lip lit: marieke hardy and michaela mcguire (curated), women of letters
Women of Letters is taken from the event of the same name. Established and ‘co-curated’ by writers Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, Women of Letters aims to not only celebrate female talent but to raise funds for the Victorian animal sanctuary, Edgar’s Mission.
The Women of Letters events invites five women from different backgrounds (such as writers, actors, musicians, politicians) and asks them to write a letter to a particular theme. Such themes have included: to my first pin-up, to the night I’d rather forget, the letter I wish I’d written and to my twelve-year-old self. These are then read at an event, with ticket sales going to Edgar’s Mission.
Seeing that these letters resonated with so many, a collection of previously read letters has been assembled into a book. The collection is broken down in categories (including the ones mentioned previously), and there is a handy contents page at the front so you can skip to your favourite personality or letter topic. Women who have contributed to the book include Megan Washington (writing about Melbourne being the best present she’s ever received), Tara Moss (writing a love letter to Bela Blasko) and Hardy herself (writing to the headshot she believes typecast her in her young acting career).
There is another section entitled ‘Men of Letters’ in which men including Eddie Perfect, John Safran and Bob Ellis write to the woman who changed their life. Eddie Perfect’s love letter to his wife – “All the reasons I love you tumble out of my mouth in an embarrassing and artless mess” – is beautiful and sincere, and one of the highlights of the entire collection. This is in stark comparison to Safran’s piece, which is essentially a ramble about him misunderstanding the meaning to the Paul Kelly song ‘When I first met your ma’ and then reworking the lyrics. While this could have been entertaining at one of the events, on page it just comes across as lifeless and irreverent.
The book has a puzzling section called ‘To the first song I had ever written’. Sure, this sounds lovely and you would assume that perhaps Clare Bowditch, Sarah Blasko or Julia Stone had contributed. But, uh, no. The writers of that section are Jake Stone, Alexander Gown, Lindsay McDougall and Paul Kelly. Not a female in sight. While the letters themselves are entertaining and brilliant, it goes against the intent of the book and seems rather clumsily inserted – particularly because it doesn’t stand with ‘Men of Letters’.
Despite this, the collection is a brilliant and strong one since the pieces are all so different in tone and sentimentality. There’s hilarious ones like Catherine Deveny’s letter to Olivia Newtown John, ones dripping with detest such as Noni Hazlehurst’s letter to a horrid director, ones filled with love like Fenella Kerebone’s letter to her love, and ones which bring sadness like Erin Kelly’s letter to a lost friend. What’s even more interesting is just how diverse many of the sections are in themselves. For instance, in the subject ‘To the host of that party’ Cal Wilson writes about a time she was unforgivably yet hilariously drunk, while Peggy Frew writes tenderly about the moment she realised her life and priorities had shifted.
It is precisely this which makes the book so precious: you see how people respond to a concept differently. Women of Letters is full of humour, warmth and heart. It’s hilarious, touching and resonating. The collection will make you think about the people, events and things in your own life that you would write a letter to. And perhaps you should – it’s the perfect release.
$29.95 (all royalities will go to Edgar’s Mission)