Gabrielle Carey is a writer, essayist and occasional academic.
Gabrielle Carey is currently in retreat, practising literary purdah, in an effort to write a book about the unknowable but nevertheless insistently intriguing Australian writer, Randolph Stow. When not pursuing a dead poet, Gabrielle continues her habit of hosting the long-running Finnegans Wake Reading Group.
Puberty Blues the TV series starts in August.
The time that we wrote Puberty Blues now seems light years away. We were young, exuberant and barely knew the edges of our selves. I think that this is precisely why the book – and our collaboration – was so special: we captured a place and a time that is rarely documented so freshly. That is to say, your average teenager is usually too busy living life to be bothered writing it down.
Of course there is something extraordinary about the fact that the scribblings of two teenagers still have such currency thirty years later. I put this down to the fact that we were naïve enough to be totally honest and unabashed by literary expectations – that is, we weren’t real writers yet.
The feature film of Puberty Blues was one incarnation; the TV series will be another. The film didn’t exactly portray the book and neither will the series. Each medium is its own creative thing. The exciting part is that a creative synergy of three decades ago is still reverberating throughout the culture. This should be a celebration of more than just the resilience of a small book that told a long-lasting story. It is a celebration of creativity itself and the importance of Australians telling their own particular, sometimes peculiar, stories.
Writing together helped Kathy and I to define ourselves as individuals. Publication confirmed the different paths we were to take. I will always remember our creative collaboration – whether it was writing, singing or just wild recklessness – as a period of great fun. Or, in the words of Irish poet and rebel Patrick Pearse:
‘I have squandered the splendid years;
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them all over again.’
by Patrick Pearse
‘I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.
Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me !
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow’s teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God ; or was it a jest of Christ’s
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?’
In an effort to respond to the many queries about Puberty Blues I have reproduced below the opening to a story I wrote about how the book was written and published and the scandal that ensued. This is very much my version of events; Kathy would no doubt tell the story differently. You can read more of Confessions in the attached PDF. The full text will be published at a later date (ie when I can find it!).
Confessions of a Teenage Celebrity
About ten years ago there was a small trivia quiz in the Sydney Morning Herald offering a prize to anyone who could remember the ‘other’ author of Puberty Blues. At first I laughed; then I was irritated. Finally, I admitted to myself that I wasn’t really sure how I felt. Was I annoyed at being so forgettable? Did I miss the brief period when people recognised me in the street? Or should I just write in to the Herald and claim the prize money?
I was twenty when the public eye turned on me after the publication of Puberty Blues . It didn’t take long before I realised that being a celebrity wasn’t for me. Being at the centre of a media storm can be fun, just as a child enjoys being the centre of attention, but there’s also a part of it that isn’t so much fun. Or at least that’s how I found it during my fifteen minutes of fame.
As Puberty Blues was co-authored, there was trouble when one author shrank from the attention and the other lapped it up. While I saw our sudden fame as a loss – a loss of privacy, of individuality – my co-writer saw it as a gain, as an opportunity to network, to further a career, to establish the kind of status in the world that had thus far eluded us. She was right of course. There was something churlish about turning your nose up at career opportunities, a kind of inverted snobbery. But at the time I couldn’t comprehend the advantages we might gain from celebrity because I was too consumed by what we were losing. What we were losing was what had got us to that point in the first place: our friendship.