Sam de Brito: Off the cuff with Sydney's best-known blogger
Blogger and author Sam de Brito knows Sydney better than most.
The man behind the award-winning Sydney Morning Herald blog, "All Men are Liars", has lived in the city more than 35 years. Its people and places have long been rich fodder for de Brito, who has moved from newspaper journalism into TV script writing, blogging and creating two novels both set in Sydney.
de Brito's writing is bitingly honest and often very funny. His insights into the life of the Australian male and the complexities of modern life have provoked ferocious online debate.
Stereotypes of Aussie men (and women) are lies
For de Brito, the stereotype of Aussie men being simple, strong and macho are incorrect. “There’s a massive spectrum of masculinity in Australia, and a massive spectrum within each man,” he says. “We’ve got this idea if a guy’s a bogan, he’s incommunicative, but if he’s an intellectual he’s a sensitive type.”
In his writing de Brito explores the struggles that modern men have in redefining today’s masculine roles. He says “a lot of guys are coming to terms with responsibility, (but) there’s a real eternal childhood being spruiked by culture. We’re told we can indulge in the trappings of youth into our 30s and 40s.”
Women also feature prominently in his work and de Brito is a fan of Australian women because “most of the time, what you see is what you get."
“I've had a child with one, I’ve fallen in love with many of them,” he says. “I think Australian women are great. They’re probably a lot less hung-up on status than we give them credit for.”
de Brito's alter-ego
de Brito’s debut novel, "The Lost Boys," flickers between the teenage and mid-life experiences of Ned, growing up as a high school kid in Maroubra and then as 35 year-old Bondi resident struggling with the vagaries of adulthood.
His second book, the recently released "Hello Darkness," follows Ned’s life as a now 39-year-old journalist, thrown back into the shark pit of Sydney’s media world. Despite the obvious parallels with his own life, de Brito says the novels are not autobiographical.
“They’re heightened reality -- I take inspiration from real life but most of the things in the book never happened in real life," de Brito says. "Certainly Ned is part of me –- he’s the villain in my heart. He’s an interesting character to play with.”
The 42-year old author and blogger lives alone and tries to write every day: “You have to keep at it”.
He has no special routine but gives himself as much time as possible during each day to write. “Just try and get something down,” he says. “I try and write as quickly as possible, then I won’t come back to it for a week or so. As the saying goes, writing is re-writing. I tend to write very quickly and write very short chapters as I have a short attention span.”
As to the inspiration for his writing, de Brito is philosophical.
Few subjects are taboo, such as his own personal experience being involved in two abortions, and he puts it down to the candor and honesty he injects into his work.
“I don’t put myself above the reader and if people want to criticize me for stuff then that’s OK, but let's both stand naked on the stage -- and if you’re prepared to stand naked on the stage with me and criticize me then I’ve got no problem,” de Brito says. “But if you want to do it from the darkness, from the cheap seats, then I’ll listen but I’m not going to be that moved by what you have to say because I don’t think opinion divorced by identity is worth anything.”
“When I write about something people know I’m not just saying it to get a reaction, I’m saying it because that’s the way I feel and you might disagree with me, but that’s democracy. I’m not doing it for page impressions or circulation.”
“I find it really bloody difficult to write any other way now.”
de Brito has been based in the eastern suburbs since the mid-1980s, interrupted by some overseas postings, and describes Bondi as “the best place on earth”.
“I lived in New York for four years and Paris for six months,” he says.
New York and Sydney are similar as many travelers have a “love-hate relationship” with the city: “It’s a bitch of a place sometimes but as you learn and get to know the place a bit more it becomes a big brother and it starts to look after you.”
“A lot of people come to the eastern suburbs and I think they can be intimidated by it," de Brito says. "But once you kinda know the ins and outs, (you) how to get the best value out of the place.”
A two-year stint living in Manly ended when he broke up with his partner and he returned to his Bondi haunt. de Brito may not have a beach view but he has space for a home office and a room for his daughter, who he sees three days a week.
For de Brito, home is walking up the street and knowing people in the café. "It’s those three-minute little interactions that add up to community and I really get a buzz out of community.”
“It’s a big part of my happiness. You feel at home.”
de Brito's Sydney haunts
de Brito’s advice to those visiting Sydney for the first time? Experiencing his home suburb of Bondi is compulsory, such as breakfast at Bronte, a swim at Tamarama Beach and a beer and cheap meal at Bondi Icebergs.
“Go for a swim at the Icebergs in winter then have a sauna. That is one of the great Sydney experiences that, thankfully, too few people know about.”
“Or, if you want to keep walking go up to North Bondi RSL at the other end of the beach,” he says. “Do lunch and then go for a swim.”
“Then if you want to get fancy in the evening, put your glad rags on and go to North Bondi Italian, you’ll see the other end of it. You’ll see all the beautiful people drinking nice wine and eating beautiful food."
"I call it the Bondi triangle in 'The Lost Boys', a lot of people just lose hours, days, years, decades -– they never leave because it really does have a lot to offer.”
Locals call it The Bondi Bubble.
de Brito can often be spotted drinking coffee at Bru Café in North Bondi. His favorite restaurants include Bodega in Surry Hills and the seafood-themed Bondi’s Best: “Bondi’s Best is superb -- it’s the best fish in Sydney.”
When it comes to local holidays, de Brito is a regular visitor to Blueys Beach and Boomerang Beach on the New South Wales north coast, Forresters Beach on the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains.
But the writer has found his niche and inspiration in the harbor city: “It’s breathtaking in all seasons and all weathers.”