Twenty of Australia's brightest and funniest writers share the joys, hazards and mysteries of fatherhood and how we all relate to 'dad'.
The shape of the family tree has changed irrevocably in recent decades, and there is hardly such thing as a 'typical dad' anymore (though dad jokes, like cockroaches, never seem to die). From the grim archetype of the emotionally distant father, to the bumbling man-child who's only a pair of underpants away from being an ape and the sensitive-newage man with a pram, there has never been more freedom for men to choose what sort of dad they want to be. Or, for that matter, so many opportunities to stuff it up!
Anson Cameron, Tony Birch, James Button, Barry Dickins, Gideon Haigh, Richard Hinds, Dominic Knight, Malcolm Knox, Benjamin Law, Kate Legge, William McInnes, Mischa Merz, Paddy O'Reilly, Kerryn Phelps, Angela Pippos, Nick Place, Ben Pobjie, Sami Shah, Tracey Spicer, Tony Wilson and Paul Connolly.
Paul Connolly is an award-winning journalist and the author of four books, including The Mighty Bras, a memoir of a suburban football season, and The Streak: Queensland's Eight-Year Domination of Origin.
Edited By: Paul Connolly
Question: What inspired you to collate these fatherhood stories?
Paul Connolly: A few things. I'm the father of two girls, aged 10 and 7, and I've been the main stay-at-home parent since their mum finished her maternity leave. Even during her maternity leave I was around to help and contribute, one of the benefits of being a freelance journalist and writer. Through the years I've thought many times about how my experience of fatherhood "which, despite its challenges, has been brilliant" differs from the one that my father would have experienced, as he had what you might call a more traditional role. So in putting the book together I wanted to explore ideas of fatherhood and the role of fatherhood which, I think, continues to change and become more hands-on.
At the same time I've long felt that men simply aren't as good, or perhaps -practised' is the better word, at discussing what it means to be a father and of sharing their stories. Not just about how difficult fatherhood can be " such as balancing the desire to be with your children with the demands of a job, of putting your own needs behind those of your family, of having to attend school concerts that involve violins and recorders" but also how wonderful, rewarding, hilarious, and fun it can be. I hope this book provides a window in that world.
Question: How did you choose which writers to include in Father Figures?
Paul Connolly: The writers I asked to contribute to the book were ones whose work I admire and enjoyed reading. I was also conscious of choosing writers with diverse styles and, more importantly, writers who could speak from different perspectives; a step-father, a father whose child spends most time with his mother and her new partner, a father of four kids including one with a disability, stay at home dads, working dads, and childless men who are involved uncles. There are also a number of wonderful women who've written evocative pieces about their fathers and the enormous influence they've had on their outlook and lives. Of course I also chose writers who returned my emails.
Question: Can you share with us, one of the funnies stories, from the book?
Paul Connolly: Humour plays a big part in parenthood, so it features heavily in the book. Perhaps not surprisingly William McInnes' yarn about the importance of laughter in a home, and of growing up with his father, Colin, hits the funny bone. William recalls once running about his backyard trying to remove a plaster of Paris mould he got stuck over his head by running headfirst into a Hills Hoist. For reasons like this Colin McInnes had many inventive names for young William, like Piecan, The Complete and Utter Droob, and my favourite, Cabbagehead Arsepart.
Question: What's next, for you?
Paul Connolly: I'm writing this on a day my partner is at work and my daughters are both sick in bed. So my immediate duties will include dispensing Panadol and laying cool face-washers on hot foreheads. Long term, more journalism and more books.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Edited By: Paul Connolly