One Day I’ll Remember This: Diaries 1987–1995
Text Publishing, $29.99 hb, 297 pp
‘Unerring muse that makes the casual perfect’: Robert Lowell’s compliment to his friend Elizabeth Bishop comes to mind as I read Helen Garner. She is another artist who reveres the casual for its power to disrupt and illuminate. Nothing is ever really casual for her, but rather becomes part of a perfection that she resists at the same time. The ordinary in these diaries – the daily, the diurnal, the stumbled-upon, the breathing in and out – is turned into something else through the writer’s extraordinary craft.
‘What I love on my desk is the notebooks I’ve typed up, their freshness, their un-public tone, their glancing quality and high sensuous awareness,’ she confesses. ‘Nothing “serious” I write can ever match these ...’ The title, One Day I’ll Remember This, goes further to indicate the purpose in this private writing. Set down in raw form, it will serve the work of memory in some other future, as experience lived back then is reshaped in retrospect. What we read here as intensely present and in flux is already past and over. It’s a jolt when the diaries record a first fax. What a world away it all was. Time loops back, ties itself in knots, then slips through.