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Monday, 2 July 2007

Marieke Hardy took control of the ABC's Sunday Arts (5pm) 'Rogues Gallery' segment dressed in a low-cut green-and-white-striped frock. Her subject: Helen Garner. You can vote for your favourite rogue on the show's Web site (non-Oz readers probably won't click to most of these characters) but Aunty sadly doesn't offer the segment as a vodcast.

It is worth a second look. The quality of the segment was about the same as we're used to seeing on The First Tuesday Book Club (where Hardy routinely appears as a commentator). But Garner is clearly a person worth looking at closely. Her life seems to be cut from similar cloth as, say, Peter Carey's. One of the hippie generation, Garner apparently lost her teaching job in the Victoria public school system due to her frank approach to sex education.

The quality of Garner's work is unquestionable. If you've read Joe Cinque's Consolation, as I have, you will be aware of her subtle power, her reporter's knack for the key angle, and her large heart. She's a spiritual reporter as well as a seeker of the cogent fact.

She's equally well-known for her fiction. Her output in the 1980s is renowned.

Significantly, in both Joe Cinque's Consolation (2004) and The First Stone (1995) Garner was refused access to the people most involved. But she wrote them anyway, interviewing numerous peripheral characters in an attempt to understand how and why.

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