03 December, 2008

'The Lucy Family Alphabet' - Judith Lucy

Acerbic. Sarcastic. Coarse. Nasal. All words frequently associated with Australian comedian Judith Lucy. Sensitive and nostalgic come up much less regularly. And really it's the former group that apply to her book of recollections of growing up in a truly peculiar family in suburban Perth, but her book is not without the latter emotions.

Lucy's family history has informed a lot of her stand-up comedy. Since this book came out most of her publicity appearances have included her re-telling tales from the book in her distinct tone and with trademark nod and smirk. A quick Youtube search reveals some of the stories coming up in stand-up appearances from ten years ago - that's quite a family, to keep a comedian in material for that length of time.

Without the aural and visuals aspects of a Lucy routine, the anecdotes take on a different resonance, and they translate well to the written word, also a credit to Lucy's obvious respect for language and her ability, honed through thousands of shows, of picking the right words to take her audience back in time with her.

I saw Lucy talk at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year, along with Nam Le and David Sedaris. The session was about using personal life experience to create literature, whether fiction or non-fiction. Everyone there, from her fellow presenters, to MC Jason Steger, to the audience, were keen to see Lucy drop her usual dry persona and talk about how she felt about these stories. While her talk was a triumphant mini-gig, she wasn't about to step out from behind the comedian curtain. The book does, however, and it includes some touching commentary about how she genuinely felt about her parents.

This is a great gift for someone who would appreciate Lucy's humour, as well as the not-so-occasional story of rampant drinking. Not just because it's well written but also because it's well presented. It's got that just-right book weight that wraps so well and an engaging front cover. Moreover, it's spot-on holiday reading. Read a bit, read a lot; have a giggle; relax while you're doing it. Dear Lord, I appeared to have turned into a catalogue...

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