Master of Creative Arts (Creative Writing)
School of Law, Humanties and the Arts
McLeavy, Alexandra, Let it be what it is: fact and fiction in Helen Garner's Monkey Grip and The Spare Room & Deepwater, Master of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) thesis, School of Law, Humanties and the Arts, University of Wollongong, 2015. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4448
In literature, the line between fiction and real life is often seductively thin. Taking the example of Helen Garner's autobiographical fictions in her first novel, Monkey Grip (1977), and her last, The Spare Room (2008), the theoretical component of my Masters project examines how the first person narratives are vivified by their connection to the author’s life. The thirty-one years separating the novels' publication saw distinct changes in the critical landscape, and I argue that while Monkey Grip was condemned for its likeness to a journal, The Spare Room capitalised on its correlation with reality. This dynamic constructs an extra-textual 'real' life for Garner's novels which acts as a diegetic device, magnifying the gravity of the narratives.
The creative component of my project, my short novel Deepwater, was inspired by personal experience. However, finding the strictures of reality a restraint the story I'd envisioned as an autobiographical fiction grew into a work of pure fiction. The extra-textual 'real' life of the novel remained my entry point to the narrative, with small truths providing the flint to my imagination, but unlike in Garner's examples the 'I' of personal narrative was a hindrance rather than a portal.