Everywhere I Look

Helen Garner

Everywhere I Look
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Everywhere I Look

Helen Garner

I pedal over to Kensington just after dark. As I roll along the lane towards the railway underpass, a young Asian woman on her way home from the station walks out of the tunnel towards me. After she passes there’s a stillness, a moment of silent freshness that feels like spring.


Helen Garner is one of Australia’s greatest writers. Her short non-fiction has enormous range. Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

Everywhere I Look
includes Garner’s famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer. Everywhere I Look glows with insight. It is filled with the wisdom of life.

Review

We know Helen Garner best for her novels and her harrowing dissections of human dramas. She has a way of describing the world with such wisdom and candour and, sometimes, delight, that it takes one’s breath away … at least, it does mine. Her observations about life are refreshing in their honesty.

This collection of pieces from the last 15 years is a pleasure to read; they have mostly been published before but a few, including diary extracts, appear for the first time. Often the pieces are quite personal but we can easily identify with her experience. On a visit to Vanuatu she sees someone playing a ukulele and immediately wants one, but her inner voice tells her she’s nuts, that she has no musical aptitude. She looks up ukuleles in The Oxford Companion to Music which, in essence, says it’s the instrument for the musically talentless and Helen ‘went straight downtown and bought the first one that didn’t look trashy.’ The tone-deaf amongst us can immediately relate to this.

On a more serious note, she reflects on the process of writing her book, This House of Grief, about Robert Farquharson who was convicted of killing his young children: the book is a sad tale but part of its strength is that it captures and examines the ordinariness of it all, what separates ‘our daylight selves from the secret darkness that lives in every one of us’. Changing tempo again, Garner writes about being a young woman, her relationship with her parents, her grandchildren and about growing old. There are also some lovely pieces on friendship with other writers, particularly Elizabeth Jolley and Tim Winton. This is a fine collection that offers many delights to the reader.


Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings.

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