Thursday, July 26, 2012

2001 Man Booker Winner: The True Story of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

True History of the Kelly GangI listened to the True History of the Kelly Gang on audio.  I chose to read it at this time in preparation of the BookerMarks project.  I have found that I would prefer to read an authors earlier more acclaimed works before reading their newer hyped books as sometimes I think they get accolades for writing crap just because an earlier piece of fiction was fantastic (see Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides - I may never go back to read Middlesex...).

The "Kelly Gang" is a historical fiction novel based on the life of the "folk hero" Ned Kelly. Ned was Australia's Jessie James. He was a bush ranger (outlaw) and bank robber, yet heralded as a Robin Hood.  His story details the reasons that he became who he was and that the corrupt police system at the time drove him to act as he had.  Interestingly, in an interview with author Peter Carey, it is revealed that in Carey's opinion,  Ned is Australia's number one hero.  Whereas the US has Jessie James in a similar background and story, our heros are Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Boon and Crockett and so many many others.  Yet the story of the bush ranger, Ned Kelly, tops the list of heros for Australians.

Ned Kelly was born in Australia into a poor family.  As his father had questionable dealings in his past, the local law enforcement, most of them corrupt themselves harass the Kelly's regularly.  Young Ned was highly influenced by the treatment he and his family received by these constables.  As a young man it was proven that he was a man of integrity trying to live an honest life earning a humble living.  However, circumstances would not allow him to live his life out as a loyal son, brother and simple farmer.

So, as Ned realizes his fate and that he is going to be a father he begins to pen a "letter" to his daughter to tell her the true story of the Kelly Gang.  The narrative is in the first person from Ned's perspective.  The narrator for the audio book is Gianfranco Negroponte, a marvelous voice for Ned with a great Australian accent.  Carey wrote the book as if he were Ned and used the actual manuscript that Ned used along with the newspaper accounts of his exploits.   Interestingly, as the book was written for his daughter, he would use swear words, yet soften them. So when listening all one heard was effing this, s that.  Apparaently, Ned thought that the word bugger was also a swear word and in the manuscript wrote it out as b----r.  However it was read aloud as bugger in the audio version.

In the audio version the word "adjectival"  was used repeatedly.  As I had never heard the word, I had difficultly figuring out exactly what was being said.  So I downloaded the sample version of the ebook to see if I could figure it out.  I was amazed to find that the actual book is written very crudely.  Little capitalization or punctuation.  Apparenly, Carey wrote it very similarly to the original manuscripts.  Seeing this, I realized how much one does miss listening to the audio version of a book.  The actual art, the craft, of this book was lost in the audio production.  However, I never would have been able to work it into my to read list with out the audio.  I also understand that reading the book in its form made it difficult for some to follow and a bit more tedious to read for others.  Oh, and "adjectival" is just a form of the word adjective.  Well, this was some adjectival book!

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