What “communicates” with the “creature” inside these characters is music more than speech. This book is short the way Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus” is short—it passes over in silence what language could only obscure and falsify. Garner, like the skilled musician, knows how to leave a silence, how to keep domains of privacy and mystery intact. In “The Children’s Bach,” there are no false resolutions. The efficiency and precision of Garner’s descriptions (Philip, for instance, falls “into strange beds in houses where a boiling saucepan might as easily contain a syringe as an egg”) allows her to accomplish in a sentence what for other writers would require pages of exposition, ruining the effect. And the speed at which decisions unfold—watch Athena’s life beautifully unravel (or are we watching it finally begin?) in the first six paragraphs of her trip to Sydney—reminds us how plot is inseparable from a writer’s prosody, the rhythm of events. When the sentences are as finely tuned as Garner’s, music as much as character is fate.

I don't get the meaning of this sentence clearly. In the first part it says "When the sentences are as finely tuned as Garner’s," but there is nothing after "Garner’s". Can we say "Garner's sentences"? I think it does not make sense! Or can we say: Garner's Prosody?

And I do not get the meaning of second part: "music as much as character is fate". What is the meaning of "fate" here? Is the writer of this essay saying that music is like a character in this novel?

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/books/second-read/unheard-melodies-on-helen-garners-the-childrens-bach

  • 1
    What do you think doesn't make sense about interpreting it as "Garner's sentences"? I think "the sentences are as finely tuned as Garner's sentences are tuned" is a perfectly natural interpretation. We just don't usually say it that way because it's very "wordy" and repetitive.
    – stangdon
    Jan 12, 2022 at 15:02
  • Presumably means that G's sentences bear the same relation ship to music as character does to fate.
    – mdewey
    Jan 12, 2022 at 15:04
  • Thank you so much, I got it now. you are right. but I can not interpret the second part. what is the meaning of "music as much as a character is fate"? Jan 12, 2022 at 15:07
  • I tried to read the article, but couldn't get past the first paragraph. In a word, the writing style is self-obsessed. The writer is playing a game only he understands and does not communicate it well to the outside world. The last sentence is essentially meaningless. Jan 12, 2022 at 15:19
  • I agree with FeliniusRex. The writer constructs a smokescreen but there's nothing much behind it. "Garner's sentences are so well-made, music is fate." Jan 12, 2022 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


When the sentences are as finely tuned as Garner’s, music as much as character is fate.

  • Garner's sentences are finely tuned.

finely tuned = is used here metaphorically to say that Garner's sentences are music.

So music is fate. Just like character. fate=destiny.

Character is fate. Here's I think character refers to the personality of the protagonists in the novel.

Conclusion: Music and character are fate, equally. Novels generally rely heavily on characters to make their point. Here's musicality is equally important in Garner's writing.

Another example: When cooking is as tasty as this, its aroma as much as its ingredients are equally important.


When the sentences are as finely tuned as Garner's unambiguously means Garner's sentences.

As for the second half: the whole paragraph is written in an opaque and allusive style. I think it is reinforcing the previous sentence plot is inseparable from a writer’s prosody, saying that music plays as big a part in the working out of the plot ("fate") as character does. But I don't find it at all clear.

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