Friday, July 15, 2011

Reading Adulterously

I have a confession to make.

I've been cheating on you. With another book. From another publisher.


I'VE BEEN READING AROUND!


I know, I know you're upset, but please, let me explain. It's written by Marieke Hardy. You know I can't resist her flower-haired charms!

Oh Marieke, you cheeky thing! You've made me slightly sepia!

Yes, a little while ago, I was lucky enough to get my grubby little hands on an unedited smaple chapter of Marieke's forthcoming book, You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead. The final complete version won't be out until September, so NYAH NYAH NI NYAH NYAH! I GOT TO READ THIS BIT FIRST!

While the full edition is still a few months off, there is still plenty to rave about in the seventy-one pages I was permitted to peruse. Like her blogs and co-written series, Laid, the tales were all fascinatingly quirky, teetering delicately on the balance of "this woman is magnificent and I want her life" and "that is seriously messed up, how could anyone go through such nonsense?"

Whether my varied expressions and reactions leant more towards cheeky giggles or shock-horror jaw drops, I couldn't say. I'm pretty sure they overlapped a fair bit. There may also have been moments where I SIMPLY COULDN'T WATCH, and had to read between the gaps in my fingers as they covered my eyes.

If you've seen Laid on the ABC, or followed Hardy on Twitter, or better still, read her Formspring (WARNING: totally NSFW), you'll understand that this is not a read for prudes or those who suffer heart palpitations. The story of Marieke and her then-boyfriend's dip into the world of swingers, for example, is an exercise in truly painful awkwardness, but somehow you come away laughing, not cringing. You get the impression that writing Roo McVie wasn't a big leap for Ms Hardy. (PROOF)

As the sample goes on, you feel like you're hurtling through some kind of perverse Disneyland ride, where there's so much to take in, but your eyeballs don't have the necessary capacity to do so, and even if they did, your brain might melt a little in its desperate attempt to compute all the glorious oddness of it all.

It would have been really easy for some of these tales to turn into attempts to wring pity out of the reader, but somehow, it always feels like there is some kind of affection for all these bizarre memories. You can almost imagine Marieke smiling cutely, shrugging her shoulders and saying, "But isn't that the way everyone lives?" Except she'd probably say it better than that. Possibly even throw in an expletive for good measure.

The stories certainly aren't conventional memoir fairy tales. There's no anecdotes about meeting presidents, or dinner parties spent with royalty. You certainly won't find this in your mum's handbag*, next to her copy of Eat. Pray. Love. (Barf.)

But somehow, I guess, in the same vein of Laid, and on an unrelated note, the UK series Miranda, it all feels strangely familiar, filled with that horrible notion that maybe, no matter how hard we try, the Fraud Police could knock on our door, tell us that we've stuffed up our lives so spectacularly that our adult status must immediately be revoked.

You find yourself nodding in empathy and agreement with the reflections on life, love and loss. (The chapter on heartbreak and housemates struck a particularly raw personal chord.) You end up in this curious spot where "My life is so boring, I wish I had some of her excitement" and "God, I'm so glad I'm not that out there" are thrown into the Large Hadron Collider and propelled towards each other at the speed of light until they explode into shards of, "That was AWESOME! Can I read it again?"

Because that's totally what I'm going to do. Consider this one pre-ordered, Ms Hardy. Bring on September.

*NB: I would like to make it totally clear that not only does my mum not own, nor has she read that pukeworthy book I have just mentioned, you may actually find You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead in her handbag once I'm done with it. I notably alarmed Marieke on Twitter by telling her I watched Laid with my parents. It was actually nowhere near as scarring as it probably should have been. Seriously, my folks are THAT COOL.

- ND