Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

The Feel of Steel

imageYear of publication: 2001
Found: In the mail
Pages/read time: 223, two days


I read this book so quickly that I didn’t even mark any pages to look back on to write this review. Since my lovely friend thrust Garner’s Everywhere I Look at me, I have taken an avid interest in this author. This collection of previously published articles, letters and diary entries presents Garner’s views on a range of subjects including other authors, her family, bridal gowns, the death of beloved dogs and finding round tables, among other things. The intensely personal nature of Garner’s accounts is refreshing in a memoir where facts, chronological order and ‘life narratives’ so often get in the way. Not that one could really call this a ‘memoir’. Not even a social commentary. For me, it’s a collection of life moments and life-changing stuff placed in an order that can only be described as consciously balanced.

One story in particular, an account on a weeping neighbour in a new flat, I find particularly charming. The five page description that is The Goddess of Weeping is humourous and simultaneously respectful depiction of crying. After ascertaining that the women Garner and her scrabble-partner could hear through the thin walls of the adjoining flats was not in danger, the pair listen in awe to her sobs.

She was not a woman in need of help. She was a woman in luxury. Shameless, unabashed. Facing sorrow and paying it full, slow, thorough attention. It was leisurely. It was impressive.It radiated the authority of a religious rituals whose origins are lost in time.
‘Don’t let’s knock,’ said Tina in a low voice.
But we dawdled outside the locked door, leaning on the wall, not looking at each other. The weeping and sobbing rolled majestically, tirelessly forward.

Garner has a way of turning one’s expected reactions to emotions, places and things on their heads. The Weeping Goddess reveals the solemn splendour that thoroughly felt grief can be when allowed release. A shopping trip does not ‘fail’ because the desired table was not bought if the morning gives a new perspective on a father’s and his daughter’s relationship. The five days between arriving in a new house and finally being able to unpack when the removalists’ truck arrives is not a ‘waste’ but a chance for space and breathing. I can quite confidently say that unexpected delays and unwanted waiting periods have now become, more often than not, points of serendipitous charm thanks to The Feel of Steel.

Reading suggestion: Open windows and a soft breeze goes well with reading this.

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2017 by in Australian, biography, Non-Fiction, Women Authors.

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