Joe Cinque is Dead
I finished reading Helen Garner’s new book a little while ago, and it’s been taking a while for it to percolate through my brain. I think the book is powerful and sad. It is beautifully written.
The Cinques are stoically anguished, smack in the centre of the maelstrom of a murder trial. Garner uses herself, and the intimacies she discloses, as a bridge to get us over to them and to the intimacies they disclosed to her.
Garner is an extremely proficient author. I think a lot of the time of her voice reading; it’s so expressive in a thin lipped big hearted way. I am a little suspicious that the “personal touches” may be more structural than revelatory, but it really doesn’t matter.
The similarities between my personal geography and that of those Garner writes about are strong. I grew up 5 minutes drive from Joe’s family’s house south of Newcastle, I studied at ANU law school, and now I live 5 minutes walk from where she killed him. I clocked it at the lights the other day, and it was quite odd. I knew it was number 79, because that features in the bizarre OOO call that Singh made when Joe was dying. I knew it was near, because for some unfathomable reason, number 69 advertises its location in three foot tall burgundy letters high on the second storey. And I was walking up to the lights, feral toddler, shopping, kelpie and all and I saw that house. Where for more or less a week she tried to kill her devoted lover.
I grew up with a pretty good idea of the true crime genre, mainly due to my dad - my mum's preference was for made-up crime. I felt the absence of the little plug of glossy photo pages and was a bit cut that the comments on Gianna's blog disclosed that there was a photo of Joe at the end of the story.
Singh’s family were doctors and tried to get her scheduled (committed involuntarily). I find it hard to believe that you would want your kid locked up in a psych hospital unless you were deeply convinced they really needed it. Particularly if you had any medical experience.
People didn’t believe what she said because they were used to her ridiculousness. I look at the people experiencing that situation and I can see how no-one thought it was the right thing to do to get help. From where? Why? Once I sought (unsolicited and unwelcome) help on behalf of a colleague who obviously had a persistent and increasingly serious eating disorder. It seemed to do no good.
I've posted before about the Australian Women's Weekly August edition on official Mrses and why you should vote for their Mr's. The Cinques were in the same edition, but they didn't make the front page.
There is a weird little article that runs through some serious, personal, horrible involuntary life changes that Garner has made, little sacrifices of pieces of herself offered up. The article concludes, completely justly, that Garner is a marvellous writer, and has written a marvellous book. She has written a beautiful introduction to feelings we hope we will all be spared.