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Everywhere I Look

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Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

Everywhere I Look includes Garner's famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer. Everywhere I Look glows with insight. It is filled with the wisdom of life.

272 pages, Paperback

First published March 29, 2016

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About the author

Helen Garner

47 books809 followers
Helen Garner was born in Geelong in 1942. She has published many works of fiction including Monkey Grip, Cosmo Cosmolino and The Children's Bach. Her fiction has won numerous awards. She is also one of Australia's most respected non-fiction writers, and received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993.

Her most recent books are The First Stone, True Stories, My Hard Heart, The Feel of Stone and Joe Cinque's Consolation. In 2006 she won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. She lives in Melbourne.

Praise for Helen Garner's work

'Helen Garner is an extraordinarily good writer. There is not a paragraph, let alone a page, where she does not compel your attention.'

'She is outstanding in the accuracy of her observations, the intensity of passion...her radar-sure humour.'
Washington Post

'Garner has always had a mimic's ear for dialogue and an eye for unconscious symbolism, the clothes and gestures with which we give ourselves away.'
Peter Craven, Australian

'Helen Garner writes the best sentences in Australia.'
Ed Campion, Bulletin

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 335 reviews
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,396 followers
September 23, 2017
There is something old fashioned about Helen Garner’s essays. We are therefore surprised to see a reference to Amy Winehouse makeup, Obama, or the brutality of Russell Crowe films. It could be her work seems old fashioned because it is so exquisitely shaped: who would have picked out that particular incident or phrase out of all the incidents and phrases one experiences in a lifetime and held it up, gemlike, for us to admire? This restraint, clarity, exactitude is so rare in a world where everyone writes for a world audience every day.

Helen Garner may be a household name in her native Australia. I’d never heard of her until I came across a reference to her on Goodreads recently. She is an Australian novelist, essayist, journalist…let’s call her master wordsmith. Her essays jump into your life with two feet and settle in forever, never to be forgotten. Her voice is woman writ large. I adore her sense of entitlement to her own opinions, now she is in her seventies. If only Australia didn't keep its best to itself.

This collection of essays was published last year by Text Publishing of Melbourne, Australia. I wonder how that works nowadays, that a book published in Australia is sold in the United States. In any case, I am very grateful it is possible to have read these brave, crazy, funny, deeply interesting and beautifully written pieces on growing up in fifties and sixties Australia, writing for a living, marrying badly, being a grandmother to a boy who can calm down and relax when he can slip into his cowboy outfit after the stress of a vacation away.

These essays were all written in the last twenty years or so, but some look back: “In the late 1970’s I lived in Paris for awhile…” and “When I was in my forties I went on holiday to Vanuatu…” It is certain that we get the best of all possible worlds because these stories are the ones that float to the surface after a lifetime of writing, and because of that lifetime of writing the words are crafted with economy for clarity and meaning. Each idea is distilled so dramatically that we are mainlining experience—a short sharp shock of memory and what it meant in the context of a life.

Her curiosity inflames us. Garner has harbored a fascination with crime, not with psychopaths, but with ordinary folk under extraordinary pressure. Her essays and stories can be dark, but she is so intimate with her thinking, we get distracted into self-examination. She captures something that we, had we been careful, thoughtful, and honest, might recognize as the lesser side of being human: a kind of despair, confusion, uncertainty, and a search for quiet, clarity, stability, and love. She looks at our crisis moments and wonders, what caused this?

Garner looks for telling moments in her own life, and listens to what those moments tell her about herself, which she then conveys to us, making us laugh, sign, commiserate. She is tough on herself, and sometimes on others: one of her early essays tells of her long friendship with the Australian author Tim Winton. The younger man got more attention with his writing than she did, so she could sometimes rough him up a little for payback.

And Garner herself admits to being “scorched” by the journalist Janet Malcolm who apparently reviewed The First Stone: Some Questions of Sex and Power in The New Yorker (I can’t find that review, alas!). Malcolm was always Garner’s role model, the one “who has influenced and taught me more than any other.” Garner tells us of Malcolm’s phrase, “the rapture of firsthand encounters with another’s lived experience,” which describes perfectly what I feel when I read Garner’s essays.

New Yorker staff writer James Wood reviewed this collection of essays last year. If I had seen it then, I would have known of Garner a year earlier. Somehow that seems important. This collection I would love to have on my shelf to dip into again and again to see how she did that sense of immediacy and intimacy and personality.


Found the link to Malcolm's review of Garner's The First Stone and a review of this volume by Guardian writer James Robert Douglas. Who could refuse a man with three first names?
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,022 reviews882 followers
August 2, 2017
A very high 4 stars

I've been meaning to read Helen Garner's Everywhere I Look since it came out and I read an excerpt about the "indignities of old age". While I'm still middle-aged, I was really taken with that story and thought that it was about time we read about women past their reproductive years.

I'm glad that I finally got to delve into this collection. Although I bought the ebook, I listened to Garner herself read her own book, which made it a little bit more special, as it's so personal.

I found it quite interesting, so much so I finished listening to the whole thing in less than a day.
Garner's writing style is accessible, without many embellishments or other literary excesses. She's not a show-off. The stories, essays, recollections, journal entries were varied, ranging from moving house - which she did countless times to living abroad, looking after grandchildren, writing, movies, books, friendships, including her decades-long friendship with Tim Winton. Now in her seventies, it makes sense that many of her stories, touch on getting old, on the indignities of getting old, on loneliness, on dying etc.

