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Monday, November 7, 2016

Putting 'anxiousness' aside

“I think that there must be a point of self-immersion in a story that is a point of no return. You get far enough in that the story has really touched you to the core and deeply troubled you and made you unhappy and fearful, and then how do you get out of that? I'm a writer, so my way of getting out of that is to write.” – Helen Garner

Born in Australia on this date in 1942, Garner is known for incorporating and adapting her personal experiences into her fiction, something that has brought her both praise and criticism, particularly with her novels, Monkey Grip and The Spare Room. 

Award-winning for both her fiction and nonfiction (she also has won acclaim for her screenwriting), she said “I think some people wished I'd kept myself out of the book. But I kind of insist on it because I want the reader to share my engagement with the material, if you like, not pretend that I'm doing it completely intellectually."
While some critics have been disdainful of                         
her work, others have heaped praise like this late 1980s comment by Don Anderson.  “There are four perfect short novels in the English language,” he said.  “They are, in chronological order, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Garner's The Children's Bach.”

This year her non-fiction book Everywhere I Look came onto the market almost simultaneously with her receiving the prestigious Windham-Campbell Literary Prize (from the U.S.) for her lifetime achievement in non-fiction.  The prize is one of the richest in the world and should soothe some of Garner’s well-known angst about her writing skills.

“Writers seem to me to be people who need to retire from social life and do a lot of thinking about what's happened - almost to calm themselves,” she once said.  “I think writers are very anxious.”

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