Zoë Norton Lodge is a comedic goddess. You may know her as the cat lady from The Checkout, a presenter on The Chaser’s Media Circus and the creator of ABC’s live storytelling program, Story Club. As if that wasn’t enough, Zoë has put the rest of us mere mortals to shame with the release of her kick-ass book Almost Sincerely. Thanks a lot, Zoë.
Part memoir, part fiction (I hope) and part stand-up, Almost Sincerely is a collection of short stories based on Zoë’s upbringing in Annandale. The twenty stories stretch all the way from her first day of pre-school to revisiting her childhood home as an adult. The reader is taken everywhere in the suburb, from inside Zoë’s house (and all of its mysterious hat, bird and possum-ridden rooms), to the park across the street and the closing-down shops in her neighbourhood. As it turns out, there were a lot of closing-down shops in her neighbourhood.
On the surface, it might appear Annandale and its inhabitants are at the butt of Zoë’s jokes (cue the all-out neighbourhood warfare in the story ‘Madam Guillotine and the Imitation Samoan’, the playground confrontation in ‘How Come Why For Did You Call My Friend Denise a Bitch’, or really any interaction in the entire collection). But what initially seems to be criticism of the suburb is actually homage, paid (in true Australian fashion) via self-deprecating humour.
I don’t recall ever going to Annandale as a child, and yet there was still an odd sense of nostalgia reading this book. Visually, the collection is welcoming, as each story is paired with a sketch of an Annandale house or shopfront (illustrated by Little Georgia, the sibling co-star of the collection). But the nostalgia goes further than that. The brutal honesty of the stories makes it feel as though you’re re-reading your own teenage diary, full of angsty distaste for kitsch surroundings, a mixed humiliation/adoration of your family, and confidence in your own supreme awkwardness. Except Zoë’s diary is far more exciting than most.
Almost Sincerely is a bundle of absurd, unsettling, irreverent goodness that you will love every minute of.