THE HOOPLA LITERARY SOCIETY
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” Enid Bagnold, British author and playwright, best known for the 1935 story National Velvet.
This week I am moving into the realm of memoir with two very different books to share with you.
Memoir can be everything that a work of fiction is but better because it really happened – or did it?
It’s true that memoir can also be unreliable (or perhaps flexible is a better word?). What I love about memoir is that little glimpse into someone else’s world, what happened to them, how they felt and how they changed. It makes me feel closer to the other person.
Of course, the decision to share some of one’s most intimate moments, let alone other members of their immediate family, is an act of bravery or a short cut to alienating the rest of the family in one fell swoop, depending what you write.
Say It Again in a Nice Voice, Meg Mason
“There is a squat grey bollard on the side of the Cromwell Road in London, near where it turns into the Talgarth Road and start to get properly horrible. It is one of a row, and I don’t know why I picked that one for the worst moment of my life so far. I think, perhaps, it was the furthest I could get from our flat, eight months pregnant, on foot, at 5.30 a.m., before the elastic band of conscience snapped back and I crumpled onto the footpath. Conscience, and a mounting fear that running pregnant beside the A4 at dawn might draw the eye of passing motorists. I leaned against the cool metal and cried as hard as I ever had, not counting my last two years of high school, when hard-crying while listening to Tori Amos and looking in the mirror was my hobby.”
Meg Mason shares the tumultuous journey from a 20-something career girl, in impossibly high heels and perfect hair, to mother. That unwashed, unkempt state of incompetency that engulfs most of us when the realisation dawns that babies don’t come with a set of instructions and no-one provides on-the-job training.
Her memoir trips along the learning curve of motherhood with all the grace of crossing a floor covered in Fisher Price and mashed pumpkin. From life in London where the local Early Childhood centre provides bike locks for the prams so no-one steals them to the lush north shore of Sydney where she manages to superglue her hand to the $54 Kmart stroller on her daughter’s first day at school, Mason looks at mother’s life with a sharp and hilarious eye.
What mother doesn’t shudder every time she passes a play park, even when her offspring are long past the age when every piece of equipment must be explored? Who isn’t grateful to leave behind Water Baby classes in overly warm hip-high pools singing “I’m a little tea pot?” It is so easy to laugh in hindsight but when you’re living the life of a stay-at-home mum, it can hellish.
Mason gets it all and is unafraid, or should that be unashamed, to share her deep insecurities, personal failings and worst parenting moments. For me this book was a wonderful trip down memory lane with the rose-tinted glasses firmly in place. However, I have at least three new or soon-to-be mothers who I know will take deep comfort and comic relief from Mason’s wise, self deprecating words. BUY THE BOOK
Read and redeem
Many bookworms seek solace in the pages of a book, education even, to get a sense of our place in the world. But for those who have genuinely sinned against society, can redemption be found through reading?
The Brazilian penitentiary system is trialing a program for some of its more notorious prisoners. Choosing up to 12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics per year, eligible prisoners have four weeks to write an essay that “make(s) correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing.” The completed essays are marked by a special panel.
The direct reward for prisoners in the program is the ability to earn up to 48 days per year off their sentence. But perhaps the more valuable, though less tangible, reward is that people develop a broader world view and a greater understanding of the human experience.
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