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Helen Garner

Helen GarnerHelen Garner (born 1942) is an Australian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip, published in 1977, immediately established her as an original voice on the Australian literary scene – it is now widely considered a classic. She has a reputation for incorporating and adapting her personal experiences in her fiction, something that has brought her widespread attention, particularly with her novels, Monkey Grip and The Spare Room (2008).

Throughout her career, Garner has written both fiction and non-fiction. She attracted controversy with her book The First Stone (1995) about a sexual-harassment scandal in a university college. She has also written for film and theatre, and has consistently won awards for her work, including the Walkley Award for a 1993 Time Magazine report. Adaptations of two of her works have appeared as feature films: her debut novel Monkey Grip and her true-crime book Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) – the former released in 1982 and the latter in 2016.


You could regard this latest book by Helen Garner as simply a collection of various essays, a miscellany if you wish, but to do so would be to give it less than its due. There is nothing casual or accidental about Everywhere I Look. Its coherence may, of course, have much to do with Garner's voice, which is consistent and compelling, as is her actual writin ...

Helen Garner (1942–) is an Australian novelist and non-fiction writer. Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip, was published in 1977 and was adapted for film in 1981. Since then she has written many works of fiction, including The Children’s Bach (1984), Cosmo Cosmolino (1992), and The Spare Room (2008), as well as non-fiction, including ...

‘For our house is our corner of our world … If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty.’
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (1958)

Houses, and their domestic spaces of intimacy and negotiation, s ...

Already, Anu Singh’s story is grimly familiar. Now free again, just thirty-one, she has entered the popular pantheon of malefactors. Her attractive face appears in the newspapers, taut with self-justification. There is talk of a documentary. Notoriety, even a kind of celebrity – that amoral nirvana – is hers.

If Singh’s deepest motivation f ...

In August 2013, Robert Farquharson was denied special leave to appeal to the High Court against his conviction for the murder of his three young sons Jai, Tyler, and Bailey, aged ten, seven, and two. This was the final legal chapter in the lengthy story Helen Garner explores in This House of Grief.

Garner begins with the ‘Once’ that prefaces fairy tales – stories we think we know well enough to recite from memory; clear, oracular, and resonant: ‘Once there was a hard-working bloke who lived in a small Victorian country town with his wife and their three young sons.’ One day, ‘out of the blue, his wife told him that she was no longer in love with him’. Transformed by this into ‘the sad husband’, Farquharson packs a suitcase and leaves, saddled with the ‘shit car’ of the two owned by the couple.

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The Spare Room marks Helen Garner’s return to fiction after a long interval. Since Cosmo Cosmolino (1992), she has concentrated on non-fiction and journalism: newspaper columns and feature articles. She has speculated in public about her distance from fiction... ... (read more)

While rehearsing in Martin Place for the recent Sydney Festival, my daughter found herself dancing on a plinth while a heckler below chanted ‘Wanker!’ throughout. On another platform, her fellow artists, all of them performing their intricately choreographed work, endured the calls of another passer-by, ‘You’re so predictable!’ In Australia, everybody’s a critic.

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Following True Stories, published in 1996, The Feel of Steel is Helen Garner’s second collection of non-fiction. It comprises thirty-one pieces of varying lengths. Longer narratives such as ‘Regions of Thick-Ribbed Ice’, about a hair-raising trip to Antarctica, and ‘A Spy in the House of Excrement’, about the outcome ...

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What do we talk about when we talk about Helen Garner? About her writing, that is, about such a consummate novella as The Children’s Bach, about extraordinary stories such as ‘A Vigil’, in Cosmo Cosmolino, about the eponymous ‘Postcards from Surfers’, and a dozen others? We talk about domestic realism, we talk about fiction that encompasses not merely the present supposedly self-obsessed Baby Boomer generation but children and grandparents also, we talk about discipline, control, and the assurance that more is less.

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Ramona Koval: I would like to begin by talking about the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction. You write about birth and youth, sex, illness, death, sisters ... the big things in life. How does that differ for writing fiction and non-fiction, if at all?

Helen Garner: I find that the subjects for non-fiction that I write about seem to present themselves from outside myself, whereas the fictional ones are much more some little thing that’s been worming away at me that I’ve become conscious of. The fiction kind of worms its way out and the non-fiction worms its way in, I suppose you could say it that way.

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