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.
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
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.