Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Sydney for a weekend of family, food and Helen Garner.
My younger sister and I left Sydney a couple of years ago now and have only been back a handful of times. For me at least, I was burnt out from living in such a densely populated city, such a humid city, such an expensive city. I wanted to avoid it at all costs.
Now I rarely go back because so much of my life is in the country. I have things to do most weekends, which don’t involve navigating the Blue Mountains and crowds of people.
The pull of Helen Garner can make a woman change her mind about a lot of things.
I first heard of Helen shortly after The First Stone was published in 1995. My mum and older sister went to see her speak at the local library, but I had other things to do in the mid-90s, like haunt army fatigue stores and carefully cut out pictures from magazines of musicians whose music sometimes hadn’t even reached sleepy central west New South Wales at the time.
When they came home from the library though, I immediately regretted my decision, their description of The First Stone alone enough to sweep me up in what has now been decades of Garner Fever.
I read the extract of Joe Cinque’s Consolation in the car park of Bathurst Bunnings on my lunch break during my third year of uni and have never been able to visit Canberra since without feeling the dark cloud of Joe’s death.
I spent a confusing, hot week with Monkey Grip, which shook my moral compass as I struggling with the realisation that bad decisions you’ve gone into wide-eyed won’t necessarily ruin your entire life.
There are huge parts of True Stories which are so deeply ingrained that they feel like my own memories, or stories I was told by my mother, or her mother. Garner is a very maternal writer.
On Sunday I’m going with both my sisters to see her speak about her newly published diaries and it feels like such a treat.