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On the Dizzy Edge

Merve Emre: Helen Garner, 21 March 2019

Monkey Grip 
by Helen Garner.
Text, 333 pp., £14.99, January 2019, 978 1 925773 15 6
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The Children’s Bach 
by Helen Garner.
Text, 160 pp., £12.99, October 2018, 978 1 925773 04 0
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... To read​ a novel by Helen Garner is to intrude on characters living their lives with no regard for your presence. You wander into their stories with the same sense of abandon with which they wander into Melbourne flophouses, drug dens, the homes of old and new lovers. ‘In the old brown house on the corner, a mile from the middle of the city, we ate bacon for breakfast every morning of our lives,’ begins Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip (1977), whose narrator, Nora, ushers you to the kitchen table then leaves you to pick your way through the raucous crowd gathered there in the summer of 1975 ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... largesse. The recent publication in Britain of works by three such figures – Rodney Hall, Helen Garner and Frank Moorhouse – provides a convenient occasion for assessment. Rodney Hall’s career neatly exemplifies current trends. Hall began his literary life as a poet. Since 1962, the year in which he was awarded the first Creative Arts ...

At Sweetpea Mansions

C.K. Stead, 28 January 1993

Cosmo Cosmolino 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 221 pp., £13.99, January 1993, 0 7475 1344 9
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... Helen Garner’s Cosmo Cosmolino contains two short stories together with the novella that gives the book its title. There are connections between the three. Ursula, a friend of the unnamed narrator of the first story, is mother of Kim who dies in the second; and Kim’s boyfriend, Raymond, will reappear, along with his brother Alby, in the third ...

Carnival Time

Peter Craven, 18 February 1988

The Remake 
by Clive James.
Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 0 224 02515 5
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In the Land of Oz 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 380 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12110 8
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... tend to the middlebrow and his tone hovers between spite and whimsy. Certain moments in Helen Garner, one of Australia’s finer prose writers, are described as ‘Mills and Boon for Bohemians’. ‘Put two women together in a Helen Garner story and their eyes will meet in a confederacy of loathing the ...

Up from Under

John Bayley, 18 February 1988

The Faber Book of Contemporary Australian Short Stories 
edited by Murray Bail.
Faber, 413 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 571 15083 7
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... almost all the stories in this book recognise it in one way or another. Most, like the examples by Helen Garner, David Brooks, Peter Carey, Joan London, Kate Grenville, are admirably achieved on this basis, the authors all born in the Forties or Fifties; and the names indicate that the newer European immigrants have not yet found a voice in their new ...

The Statistical Gaze

Helen McCarthy: The British Census, 29 June 2017

The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through Its Census, since 1801 
by Roger Hutchinson.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 4087 0701 2
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... author’s obvious pleasure at hunting down the last snuffer-maker in England (67-year-old William Garner of Birmingham, recorded in 1851), Charlotte Brontë’s census return for the same year (occupation: ‘none’), or the family of miners in Glamorgan who as late as 1891 spoke no language other than Welsh (39-year-old Evan James and his sons John and ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... one of her less perceptive observations: she was hardly right about everything. In an obituary, Helen Thomas, a journalist Mitchell liked to ring, said: ‘She was a personal victim of the political war of Watergate, and one of its very few heroines.’ Five years after the Watergate break-in, Nixon said: ‘If it hadn’t been for Martha ...

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