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Broadside: Helen Garner

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'I just threw out all ideas of inspiration years ago. It's all just noticing. You've got to walk around the world looking at things and listening and paying attention.'

In the words of one critic 'to read Helen Garner is to discover what might be her defining characteristic: awakeness and aliveness to the thingness of things'. Garner, a national treasure, has now spent almost half a century showing us who we are and how it is. And she has sharpened this singular style — her humour, sense of the absurd and incisive observation – over a lifetime of writing diaries. 

Photograph of Sarah Krasnostein and Helen Garner on stage

Sarah Krasnostein, left, and Helen Garner — Photo: Hannah Koelmeyer

To coincide with the publication of Yellow Notebook, Diaries Volume I: 1978–1987, Garner shares with us the pages that offer a glimpse into the honing and shaping of a craft. Beginning in the 1970s just after the publication of her first novel, Monkey Grip, the book offers a unique insight into how decades of privately shaped internal dialogue creates a voice, and makes a writer.

In conversation with Sarah Krasnostein, Garner discusses the logic of writing, redacting and publishing one's diaries – as well as reflecting on creativity, the emotionally loaded space of hospitals and courtrooms, the architecture of sentences and her fascination with strangers.

Who?

Portrait of Helen Garner

Helen Garner

‘It is astonishing how much shit a woman will cop in the interests of civic and domestic order.’

Helen Garner is a legend. Our poet-laureate of the acute observation, the award-winning novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist has made a peerless contribution to Australian letters, Australian culture and our sense of ourselves. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for non-fiction and the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. In 2019 Garner was honoured with the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. Her books include Monkey Grip, The First Stone, This House of Grief and Everywhere I Look.

Portrait of Sarah Krasnostein

Sarah Krasnostein

Sarah Krasnostein is a writer and a lawyer with a doctorate in criminal law. She is admitted to legal practice in Australia and America. She is the best-selling author of The Trauma Cleaner which won the Victorian Prize for Literature, the Victorian Premier’s Award Prize for Non-Fiction, the Australian Book Industry Award for General Non-Fiction, the Dobbie Literary Award and jointly won the Douglas Stewart Prize for non-fiction at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Krasnostein was longlisted for the Walkley Book Award and was shortlisted for the National Biography Award, the Melbourne Prize for Literature and the Wellcome Book Prize (UK).

Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and academic journals in Australia, the UK and America. Her latest book, The Believer: Encounters with love, death & faith was published in March 2020.

Discussion

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