Somehow great swathes of the publishing industry have tricked readers into thinking that unless the book in front of you is about trauma or history (and then only from certain points of view), you are a lesser reader in their eyes. Thankfully, a book has arrived to put the megalomaniacs of literature to shame through the lilting sounds of the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack.
Sinéad Stubbins is an Australian comedy writer, best known for her recaps of reality-television shows including The Bachelor, MasterChef and Game of Thrones. While her memoir sadly does not contain her trademark screenshots, she has carried through the funny and relatable voice seen in her work published by frankie, Junkee and Vulture and in her role on the writing team for ABC TV’s The Weekly with Charlie Pickering.
The self-described “confessional memoir” In My Defence, I Have No Defence sits firmly within millennial angst: trying to settle into a career in an increasingly casualised workforce, the impossibility of home ownership, towering expectations to be able to do things as seemingly simple as cook dinner. But, as Stubbins writes in her introduction, this is not a book “about finding yourself… It’s about that sneaking suspicion that you’re not doing it right, perhaps triggered by the realisation that you’re closer to [The O.C.’s] Sandy Cohen’s age than Seth Cohen’s.”
What follows is an outpouring of earnestly trying very hard, while paying tribute to pop culture and its role in moulding us as we seek to find answers in the world. There are firm similarities at times to David Sedaris’s short stories and Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson’s memoir, but they have never been so bold as to ask their readers to walk down Neighbours’ Ramsay Street. Rebecca Shaw and Brodie Lancaster are similar local contemporaries.
It is difficult to find cohesion in the collection at times, but one of the greatest strengths of In My Defence, I Have No Defence is that it doesn’t ask the reader to do this work. It is a book to pick up, read a story or two, then put down again. After a bad day or when confounded by feelings of insecurity, it’s nice to know that someone else is overthinking everyday social interactions, too. This book is not designed to change your life, and that is its greatest gift.
In My Defence, I Have No Defence, by Sinéad Stubbins, is published by Affirm Press.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.