All posts tagged: Helen Garner

Anna Karenina | edge of evening

Anna Karenina

Though it was a chore to look after all the children and stop their pranks, thought it was hard to remember and not mix up all those stockings, drawers, shoes from different feet, and to untie, unbutton and retie so many tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always loved bathing herself, and considered it good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much as this bathing with them all. To touch all those plump little legs, pulling stockings on them, to take in her arms and dip those naked little bodies and hear joyful or frightened shrieks; to see the breathless faces of those splashing little cherubs, with their wide, frightened and merry eyes, was a great pleasure. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky And it’s proving a great pleasure, too, to read Anna Karenina. I hadn’t tried it for years and years, but this time something has stuck, and after never making it past the first book before, I’m now over halfway and hoping that it never ends. It’s not Anna …

To hang out the washing

Birdsong and light in the mornings. Always the coo-COO-coo of the wood pigeon. The days are warmer, almost spring-like. Washing on an airer in the garden. The line, once strung between the shed & the dead cherry, hangs slack now that we’ve had the tree taken down. One of my favourite things: hanging out the washing in summer. Best that the machine finishes before the sun reaches over the houses. The line in light, bare legs in shade. That feeling of promise early on a summer’s day and the virtuousness of a line of washing in the sun. How a sheet whips taut in the breeze. My grandma’s line with its wooden line-prop. Lupins, mint, and pink cranesbill in the long border beside it. The lines at the back of our flat in London: Edwardian maisonettes, a ground floor and a first floor, each with its own thin garden. We were upstairs but had to walk down the steps to reach our line. But the best upstairs lines were high above the gardens so that …

To wrest a few precise scraps from the void

  “To write: to try meticulously to retain something, to cause something to survive; to wrest a few precise scraps from the void as it grows, to leave somewhere a furrow, a trace, a mark or a few signs.” George Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces I‘ve been looking back through my notebooks for a piece I’m trying to write. Again & again, I’m startled by things that I’d completely forgotten. Rhythms and routines that once seemed they would last forever. A page from 21 February 2010, when the Moose was five days old: ‘How blissfully happy I am, day & night — B talks about what they’ll be like in a couple of years & I cry that now ever has to finish.’ And, beneath it, the quote from George Perec. Two days later: ‘And how it has rained this whole first week of his life & at night as though we are under a tin roof as the comforting heartbeat of drops leaks through the guttering.’ 2 March 2010: ‘The second week …

The Children’s Bach

Vicki went to the boys’ room and fortified herself, as women do, with the sight of sleeping children, the abandonment of limbs, the oblivious breathing, the throats offered to the blade. ‘If anyone came to harm them,’ thought Vicki, ‘I would kill. Without even thinking twice.’ I have a theory that having children is, among other things, simply to re-live one’s childhood from the other perspective. Sometimes, re-reading can have the same perspective-shifting effect. One Sunday night I returned to Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach, devouring it in a single sitting under a blanket on the sofa. If pressed to choose, I would say that this slender novella is among my favourite books. Dexter & Athena Fox live in the Melbourne suburbs with their two small children, precocious Arthur & autistic Billy. It’s the mid 80s. The Children’s Bach is the story of what happens when their gentle, constrained domesticity rubs up against the casual presence of drugs, music & sex brought into their lives by Dexter’s old university friend Elizabeth, her boyfriend Philip, and …