Tuesday, February 21, 2012

[books] women of letters

Dear Women of Letters (the book);

I know you've probably received many reviews in the guise of letters; this has probably been done. BUT I AM DOING IT ANYWAY.

I read you recently, and I found it a very pleasant experience. I only started attending your events about twelve months ago; in fact I believe 'A letter to my turning point' was my first event (and in fact my first visit to Thornbury Theatre). I was pleased to hear you would be a book, and you were a good read. Easy to read, engaging stories, different emotions and glimpses into lives, and a chance for me to experience the letters I was previously unable to know. I liked the layout of you, and your selection of letters, and I liked that some authors were repeated. I liked that you chose to include some Men of Letters. I loved how familiar some of the letters were, despite me not knowing the author nor the situation; but then, I guess that's why so many people love you.

I loved Amanda Roff's dystopic Melbourne, of course I did. Dystopic Australia is one of my favourite things! And I don't deny that fiction can be a source of reality, just as any true story can; and any true story can be made up, exploring nothing but the author's imagination. But I can't lie, Women of Letters: every work of fiction that someone chooses to share instead of an actual letter leaves me a little disappointed. Maybe Roff really is dying of boredom. But her choice means I choose to think it was all made up. I feel a little bit cheated, but I'm willing to accept it's just me.

I remember the first time I heard someone read a letter and it turned out to be a short story. It was the same day I first saw the note to Angie Hart and her greatness in the toilets at the Thornbury Theatre, and in the queue for the loo I took a poll about the fictional story thing. People were divided. So it's a personal preference, I guess, and I don't hold it against you.

I cried twice whilst reading you, Women of Letters. Once when Fee B-Squared wrote about her Nanna at her Pa's bedside, and again when Karen Hitchcock failed to meet Deborah. I'm fragile right now, and I was tired, and eight hours into a fifteen hour transit, and I was on the plane taking me away from beloved Melbourne back to Beijing for another six months, and maybe that has something to do with it, but those moments hit me where I was most vulnerable. And that's part of the reason why I love you, Women of Letters.

You're not perfect, Women of Letters. There are some letters in there that I don't like, and there are some words and attitudes that bother me (ablist things, mostly), but when I think about how you'd go about censoring your contributors I sort of go around in circles. I haven't worked out how to deal with this yet, but I'll get there, and I hope you will, too.

I laughed, too, you weren't all doom and gloom and sadness and vulnerability! And I rolled my eyes a few times, too, but I came out of it pleased I read you. As always, I loved that you were about women, awesome or otherwise. That's the thing I love the most about you, Women of Letters, that you're about celebrating women (and not, sometimes, and that's okay). I've already promised to pass you on, to another Melbunnie here in Beijing (who told me with glee of the time she saw Marieke Hardy on Sydney Road. She's very excited to read you, and I look forward to bringing her to visit you in your new home when we both return to Melbourne. I think she'll like you).

Yesterday was your last show at the Thornbury Theatre. I wish you all the best in your new home, and I hope to see you again soon (in book form or otherwise).

Best Regards