BOOKS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
:— ‘ Baby blues
Fiona Shepherd talks to I bestselling Australian author Kathy Lette about
3 and below we print an I extract from her latest
i For Australian author Kathy Lette.
2 writing a novel is as natural as keeping a diary — a pithy. humour-splattered bitch ofa diary conducting a steamy affair with the sharper end of witty repartee. Her ﬁrst novel Puberty Blues. published when she was twenty. jumped straight into the bestseller lists and was later adapted for ﬁlm. She followed it with the hit short story collection Girls’ Night Out when she was a tiny bit older (and probably going out a lot) and her latest, Foetal Attraction. comes hot on the heels of the birth of her second child. Call me quick-witted. but I see a pattern emerging. ‘l‘ve completely cannibalised my life up until this point.‘ she admits.
Lette was born. bred and bored in Sylvania Waters. the afﬂuent antipodean precinct perverser celebrated by the eponymous fly-on- the-wall documentary. She is justly ashamed. ‘The worst thing about growing up in that area is that all the men disprove the theory of evolution —
I I I
they’re evolving into apes.‘ She ﬂed
' school at fifteen. became a hippy.
hugged trees. became a punk. formed a girl group called The Salami Sisters.
I worked in factories. emptied bedpans.
became a kissogram. and ﬁnally
2 submitted to Somerset Maugham‘s
maxim that if you were bad at everything else. you should become a
3 writer. She‘s been exacting literary
books, bitching and babies .
revenge on her environment ever since. Foetal Attraction follows the
j misfortunes of vivacious Aussie
‘ redhead Madeline Wolfe. who arrives ' in Britain to be with her lover.
discovers he‘s married. then that she‘s - pregnant and adrift in London with
nothing but her sense of the absurd to
‘ buoy her up. ’I decided to tell the truth : about childbirth.‘ says Lette. ‘Notjust
because I want it to be a literary contraceptive. but also because as a writer it amazed me when l was pregnant that I couldn't ﬁnd anything in ﬁction to mirror my own
experiences. All our female literary role
models — Jane Austen. the Bront'és. Simone de Beauvoir, Dorothy Parker. Lillian Hellman — they didn‘t have any children because books and babies didn‘t go together.‘
However. there‘s only so long you can
dwell on the vagaries ofgenital design. epidurals. messy afterbirth and what Lette calls ‘the Earth Mother conspiracy‘ of natural birth. More than a prenatal manual. Foetal Attraction is a handbook on the ever-ready witty retort. It‘s a comedy of manners. Someone else’s manners. with Madeline‘s social discomfort — not surprisingly — a mirror of Lette‘s.
‘l’ve been living here ﬁve years and l
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76 The List l9 November—2 December I993
Kathy lette: born, bred and bored in Sylvania Waters When I ﬁrst got in they said to me.
still haven’t got the English sussed.
- They‘re so bizarre. All those things in
the hook I wrote about the upper class — liked me till I realised what they were . send their kids off to high-class kennels colonial".‘
how they keep their dogs at home and
called Eton and Harrow and the fact they don't speak English. they speak in strange euphemisms — they really do.
’ “Oh. you‘re Australian. you‘re so
refreshing" and I thought they really saying is “Rack off. you loud-mouthed
l’oetal .‘llll'tlt‘lltttl is published by I’lt'ttt/UI' (II [9.99.
For an Aussie Sheila, twelve thousand
miles lrom home, abandoned by her bloke, her visa about to expire, with no place to live and no income, being pregnant in london is about as much
tun as the hunting season is for a
pheasant In an English tield.
By the second trimester, Maddy’s body was going through more mutations than Jekyll and Hyde. Warning. Dangerous Mutant at Large. She was seriously considering joining the Moscow State Circus. Her belly
gave the impression that somone had - taken to it with a bicycle pump. ller
ankles were so swollen, it looked as though she was wearing flesh- coloured bell-bottoms. Silver stretch
marks were suriacing all over her body j she wasn’t pregnant.
like runs in stockings. ller distended
breasts, cased in an industrial- strength, steel-capped bra, put her serioust oil balance. She was forever
’ listing into her lasagne. When people
asked why she only were black, she
; said she was in mourning for her body.
But her body was shipshape
compared to her brain. Everything
: made her cry. The afternoon movies
with happy endings. The afternoon
3 movies with sad endings. The arty
French movies with no endings at all. 3 It was time to lace tacts. She was
. brain dead. The symptoms? She’d
started to find Neighbours a thought- provoking programme.
Even if she wasn’t mentally malnourished, the baby definitely
I I I I
would be. Maddy was convinced she’d ,
crushed its skull from wearing tights with ‘control panty girdles’ in the hope at convincing potential employers that
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