The Student Chronicles
by Alice Garner
Miegunyah, $24.95 hb, 167 pp
Despite its rather grandiose title, Alice Garner’s The Student Chronicles is a friendly, unpretentious book. It is a coming-of-age story, set mostly in libraries – an anti-Monkey Grip, or a love letter to geekdom. The only sex happens behind closed doors; the real romance is with the library. ‘I loved the Baillieu Library so much I wrote a really bad poem about it,’ Garner confesses, with characteristic self-deprecation. Occasionally, she takes her reader by the hand – like a less precious Alain de Botton – and guides them towards the classics. Thus she introduces Montaigne, a partial model for this book, as a writer of ‘disarming modesty and honesty’, two qualities that the author herself possesses.
The Student Chronicles charts Garner’s awakening as an historian and her attempt to find a foothold somewhere in academia. She skewers her early flirtations with post-modernism, and delivers a neat delineation of modernism versus postmodernism:
I think the difference turned on whether you made fun of Originality and Inspiration and High Art etc in a spirit of pessimism and disappointment (modernism), or with undisguised pleasure, revelling in the meaninglessness of things (post-modernism).