rather die than live in shame? "because it is my name...and I shall have no other."
    Think about how you would react to a public and false smear campaign. after 5 years of the same, would you still lie down and hope it would go away? At school, did you hope that if you didn't stand up to him, the bully would just walk off?

  3. As I have already noted, NONE of us would ever have known that Carey was ALLEGEDLY running any kind of smear campaign, UNLESS his ex-wife had insisted that he was and unless she chose to tell the entire world. She insists that this is her way of protecting not only her name, but her way of protecting her children. NOT!!!

    It's revenge, not self-respect. It would be more dignified and far less damaging to her and her children to just get on with her life. (This is true of all, not just the rich / not at all famous.)

    As for Carey having a "powerful position": he writes fiction, that's all he does.

    She didn't need to clear her name, not until she ran around giving interviews to anyone who would listen and insisting that she needed to clear her name!

    Now her revenge is to write a book that she has already explicitly stated will dish the dirt on her ex-husband. He has never said that in relation to his own work.