Helen Garner is generally regarded as one of the leading Australian writers of her generation. She was born Helen Ford in the seaside city of Geelong, fifty miles south of Melbourne, and grew up in the state of Victoria, graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1965. She taught in public high schools in Victoria until 1972, when she was dismissed, ostensibly for using obscene language in the classroom. She married William Garner in 1968; they had one daughter. She later divorced Garner and in 1980 married Jean-Jacques Portail. After some years spent in the Melbourne area as a freelance writer, Garner produced her first work of fiction, Monkey Grip, in which she chronicles the lives of the survivors of the counterculture of the 1960’s who had congregated in the trendy Melbourne neighborhood of Carlton. Reviewers lauded Garner for putting a new lifestyle on the literary map. Garner’s tale of the curious relationship between a thirtyish woman and a drug dealer celebrates the randomness and anarchy of Carlton manners and mores at the same time that it warns against the dark, destructive underside of too much personal liberation and excess.
Somewhat in the manner of American minimalist writers such as Ann Beattie, Garner’s fiction struck a chord among readers for its honest treatment of ordinary life and relations between people, especially men and women. Garner’s style, though, was not in the least minimalist but rather involved and multilayered. After publishing “Honour,” and “Other People’s Children,” two novellas, Garner’s next serious literary effort was The Children’s Bach. By this time, the kind of characters about whom Garner...
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