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Meet Marjorie Bligh, the Dear Abby for Down Under

A new book traces the remarkable life and retro advice—including how to stay happily married—of a 96-year-old Tasmanian domestic diva.

Move over, Dear Abby, and shuffle on down the line, Dame Edna—there's a new domestic diva in town. And by new, we mean she's been around for 96 years and is a veritable supernova in her native Tasmania (as well as in neighboring Oz, where Barry Humphries, the comedian behind the divine Dame E., calls her "no slouch in the matrimonial department"). Now Marjorie Bligh is coming to America thanks to Housewife Superstar! (subtitle: Advice (and Much More) From a Nonagenarian Domestic Goddess), out this week from Faber And Faber. Author Danielle Wood traces the remarkable life story of the once-divorced and twice-widowed Bligh, who turned household management into a sublime art form. Wood has also sprinkled the book with Bligh's eccentric and entertaining advice, from how to make such household necessities as devilled tripe, kerosene soap, and Pavlova, to tips on clearing possums from the ceiling and ruminations on wedded bliss. Below, an excerpt of Bligh's charmingly retro recipe for a happy marriage:

ABC of Happy Marriage

Always. No refunds if not satisfied, so choose carefully.

Boredom. The arch enemy of marriage. Root it out at first signs of growth.

Children. Marriage was instituted for protection and procreation.

Domestic Duties. The most important work in the whole community.

Exercise. Physical—to keep you trim. Mental—to keep you interesting.

Food. Be imaginative, original and appreciative.

Gossip. Don't gossip about your partner's failings.

Honesty. Be honest with each other, but not brutal.

Intelligence. Allied with commonsense, it solves many problems.

Job. A helping hand or listening ear when necessary.

Kindness. Be kind to each other.

Love. To marry for less is to invite disaster.

Modesty. Something you can't afford to lose.

Nagging. Never accomplishes anything. Try encouragement instead.

Others. To live in a cocoon of self-centredness is not wise.

Pride. Something you can't afford to lose.

Quarrels. Always apologise first, even if you are right.

Religion. The tie that binds, the anchor that holds.

Sex. Sexual compatibility is essential to a happy union.

Trouble. Meet it together with courage and loyalty.

Understanding. When grounded in love it is never abused.

Vindictive. Check it by a check-up on your physical relationship.

Wedding Day. A beautiful memory, but only the beginning.

Xtravagance. Stimulating occasionally, but must not become a habit.

You. Retain your personality. Refuse to become just Mum or Dad.

Zzzzzzzz. Unfortunately, there's no known cure for snoring.

Excerpted from Housewife Superstar! (Published in the United States by Faber and Faber, Inc.) Copyright 2011 by Danielle Wood.

Danielle Wood is the author of a novel, The Alphabet of Light and Dark (2003; winner of the Australian/Vogel's and Dobbie literary awards), and a collection of stories, Rosie's Little Cautionary Tales for Girls (2006). She lives in Hobart and teaches at the University of Tasmania.

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