Richard Glover – Flesh Wounds – Podcast

Richard Glover discusses his most recent book, Flesh Wounds is a comic romp for anyone whose family was not what they ordered.

It’s been described by the British writer Jeanette Winterson as “Sad, funny, revealing, optimistic and hopeful” and by the Sun-Herald as “heartbreaking and hilarious”. Richard’s weekly humour column has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald for over twenty years. He also presents the top-rating Drive show on ABC radio in Sydney.

http://www.coop.com.au/books/flesh-wounds/glover-richard/9780733334320


Rob:
You’re listening to the Co-op Book Podcast. We welcome Richard Glover to the Co-op chat, hello Richard.

 

Richard:
Hi Rob, how are you?

 

Rob:
I’m very well. Now Richard is a well known broadcaster, author, humorist,
[inaudible 00:00:33] tragic, and presenter of the ABC Sydney Drive show. We’re talking about Richard’s autobiography, Flesh Wounds. Richard, first what’s it like to be the interviewee as opposed to the interviewer?

 

Richard:
A little bit weird, yeah, I have three hours everyday where I talk to people so it’s strange having the tables turned.

 

Rob:
Okay, this isn’t 60 Minutes, so there’s nothing … Now Flesh Wounds is very different to your other books, it’s a lot more personal. What was it like writing an autobiography?

 

Richard:
I don’t know if it’s any autobiography, I think of it at a very particular part of life, which is it’s really a book not about the whole of my life, but about ones relationship with one’s parents. The question the book asks, really, is are neglectful parents slightly … The sort of parents you might not order, are they survivable? The really strong conclusion of the book is that they are. It’s a book about the eccentricities of my particular family, but I think it’s also … I hope it’s a book for anybody who had parents, the sort of parents you wouldn’t necessarily order. It’s partly about this amazing resilience of human beings, that quite a lot of us survive these sort of upbringings, and we survive them well, and we do so by creating this quilt of love that we find the love elsewhere, and with different people, you find the love in different places. I think for me it was my New Guinea nanny, I think it was Steve Stevens, the man who came into my life when both of my parents had left. I think it’s probably my partner who I got together with very early, and this will be different for different people. I think it’s important to say, I suppose, that of how common it is to have non-ideal parents. We have a whole language of parenting, of how a mother’s love for a child is automatic, and inexorable, and built into our DNA, and we talk about cats and their kittens, and cows and their calves, and dogs and their puppies, and all this other stuff, as if it’s incredibly rare not to have that. If you didn’t have it, well not only is that almost freakish, but you have the right to especially aggrieved, you probably can’t live a successful life yourself, you certainly can’t be a successful parent yourself. Yet, and yet, even though it is kind of built into our DNA for mothers to love their children, and fathers to love, even though that’s true, there are so many barriers to the effective delivery of that love. There are fathers who lost their job and became depressed, there’s mothers who went on the pills, there’s alcoholism, there’s heroin addiction, and in my case, if it doesn’t sound too weird, there’s the British class system, and my mother’s self lacerating attempts to escape it. The truth is that even though all those things are so common, that we need to understand they’re common, and we need to understand that most of us survive it. Most of us aren’t drug addicted, and suicidal, and depressed, most of us actually get over these childhoods, we live successful lives, and we are, and this is a very defiant part of the book, we are good parents ourselves.

 

Rob:
By calling Flesh Wounds though, you’re implying that we still carry some of those burdens from the past.

 

Richard:
They’re only flesh wounds. Obviously it’s a pun in a way, because they’re wounds that are born of your flesh, of your flesh and blood, of your parents. Yeah, the other point about that pun is… All my works have got puns in them. The point about that pun is that it’s a flesh wound, it’s not a deep wound. It’s a wound from which you can recover. That’s the point of the title.

 

Rob:
Sort of referring to that Monty Python gag, where there’s an arm getting chopped off, “It’s just a flesh wound.”

 

Richard:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Rob:
What about the process of writing this book, was it different to your other books, or is it a lot more personal?

 

Richard:
Yeah look, I’ve written a lot of humour books in the past, and yes this has been different, this has been kind of ripped from my heart, and thrown bleeding on the desk, I suppose. Although it’s got a lot of humour in it, and I think part of the book is how you can use humour and perspective as a stick, particularly jokes, as a stick to hold at bay reality, and to get a perspective on reality. The book, I think, in the end maybe shows the limits of that too, that you can do that to a certain extent you can’t do it completely. The book tussles, and I don’t know if it ever really answers this, but it tussles with the idea of whether you can hold inadequate parents that are removed, and not, in the end, deal with them. There’s a view among psychiatrists that you have to deal with your parents, and you have to have the deathbed discussion, and you have to somehow resolve the issues. The book questions that and asks whether … That’s all very well, but some parents aren’t particularly well suited to that process. What do you do then? Can you hold a reserve? Or do you have to, in the end, engage with them somehow? There’s a … I don’t know if that’s answered clearly in the book, but we go somewhere to answering that.

 

Rob:
I think one of the things that does come through, to me anyway, is you really portray eras and generations, and how they’ve changed.

 

Richard:
Parenting styles, yeah.

 

Rob:
Parenting styles and I imagine at some stage in the future, you’ll become a grandparent yourself, maybe. How do you think you reacted to the way you’re parented in your parenting.

 

Richard:

In terms of my parenting I think I’m a very good parent, and I think a lot of people who have had bad parents are quite good parents. I’ve already said that in a way, but that’s a very strong message in the book. As far as different parenting styles go, one of the other things that I say in the book, which I think is really true, is that a lot of the neglect and un-interest I … I’m not going to say suffered, I experienced, was really common. Some of the things in this book are really about my very eccentric family, I don’t think everybody reading it will have been artificial insemination baby, and I don’t think everyone will have had a mother who ran off to a Tolkien nudest colony. I don’t think everybody will have a father who ended up having five wives. I think some of these things I can claim as eccentricities, colorful eccentricities of my own story. I think a lot of the other things in the book are really shared. The idea of bad parenting in various forms, the idea of surviving it in various forms, the idea find love elsewhere in various forms. The idea that parents in the 60s and 70s really weren’t that interested. I mean some of them were, obviously, but there’s a whole language now of criticism for today’s young parents as being helicopter parents, and not affording their children any risk, and it’s the subject of a million talk back radio discussions, and Facebook posts, “We use to ramble the fields. We could stay out til dark and my mom would … ” All of that goes on, and by contrast by today’s parents are criticized as being… As crushing their children’s spirit. The time it is … Maybe it’s true that we’ve over … Gone too far in the opposite direction, and we do need to change the risk profile a bit for our children. The tone of those discussions is as if the parents of the 50s and 60s and 70s were making some sort of very intelligent assessment of risk about their children, and allowing their children this level of play because of it, and that wasn’t what was going on. What was going on was they were interested in other things, and they didn’t see parenting as particularly central to their life. They were a helicopter themselves, flying off, flying away. The definition of a good father in those days, really, was the good father was the father when he put the three kids in the Valiant outside the pub, would remember halfway through the drinking session to go and take them a lemonade. That was the good father.

Rob:
You’re very, for all the foibles of both your parents, you’re very accepting of them. Was there ever a stage that you were resentful, judgmental?

 

Richard:
Well I think I held them at a distance, really. It’s important to say they weren’t cruel parents, or that they were uninterested, rather than actively terrible, and so yes, I think I disconnected with them from very early, and always attempted to be dutiful towards them, without necessarily engaging with them emotionally to the extent that I was angry, or not angry. Again, I think the book plays with that idea of whether that’s entirely possible. I say in the book that I thought of myself as self raising like flower, is that just a glib way of pretending that the hurt, the existential hurt, I suppose, of having an uninterested mother and doesn’t matter? Is it glib way of pushing it aside? Or is it something real? Again, you have to read the book, really, because I don’t have a simple answer to any of these things. I certainly think that was what I attempted to do. I attempted to focus on what was successful in my life, rather than focus on what was unsuccessful. I think that’s a technique that a lot of people use, and I think it can be a successful technique, for whatever the criticism of that, that your psychologist will make.

 

Rob:
Now a lot of our listeners are university age, and I would say a lot of the tumultuous period that you refer to in the book happened when you were in that kind of age. Firstly, what was uni like for you?

 

Richard:
It was something that I tended really, and there’s quite a lot in the book about sort of aiming low in life, and then missing. I had a real dream of being, basically a assistant floor manager in television, which, in the early stages of which means dreaming of being a coffee boy, dreaming of being sufficiently successful to be allowed coffee to actors. I really gave it a red hot go for a long period of time, and kept on failing at getting a job. I finally went to ANU in Canberra, but partly, I think, just because I was still trying to do this dream, and I really wanted somewhere to park my name, park my … So I had something I had, at least, supposedly doing, while I kept on applying for these jobs, and kept on getting rejected from them. I think all that happened was that half way through first year in university, I just started slowly getting interested. I started doing [inaudible 00:12:05] at Canberra, and then I moved to Sydney and started doing [inaudible 00:12:08]. I started Community Radio 2XX in Canberra. I started getting interested in the academic studies. By the time I was in year two, second year in Sydney, I really actually became quite academic, and hardworking, and became really quite dutiful. I ended up do ing history honors, and doing quite well, and writing a lot for the student newspaper, and doing [inaudible 00:12:33] in Sydney, and all of that, and ended up loving university. I really
fell into by accident.

 

Rob:
Okay, Richard I really appreciate your time, because it’s … I highly recommend anyone to have a look at, have a read, purchase it from the [inaudible 00:12:49] bookstore for gods sake. It’s a great read, and it really does have that message of resilience, and getting through things. Just a final message, if you were to sort of travel back in time and say something to a young Richard Glover, what would you say?

 

Richard:
Stop dreaming of serving coffee to actors and get on with it.

 

Rob:
Richard thanks for your [inaudible 00:13:13]

 

Richard:
Go to uni, work hard.

 

READ  Hilary Spiers - Hester and Harriet - Podcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *