Blain was able to write only under the most stringent circumstances. In the morning, assisted by meditation, steroids and two strong coffees, she could carve out an hour, and later a mere 45 minutes, to find and assemble the appropriate words. As she edits the previous day’s work, she is ‘dismayed to see how convoluted and strained’ her expression becomes near the end of the hour. After that, nothing makes much sense: ‘It is like the cotton in the branches of the cottonwood trees … Each spring this cotton forms, floating away on the breeze, wafting, insubstantial, and always so maddeningly out of reach.’
‘In Antarctica, Garner harbours a deep anxiety. “Forgive me”, she states, “I’m not here for the wildlife.” She has come on this journey in search of blankness, or at the very least a blank canvas on which to project her moods and emotions. She wants to gaze at ice.’ Bernadette Brennan immerses herself in Helen Garner’s prose.
On the cover, A Short History of Richard Kline is identified as a ‘pilgrim’s progress for the here and now’. For Lohrey, the here and now demands an easily accessible realist narrative rather than Bunyan’s choice of allegory. That may be the right call, but realism curtails the freedom that allegory offers readers to bring their own meanings and experiences to the text.
One of the most intriguing – and largely unanswered – questions posed by Carey in Moving Among Strangers is: ‘Why did my mother correspond with a young man, an adolescent, thirteen years her junior, who wasn’t even a relation?’ Perhaps, she muses, they both felt like outsiders in the West Australian community.