peteg's blog - noise - books - 2006 12 10 MonkeyGrip

Helen Garner: Monkey Grip

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Somehow I ploughed through this book. Again, Garner is repetitive and so little changes from one angst-inducing event to the next that I lost interest in the questions she fails to answer, such as what she sees in the men she feels compelled to be with. (She says a lot about how she feels and how communication fails, but not much on the non-horizontal shared experience.) The characters that wander in and out of the narrative rarely have independent lives and few have any identifiable impact on the story, beyond being competitors for a man, or a man. Her engagement with junkies and drugs is drab and uninspiring, never failing to point out the obvious failings of each, while the transient benefits, the "why?" of her narrative, goes mostly unshared.

Historically this novel may be of interest insofar as it brings an Australian (if unenlightening and unerotic) bluntness to matters sexual and narcotic in 1977. Anne Summers must have seen a lot more in it that I did, in branding it the nation's best novel of that year.

I wonder if the Anglo fascination with the I Ching made it out of the seventies; Douglas Adams made hilarious use of it in The Long Dark Teat-Time of the Soul in 1988, so I guess it must have. (You can try an internet incarnation of Adams's version here).