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The Yellow Notebook

I have always admired Helen Garner’s works.

As I peruse my shelves I recognise the ones that I loved and the ones that influenced me so much.

‘The Spare Room’ is ‘a perfect novel’ states Peter Cary and as usual it is hard to define the line between fiction and non fiction.

I also loved Garner’s essays contained in ‘Everywhere I look’ and was deeply affected by the examination of justice in ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation.’

So I was looking forward to the ‘Yellow Notebook’, edited diary entries over a decade beginning just after the publication of ‘Monkey Grip.’

I was surprised at Garner’s honesty and frankness, about her appearance, her love life and particularly about her writing ability.

Many writers talk about the imposter syndrome and Garner says in 1985,‘ I am crude. I am a beginner….I posture as a writer and at forty two I can’t even get into the Oxford book.’

There is some great advice for aspiring writers too. This is a long game! Asked why she writers with a pen and not on a computer which is faster, she answers, ‘But it’s my life work, I’m not in a hurry.’

She says, ‘the beginner will cling and cling to her first draft. She clings to the coast and will strike out into the ocean only under extreme duress.’

Near the end in 1986 she states, ‘One day I’ll have to burn this book.’

Fortunately she did not.