Helen Garner: I used to feel spiteful because I never won prizes. Now I can die happy
The unclassifiable Australian writer on true crime and sexual harassment
Drive down a lonely stretch of Geelong road in Victoria and youll find Winchelsea, and three little white crosses. On Fathers Day 2005, Robert Farquharson, a window cleaner, was driving his three sons back to their mothers house when his battered Commodore suddenly veered into a dam. The father swam free; the children all drowned. Farquharson would claim for the next seven years that hed had a coughing fit. Was he a loving father, caught in a horrible accident? Or had he killed his kids, to get back at his ex-wife?
The Australian writer Helen Garner documented Farquharsons trial and subsequent conviction in her 2014 book This House of Grief. It has become one of many true stories that are now known as Helen Garner cases: stories of bewildering violence and cruelty, or what she calls the excruciating realms of human behaviour, where reason fights to gain a purchase. Her novels are never entirely fiction, while her non-fiction is never only about crime, but dissections of her own thoughts, and ours as well.
Of the five non-fiction books, four novels, countless short stories and even more numerous pieces of journalism that make up Garners oeuvre, almost all touch on the darkness found in Australian suburbia: a single mothers relationship with a heroin addict in Garners 1977 debut novel Monkey Grip; caring for a dying friend riddled with cancer in The Spare Room(which caused an unprecedented Man Bookerbrouhaha when her publishers complained that it was not considered for the prize); an academic accused of groping two female students in The First Stone; a young man killed by his girlfriend after a dinner party, at which several guests were warned what would happen but did nothing in Joe Cinques Consolation.
What is a Helen Garner case, to Helen Garner? Im interested in apparently ordinary people who suddenly snap and do things that are really terrible, she says slowly, but are just an exploded version of what ordinary people secretly fantasise about in moments of great rage or stress. I am interested in people whose self-restraint suddenly stops working.
Read more athttp://www.theguardian.com/us