Reading Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly’s How to make Gravy is not a book to read fast.

Perhaps that’s why I went to the launch in 2010 and have only just finished reading it. I put it off originally because of the size – too big to lug to the station for my train ride. But it was perfect reading as a new Mum. I was able to grab a chapter at a time between feeds and sleeps, and be inspired to get into my own creative work.

Another thing I’ve procrastinated over is what to write about the book. I am a huge Paul Kelly fan and was hoping that the book would be brilliant – which it was. On the days where I had a chance to read a few chapters in a row I found myself thinking in the style that the book was written in, conversational, comparative, imaginative – making lists, making comparisons, thinking about rhyme and rhythm.

What I enjoyed about it is that it is not a run-of-the-mill bio. There’s no chronological order, but I didn’t miss out on his childhood, or even his family history. There is no chapter structure that implies a traditional narrative, a rise and fall, love and loss. Stories are woven together with a link of A-Z song titles, each chapter providing the lyrics of the song, then Kelly’s stories, lists and diary entries. This structure makes sense, like real life, where you go from thinking about childhood, to lost friends, to lists of things you like, or things you want to do, the book merges everything.

Perhaps it’s best to describe some examples – my own list – of great listings in How to Make Gravy. The Pretty Place chapter for example provides the lyrics to the song, then 3 lists: What’s bad for children, What’s good for children and What to teach children.

The Somewhere in the City chapter gives us ‘Nine Simple Tips On How To Write The Perfect, Less-Than-Three-Minute Pop Song’.

Don’t Start Me Talking is followed by ‘Don’t Start Me Quoting Great Opening Lines To Songs’.

Dispersed between lists are great stories – too many to list.

How To Make Gravy is a book that inspires, stokes imaginative coals and generally tells some good yarns.


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