True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey: Book Review

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Morning reading in Texas hill country.

Oh, boy.

Often my eyes are drawn to books with award stamps printed on the cover. This book was no exception but certainly surpassed my expectation. The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey won the Man Booker Prize in 2001 with a gripping story and well rounded characters described through the rough, honest voice of an Australian bushranger. Edward “Ned” Kelly writes to his daughter his life story revealing his true character and the oppressive circumstances he experienced since the beginning of childhood to being a reputed outlaw.

It is hard to try to condense the plot without giving anything away because of the book’s many memorable moments, but from the very first pages we know that there is death of at least one individual in this novel. And because the central theme is power abused by authority, the entire book can be seen as a battle between the police and the people. But that makes it sound so boring and this book is not, packed from start to end with adventure, humour, compassion, and characters that feel like they exist in real life.

Ned Kelly is by far my favourite character, partially because he is the protagonist and author as well. The reader grows up with him through trials and triumphs and gets a glimpse of a strong, loving, intelligent, and most unfortunate soul. Sympathy is found for the Kelly family and the small gang, especially Joe Byrne, who is tortured between his personal safety and his friendship with Ned. These two are the ones I found most empathy with as they faced adversity together and protected the two younger members of their “gang.”Other striking characters include the crude and fearless Harry Power, famous outlaw who took Ned as an apprentice; Ellen Kelly, beloved mother of Ned, a widow determined and headstrong to provide for her family; and Mary Hearn, a young and cunning woman only more loyal to her children than to her prince.

The ability to create such human characters comes from the raw voice of Ned Kelly, who although considers himself uneducated, actually writes with remarkable observance and conviction. At first it takes adjusting to read sentences with prominent slang and inconsistent punctuation, but the style merges with the character and becomes an endearing reflection of Ned Kelly himself. It is storytelling at its best, when you can hear the voice of the narrator, especially when it is formed in your head from printed words!

In fact, one of the themes found in this book is actually the power of the written word, as Ned Kelly tries to clear his name through letters. His quest to gain a national audience portrays one aspect of government control over the media and public perception. Like “V for Vendetta” or “Robin Hood,” the journal series sides with the proletariat and has a feel of folk/legend lore. This book is the most realistic out of this comparison because of its diverse content between daily mundane activities and horse-riding, gun-shooting action.

All in all, one of the most powerful points of this novel is that there are no “bad guys,” even though Australia’s police force is painted in a particularly bad light. Life isn’t fair and humans make mistakes. I looked up the real Ned Kelly on the internet and his history is full of controversy, either hailed as heroic or criminal. I am glad this novel has told a story of this man from a personal and justified point of view because it is beautiful, happy, sad, and piercing. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey lives up to its golden award stamp and is a book that will sit on my mind long after I’ve closed its pages.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Farewell (NaPoWriMo #30)

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Source from Etsy via Pinterest - "Inspiring" by Debby Dunahy

Walking down a row of chairs
Reliving years of education
And growing up together
End of high school

Walking through a printed labyrinth
Praying together at its centre 
And the clock rings sunset
End of pilgrimage

Walking past a billowing curtain
Celebrating together with laughter
And photos and hugs
End of studio performance

Walking away from a special group
Wishing for each all the best
And lasting friendship
Start of the next chapter

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I have met so many amazing people this summer, and have had to say goodbye to so many of them. It’s amazing how short a time it takes to bond and care for a group, and how quickly life moves on; leaving us to cherish memories and wonder when we will see each other again as everyone disperses down their own path. I almost wish in a way that social media didn’t make it so easy to “stay in touch” by interacting with likes and the  periodical profile stalkings when writing is so much more eloquent. I miss writing letters or emails, but networking is a lot more convenient through social media now. I feel very blessed to be a part of an awesome community through school, parish, and dance. Farewell reminds us to cherish every moment spent, and for that I am also grateful.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

PS: From the NaPoWrimo website:
“And now for our final (yet still optional!) prompt. Today, as befits the final poem of NaPoWriMo, I challenge you to write a poem of farewell. It doesn’t have to be goodbye forever — like I said, NaPoWriMo will be back again next year.”

(It only took me almost four months, but hey, 30 poems! NapoWriMo is finally completed by this deadline-challenged individual. Yay!)

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Observations in the Studio (NaPoWriMo #29)

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A child’s messy room with life-sized dolls sprawled and toys scattered on the floor.
Hands poke through the air pockets of a jacket and an imaginary T-rex claws its way around the room.

Rise and fall of chests in deep breathing
Laughter and hushed whispers and silence
Sweat and glue from stinky shoes
Bitter liquid adrenaline of coffee
Warm fuzziness of oversized sweaters

Beating of a heart through pulsing veins underneath guitar blasts muffled by earphones.

Emma announcing a trip to Canada’s Wonderland.

Therabands, chiffon skirts, and athletic tape arranged neatly beside bags and water bottles.
Sweatpants, long satin ribbons, and snack wrappers thrown carelessly into a tangled pile.

Reviewing choreography to go from “Ahhhh!” to “A’ight? Cool.”

A braided hairstyle is completed so five people leave for the washroom.

“My bottle has the brand Deer on it but the drawing is a giraffe! I love it.”

Slowly planted footsteps of an ancient spell wash over the room’s collective attention.

Beautiful, rainbow, polka-dotted legs created by bruises.

He folded his back in half to the envy of stiff girls and fell asleep in the position.

Pascal created a water puddle from icing an injured foot.

Today’s teacher will offer combinations of quick jumps and turns that will make more than the body dizzy.

A magical lotion concoction is shared to revive deceased muscle cells.

