2011, 295 p.
Celebrity is a trade-off. The celebrity figure gaily trumpets “look at me!”, and accrues public recognition, freebies, attention and the aura of self-possession. In return s/he is subjected to the audience’s misplaced sense of identification and friendship, or conversely, approbation and smug censoriousness. And so I sit watching ABC’s Book Club (until a few years ago the First Tuesday Book Club, a handy reminder to tune in) alternately tut-tutting at Marieke Hardy’s fey girlishness with those plaits and tats one minute, and wishing a moment later that I was so winsome and witty myself. It was probably this ambivalence that led me to pick up her book You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead. Having read it, I’m still ambivalent, although probably with a more affectionate glow than previously.
As you might expect, it’s well-written and funny. Its chapters are similar to long-form pieces that you might read in a Saturday newspaper magazine and indeed several of them have been published in that format previously. She’s self-deprecating and self-assured; she delights in being wicked and revels in her exhibitionism. She tells of her obsession with prostitution, her fumbling attempts at swinging, and her mortification at travelling with her parents at the age of thirty-five. Many of her stories are Melbourne-centred, as in her tribute to VFL footy ‘Maroon and Blue’, one of my favourite stories. She flits around the edge of showbusiness through her family pedigree and her own child-actor CV and laughs at her own adolescent pursuit of one of the ‘stars’ of Young Talent Time. Some stories have more depth: her story ‘Forevz’ reminded me of Helen Garner’s The Spare Room – in fact, there were quite a few stories here which evoked Helen Garner for me, for some reason. The placement of the stories seems quite random, as does the insertion of testimonials from some of the people she has written about (an affectation I could have done without, really).
Like the celebrity persona she projects, there’s a mixture of show-off and razor-sharp penetration. I found myself laughing out loud in places, tearful at times, and rolling my eyes in other places. It’s a good dip-into book, and just as in ABC Book Club, you don’t really know what she’s going to come out with next.