Australian politics, society & culture

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Helen Garner

Helen Garner is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. Her books include Monkey Grip, The Children’s BachThe Spare Room and This House of Grief.

Articles by this author

Notes on Micheline Lee’s ‘The Healing Party’
Going the bloody hard way
I first met Micheline Lee several years ago when she took part in a two-day course that Michael Gawenda and I were running at Melbourne University. A dozen strangers worked...
 
The author of ‘This House of Grief’ and ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’ on writing about darkness
The darkness in every one of us
Last year I published This House of Grief, a book about the trials of a Victorian man, Robert Farquharson, who was found guilty of drowning his three young sons in revenge against...
 
A one-woman assault on condescension
The insults of age
The insults of age had been piling up for so long that I was almost numb to them. The husband (when I still had one): “You’re not going out in that sleeveless top?” The grandchild...
 
At home with Rosie Batty
Mother courage
One hot afternoon in February 2014, in the pleasant Victorian township of Tyabb, south-east of Melbourne, an 11-year-old boy called Luke Batty was playing in the nets after...
 
A car accident brings an unlikely collection of people together
A funny thing happened on the way to Adelaide
Melbourne, Friday, 8 am. In the extreme right-hand lane of the Western Ring Road, three social workers and a writer, or two men and two women, or a married couple and two...
 
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
Death in Brunswick
The rooftop bar was buzzing, late on a warm Friday afternoon. My friend and I found a spot under an umbrella and ordered up. Each of us was secretly longing to talk about the fact...
 
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
Defending the indefensible
Lost cause
The man in the dock has a pale, bony, frozen face, with long cheeks, still eyes, and sculpted lips that from time to time he purses. His hair is cropped to the skull. At 27, Shaun...
 
'Hemingway and Gellhorn', Philip Kaufman (director).
Screening on Showtime in September.
'Hemingway & Gellhorn' by Philip Kaufman (director)
Writers are notoriously impossible to make good movies about, and director Philip Kaufman in his disastrous new film has tackled a challenging pair: Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen...
 
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
Meek No More
The teenager in pyjamas on the dawn flight from Newcastle, entranced by her reflection in a magnifying mirror, spent the trip applying a full face of make-up. From her headset...
 
'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia', Nuri Bilge Ceylan (director), In limited release from 31 May
'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new movie is a long, brilliantly sophisticated and moving work, knitted together by subtle narrative threads that emerge and re-emerge through the texture of...
 
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
A pet’s mutiny
Red Dog
In January my family, who live next door, went down the coast and left me in charge of our vegetable garden and their dog. Excellent. I would spend the summer reading novels on my...
 
Aki Kaurismäki’s 'Le Havre'
A Port for the Soul
A watchman strolling late one night on the wharves of the French port of Le Havre raps his stick on the side of a container, and hears the faint cry of a baby. An official arrives...
 
Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ and Julia Leigh’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’
Like day and night
Terrence Malick’s new movie The Tree of Life (in national release), recently garlanded with the Palme d’Or at Cannes, comes muscled up with star power. You want men? You want...
 
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
The home hospice
Where the heart is
When they told our sister Marie that her untreatable lung cancer would kill her in less than a year, she said she wanted to die at home. She was a difficult, bossy person, but we...
 
Justin Kurzel’s ‘Snowtown’ and Brendan Fletcher’s ‘Mad Bastards’
Broken communities
In 1999, in the small South Australian township of Snowtown, police entered the vault of a disused bank and found a serial killer’s stash: dismembered corpses stored in barrels of...
 
Peter Weir’s ‘The Way Back’ and Leon Ford’s ‘Griff the Invisible’
Economies of scale
Epic is one word people resort to when confronted by a tale like the one Peter Weir tackles in his new movie, The Way Back. Seven prisoners escape from a Siberian labour camp in...
 
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
Fasting at a ‘Fat Farm’
Life juices
At 5 pm on Boxing Day we sweep up the drive of the establishment my sister refers to as “the fat farm”. Its modest buildings are set in an old, deep garden: lawns, curved hedges,...
 
Cowboys on Boxing Day, 1958. © George Lipman / Fairfax
Diaries
While not writing a book
Early in the morning, after a heavy night of babysitting, I’m watering out the back when I hear a shuffling sound. Olive comes up behind me in her spotted dressing-gown and...
 

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