There is competition between each artist that ultimately creates an atmosphere of continuous progress got hard work and creativity without the initial direct comparison of individuals which doesn’t exist anyway since everyone wears different leotards, listens to music differently, and orders different sandwiches for lunch.

Hundred dollar shoes are stomped on and broken, c’est la vie of a dancer.

A colourful, flowing skirt and a pair of cozy, lightweight shorts eye each other across the dance bag, each hoping to be today’s wardrobe choice.

As the clock ticks its time, figures rise from gravity to stand in staggering rows of perfect increments in one identical position, ready to start ballet class.

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This was trickier than expected! Under this you will find a list of instructions given by NaPoWriMo to write this poem. It was fun, I just did not have the patience to “de-fragmentize” each statement. Turned out with an entertaining and funny style, I think. Hope you enjoyed!

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Indulgence of Sadness (NaPoWriMo #28)

I feel a black burning hole sinking into my gut,
Its cursed heart growing beyond mine, beating silence into my mind.
Dreams haunted by the past ring with the laughter of time that races only with itself.
Swallowed by despair as soul is sucked into the air, is the feeling of a being
Who could have done but did not do.

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Visa application + stupidity/inability to appropriately respond to unpredictable circumstances + horribly rude customer service = Stress and a whole lot of sorries.

How I even manage to write this lightheartedly I have no idea. This was a vent of my disgusting feelings at the moment. And I know NaPoWriMo was over a while ago…

Anyways, thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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What’s up

My blogging has been so inconsistent this year which I blame on the high stresses and demands of grade 12, and I would like a chance to explain myself to the few (you know who you are!) who have been so encouraging about my writing and whose responses bring a smile to my face on a weekly basis. So here are the happenings of my current life:

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The booklets they send make you feel accomplished, haha.

I applied to five Canadian universities and received acceptances for Life Science at the University of Guelph, Queen’s University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo (co-op) and Health Sciences at McMaster University. I picked a general undergrad program because I know I love science and biology but still want to explore and discover in what field I will find my calling. In the end it came down to UofT or Mac, as I got into quite prestigious programs. The VicOne Stowe-Gullen stream is a first year foundational program for biological sciences integrated with art study in philosophy, literature, statistics, etc. and accepts around 20 students per year. Health Science at Mac accepts around 150 students and is closely linked to the medical school. It was a difficult decision but I decided I am not sure I wanted to streamline my studies to medical school so soon and accepted UofT, who also gave me a full scholarship for my first year of study there. However, future planning doesn’t end here as I am deferring this offer for…

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In case you didn't know how awesome it is. Photo clearly stolen from Nancy's instagram.

Ballet. You can study for a long time, but your body is only young once. I had to face the fact that if I did not pursue ballet NOW, I would be giving it up as a professional career choice. The difficult thing about dance is that employment is unpredictable and there is no clear path for where your auditions will lead you and for how long you will continue dancing in one place. I decided I was not ready to sacrifice this art form that I love so much. Because I like foolproof plans, this decision was the most difficult I had ever had to make, maybe I will write more about these reflections as a twelfth grader in the future.

And there are final exams in a week! It will be Calculus and Vectors, Music, Advanced Functions, English, Biology, and Chemistry. With last lessons concluded just a few days ago, so studying and scrambling for these last few assignments will be very fun (they say optimism creates more optimism and I sure could not have too much of it at this point)!

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At least summer's finally here!

I am also part of an initiative to share dance to public audiences by creating a collaborative work of live art with a composer and visual artist, combining dance, music, and painting – all original stuff by young artists. It is happening next week and will be really cool!

There are also a bunch of events: grad brunch, school BBQ, council meetings, choir summer concerts, year end recital…

All leading to GRADUATION!!!
Which I have had absolutely no time to think about. I think when it rolls around the corner I’ll just be relieved everything is over and it will suddenly hit me that I am finished high school forever.

Wow.

Thanks for reading my absolutely narcissistic post of the year,
thebookybunhead

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Among the Stars (NaPoWriMo #27)

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A snapchat sent to me by a friend in Denmark.

Pastel lines sprinkled on a street
Where wheels and stardust meet
Smear nebulae across asphalt galaxies:
The pathway of children’s suns.

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This is a poem written from a photograph. I got this image through the social media app “Snapchat” and saved it on my phone because I thought it was a captivating idea. 22 days until graduation! Feeling so nostalgic for the chalk driveway drawing days…

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Awake (NaPoWriMo #26)

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Photo by Katie Howell on etsy

In a velvet sky the moon sends down its silver glow
Upon the throne between dusk and dawn.
But the sparkle of stars are eaten by a fluorescent yellow,
Brash against midnight; the lights are still on.
On the main road, cars roll in rumbles low and deep.
Human eyelids held open by machines that never sleep.

Red numbers of a clock pierce through shadows to the brain,
Imprinted in half dreams floating between realities.
Furnace whispers are punctuated by distant whistles of a train,
And the fading wails of sirens rushing to their calamities.

In the big city, the night never comes.

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Started writing this one on a sleepless night. Sleep is always so much better in cottage country when you can’t see your hand in front of your face and it’s so quiet your ears start imagining the sound of air pressure. Technology has allowed humans to break the natural sleeping cycle and stay awake far beyond evolutionary bedtime. The prompt was for a shorter version of a classic form : the curtal sonnet. Hope you enjoyed.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

From the NaPoWriMo website:
The curtal sonnet is shorter than the normal, fourteen line sonnet. Instead it has a first stanza of six lines, followed by a second stanza of four, and then closes with a half-line. The form was invented in the 1800s by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who used it in his famous poem“Pied Beauty”.

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