Helen Garner

Literary Birthday – 7 November – Helen Garner

Happy Birthday, Helen Garner, born 7 November 1942.


  1. 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.
  2. The trouble starts at the moment when you get the crazy idea that not winning a prize means you’re no good. It doesn’t mean that at all. I have been a member of several judging panels. I have witnessed the strange dynamic of their functioning. Forces that outsiders can’t even conceive of are at work in those meeting rooms. Under all their beautiful intelligent reasoning, prize judges, like people in every sphere of action, are driven by unconscious urges. How could it be otherwise? They are not sphinxes, or oracles, or disembodied spirits. They are people, subject to moods, full of contradictions and unacknowledged emotions and thwarted longings of their own.
  3. People tell you more than you need to know – and more than they want you to know.
  4. [writing novels is like] trying to make a patchwork quilt look seamless. A novel is made up of scraps of our own lives and bits of other people’s, and things we think of in the night and whole notebooks full of randomly collected details.
  5. It’s disturbing at my age to look at a young woman’s destructive behaviour and hear the echoes of it, of one’s own destructiveness in youth.
  6. I like poking my nose into other people’s lives.
  7. Death will not be denied. To try is grandiose. It drives madness into the soul. It leaches out virtue. It injects poison into friendship, and makes a mockery of love.
  8. I suppose there must be idiots who dream of signing deals with publishers while fully intending to drink martinis in cool bars or ride around on skateboards. But the actual writers I know are experts in neurotic self-torture. Every page of writing is the result of a thousand tiny decisions and desperate acts of will.
  9. I think writers are very anxious.
  10. 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 is an Australian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. Garner has published many works of fiction including Monkey Grip, Cosmo CosmolinoThe Spare Room, and The Children’s Bach. She has won numerous awards, including the Melbourne Prize for Literature. She has also received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993.

Source for Image


Michael Coghlan, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 7th November 2013