It is with great sadness that we hear that Gabrielle Carey, the author of Only Happiness Here. In Search of Elizabeth von Arnim has passed at the age of 64. Gabrielle was a prize-winning author, memoirist, scholar and teacher.
She gained immediate recognition and even fame at the age of twenty with her first novel, Puberty Blues (1979), which she co-authored with her friend Kathy Lette. The novel was made into a film two years later and inspired a television series in 2012. However, rather than capitalise on her success, Carey moved to Ireland, then Mexico before returning to Australia only many years later.
Gabrielle Carey leaves behind a memorable body of work, including her memoir the Waiting Room (2009) and Falling out of Love with Ivan Southall (2018). She won the Prime Minister’s Award for Non-Fiction in 2013 for Moving Among Strangers. Randolph Stow and my Family.
Gabrielle Carey is also remembered as a James Joyce scholar of international renown, who has published widely and was an expert on Joyce’s most notoriously opaque book, Finnegan’s Wake. At the time of her death she was working on a biography, James Joyce. A Life, slated for publication later this year. Gabrielle Carey is lectures in creative writing at the University of Technology Sydney for many years, where she is remembered as an erudite, witty colleague and wonderful teacher.
Only Happiness Here is unique among the available literature on von Arnim in mixing biography, memoir and essay and with a deft hand. The book closes with a list of
Elizabeth von Arnim’s Principles of Happiness
- Number One: Freedom
- Number Two: Privacy
- Number Three: Detachment
- Number Four: Nature and Gardens
- Number Five: Physical Exercise
- Number Six: A Kindred Spirit
- Number Seven: Sunlight
- Number Eight: Leisure
- Number Nine: Creativity
Together they offer excellent advice on how to live well and resonate with von Arnim’s motto: “Im Guten, Schoenen, Wahren resolut zu leben” – to resolutely live in goodness, truth and beauty. Carey’s meditations on happiness gain poignancy in light of her own struggle with depression in the last year of her life.
However, Gabrielle Carey also had a talent for living well: she was a passionate gardener, well-known for her jams; she was admired for her sharp sense of fashion and her wittiness. Over the last few days, the Australian writing community has been honouring her as a great writer and teacher, a fine scholar and a wonderful friend to many.