Women of Letters by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire (eds)

Back in 2010, Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire organised for a single afternoon to be devoted to ‘the lost art of correspondence’, gathering smart, funny women from all around Melbourne and beyond and asking them to pen a letter to a variety of themes (anything from ‘the host of that party’ to ‘the moment it all fell apart’). Over a year later, Women of Letters has become something of a local institution, hosting a golden list of writers, musicians, actors and politicians and still going strong.

These missives have now been gathered together in one elegant collection of the same name, which, if anything, proves that the art of witty, thoughtful and articulate correspondence is well and truly alive. Any why not too? It may be a digital world, but it’s one in which we tweet, email and blog our thoughts to readers on a daily basis. Women of Letters is in fact a reflection of these modern voices – confessional, sarcastic, poetic and dramatic at turns.

Like any book from multiple authors, there are ups and downs, and I suspect different pieces will stand out to different readers for a variety of reasons. For me, the best were those that understood that the craft letter-writing is, at its heart, an act of storytelling – Jenny Valentish’s knowing and gently self-deprecating ode to her ‘first pin-up’ Adam Ant, Helen Garner’s sign-off to her past ‘gazombies’ and, above all, Noni Hazlehurst’s hilarious dual notes to her first boss (one from her younger, hopeful self, and the second from her older, wiser critic). There’s plenty of laughter to be found in these pages. Helen Razer’s deliciously savage skewering of one ‘Mrs Broderick’ and Georgia Fields’s fanmail to Mariah Carey were definite highlights. As for the Men of Letters section, you can’t go past Eddie Perfect’s letter to the woman who changed his life, his partner Lucy. Yet there were several sombre notes too, in particular Alice Pung’s moving tribute to her father, and Sian Prior’s note to an early love.

All proceeds from the events have been going to Edgar’s Mission, a sanctuary for unwanted and abused farm animals. The fact that the earnings from the book will do the same is simply another big plus.

Jessica Au is from Readings St Kilda

Cover image for Women Of Letters

Women Of Letters

Michaela McGuire,Marieke Hardy

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