Helen Garner’s latest book, Everywhere I Look, is a collection of her essays, diary entries and other short writing. From the agony of moving house to the indignities of ageing, Garner turns her observant eye to the details of ordinary lives, including her own. In these wide ranging pieces, she offers us endearing grandchildren, sinister magpies, crimes of violence and the pathos of words not said until it is too late. I was particularly moved by her struggle to write about her mother, a distant figure who she can think about “only at oblique angles and in brief bursts, in no particular order”.
“She used to wear hats that pained me,” Garner writes. “Shy little round beige felt hats with narrow brims. Perhaps one was green. And she stood with her feet close together in sensible shoes.
“Oh, if only she would walk in here now.”
Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Program Officer
I’ve been indulging in some great crime writing, including reading Anna Westbrook’s Dark Fires Shall Burn and LA Larkin’s Devour in preparation for the Talking Writing: Casing the Joint panel we had here at the Centre. I also read the recently released Tunnel Vision by Andrew Christie, a thriller set in and around Sydney. Tunnel Vision features two high school students who are laying low after a disastrous stunt, and a career bank robber being hunted by two violent lowlifes. Their stories come together in a surprising climax. I’m keen to read the first book in the series, Left Luggage – and for Christie to write the next one!
Ren Arcamone, Membership Intern
I’m newly obsessed with She Came to Stay, Simone de Beauvoir’s first novel. It’s been described as a work of fictionalised autobiography, detailing Beauvoir’s and Sartre’s relationship with the magnetic Olga Kosakiewicz, an affair that nearly ended the pair’s legendary partnership. But the book is just as much fiction and philosophy. Beauvoir’s heroine Francoise reflects on love, jealousy and ambition with sharp insight – she refuses to be reduced to the role of ‘scorned woman’, and meditates on non-monogamy and jealousy with honesty and clarity. The final few pages were totally unexpected, and I still don’t know what to think of the ending, but it’s definitely made me eager to read more of her philosophical work. Sixty years on from her heyday, Beauvoir still reads like a revolutionary.
I’ve finally gotten around to reading Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. It’s one of those books that everyone seems to have read and that is repeatedly referenced by other works of literature and in pop-culture, yet it has somehow managed to evade me… until now! It’s not for no reason that it’s remained on my list for all this time, waiting patiently to be read, as it has certainly delivered the meaning hidden within its reference in other texts – at last I have the missing puzzle piece to a favourite of mine, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. But more importantly, I now have another favourite in Jane Eyre, which, ahead of its time in expressing the experience and position of women in the society in which it is set, remains an insightful representation of gender politics today. And not only is it poignant and direct, but Brontë’s masterful creation of character and place, and execution of the gothic is a joy to read!
Compiled by Eliza Auld