Kathy Lette: I only write because it's cheaper than therapy

Kathy Lette explains how Germaine Greer opened her eyes to feminism and praises Jane Austen for her ability to comically kneecap the pompous.

Best-selling Australian author and comedy writer Kathy Lette has written 11 novels, including Mad Cows and Dead Sexy. Her new short book Love is Blind came out last year.

The Complete Works of Jane Austen

I left school at 16, so the only exam I’ve ever passed is my cervical smear test. I’m an autodidact (obviously that’s a word I taught myself). I read all the time and, while I adore those scintillating Brontë sisters and their works on lust, love and loss, it was Austen who made me want to be a writer.

Beneath her humorous veneer, Austen is a barbed commentator on the battle between the sexes. She realised that poetic justice is the only justice in the world, and set about impaling misogynistic enemies on the end of her pen. I only write myself because it’s cheaper than therapy, and writing humorously enables me comically to kneecap the pompous. But no one does that better than Austen.

Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

The social satire in this classic novel is so sharp it could shave your legs. Aged 16, I was thrilled by the heroine Becky Sharp. With tongue-in-chic and lashings of chutzpah, she was the Madonna of her day, flaunting tradition and challenging sexual mores. But with no vote, no union, no fixed wage, no welfare and no contraception, what options were available to women? It was either prostitution or marriage—often a tautology in early 19th-century Britain. Becky had no choice but to climb the social ladder—lad by lad. The book showed me that a protagonist can be fabulously flawed...like me!

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

I grew up as a surfie girl in Australia. The men there disproved evolution—they were turning into apes. Women were merely handbags to be draped decoratively over their arms. Fellow Antipodean Greer’s witty 1970 polemic, calling for the end of oppression of women, showed me that a woman is more than a life-support system to a pair of breasts. Women are each other’s Wonderbras—uplifting, supportive, and making each other look bigger and better.