Garner mentions her three marriages, but we never heard any details about her husbands. I guess it's her right to keep things private, besides she's got kids with one or two of those men and they're probably still alive.

But as far as I'm concerned, I spent a few hours in the company of a woman who's had an interesting life, who's intelligent and an excellent writer and astute observer.


I've read this to go towards the Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Book Lover Book Reviews at http://bookloverbookreviews.com/readi...
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,394 reviews801 followers
March 12, 2018
“The sheer bloody labour of writing. No one but another writer understands it—the heaving about of great boulders into a stable arrangement so that you can bound up them and plant your little flag at the very top.”

Typical Garner. First she tells us what a difficult job she has, and then she completely pops her own self-important balloon with her little flag of pride. She stands her ground, even more now that she’s decided she’s old enough to get away with it, but I don’t think she’s really showing off by planting her little flag.

After writing this and reading some of her excerpts to my patient husband, I said it’s probably silly to spend time writing reviews to help me remember what I’ve read when I could be reading more instead. He said “You just want to plant your little flag”.

Pop! (Not really. He was smiling.)

I guess my flag is Peppermint Patty’s easily-popped balloon, often full of hot air! (But at least I will remind myself how much I enjoyed this.)

Garner writes about ordinary people whom you’ve sat near in a restaurant or waiting room or on a bus. She eavesdrops unashamedly, and thank goodness she takes notes!

“A teenager on the 57 tram offers his mate some advice about women. ‘Don’t give ’em too much attention! They take advantage! Just ’cause you root ’em they think you’re gonna go out with ’em!’

What a lady-killer he’ll grow up to be. ASIF.

These are observations, thoughts, and essays she’s written in and about all sorts of circumstances. Some are short anecdotes about her three adored grandchildren who live next door.

“Ted asks a riddle he says he’s just made up: ‘What do you call a graveyard that’s been cut exactly in half? A symmetry.’

And that’s it, in total. She doesn’t elaborate. I have no idea whether he made it up or not, and possibly she doesn’t either, but I loved it and loved that she enjoyed it enough to pop it in between other thoughts.

She is painfully honest about having three failed marriages, which is how she always seems to refer to them. She doesn’t discuss her exes or say very much about her daughter, but she shares her grandchildren with us, and she’s very open about her ambivalent (my word) attitude towards her parents. Dad was overbearing, Mum was subservient, and Garner seems to always have had trouble (as most of us do) seeing them as individuals.

She speaks of friendships with and admiration for other writers, particularly Elizabeth Jolley. I especially enjoyed the entries about Tim Winton (a favourite of mine) with whom she’s been friends for years. I loved this passage! Denise and Tim were childhood sweethearts.

“Once, when I was staying at the Wintons’ place, Denise and I were mucking around in the kitchen, cooking the dinner.Tim rushed in with news: his agent had phoned him to say that a very handsome offer for the film rights to one of his novels had come in from a famous American company. But Tim had signed a local film contract for the same book only the day before. He lurched about the kitchen hitting cupboard doors with his flat palms, cursing and bewailing his luck. I began to commiserate. Denise worked on in silence while the two writers luxuriously whinged. Then she cut across us in a sharp, clear, level voice, matching the rhythm of her words to her physical movements: ‘Denise puts the roast in the oven. LIFE. GOES. ON.’ She slammed the oven door. We stopped talking. She opened a bottle and poured three glasses. We drank them. And life did just as she said.

Both Helen and Tim are basically down-to-earth people who prefer the company of real people, like Denise, to the smug, self-important literati and glitterati of the circles they could probably move in. If they didn't both feel so uncomfortable. Staying in adjoining rooms at a writers' weekend with Blanche d'Alpuget, who was writing her biography of Australian Prime Minister Robert J. Hawke, (with whom she had a long affair and later lured away from his family and married - but I digress, cattily) Helen recalls:

“Charming, blonde, glamorous, she gave a brilliant demonstration of how to manage a laden breakfast tray while reclining against voluptuous movie-star pillows. I trudged to the day’s session, Bertha Bigfoot from Geelong.”

She speaks of the research for some heart-rending court cases she sat through in order to write about them. Her friends don’t understand why she does it, but writing about the film “United 93”, the story of the 9/11 plane that crashed in an open field instead of the capitol, she asks.

“why do stories matter so terribly to us, that we will offer ourselves up to, and later be grateful for, an experience that we know is going to fill us with grief and despair?”

She can’t investigate the hijackers, but she can follow detailed investigations of people who have committed other horrendous acts because she wants to understand why we do these things. She includes bits from some court cases she’s written about.

She is the master of self-deprecation, I think, and sometimes appears to be as unsure of herself as a new writer and as awed by her idols as ever. Writer and journalist for the renowned magazine “The New Yorker”, Janet Malcolm has been a major influence. She panned one of Garner’s early works, but Garner was just thrilled that Malcolm had even read it! About Malcolm’s work, she says:

“The whole drive of her work is expressed, I think, in a phrase she uses in one of the essays collected in Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers: ‘the rapture of firsthand encounters with another’s lived experience’.

That actually describes Helen Garner’s writing perfectly. Her eavesdropping, her note-taking, her putting herself in other people’s shoes. She goes on about Malcolm:

“In her work there is a complete absence of hot air. She will not be read lazily. She assumes intelligence and expects you to work, to pace along with her. Her writing turns you into a better reader.”

This is also true of Garner, except there's no need to work to understand her questions. She uses simple language to ask complex questions. Why do we do what we do? You may have to work to figure out your answers, though. Her musings about age will be understood by anyone with grey hair, and you don’t need to be an intellectual giant to get the message.

“Your face is lined and your hair is grey, so they think you are weak, deaf, helpless, ignorant and stupid. When they address you they tilt their heads and bare their teeth and adopt a tuneful intonation. It is assumed that you have no opinions and no standards of behaviour, that nothing that happens in your vicinity is any of your business.”

You are invisible. If you aren't old enough yet to recognise yourself, be prepared, or hope that invisibility cloaks will disappear, no pun intended. (Mind you, the glamorous Blanche d'Alpuget is only a couple of years younger!)

I read this as a separate book, but I’ve just discovered it’s included in its entirety in her newest publication, True Stories: The Collected Short Non-Fiction, which also includes the previously published True Stories: Selected Non Fiction and The Feel Of Steel and more, which I’ll read and review later.

There are several interviews on radio and television which are pretty easy to find. Here’s a link that works (March 2018) to some radio podcasts.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,417 reviews534 followers
March 19, 2019
These essays were a well rounded mix - some about popular culture or news events, others more personal. Garner writes in a congenial manner with a sharp edge. My favorite essays were those about her life, especially those about growing older. I loved, loved her essay "The Insults of Age."
Profile Image for Rebecca.
Author 31 books720 followers
June 30, 2016
I told myself, "I'll just read one more story before bed, just one" and looked up to see it was 1.46am and I'd greedily stuffed my face with the entire thing in one sitting.

Garner has this to say about the great American journalist and writer, Janet Malcolm, but it very easily describes her own work: "It is a literary voice, composed and dry, articulate and free-striding, drawing on deep learning yet plain in its address, and above all fearless....[t]he whole drive of her work is expressed...in a phrase... 'the rapture of firsthand encounters with another's lived experience.'"

Everywhere I Look spans 15 years of life and work and subjects as diverse as Helen's ukelele obsession, the implosion of three marriages, the quiet joys of a once-spurned suburbia, her "gross earthly body", the nation-transfixing tragedies of Luke Batty, Jill Meagher and the three Farquharson children, but also multiple tragedies on a smaller scale, such as the death of the unknowable parent who was not cherished enough while alive, and the disappearance of a uniquely Australian picture book from the national consciousness.

What Helen clearly loves is the chance encounter with the person at the tram stop, on the train or in the street; like the woman holding a plate of leftover lamingtons who comes across Helen sitting numb and desolate outside a court room and shares one with her. These moments of synchronicity or clarity or grace in a world extra-loaded with darkness, are incredibly moving to read of.

Her insight and fury are perhaps the most devastating weapons in her arsenal.

As a 12-year-old (p.102):

"the insight came to me that my mother's entire life was divided into compartments. None of them was any longer than the number of hours between one meal and the next. She was on a short leash. I don't recall thinking that this would be my fate, or resolving to avoid it. All I remember is the picture of her life, and the speechless desolation that filled me."

As a woman in her early seventies (p. 211):

"The insults of age had been piling up for so long that I was almost numb to them .... Really, it is astonishing how much shit a woman will cop in the interests of civic and domestic order."

Her deep love of her home town is also encapsulated in this vignette about the writer, Gerald Murnane, winning the Melbourne Prize for Literature who refuses to spend half his prize on overseas travel and instead:

"outlined his simple plan for travel within Australia: he was going to visit all the houses in Melbourne that he had ever lived in....Then he tilted back his head, closed his eyes, and recited a long list of all his former addresses in the suburbs of Melbourne: plainly named streets in obscure, lower-middle-class suburbs that no one ever goes to or hears about in the news. And as he reeled them off, by heart, without hesitation, in chronological order, we all held our breath, with tears in our eyes, because we knew that he was reciting a splendid and mysterious poem. It was a naming of parts of the mighty machine that had created the imaginative world of an artist. And when he finished, and opened his eyes, the place went up in a roar of joy."

That's what this book is like - it is a naming of the parts - a look inside the mighty machine. I wish there had been more stories. Who needs sleep when there are stories like these?
Profile Image for Text Publishing.
588 reviews219 followers
September 15, 2017
It’s always heartening to know there is a new Garner out there in the world.

Reading Helen Garner’s essay collection Everywhere I Look is like catching up with a long-time friend—the kind of friend you secretly envy for their sheer brilliance.

Garner’s fine-tuned observations and musings on life are masterful. Each page serves to remind us that we are in the presence of one of Australia’s greatest writers.

Read an extract in the Guardian—‘A certain sort of maleness’: Helen Garner on a week spent watching Russell Crowe films: www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/01...

Watch the 7.30 interview with Leigh Sales: www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s443...

‘Garner is a natural storyteller: her unillusioned eye makes her clarity compulsive…What gives the memoir its power, as so often in Garner’s writing, is that she is unsparing, in equal measure, of her subject and of herself, and that she so relishes complicated feelings…[Everywhere I Look] is made singular by Garner’s almost reckless honesty, and brought alive by her mortal details.’
James Wood, New Yorker

‘It is a rich, beautiful book by a poet of the everyday, a sheer master of prose. Give it to your grandmother, give it to your tweeting girlfriend. Give it to any man or woman who understands the magic of language. It will hurl them into great gulfs of pleasure, of turmoil and understanding and joy.’

‘There’s not a word wasted or out of place. Garner observes, intuits, shares and cares about the lives she writes about like no-one else. Readers will laugh, cry, squirm and gasp and wonder. It’s Garner’s unique gift as a writer, and it’s beautifully realised in Everywhere I Look.’
Books + Publishing

‘Wonderfully evocative…This is an entertaining, thought-provoking and interesting read.’

‘[Garner] has a way of describing the world with such wisdom and candour and, sometimes, delight, that it takes one’s breath away…at least, it does mine. Her observations about life are refreshing in their honesty…This is a fine collection that offers many delights to the reader.’

‘Similar to a hike, the book is best enjoyed without straining to finish it. It’s full of moments to pause and reflect. More importantly, it stirs up that addictive, expansive feeling only the best books can achieve: that you have reached the final page changed, perhaps even a better and more thoughtful person from having travelled alongside Garner’s observations for a time.’
Daily Review

‘Garner’s prose is so very pleasant to read – dry, relaxed sentences that calmly reach out towards loveliness…[Her] willingness to look at and truly see the failures of human behaviour, in herself no less than in others, that lends her work its power.’

‘Garner’s style celebrates and enacts containment and minimalism…Its tenderness and brutality cultivate fruitful and interesting kitchen table conversations spanning the grace and indignity of being “all too human.”’
Age/Sydney Morning Herald

‘There is much to engage the reader at several levels…Garner is at her very best when she writes about children with a grandmother’s intense affection, or about friendships.’

‘[Garner’s] tone is calm, the language clear and considered…Garner stamps her sensibility on all she writes. For which her fans will be grateful.’
Stuff NZ

‘Everywhere I Look has magnificent savage moments that still make me smile.’

‘[Garner’s] writing expresses a hard-won grace. It brings you closer to the world, and shows you how to love it…She has laid the groundwork for a generation of writers; she has repeatedly shown us the glory and the power of an English sentence.’

‘Imagine a writer who writes with the humor and precision of Joy Williams, the warmth and ferocity of Elena Ferrante, and the investigative rigor of Janet Malcolm…Read this book and you will wonder how you lived for years without Garner’s voice in your ear.’
John Freeman, LitHub

‘It’s an enormous, miscellaneous range of subject matter, made all the more compelling by the luxuriant strength of Garner’s prose - each phrase considered and crafted in the manner of an artisan. Everywhere I Look is a delicious literary degustation in which each morsel is its own reward.’
Qantas Magazine

‘[Garner’s] forensic understanding of the sentence make her paragraphs an illusorily clean and easy read…She teaches me how to write again.’
Jennifer Down, Lifted Brow

‘A perfect book for a brief escape. Short stories full of emotion and life. Stories that lift you up and draw you in…Wonderfully written.’

‘I will read every word [Garner] ever writes.’
Herald Sun

‘Read together, the collection in Everywhere I Look offers both an intimate insight into its author and a piercing view of the world we all share. Sometimes uplifting and illuminating, sometimes reflective and poignant, sometimes cranky and bleak, it is an absorbing, enriching read that will likely be dipped into again and again.’

Fantastically accessible…Garner writes warmly and generously. She often brings into her stories characters from her life with no introduction, as if you must surely know them yourself.’
Lip Mag

‘Not a word is wasted, nothing is too small to write about, nothing is too big to intimidate…Magnificent.’
Geelong Advertiser

‘Classic Garner: lean and dry, a touch gaze with a tender edge.’
Canberra Weekly

‘[A] collection of writing from one of our greatest…Some pieces are surprisingly humorous, some are sentimental, and some are quite chilling.’
Toowoomba Chronicle

‘Helen Garner is still at the top of her game and full of surprises.’
New Zealand Listener

‘This is Garner in an expansive mood writing gracefully about everything from her family to ballet to the dawn service.’

‘There is nothing casual or accidental about Everywhere I Look…Its curated sense of a series of engagements with place, people, and objects, presents a way of writing autobiography which seems unintentional, yet coherent all the same…Helen Garner in this latest work adds to our thinking about writing, how it is done, and for what purpose.’
Australian Book Review

‘I’ve always enjoyed the honesty of [Garner’s] writing, her ability to tackle controversial issues with an inquiring and open mind, and the way she addresses her readers directly. Those characteristics are all present here.’
Otago Daily Times

‘Garner’s writing is both disarming and reassuring when we see in another those same fears and feelings experienced in the recesses of our subconscious…Rather than judge, Garner embraces and casts light on the messiness, the underbelly of living.’
Weekly Times

‘A collection brimming with highlights…Always unflinching, always honest – and always elusive…Brilliantly written and observed, there’s no doubting this is the work of one of our finest writers.’
Newtown Review of Books

‘Garner’s lean, deceptively simple prose has the power to anger, amuse and inspire. Wisdom and grace permeate every page.’
North & South

‘These and other richly human subjects connect the author emotionally to her readers…Like strolling around in an idiosyncratic, surprising, and informative museum.’

‘Garner brings to the collection not only her tremendous powers of observation but a continued employment of those skills to force readers to confront unpleasant truths. The graceful prose with which she delivers her insights will challenge readers to look at what is happening around them.’
STARRED Review, Library Journal

‘A book with a big scope, both in terms of the subjects covered and of the stylistic approaches used to discuss them—a great reminder of the range of the essay as form.’

‘Garner can write about everything for every reader…Her tone throughout is one of considerable charm and approachability. Five minutes in Garner’s company, you feel, and you’d be telling her your deepest secrets.’
Civilian Global

‘It’s totally bizarre that Garner isn’t a household name in the UK (she’s Australian). Everything she writes is a small masterpiece. These are collected bits of writing—diary entries, essays, articles, reviews, columns. It includes the most blistering, savage, funny and magnificent piece about getting old, called ‘The Insults of Age’, which is worth the cover price alone. Buy it for your mother for Christmas.’

‘The entire experience of reading Helen Garner, the puzzled ‘ah but…’ of her proposition, opens up the sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious discord of our lives. She may have begun acting here as an emotionally engrossing memoirist, but the reader comes away with much more than may have been intended.’
Irish Times

‘Prescient and searingly honest’

‘On the page, Garner is uncommonly fierce, though this usually has the effect on me of making her seem all the more likable. I relish her fractious, contrarian streak—she wears it as a chef would a bloody apron—even as I worry about what it would be like to have to face it down.’

‘Garner approaches core questions about leading a meaningful life, providing baby boomers in particular with examples of how to live thoughtfully and observantly.’
Library Journal

‘A mesmerising collection of essays and diary entries, this is a book to savour and re-read. No one else writes with as much insight, clarity and humour. The diary entries in particular are a treat: tiny fragments of life brilliantly observed and beautifully crafted by one of Australia’s greatest writers.’
Readings, Best Non-Fiction Books of 2016

‘There are very few writers whose personal essays seem to depend and widen on a second or even a third or fourth read, but Helen Garner is one of them. Her style is inimitable, for while its elegance is undeniable, its essence is pre-verbal, grounded in her intense and unique ways of looking and seeing.’
Kerryn Goldsworthy, Australian Book Review, 2016 Books of the Year

‘Everywhere I Look was a pure delight…Her view on things is unpredictable, distinctive, and original.’
Mark Rubbo, Australian Book Review, 2016 Books of the Year

‘A generous collection of pitch-perfect sketches and reviews, each one taking us with her as she looks, really looks, at the world around her and registers her response to it.’
Susan Sheridan, Australian Book Review, 2016 Books of the Year

‘Garner is a wonderful appreciator: she invites us into the work under review by leading us along the path of discovery she has followed…Her strongest essays evoke emotion through reticence and suggestiveness. They hint at depth of thought and feeling but never become ponderous. And they reveal both the writer and the world by inviting us into her thoughts so that we can see what she sees. Her successes and her failures show just how hard it for an essayist to answer the question of why we should care – why are personal essays something we might want to spend time on anyway? Her best pieces answer this question: we read them because of the richness of perspective they offer. In them, we see not only a small piece of the world, but also the writer looking at the world and looking back at us, asking us to spend some time gazing at it all right there with her.’
Open Letters Monthly

‘The light of Helen Garner’s piercing observation shines on parents, friends, books, time, the weather, and herself. It’s impossible not to trust these engrossing dispatches in their passion and honesty. A lifetime of looking and taking note, and the hard work of examining the significance of what is seen and felt, make this a masterly collection of essays by our greatest non-fiction writer.’
Joan London, The Books We Loved 2016, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Everywhere I Look, like everything in Garner’s oeuvre, brims with clear-eyed insights and crystalline prose. No other writer distils quite like she does.’
Jacinta Halloran, The Books We Loved 2016, Sydney Morning Herald

‘There are times when Helen Garner is the only author I want to read. Restlessly honest, with a sharp eye for detail, her style is by some rare art at once crystalline and conversational.
Lisa Gorton, The Books We Loved 2016, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Reading this collection of essays is like having a long conversation with a clever, funny, big-hearted, magnificently acerbic friend. It left me astonished all over again by Garner’s deft handling of whatever subject she chooses. There are pieces here that crackle and fizz with the pleasure she takes in her grandchildren, reading, a good martini, and playing the ukulele…Everywhere I Look made me laugh, cry, and think. It is a book to return to again and again with gratitude.’
Best Books of 2016, Radio National

‘It’s no wonder Garner won a major international award, the $US150,000 Yale-based Wyndham-Campbell Prize, for her non-fiction writing this year. You just have to read this collection of essays, diary entries and true stories spanning the past 20 years to recognise her immense talent.’
Best Books of 2016, Australian Financial Review

‘Her writing is elegant and spare, the kind of writing that leaves you wrecked at the end. It’s what makes me feel like I’m peeking in her diary when I read the most personal entries in this collection.’

‘It made me cry and laugh and think. Garner always reminds me of the power of noticing and the impact of sparse writing.’
Leigh Sales

‘Garner shows us something precious and endangered…the nexus of neighbourhoods and neighbourliness, the simple weatherboard houses and the plain local shops in the suburbs of Fitzroy and Moonee Ponds. In the most ordinary suburb, as in the most extraordinary marine wilderness, what lies beneath is as fascinating as life on the surface.’
Times Literary Supplement
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,320 reviews127 followers
March 14, 2016
“Three scorchers in a row…The sky was clouding over and the air was irritable…Suddenly, above the asphalt of the big playground came a mighty rushing, counterclockwise, as if the air were being stirred by a spoon in a huge bowl…The temperature plummeted and a superb, refreshing cool exploded all around. Raindrops struck the asphalt, stopped then began in earnest”

Everywhere I Look is the fifth non-fiction book by award-winning Australian author, Helen Garner. Gathered together in one volume are short stories, diary entries, movie reviews, essays and opinion pieces. Garner turns her prodigious literary talents to a diverse range of subjects: the ballet, ageing, youthful intoxication, playing the ukulele, moving house, suburbia, walking the dog, the local café, a baby doll, rereading Jane Austen and buying furniture. Her prose is often succinct and, occasionally, wonderfully evocative.

“In a junk shop I found a shabby but surprisingly comfortable old sofa covered in gold brocade hat was bleached almost to silver. When it was delivered I saw only its dated gentility; but then I tossed an equally ancient pink silk cushion on to it, and the pink and the faded gold sang to each other in quiet, tired voices. I saw that, living alone, one must play out one’s domestic dramas through inanimate objects. Suddenly, this did not seem so terrible”

She shares her opinion on some well- and lesser-known court cases, on beloved authors; on a certain male actor; on a favourite teacher; on her parents. The diary pieces contain excerpts from everyday life and some delightful utterances from grandchildren. While all but three of the stories have appeared previously in other publications (books, journals and magazines), this collection is an excellent taster of Garner’s work for readers unfamiliar with it. This is an entertaining, thought-provoking and interesting read.
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur.
1,039 reviews141 followers
July 24, 2021
Everywhere I look is my first read by the much acclaimed Aussie writer, Helen Garner. This came recommended to me by a local librarian. I didn't know anything about the book going into it and that was a good thing because I quite enjoyed this.

It is a collection of essays written over fifteen years. The writer takes us on a personal journey where she shares the things she has experienced and some of the things she has observed and the things she has learnt along the way. Her writing captivated me throughout but the thing that I enjoyed the most was her subtle humor. I found myself smiling along or chuckling as well at times. I was nodding along at some of her observations too. Her essays and recollections vary from her childhood, to moving so many times, her marriages and growing old and some observations too.

I enjoyed the essays about growing old more than others. A fascinating read that I liked for the most part. I look forward to reading more from her.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Fiona.
7 reviews1 follower
April 20, 2016
A collection of Helen's essays, observations & thoughts. Her writing is so masterful I would read her shopping list.
Profile Image for Laura .
352 reviews125 followers
November 21, 2022
So this is a collection of different pieces of writing by Helen Garner. The earliest is dated 1995 through to 2015. Most of them had been published previously in 'The Monthly', a popular Australian magazine focussing on politics and culture. Similar publishers include: 'Elle' 'Age' 'Big Issue'; but most of the pieces date from 2005 onwards which was when 'The Monthly' magazine started. The collection is divided into six segments - which allows the reader to differentiate her varied topics. I think I liked most of all, "Part three: Dreams of Herself" which focuses on her family, specifically her wondrous relationships with her grandchildren and then quite a lengthy piece on her father and mother; that particular section probably contains some of her best writing.

Here are a couple of bits about Ted, who is four, and Ambrose two:

Ted approaches me with a strange bashful smile and his eyes lowered. 'Nanny, you said to me that you always like my face.' 'I do. When I see it coming towards me I feel very happy.' He blushes, and can't stop smiling, or meet my eye. Soon we are aiming his cowboy pistols out the kitchen window at the red bucket on the woodpile, and firing with deadly accuracy. But when I say 'Peeeyow!' he corrects me: apparently only he is allowed to say 'Peeeyow'.

In the morning it rains. Ambrose has passed his whole two years of life in drought. He looks up at the ceiling and says in a surprised voice, 'Noise!'

Jacob's funeral at Springvale. The building is very crowded. Two old women squeeze their way into the seats in front of ours. Another old lady murmurs to them, 'Excuse me, I'm saving these two places for my friends.' One of the interlopers, whose hair is dyed bright red, turns to her and snaps. 'Look, this is a funeral, not a party.' The service moves along with a brisk grandeur. Then we all file out, hundreds of us, and walk slowly along the cemetery roads to the open grave. Even at the back of the crowd we still flinch at the hollow thud when the first spadeful of earth strikes the coffin. I can't believe Jacob's body is really inside it. He had such bright eyes.
Later Ambrose wants to stay the night at my house. He won't go to sleep in the cot. I pick him up, wrap him in the blue rug, and hold him on my lap on the couch. Outside it's still light, but cloudy, as if about to storm. I sing him 'The Tennessee Waltz'. His eyes slide shut. His thumb slips out of his mouth and a few nerve tremors run through his left hand. He begins to breathe deeply, then to snore. Meanwhile Jacob is out there under all that dirt. A cool wind is blowing. I still think cremation is more bearable. The beloved one is only air, and some dry crumbs of inoffensive matter.

(Garner was a friend of Jacob Rosenberg, who wrote 'East of Time' and 'Sunrise West'.)

When my daughter was a teenager she had a dog, a poodle cross called Polly. Polly fell down the crack between two of my marriages. She trudged again and again across inner Melbourne to my ex-husband's house, and died a lonely, painful death by misadventure, in a suburban backyard. She was an anxious creature, timid and appeasing, who provoked in me an overwhelming impatience. She would lie at my feet, tilting her head at this angle and that, striving for eye contact. The more she begged for it, the less I could give.
In just such a way, over many years, I refused my mother eye contact. She longed for it. I withheld it. I lacerate myself with this memory; with the connection I can't expunge between lost mother and lost dog.

In Dad's house I found a little photo of him and Mum in their twenties, sitting on the front step of their house. Between them lay a long-eared black dog, a spaniel. Dad said his name was Ned. I did not remember our ever having a pet. I asked if the dog had died before I was born. 'Ah no. I had to get rid of him. Mum wouldn't let him inside. Because of her brand-new mushroom-pink carpet.' He laughed, and shrugged. 'I put an ad in the paper. A lady came round and took him. She tied his lead to the carrier of her bike, and pedalled away. I thought he might have looked back, but he never even turned his head'.

Garner's writing is simple but meaty - and I enjoyed reading her memoir sections immensely. There were other sections I wasn't quite so thrilled with - e.g. a run down of Russel Crowe's films. I guess many of the pieces are aimed at a Magazine type audience - the sort of reading you do to pass the time - several of the pieces in the other sections do come across as short entertainment set pieces. Overall - very enjoyable. I particularly liked her direct non-fancy, conversational writing style - it gives you sense of a dear friend talking to you about this, that and the other, but her observations are acute and close to the heart.
Profile Image for Jennifer (JC-S).
2,818 reviews195 followers
May 13, 2016
‘Journeys through life’

‘Everywhere I Look’ is a collection of essays, diary entries and true stories written by Helen Garner. While thirty of the stories in the collection have previously been published (between 1994 and 2015), the other three pieces (‘Whisper and Hum’, ‘Before Whatever Else Happens’ and ‘Suburbia’) have not.

What an interesting and eclectic collection: the first essay is about one about wanting a ukulele, about learning to play it. But the ukulele is part of a wider story: the collapse of a marriage, learning about self. The second essay is about buying a table – ‘to be elegant in my solitude’. And the table is also part of a wider story, including appearances, expectation, and craftsmanship.

There are six parts to this collection. While I enjoyed the entire collection, I particularly enjoyed two parts. Part Two: ‘Notes from a brief friendship’, with its essays ‘Dear Mrs Dunkley’ (about a teacher of Helen’s in 1952), ‘Eight Views of Tim Winton’ (about her friendship with Tim Winton) and ‘From Frogmore, Victoria’ (about Raimond Gaita, and his memoir ‘Romulus, My Father’ and the movie). Part Four: ‘On Darkness’ with its essay about Rosie Batty (‘The Singular Rosie’). ‘Punishing Karen’, about a teenager who killed her newborn baby is unsettling, as is ‘The Man in the Dock’ where a young woman (‘this brave, foolish, big-bosomed girl in her white blouse and chipped nail polish…’) stands in support of a violent young man.

The essays also include one on ageing ‘The Insults of Age’, one about Russell Crowe (‘Hit Me’), others about life with grandchildren close by.

There’s something wonderful about Helen Garner’s writing. Her observations are keen, her words always well-chosen, her meaning clear, if not always comfortable. Events pass into history, but good writing is timeless. These pieces are worth reading, or re-reading.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Profile Image for Michael Livingston.
795 reviews242 followers
July 30, 2016
A lovely collection, spanning 15 years of Garner's writing, and mercifully free of some of the awkward gender politics that slightly marred some of her bigger books for me. The essay on her mother is just phenomenal, and the diary entries are full of wit, charm and sharp observations. Some of the film reviews felt a bit like filler, but seemingly slight pieces like her brief profile of Tim Winton still somehow managed to pack a punch.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews106k followers
November 29, 2016
This essay collection by Australian writer Helen Garner is varied, absorbing, and so, so smart. She is an insightful cultural and literary critic — her essay on reading Pride and Prejudice is a delight — and she has also written moving personal pieces on writing, family, aging, and more. She reminds me of a couple other nonfiction writers I love: Jenny Diski and Janet Malcolm. She’s fearless, forthright, beguiling, and I plan on reading more of her work.

–Rebecca Hussey

from The Best Books We Read In October 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/10/31/riot-r...
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 53 books549 followers
March 2, 2016
What a lovely collection. Reading it felt like catching up with a witty and slightly caustic friend. Helen's writing is familiar (all of these essays save three were published elsewhere) and precise and perfect. Helen is a regular at the bookstore and I love talking books with her - this collection felt like a more intimate extension of those chats. She's much more revealing in her writing which I completely understand. She's a national treasure.
Profile Image for Veronica.
240 reviews97 followers
April 17, 2016
I wonder how Helen feels about the way she is lionised by the next generation of young female Aus writers.
Profile Image for Emma.
146 reviews4 followers
December 21, 2017
Another brilliant collection of Garner's writing. Just love her.
Profile Image for John.
2,007 reviews197 followers
December 5, 2016
This was one of those "let me get something a bit different (to break out of my comfort zone)" books that really paid off (see also: You're Never Weird on the Internet).

At first I had a bit of trouble with the author's accent, but soon grew used it; as a matter of fact, when I read more of her in print I'll miss it. A fair amount of the entries are memoir: her parents' relationship, the day her dad died, encounters with her grandchildren, etc. I never felt " I guess you had to be there" which happens sometimes with anecdotes of others' pasts; her stories were universal in expressing her feelings. I didn't take notes, and don't have a print copy for reference, but some of the essays that stood out for me were visiting another writer with whom she was friends after that lady had developed severe dementia, accompanying a writer to the site of his autobiographical events, where the landscape was even bleaker than she'd imagined, a thank you to a strict teacher she resented as a kid, and towards the end of the book dealing with a patronizing waiter. I think perhaps twice I skipped to the next chapter as the theme wasn't resonating with me ... which is a terrific score for an essay collection!

She's a damned fine essayist - many of my Goodreads friends are the target audience for Garner's writing. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Cassie Robinson.
58 reviews3 followers
August 8, 2016
Let me preface this review by saying I love Helen Garner, so it is completely biased. I've seen Helen speak a number of times, and she has completely won me over. I find her such an intriguing person, and in so many ways she is nothing like what you would expect. So when I discovered that she narrates the audio edition of Everywhere I Look I knew I had to listen to it – and it did not disappoint. The short personal essays in Everywhere I Look are funny, self deprecating, moving and insightful. I particularly loved the glimpses into her family life (who wouldn't want Helen Garner as a grandma!?) and her story about reading Pride & Prejudice. I'm sure this book would "read" just as well, but having Helen Garner read these stories to you lets you imagine, even more than you already do, what it would be like to be an intimate part of Helen's life.
Profile Image for Giselle A Nguyen.
182 reviews66 followers
March 15, 2017
I'm a recent Garner convert, having only read my first of her works late last year, but I wonder what took me so long and wish I'd come around sooner. This is such a beautiful collection from a thoughtful, witty and observant writer. I love the way she sees the world, and the tiny details she brings to life through her words. Some of these essays made me cry.

I probably could've done without some of the more arts criticism-type inclusions towards the end, but this really was such a pleasure to read.

One thing I did not like was how Garner seems to have to use race as a descriptor ("Asian woman" etc, when it's not really necessary at all to the story/scene), and when she described a gay roommate as "out busily catching AIDS", then reveals that he died from it. Just a couple of little things that slightly marred this otherwise lovely collection for me.
Profile Image for Theresa.
495 reviews11 followers
July 13, 2016
The first Helen Garner I've read (of only 3 total) that I have liked without reservation. A great collection of short observations on life & art, people and relationships.
Profile Image for K.
22 reviews3 followers
July 13, 2018
Memoir/essay style on a variety of topics from a kitchen table, to the craft of Jane Austen to feeling too old in a bar. I love her dry style and ability capture/reflect on seemingly mundane events/items with sadness, sarcasm joy or razor wit. My favourite line is "a woman on her own can easily get into the habit of standing at the fridge door and dining on a cold boiled potato". Garner makes me want to jot down daily observations as she shows the weighty ideas/emotions that they can carry.
Profile Image for Tracey.
956 reviews7 followers
June 2, 2016
I came late to reading Helen Garner and it was only through a friend gifting me Joe Cinque's Consolation which I found to be a gripping read. I have since read a couple of her books and I am hooked.
‘Everywhere I Look’ spans the last 15 years of Garner’s writing career with a collection of essays and observations. The collection is really like sitting down with a friend and having a chat that starts over morning coffee and ends somewhere near tea with cocktails.
As a reader I like to sit down with my trusty notebook, ready to jot down quotes or sections of text that make me ponder. With Garner I did not note down a single thing because I just read. I turned each page just wanting to take it all in. There is such a diversity of topics covered and so many wonderful moments of observation.
I could throw around a string of superlatives about just how amazing I found this book. I was engulfed by the descriptions and the honesty. At times Garner is so candid and it is refreshing to read. I should be writing some rather descriptive review but I am just going to say this, read the book. It is that simple, read the book. You will not be disappointed.
Profile Image for G.G..
Author 5 books112 followers
September 20, 2017
In lieu of a review, let me quote my favourite passage from Garner's brilliant collection of essays. This, from "In the Wings," Garner's account of a week spent observing the Australian Ballet at morning class, in rehearsal, and after hours:
And it heartens me to recall how, at the end of each morning's class, the dancers split into bunches of four and five and rush in diagonal leaping surges across the studio. Group after group they come, without pause or hesitation, driven by the music in a endless stream of energy. They manifest the tremendous onwardrushingness of life, which has only one destination and yet constantly renews itself, full of a joy that transcends words.
Profile Image for Kali Napier.
Author 6 books60 followers
January 12, 2020
My first non-fiction Helen Garner and I am a convert. I will be seeking out more of her NF work, especially the diaries. This collection contains essays on creatives, observations of neighbourhoods, and evocations of artefacts, among a multitude of other descriptions and musings. My favourite parts were in the section titled 'Dreams of Her Real Self', which includes snippets of what appear her early diary entries. Sometimes only a line or two long, others are vignettes. There is little attempt to connect them through transitions or narrative frames. But I marvelled at how these connections were implicit in the scene breaks. Is this what all of Garner's writing is like? (I have only read The Spare Room) If so, I enjoy the telling details. The so-much-unsaid.
Profile Image for Rosemary Atwell.
352 reviews22 followers
September 6, 2020
I love Helen Garner. She is forthright and fierce and frequently admits to 'messing up' her life. Perhaps that is why she is such a great writer. Once again, this assorted collection of short pieces, reviews and carefully edited diary entries confirms the shrewdness of her observations and the ability to sift and isolate what really matters in the minutiae and celebration of the everyday. 'Everywhere I Look' is a powerful draught - savour and relish.
Profile Image for Ellen.
960 reviews36 followers
April 30, 2016
This collection of essays is like a mixed bag of lollies. Though not every one will be to your taste, there's a special kind of delight that comes with selecting your favourite.

As for my picks? 'The Insults of Age' and 'My First Baby' carry a perfect sort of precision, but it's Garner's diary entries that I treasured most, with their sense of esprit and whimsy.
Profile Image for Kimbofo.
760 reviews152 followers
October 2, 2016
Helen Garner's latest essay collection is written with all the perception, power and forthrightness one has come to expect from one of Australia's finest writers.

To read my review in full please visit my blog.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
472 reviews7 followers
June 3, 2016
This collection is a feast. Poignant, funny, challenging.

In one of these essays Garner quotes the great Janet Malcom 'The rapture of firsthand encounters with another's lived experience.' Really, it's the essence of Garner's own writing. Accessible yet masterful.

Profile Image for D.M. Cameron.
Author 1 book29 followers
May 18, 2017
Devoured this almost in one sitting. Garner's forensic eye, which she often turns on her self, her courage and honesty never fails to impress. Her short story in this collection titled Dear Mrs Dunkley reduced me to sobbing tears. If you are a writer - you will appreciate this book!
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