More from Helen Garner

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I’ve written about Helen Garner’s work on a couple of previous occasions, and my interview with her for The Millions ran recently. As is the case with most interviews, we ran a bit long, but I wanted to share a couple of other excerpts that ended up on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. More from my conversation with Helen Garner, below:

You wrote, in The Children’s Bach, “Like most women, she had a limitless capacity for adjustment.” In some ways that seems true of your career, in that you’ve said you stepped away from writing fiction because there wasn’t room enough for two of you to write fiction. But then you turned it to an advantage.

But everybody has to do that, don’t they? Look at what’s wrong and step around it in some way.

Maybe. I think maybe men need a bit more prodding to step around things sometimes? We just want to keep pushing forward, like what’s in the way will give way somehow.

You may be right. Because I’ve got two grandsons, and they live next door and I’m very involved in their lives – I’ve got one granddaughter, who’s sixteen, and then these two younger boys who are twelve and ten – and I’ve never raised a boy, so I’ve never known what boys were like really. I had a brother but he was a lot younger than me. And I’m so moved by their struggles in the world, boys.

We sort of blunder through.

Yeah, there’s a terrific, head-and-shoulder kind of thing going on all the time.

You’d said, in an interview in the ‘80s, “I reckon it’d be terrible to be a man in Australia. You have to be so silent.”

Did I say that?

You did, and I agree, although I don’t think it’s just Australia where men often get a limited palette to work with.

It’s painful, and I particularly can see that as the conditions in which men can be gay have changed so much. Sitting around bars and looking at people, I notice how gay men look at each other, so openly, how their faces are open, and I love that, it really moves me, and it makes me sad that straight men, particularly in Australia, because there is a very limited palette there, there’s this terror. But you know, something I saw, after the Western Bulldogs [Australian football team] beat the team that had [won the] Premier’s [Cup] the last four years, there was this beautiful photo of the two coaches standing together, and I just about burst into tears when I saw this picture. They’re almost in each other’s arms, and their faces are that close together, and it’s a beautiful photo.

It’s a forum to show emotion, right?

It is. I think football’s fantastic, I love it, and it’s only in the last fifteen years or so that I’ve really felt mad about it. There’s so much happening on every conceivable human level, and I love watching my littlest grandson, who’s, what, nine, Ambrose is his name, and he’s very kind of bloke-y and macho, but underneath of course he’s this quivering, sensitive thing. But I love watching their matches. He plays for the Flemington Colts, the under-10s. They don’t score, and the coaches are on the field teaching and running with them. There’s some beauty, I envy that team thing, I’ve never felt that, never lived that.

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