Jay Daniel Thompson
La Trobe University: Melbourne
Helen Garner’s The First Stone (1995) has commonly been read as a feminist- authored attack on feminism. I concur with this reading, but also argue that this text contains some distinctly ‘queer’ aspects that have previously been overlooked by critics. I suggest that a useful way of emphasising and exploring these aspects is by reading The First Stone as a detective narrative. I contend that Garner creates a sense of ‘gender trouble’ by performing the traditionally ‘masculine’ role of detective. The Ormond complainants are portrayed as femme fatales - figures of mystery and desire for the author/sleuth.
I move on to question whether, in creating gender trouble, Garner’s ‘detective narrative’ reinforces traditional gender roles as well. I also ask: what do the The First Stone’s sexual politics say about the broader political culture in which the text was published? This paper aims to provide a fresh and provocative perspective on one of the most controversial Australian books of recent decades. I also aim to demonstrate the usefulness of reading ostensibly ‘heterosexual’ texts through a queer lens.