10 December, 2015

Reckoning, by Magda Szubanski

Now here’s a rare thing: a celebrity memoir that engages you fully, even if you knew little about the subject before reading. 

Australian (also Polish, Scottish and somewhat Irish) actor Magda Szubanski featured in the TV comedy sketch show Fast Forward before playing the awkward sidekick Sharon in Kath & Kim ... or Keth end Keem, as the neighbours would say. 

Kath (Jane Turner) of the latter is famous for “Look at moiye, look at moiye”, perhaps the most hilarious quote from Australian showbiz, but Szubanski’s “I said pet, I said love, I said pet” (Fast Forward, 1980s) must be close behind. 

Despite such credentials, Szubanski says in her memoir, Reckoning, “I am not the funny one in the family. My mother is.” She describes her mum as an expert in sarcasm, adding that “my father never got the better of her. None of us did.” 

This is a family memoir in many ways. Her father is the subject of its first sentence – already widely quoted – and it is a conversation stopper, the literary equivalent of a grenade tossed casually into the centre of a room filled with party-goers: 

“If you had met my father you would never, not for an instant, have thought he was an assassin."

Oh. As that opener and the title indicate, the book is about Szubanski coming to terms with things: her family background, and herself. 

Tabloids and so-called women’s magazines have had a feeding frenzy with her over the years, documenting (as they might put it) various personal “battles” and “struggles”. In 2009 a shock jock suggested, “You put her in a concentration camp and you watch the weight fall”. Even those not targeted would flinch at such an offensive, unfunny statement. 

Fortunately, Szubanski’s own humour is more memorable, and she’s much better than others at telling us about herself. She’s a really good writer, with a really interesting story.

Title: Reckoning
Author: Magda Szubanski
Formats: book, ebook, audiobook

Recommended by Claire G, Grey Lynn Library

Claire G reads widely, writes narrowly, pampers her poultry and neglects her garden. She thinks Leonard Cohen was right about there being a crack in everything.

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