The Guardian: If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Peter Carey: I’d get rid of all the commas.
First edition, signed on the title page, and with a signed publisher’s card, loosely inserted. Carey first saw Sidney Nolan’s “Kelly Series” of paintings in June 1963 and became enchanted. “Seeing these paintings in New York (at the Met in 1994),” he explains on the flyleaf, “I was impressed all over again.” He brought friends to see the exhibition, and talking it over with them, “I was reminded of what a wonderful story it was and how—Nolan to one side—how little the Australians had bothered to imagine our great hero. From the start I knew how it should be written, in the sparsely punctuated voice in the Jerilderie letter.” On the first page of the novel he provides us with an earlier, alternate opening, drawn from Ned Kelly’s own words. As for the cross-dressing theme, he explains that it had “two sources, first Sidney Nolan’s painting of a gang member, ‘Steve Hart Wearing a Dress’ [and Carey loosely inserts a color photocopy of that painting], and accounts of Irish rebel and outlaw groups who wore women’s clothing. The Molly Maguires did this. No one ever suggested Kelly’s father wore a dress, except me.”
CAREY, Peter (b. 1943). True History of the Kelly Gang. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards.