I suppose I should continue on from the first post; it’s no use having a part one without a part two or three. While I may be writing my Honours thesis, reading is like my keep-sane, my distraction, my sleep-inducer at days’ end; I can’t recall the number of times I’ve fallen asleep with a book open on my face or woken to find it splayed open on the floor beside my bed like the carcass of some wond’rous beast.
The first book of note this time around is The Children’s Bach, by Helen Garner. I’d heard things about her earlier book Monkey Grip, in that it was meant to be a classic and all that (Penguin recently republished it as one of their modern classics in their iconic orange-and-white covers), but compared to her later book, Monkey Grip was empty, a constant cycling of same-old same-old. The Children’s Bach is entrancing from the outset – using the idea of a book of music as the loosest of frameworks, what you end up with is a series of linked vignettes, rhapsodies on a theme of life if you will, and they are as elegant, as mundane, as heart-warmingly extraordinary in their ordinariness as they are in their rhythm and essence of human behaviour. The way Garner captures her characters’ eccentricities and mannerisms, the way you feel a part of their household sucks you into the story so seamlessly, is just magical. It's like a more intimate Cloudstreet – in that its scope isn't as rambling, but it's just as eccentric and acutely captured – as good as it in its own way, on its own strengths, on its own terms. Their conversations have an otherness to them, that they could be happening anywhere at any moment but they still seem extraordinary in their construction and phrasing; the images they conjure of the books’ inhabitants are just beautiful.
‘But I like the mother,’ said Poppy. ‘Athena’s perfect, isn’t she.’
‘Perfect - you reckon?’ said Philip.
‘The goddess of war,’ said Philip.
‘I didn't mean that perfect,’ said Poppy.
‘Of war and needlecraft,’ said
. [p66] Elizabeth