You’ll Be Sorry when I’m Dead begins, as any marketable book should, with a bang – a story about Marieke Hardy’s long-running obsession with prostitution, culminating in various threesomes between herself, a hooker and her boyfriend. The story is racy, amusing and compelling – because let’s face it, sex sells.
This is a ploy Hardy knows all too well, and one on which she has partly staked her rising reputation as a writer. It’s not just her red-stained lips, her massive doe-eyes and the feminine-chic of those wild dark locks, adorned by the ubiquitous flower – the lady likes to talk about sex. A lot.
But provocations aside, this Melburnian writer is a hard worker with an impressive track record: from her humble beginnings as a Neighbours scriptwriter to award-winning blogger, Triple J breakfast presenter, and regular columnist for The Age and Frankie magazine. She also co-created this year’s morbidly comedic TV series Laid, whose protagonist discovers the men she has slept with are dropping like flies.
Allen & Unwin have classified You’ll Be Sorry as ‘humour’, but it would be equally at home on the memoir shelf. The book comprises a series of personal vignettes, snippets of Hardy’s childhood and adult life, in no particular order. About two-thirds of them have been written specifically for the book, while others have been previously published in The Age and Frankie.
‘Forevz’, which details her friend’s ongoing battle with cancer, is one of the stronger chapters. It successfully mixes the humorous with the heartfelt, and features a particularly good laugh-out-loud moment (there are many in the book), when Hardy asks the (ostensibly right-wing) oncologist if her friend will get better faster by pretending to vote Liberal.
Hardy’s writing is tightly wrought, full of witticisms and crass illustrations that would make a modern-day Oscar Wilde swoon. Yet there is a level of self-consciousness here, a preoccupation with showing off with language. Hardy’s sentences are often long and convoluted, or altogether obscure. I stumbled when reading, for instance, ‘I once held a passionate discourse with a feline-eyed slice of wonderful via email.’ (She is not talking about a cat-shaped cake inside her computer.)
This focus on stylistic bells and whistles at times takes precedence over a good story. The gist of ‘Pour l’album’, for instance, is essentially: ‘When I holiday with my parents, I am petulant, and we scrapbook’. I struggled to find interest in this subject matter, as I did with Hardy’s reminiscences of friends, drinking, men and bands – all of which I enjoy in my own life but would never consider anyone else’d give two hoots about reading. Such is the problem with writing memoir at thirty-five, unless one is very famous, or has had some extraordinary experiences.
If Hardy’s subject matter doesn’t always compel, her persona does. The pin-up-girl, taunter-of-controversy (just Google ‘Marieke Hardy Christopher Pyne’), and self-styled ‘hedonist, raconteur, bon vivant’ (so says her Twitter profile) knowingly taunts the reader, piquing our voyeuristic curiosities throughout the book. Those curiosities are largely satisfied, although perhaps not in the way the author intended. For although Hardy isn’t shy when it comes to revealing, for instance, embarrassing stories about herself, it’s the material lurking beneath all the quips and jokes, the person behind the confident exterior, that are the most revealing.
In ‘The business’, Hardy journals her childhood desire to be an actor, following in her parents’ footsteps. This desire was eventually dashed, while her career segued into writing, a legacy handed down from her grandfather, Frank Hardy. In this chapter, as well as in ‘YTT‘ and ‘Maroon and blue’ (both of which chart her childhood obsessions with certain Young Talent Time and Fitzroy football club stars, respectively), we see something of the young girl who yearns to be noticed, who ‘just wanted to fit in’.
Fast-forward to Hardy’s sexual fixations, literary provocations and Twitter addiction, and that yearning appears just as strong. The difference is that now Hardy has very much succeeded in getting herself noticed. Her ability to deliver punchy, clever humour through her writing has earned her a well-deserved reputation as a columnist and blogger. When it comes to a whole book, I still feel there’s got to be something more compelling than sexual exhibitionism and clever sentences, but perhaps Hardy is an artist after all – of herself, at the very least.
Hannah Francis is a bookseller, freelance writer and blogger at www.culturedanimal.com.