Writers' Diaries and Writer's Novels

The literary device of the fictionalised diary stretches back at least to George and Weedon Grossmith’s 1892 work The Diary of a Nobody. Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole is perhaps better known. Equally established is the diary doubling as the novelist’s first draft, Ana├»s Nin being an obvious example.

Locally there is Helen Garner. Twenty five years after writing her now classic novel Monkey Grip, which some critics alleged was just a fictionalised version of her diary, she acknowledged that indeed it was very largely based on her own diaries. The quotation, from a recent issue of Meanjin, is reproduced in full in the exhibition.9 Intriguingly, the dust jacket described her as a ‘compulsive scribbler, journal-keeper and letter- and note- writer’. Those familiar with Barry Oakley’s published diary selections Minitudes (Text Publishing, 2000) may wonder if a similar admission will result from his new novel Don’t Leave Me (Text Publishing, 2002).

Item 17

Monkey Grip by Helen Garner (McPhee Gribble, 1977).

Item 18

Helen Garner, close-up photo reproduction from back cover of Meanjin no 1, 2002, pp. 40-41, which included her article, ‘I’, where Garner explains the diary connection.