Helen Garner Profile

Jason Steger, of "The Age", talks to Helen Garner on the eve of the publication of her first novel in 15 years, The Spare Room.

"The ideal thing for me would be to write and say, here's a book, it's a story, read it anyway you would like. But these days people are always thinking about categories and wanting to put things in them. So people do want to know what will be expected of them if they open a book or what they can expect of the writer."

But surely by calling her narrator Helen and giving her many elements familiar from the life that Garner has written frequently about in books, film scripts, articles and columns, she is inviting readers to identify the narrator as the author?

"What if it was me or wasn't me? What difference would it make to the meaning or worth of the story?"

She says she doesn't understand the concern readers have about whether a thing is literally true. It happens with everything she writes. "People say to me, 'You did this and you did that'. And I've just got used to that and I just basically ignore it because it's just not interesting to me."

She doesn't want to define fiction, and the notion that it should be entirely made up is, of course, absurd.

"It's much more interesting for me to think that taking a chunk of experience and mushing it up together with other things that are inventable, remembered from some other time or stolen from other people's stories . . . and see if I can make it into something that works, an object, a little machine that runs."

You can also read an extract from the novel in "The Australian". Publication date is set for April 7.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 31, 2008 11:59 AM.

Combined Reviews: The Widow and Her Hero by Tom Keneally was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #108 - In the Days When the World Was Wide by Henry Lawson is the next entry in this blog.

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