Pardon Me for Mentioning

Sometimes it’s time to take a little break from novels. After a  few novels in a row (particularly if they’re a little on the serious side) it’s good to be able to break it up a little with a good compilation/non-fiction/novelty title.

pardon meI read today’s book over the Christmas period last year, while there were lots of demands on my time. I was time-poor and needed something that I could dip in and out of easily. Pardon Me for Mentioning… Unpublished Letters to the Age and The Sydney Morning Herald by Alex Kaplan, Julie Lewis and Catharine Munro (Allen and Unwin) was exactly the compilation in order.

It’s a fascinating collection of Letters to the Editor on topics as varied as gender wars, illustrious Canberra and, umm,  body odor. Some letters are earnest…

“Ulf Ewaldsson from Ericsson must be really happy that global mobile penetration will read 100 per cent by 2016. The headline claims ‘Everyone who want to make a phone call over a mobile can.’ Maybe the starving millions in the horn of Africa will soon be able to simply dial a pizza. Angus McLeod, Cremorne”

Some are funny…

“Each page of my school report was for a different subject and had three headings – effort, progress and comment. I recall my father being distinctly unimpressed when my French teacher place a ‘no’ in front of each heading. Warwick Harty, Maroubra”

 And some just plan absurd…

“If I get good service in a restaurant I usually tip 10 per cent of the bill. If the service is poor, the tip I leave to the waiter is: ‘Don’t overwater your bromliads in winter.’ John Byrne, Randwick.”

All of them hark back to a time (in the not-that-distant past) of papers in print and a community of voices making themselves heard. The most fun of all is that most of the writers of the letters have their tongues placed firmly in their cheeks. Even those letters of a serious nature have delightful smart-arsery about them, one that will have you giggling wryly. They make their point lightly, yet completely clearly.

I really enjoyed this collection and it has make me read the Letters section of the paper differently. I now see it as a community, a set of voice saying their piece, calling others to account, and sometime just trying to entertain the rest of us a little. 

If you’d like to find out more about  Pardon Me for Mentioning… Unpublished Letters to the Age and The Sydney Morning Herald you can visit the Allen and Unwin website here…