Men of Letters

Men of Letters

Men of LettersI’ve laughed, cried, and generally been in I-wish-I-could-be-that-clever awe at a few Women of Letters events, but timetable clashes have defeated my attempts to catch Men of Letters. Until now (and not without some sneaky reworking of football match times that I organised with the place I play and didn’t tell the boys on my teams—sorry guys, but those late games were a necessity).

Featuring quite possibly the strongest possible Brisbane Men of Letters line-up around—including Stuart Glover, Richard Fidler, John Birmingham, and Scott Spark—today’s event was a must-see.

ABC radio host, former Race Around The World TV host, and Doug Anthony All Star Richard Fidler opened the proceedings with an honest, heartfelt, humour-laden letter to his wife of some 20 years.

Charting their courtship, marriage, and moving-house history, Fidler’s letter was warm, disarming, and deep. It also gave us insight into the dynamics of the couple’s relationship—him the eternal optimist complemented by (and often in competition with) her pessimism. I’m still chuckling about ‘Ha! See!’

The last letter writer and academic Stuart Glover wrote to his mother was one begging to come home from summer camp after he’d accidentally hit another boy in the face with a paddle. The letter he wrote to her for today was of the kind, he said, that he would write but never likely show to her.

Glover was born 10 weeks early in a time when that meant almost certain death; he was supposed to be a Cancer but is a Taurus instead. His letter was written from his infant self, naïve, innocent, beautifully wrought, and breathtaking.

I’ve long known Stuart as a self-deprecating, wickedly funny, and talented writer and his deeply personal letter caught me by surprise (in the way that ‘surprise’ is intended as a compliment). I didn’t know it was possible to have more respect for this man, from whom I’ve been fortunate enough to learn at uni. Today I found new levels of like.

Spiderbait’s drummer Kram was surprisingly wry and funny. He’d composed his letter on his phone and he hadn’t printed it out because he was still changing it up to half an hour before the show. The only reason he wasn’t been changing it during the other readers’ letters, he told us, was because he didn’t want to appear disrespectful.

Kram’s letter was to his ‘woman’ the Neanderthal term he used for his wife. I (and arguably just about everyone else in the room) bristled at its mention, but the term was quickly swept away or even contextualised by his brilliant letter—one that he’d decided would be best kept ‘simple and rambling’.

Addressing his Norwegian wife, who was standing off stage, and with hilarious moments punctuated by the infectious giggles of his son who, like us, was clearly enjoying the show, Kram owned the stage and the microphone in ways only a rock star can. He also posed questions I’m still puzzling over, not least: Why are creative girls’ cars so messy?

Interstate work commitments meant that Lucas Stibbard of Boy Girl Wall genius and fame couldn’t be there to read his letter in person, but Men of Letters played one he’d prepared (recorded) earlier.

After opening with a words-inspired visual of a crunching cricket + ball + lack-of-cup incident, he addressed his letter to the girl who’d provided him with what was technically his second kiss. (He’d missed out on being kissed during the schoolyard catch-and-kiss games, something he put down to the fact that he was a faster runner than the other kids.)

Stibbard had bonded with this girl over vaguely sexual experiences learning CPR on a mannequin, and the kiss she later planted on him set him on a path to his creative career. That’s something I’d like to thank her for—Stibbard is a masterful actor, writer, director, all-round talent whose future works I’m very much looking forward to.

Singer-songwriter and ABC radio producer Scott Spark closed out the proceedings with a letter to his ‘proxy sisters’. Born a boy, he’s known all along that, though they loved him infinitely, his parents had always hoped for a girl.

At one stage his parents considered adopting a girl from Asia, something which didn’t pan out and that Spark, whose partner is writer Benjamin Law, has promised that he’ll rectify if the government ever lets the couple adopt a child.

Spark’s letter was to the sister he’s never had and the ‘proxy’ sisters he’s had all along. These are the women who have offered him love and advice and acceptance and inspiration when he’s most needed it, including in the days and hours before he was to lose his much-loved father.

His letter was beautiful and wrenching and generous and inspiring all at once and I’ll not deny it made me a little teary; it was the perfect way to end an afternoon of letter-reading emotion and humour.

I’m not sure how Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire will top this Men of Letters, but I’m looking forward to seeing how. For now, though, I’m fairly pleased I got to witness this one—it really was something special.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

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