Michèle A’Court is a woman in hot demand. Slightly delayed by an interview before her in-store session, she arrived to a packed crowd. Seats had been quickly snapped up, and a fair number of people stood around the edges; general anticipation had built up even higher after we received word that the woman of the hour was en route.
And that anticipation was certainly warranted. Michèle jumped right on in, keeping the crowd laughing the whole way through both her book-related stories and the Q and A session after. She compared her experience with book-writing to that of young people approaching all kinds of challenges – things that they attempt, she reckons, ‘because they don’t yet know how impossible some things are’.
The development from show to book came about from a lunch meeting with Finlay Macdonald, publisher at HarperCollins New Zealand – a meeting she thought was about something completely different. Finlay, she said, gave her six months to write the book. ‘Longer than some of my marriages,’ she quipped, before giving us a breakdown of how she spent that time: ‘three months of faffing about and three months of panicking’.
She disagreed with the general idea of writing a book as being like having a baby, instead suggesting that writing a comedy show is like having a baby (‘It’s all you can think about, everyone’s asking “what is it?”… and afterwards your vagina hurts. I don’t know why.’)’, while writing a book is more like a a full-blown teenager – ‘it’s out there in the world, I don’t have control over it, it’s in other people’s houses…’
Discussion of process led to sharing tidbits from the book, garnishing stories with extra details, like the description of her daughter’s withering reserved-for-Mum-and-Mum-alone stare as saying (in not so many words) ‘Mummy, you’re a f**ktard’. This descriptor led to an acknowledgment of her penchant for ‘rude’ words, and she quoted English essayist Max Beerbohm: ‘Vulgarity has its uses. Vulgarity often cuts ice which refinement scrapes at vainly.’ She told the epic tale of her trekking across the Tasman to get to the birth of her granddaughter – keeping the audience in stitches right until the sigh of relief when she arrived with barely ten minutes to spare.
Michèle then opened the floor to questions, which gave her the opportunity to talk about a few areas not covered. She told us how people have described Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter as giving a voice to solo mothers – and described her ‘shrine to stroppy women’, featuring pictures of the likes of Lucille Ball and Burnett, as well as statues of a voodoo goddess, a female Buddha and a Hindu goddess.
She is very positive, she said, about the current state of feminism in New Zealand. ‘After the backlash in the 90s, it’s no longer a dirty word.’ And another book is on the cards, one day, she reckons. ‘Once my vagina stops hurting again!’
Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter (HarperCollins NZ) is $35 and available in store now or from our online shop HERE.
Review and photography by Briar Lawry.