Cosmo Cosmolino

Cosmo Cosmolino

Janet retreats to her house and labours at forgetting the past; Ray hides from the past in the pages of his gold-edged book, waiting for his brother to reconnect him to life. But Maxine bursts the barricade that separates dream from reality and hacks a path for all of them to the future....

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Title:Cosmo Cosmolino
Author:Helen Garner
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Cosmo Cosmolino Reviews

  • Neil

    Grown-up, fragile, confused and partly jaded idealists from the 70s struggle with life in the 90s. Their inner city utopia has gradually, although unknowingly, turned dull and sad. This is the best of Helen Garner's inner-Melbourne communal living stories, because she allows these characters to truthfully admit their disappointment in the apparent failure of their artistic aspirations rather than hide behind the cloud of addiction, which was a very strong theme in Monkey Grip. There's a lot to l

    Grown-up, fragile, confused and partly jaded idealists from the 70s struggle with life in the 90s. Their inner city utopia has gradually, although unknowingly, turned dull and sad. This is the best of Helen Garner's inner-Melbourne communal living stories, because she allows these characters to truthfully admit their disappointment in the apparent failure of their artistic aspirations rather than hide behind the cloud of addiction, which was a very strong theme in Monkey Grip. There's a lot to learn about from this story, like the virtues of remaining positive, and learning to embrace the mundane as a thing that is a constant in life that gives greater contrast and significance to beauty, excitement and being spiritually and mentally balanced and fulfilled. All done with great descriptive prose and constantly unique ways of expressing inner thoughts and emotions. Yes, I enjoyed it!

  • Josie

    Thank you Ms Garner for scaling down the crazy in this novel compared to those previous to it.

    I really enjoyed both the short stories and novel contained in this book.

    I was captured by its mystical tale and vivid characters.

    Oh how I adored Maxine! What a horror and a delight she was.

    Really really enjoyed this.

  • Alan

    Cosmo Cosmolino (lit. Universe, Small Universe) works on a lot of levels. Helen Garner has created the small universe of a share house within the larger universe of Melb. Or is it about the small different world views of the housemates within the share house universe? There are 3 slightly linked stories in this book and Garner again showcases her writing talent with lovely sparse vivid prose and natural Australian dialogue. These characters are misfits, they grate on each other, and yet they ult

    Cosmo Cosmolino (lit. Universe, Small Universe) works on a lot of levels. Helen Garner has created the small universe of a share house within the larger universe of Melb. Or is it about the small different world views of the housemates within the share house universe? There are 3 slightly linked stories in this book and Garner again showcases her writing talent with lovely sparse vivid prose and natural Australian dialogue. These characters are misfits, they grate on each other, and yet they ultimately seem to need each other. Enjoyable slice of life stuff!

  • Kris McCracken

    Set in Jeff Kennett’s Melbourne, the chaotic communes and share-houses of the 1970s now contain bitter middle-aged people, uncomfortable in the individualistic and capitalist world they find themselves in. Drifting in and out are younger transients less tolerant of the collective temperament of the 70s. It is a tricky book, quite bleak, but never completely without hope.

    It’s not perfect by any stretch, but as a capture of a specific time and place that now seems long ago (despite being only twen

    Set in Jeff Kennett’s Melbourne, the chaotic communes and share-houses of the 1970s now contain bitter middle-aged people, uncomfortable in the individualistic and capitalist world they find themselves in. Drifting in and out are younger transients less tolerant of the collective temperament of the 70s. It is a tricky book, quite bleak, but never completely without hope.

    It’s not perfect by any stretch, but as a capture of a specific time and place that now seems long ago (despite being only twenty years old), it does a very nice job. Recommended.

  • Sue

    An incredibly descriptive writer, the pictures her sentences create and the artful way they are assembled is fabulous.

    An enjoyable read - the first short story (Recording Angel) literally tumbles you from page to page and throws you onto the next story.

    The next two stories didn't have quite the impact of the first (for me) but were equally interesting in their descriptive writing.

    For instance a sentence from Cosmo Cosmolino:

    "Its face, a faithful little moon, was turned up to her, its hands were

    An incredibly descriptive writer, the pictures her sentences create and the artful way they are assembled is fabulous.

    An enjoyable read - the first short story (Recording Angel) literally tumbles you from page to page and throws you onto the next story.

    The next two stories didn't have quite the impact of the first (for me) but were equally interesting in their descriptive writing.

    For instance a sentence from Cosmo Cosmolino:

    "Its face, a faithful little moon, was turned up to her, its hands were spread to plead innocence, and its inner mechanism emitted without ceasing the rapid ribbon of blows called the passing of time."

  • Jo Case

    (1992) was Helen Garner’s last work of fiction before she pioneered her own distinctive brand of questing, addictive narrative non-fiction with

    .

    It’s an unusual book; not quite a novel, not quite a short-story collection; both completely what you expect from a Helen Garner book (share houses, trams, ageing hippies, finely honed ‘kitchen table candour’, as Robert Dessaix put it when reviewing

    ) and a surprising departure (faith, belief, angels, religio

    (1992) was Helen Garner’s last work of fiction before she pioneered her own distinctive brand of questing, addictive narrative non-fiction with

    .

    It’s an unusual book; not quite a novel, not quite a short-story collection; both completely what you expect from a Helen Garner book (share houses, trams, ageing hippies, finely honed ‘kitchen table candour’, as Robert Dessaix put it when reviewing

    ) and a surprising departure (faith, belief, angels, religion). The prose, too, is a mix of classic Garner – deceptively simple observations, dialogue so slyly provocative it makes you gasp – and a more ornate, poetic style: long sentences, images bunched together like bouquets rather than presented as polished, solitary gems in her usual fashion.

    consists of two short stories and one novella. The unnamed narrator of the first story, ‘Recording Angel’, is, the reader gradually realises, the same person as Janet, the recently divorced journalist and writer of the novella, ‘Cosmo Cosmolino’. And Raymond, the self-absorbed, socially illiterate protagonist of the second story, ‘A Vigil’ (whose boorish negligence contributes to the death of his depressed, substance-abusing girlfriend) is one of Janet’s two lodgers in ‘Cosmo Cosmolino’, now a chastened born-again Christian.

    The three stories are united by themes as well as characters: dark maybe-angels appear in the first two and in the third, Raymond is greeted as an angel by mad artist Maxine, Janet’s other lodger. Questions of faith and belief – how it can sustain, resurrect or transform – how misplaced faith can lead a person astray and lack of faith can leave a person barren – are central to all three stories.

    Love and family are central too, despite (or maybe because of) the near-total absence of traditional family arrangements. Garner seems to be questioning the sustainability and the fall-out of the share house culture of her (and Janet’s) past; self-made families that drift apart, leaving lonely individuals in their wake.

    Janet’s seriously ill friend Patrick in ‘Recording Angel’, who ‘recited [her] life like a poem he had learnt by heart’, has a wife and children who love him with a fierce straightforwardness missing from the other relationships in the book. He teases Janet for her nomadism, and what she later calls her ‘unwifeliness’ (she has ‘no talent for intimacy’). Although Janet privately recognises Patrick’s barbs as his need to contrast her life with his own, and she calls her domestic landscape a ‘blasted heath’ with her tongue firmly in cheek, what we later encounter in

    is exactly that.

    Both Janet and the wildly eccentric Maxine are childless; both feel it as an acute absence. When Janet recalls the share house ‘kids’, now scattered and presumably grown, it is bittersweet. Hearing passing schoolchildren, she muses, ‘It was a good sound, she believed with the part of her still believed anything; but it hurt her.’ The empty rooms in the house she owns, once a share house and now the aftermath of a recently failed marriage, are still named for those long-ago housemates who once occupied them. When Maxine and Raymond move into those unoccupied spaces, they are also creating a community of sorts again, though a diminished and ill-matched one.

    There is a sense of hope about

    , a sense of faith in community and the families we make, if a nagging sense that the permanence and transience of such families makes them no substitute for the bonds of blood or traditional unions. And there is the idea that loving and believing – even if such enterprises may be doomed to dissolve – is worth the plunge, and far preferable to the alternative of careful, closed-off cynicism.

    This is a fascinating book, with flashes of brilliance and scenes of piercing truth. Helen Garner is never boring; she is always an artist. And this gorgeous Text Classics edition is well worth buying not just for its striking cover, but for Ramona Koval’s illuminating introduction, which includes insights from Garner herself and a reflection on

    ’s place within her body of work.

  • Carolyn

    This is an unusual collection of stories with two short stories and a novella. There is cross-over between some of the characters, seen as young people in the short stories and then re-appear in the novella as middle-aged, disappointed adults left behind by the 70s.

    Janet is the owner of a large sprawling house that was once home to a large, bustling hippie commune. Now she rattles around her dilapidated home alone. Her short marriage has failed and she works as a freelance journalist, rarely le

    This is an unusual collection of stories with two short stories and a novella. There is cross-over between some of the characters, seen as young people in the short stories and then re-appear in the novella as middle-aged, disappointed adults left behind by the 70s.

    Janet is the owner of a large sprawling house that was once home to a large, bustling hippie commune. Now she rattles around her dilapidated home alone. Her short marriage has failed and she works as a freelance journalist, rarely leaving the house. Into her life and house arrive Maxine, a slightly mad artist and carpenter of impractical furniture and Ray, a penniless born-again christian. Ray's brother Alby was once Janet's lover and lived in the house for a short time in his drug addled youth. The three combine to make a strange household, never eating together or understanding each other.

    I can't say I really enjoyed this book. The story is quite bleak and depressing - all these middle aged adults who can't get their lives together. The writing is very good however and there are some very powerful images in the stories, such as the 'angels' who take Ray to hell in the second story.

  • Eleanor

    A bit weird, but it kept me interested.

  • Sally Edsall

    I'm almost ashamed to say I didn't finish this.

    It got great reviews and the subject matter at first intrigued me ... what became of the human remnants of the kind of 1970s shared households so brilliantly depicted in Garner's earlier work, Monkey Grip.

    But then she added an element I have very little patience for - magic, angels, a sort of supernatural angle.

    And the characters were to me jarring and deeply unattractive. I thought "I'm never going to empathise with these people", and there was no

    I'm almost ashamed to say I didn't finish this.

    It got great reviews and the subject matter at first intrigued me ... what became of the human remnants of the kind of 1970s shared households so brilliantly depicted in Garner's earlier work, Monkey Grip.

    But then she added an element I have very little patience for - magic, angels, a sort of supernatural angle.

    And the characters were to me jarring and deeply unattractive. I thought "I'm never going to empathise with these people", and there was no real plot to speak of, so I gave it up.

    Garner DOES write brilliantly. Her phrasing, word choices and evocative descriptions are enviable.

    I often have this sense when I read short stories (& CC starts with two, which are linked to the longer novella which follows) that there's a sadness, and I find Aust women short story writers inevitably conjure up melancholy. I enjoyed that when I was in a phase in my life in my early 20s, but not now.

    So, while the reviewers are probably correct & this is terrific stuff, it could also be dated pretentious twaddle, and I didn't care enough to persist past 60 pages.

    I think I prefer a good plot!

  • Lilian

    I'm going to have to put this book down for a while. It feels a little like admitting defeat. I know if I put it down, I might never pick it back up which is a real shame because Garner's writing is beautiful. An example from where I stopped:

    I'm going to have to put this book down for a while. It feels a little like admitting defeat. I know if I put it down, I might never pick it back up which is a real shame because Garner's writing is beautiful. An example from where I stopped:

    The whole book is like this, up to where I am so far. Passages of exquisite description, somehow connected together. My issue is with the characters. They feel, every last one of them, so disingenuous. They feel intolerable. I simply can not and do not want to deal with them. It is not that any of them are Bad People (at least, it does not seem to me that any of them are).

    But sometimes I get the feeling Garner doesn't really know them, and so because of this they don't really know themselves. It may well be the other way round: maybe it is because I don't know them that I don't understand them. Whatever it means, their awful opinions and beliefs simply hit me harder and I can't like or empathise with them. I can't even understand them. They seem to be people made up of sets of characteristics which simply seemed right. There personalities are these characteristics. The narrative voice's [low] opinion of them doesn't make this any better. All in all, uncomfortable reading. I may pick it back up again. I may not.

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