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Reading, 2017.

17. Peter Carey, True History Of The Kelly Gang, available in any secondhand bookshop.

I'm still thinking about this, for all the right reasons.

He talks about towns and places not far to the north of me.

And the places he describes are so different now. Fenced off farmland and non-existent settlements. With a few national parks here and there. Kelly country is very tame.

The story describes a generational shift: Ned Kelly's father is transported for his role in an Irish rebellion. Once freed, he is silent about his past. But the poor Irish settlers of Victoria continue to experience colonial repression, and so the native sons both take on what remnants of the old world they can learn about, and Ned Kelly himself starts to spin this into an Australian political context.

Ned Kelly is a charismatic and smart boy, who lives the life available to him (petty crime, which leads up to outlawry and murder), but then starts to think in broader political terms.

In this, his fictional memoir, he talks of the support he has from the people he talks to, while the author, Peter Carey, lets us quietly contemplate the fact that these people are often his hostages.

Kelly Country was already empty of Aboriginal people: there are a few trackers with the troopers, but they don't rate a mention otherwise. Even when people go bush, when you'd surely expect interaction, there is none. And the bush is infested with blackberry and dandelion and dock. And to keep your selection (parcel of land) you have to clear trees, and turn the Australian landscape into something approaching the lands of Britain and Ireland.

I really hope I can pull myself together to come back and note some of the stuff about the meaning of cross-dressing. It's a part of the Kelly myth that appears to be glossed over and misinterpreted.


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