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True History of the Kelly Gang


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There is, of course, no `true history' of the Kelly Gang. The life and death of Ned Kelly constitutes one of Australia's most pervasive myths, and an often contested myth at that. Although superficially it may seem to take Kelly's side (Carey sustains Kelly's voice through nearly 400 pages) this book is another contestation. The persecution of poor Irish-Australians is made clear, as is Kelly's unjust treatment at the hands of the police. But is this Carey's view, or Carey's view of Kelly's view? The framing explanations of the `parcels' of Kelly's writing which make up the bulk of the text make it clear that this is `a', not `the', version of events. It is a compelling version, a meditation on Australian-ness and the connection some white Australians have to the land. Certainly it requires careful reading - this is the voice of a semi-literate man from late last century - but the careful reading is terrifically rewarding: Carey can't help but write gorgeous prose, even when he's pretending to be someone who would be incapable of it. Perhaps there will be critics who carp about this book and why Carey chose to write it, and it will certainly be something different for both Carey and Kelly fans, but it should be embraced, slowly and appreciatively. Lorien Kaye is the editor of AB&P. C. 2000 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

"Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang purports to transcribe documents, 'thirteen parcels of stained and dog-eared papers, ' in which the celebrated outlaw, on the run, set down for the benefit of his daughter (whom he was destined never to see) a heartfelt account and justification of his short and violent life. The ingenuity, empathy, and poetic ear that the novelist brings to his feat of imposture cannot be rated too high; hardly a colloquialism feels turned wrong, hardly a homely phrase feels rote, patronizing, or quaint . . . The poetry that Carey can coax from this lightly educated ruffian's lightly punctuated prose gratifies us on every page [and] rises to the occasion like the Song of Songs." --John Updike, The New Yorker
"This avalanche of a novel [raises] a national legend to the level of an international myth."
--Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
"A spectacular feat of literary ventriloquism [with] all the makings of a swaggering adventure tale as well as a classic Western tragedy. The effect is triumphantly eclectic, as if Huck Finn and Shakespeare had joined forces to prettify the legend of Jesse James . . . But this rip-snorting Western novel rises far above such considerations and works on its own great merits as a seamlessly imagined coming-of-age story set in wild country and wilder times. Though Ned Kelly died in 1880 just before his 26th birthday, he could not be more furiously alive." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The best measure of the novel's excellence [is] that you never doubt it's Kelly's own words you're reading in the headlong, action-packed story filled with stage-coach holdups, bank robberies and backstabbing treachery."
--Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"Ambitious and adventurous . . . from lyrical to rowdy and ribald . . . Peter Carey's Ned Kelly is somebody worth knowing and remembering, and his novel is also worth our best attention." --George Garrett, The Washington Post Book World
"Highly original . . . To read it is to be carried away." --Sara Dowse, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"True History of the Kelly Gang is a true wonder. It's lyrical and hard-edged at the same time, constantly inventive, pell-mell in its storytelling, and best of all, the voice Peter Carey invents for Ned Kelly is nothing less than mint-fresh original. This is just amazing writing." --Kent Haruf
"A big, meaty novel, blending equal parts Dickens and Cormac McCarthy, and a complete success . . . Most immediately striking is how much it resembles an American Western about such legendary outlaws as Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde." --Ken Foster, The San Francisco Chronicle
"To succeed as literature a book must entertain. This novel is no exception--a tough, sweet, rousing thing of ungrammatical sentences and unquestionable wisdom." --Erik Torkells, Fortune
"There is certainly justice in putting True History on the bookshelf next to Shane . . . It rocks and cajoles the reader into a certainty that Ned Kelly is fit company not only for Jack Palance and Clint Eastwood but for Thomas Jefferson." --Johnathan Levi, The Los Angeles Times
"The power and charm of True History [brings] Australia's legendary Ned Kelly vibrantly to life." --Paul Gray, Time
"I completely admire Peter Carey's work--the worlds he enters, the stakes he goes for--and Ned Kelly's a leap even beyond the others, brilliantlyconstructed, gorgeously written, a simply heartbreaking story." --Beverly Lowry
"Dazzling . . . narrated with great flair in prose heavy on expletives and light on punctuation--yet full of music and poetry." --The Economist
"Bolder and more challenging than anything [one of fiction's great treasure hunters] has attempted before . . . the book's power as a narrative is nearly overwhelming. The twang of Ned's untutored but vibrant prose would be hypnotic in itself, yet Carey adapts it to a series of set pieces . . . that are as gripping as any you could wish to read. He has transformed sepia legend into brilliant, even violent, color, and turned a distant myth into warm flesh and blood. Packed with incident, alive with comedy and pathos, True History of the Kelly Gang contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel. It is an adjectival wonder." --Anthony Quinn, New York Times Book Review
"Wholly convincing not only as an outback adventure but also as a psychological and historical drama. It is, above all, a spectacular feat of imagination grounded in an Australian landscape [that] is an astonishing, apparently limitless place with mysteries of its own to reveal . . . Carey has immersed us so completely in Kelly's world and swept us along at such a cracking pace that the novel's last scene is physically draining, bewildering. Like Ned we can hardly believe it is all over." --Anna Mundow, The Boston Sunday Globe
"True History of the Kelly Gang is a true wonder. It's lyrical and hard-edged at the same time, constantly inventive, pell-mell in its storytelling, and, best of all, the voice Peter Carey invents for Ned Kelly is nothing less than mint-fresh original.This is just amazing writing." --Kent Haruf
"As genuine as a diamond in the rough . . . In essence an adventure saga, with numerous descriptions of the wild and forbidding Australian landscape, shocking surprises, coldhearted villains who hail from the top and the bottom of the social ladder, and a tender love story. Carey (Booker Prize winner for Oscar and Lucinda) deserves to be lionized in his native land for this triumphant historical recreation, and he will undoubtedly win a worldwide readership for a novel that teems with energy, suspense, and the true story of a memorable protagonist . . . No reader will be left unmoved." --"Publishers Weekly"
"I completely admire Peter Carey's work--the worlds he enters, the stakes he goes for--and Ned Kelly's a leap even beyond the others: brilliantly constructed, gorgeously written, a simply heartbreaking story." --Beverly Lowry

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