She once hid Julian Assange in her attic and now Kathy Lette is coming to Australia

She once hid Julian Assange in her attic and now Kathy Lette is coming to Australia

Words by Fergus Neal

Puberty Blues author, Kathy Lette, is set for a night out with the girls. The famed author will deliver audiences a psychological strip-tease through tales of love, lust, and hiding Julian Assange in her attic.

It might have been forty-years since Puberty Blues was first published, but Kathy Lette’s debut novel still resonates with the youth of Australia. The book’s candid exploration of teenage sex, drinking, and the sexism of ’70s surf culture stirred public controversy while captivating a nation. The 2012 television adaption brought a new generation of readers to the book and signals the timeless quality of the experiences captured forever in between its pages.

Lette’s upbringing on the beaches of Sydney laid the foundation for an authentic account of what being a teenager was like during the sometimes-wild terrain of 1970s Australia.

Puberty Blues was my life,” she says.

“The boys I grew up alongside in Cronulla disproved the theory of evolution. We girls were second-class citizens, we had to live vicariously through them.

“Two copies of the book were going to every house. One for the parents upstairs, who read the book in fear and astonishment, asking themselves, ‘Oh my god, are our kids really doing this?’, and one for the teenagers’ downstairs – who for the first time were reading a book and going, ‘Yay, something that finally details our experience truthfully’.”

But Puberty Blues wasn’t without a cost. While it illuminated the generational differences at the time and broke barriers in Australian literature, Lette and her family were the target of a conservative nation not willing to accept that the book had sung the song of the teenage-generation.

“The book caused a huge amount of controversy when it came out. My mother was receiving death threats, the full extent of which I’ve only realised very recently. We just wrote the book for our girlfriends, but it caught on and swept around the country.”

Lette’s Australian tour will chronicle her life from Puberty Blues to Menopause Blues. In between, Lette will discuss among other things; making the Queen laugh, tongue kissing Prince William and close encounters of the George Clooney kind. Many of Lette’s astonishing anecdotes border on incredibility; when asked whether Julian Assange genuinely lived in her attic, Lette responds with laughter.

“Yes, darling. The upside of being married to a human rights lawyer for nearly three decades is the many intriguing house guests I’ve entertained for long periods. My attic has been a temporary home to exiled Prime Ministers, prisoners on the run. James Hewitt sought refuge when the Palace was rumoured to be trying him for treason after his affair with Princess Diana.

“Julian came seeking legal advice over sexual assault allegations. Basically, I’ve had everybody in my attic except Anne Frank. During his stay, our only clash concerned fiction – a lot of men, Julian included, neglect fiction written by women. But unlike other men, Julian eventually came around.”

How Assange came around to read female-penned literature is legendary – a testament to Lette’s trailblazing and innovative feminism.

“When incarcerated in Wandsworth prison, sometime after he stayed, I sent a box of novels with authors like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and any female authors I could find, accompanied with a note saying, ‘Now that you’re a captive audience’. I’m sure he’s completely converted to female fiction.”

Lette hopes to see Assange again one day in the future, as a free-man and expresses sadness at his treatment since the pair departed.

“It’s horrible what they’re doing to Julian. If he goes to America, it’s all over. What he did… it’s freedom of speech, and it’s what democracy is based on.”

Lette is an outspoken comic writer with an inimitable take on serious issues. With 14 best-selling novels to her name; wit, warmth, and full-frontal frankness is guaranteed when Lette brings her Girls’ Night Out to Melbourne.

Kathy Lette brings Girls’ Night Out to the Athenaeum Theatre on Monday November 4. Head to Adrian Bohm Presents for tickets.