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Many writers are described as Dickensian, but Peter Carey actually courts the comparison in his new novel, Jack Maggs. The Australian-born author takes Great Expectations and mashes it into a tale that analyzes his homeland and its beginnings as a penal colony of England. Maggs is an exiled convict who illegally returns to London to find his adopted son and runs into Tobias Oates, an author hellbent on making a name for himself. Oates decides that the tale of Maggs is worthy of a novel and uses the new technique of hypnosis to trick the criminal into revealing his subconscious motivations. Classism and corruption are Jack Maggs’ main themes, but Carey’s dialogue, crackling with early-19th-century Cockney slang, and surprising plot twists lift his latest beyond mere social studies. Carey is in town to promote his new work, but his appearance coincides with the wide release of Oscar and Lucinda, the movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett based on his 1988 Booker Prize-winning novel. Carey reads at 7 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (Christopher Porter)