Get The Happiness Habit – or at least, get this book by Christine Webber, recently re-published as an e-book (£1.79) – if you’re suffering from the January blues, and give yourself a chance at feeling brighter. […]
Flesh Wounds and family secrets
Flesh Wounds is a memoir written by Richard Glover, a best-selling author, presenter on 702 ABC Sydney, very funny chap and also – full disclosure – my much-loved cousin. Currently available in Australia or via Amazon, its appeal is worldwide, I think, partly because the subject matter takes us with Richard to Lancashire on his search for his English roots. Partly because the elements explored in the book are so universal: family; love; secrets; abuse; Tolkein. (Note to publishers: how about an English edition?)
The book itself is an ‘anthropological’ exploration through Richard’s family; a mapping of the historical whys and wherefores as well as the practical geography of his childhood in suburban Australia with parents who drank, partied, argued and parted, all the time seeming to ignore the small boy who they happened to share a house with. As Richard said in an interview: “I wouldn’t call it a horrible childhood, it’s an imperfect childhood. And that’s really common – we all have an expectation of a perfect childhood but I’d say maybe 40 per cent of people don’t get the parents they ordered. Maybe 60 per cent say their parents never gave them the love they wanted.”
Most readers will think he is being over-generous in a style we know as prodigiously his – that sort of Yves Montand-shrugability, dashed with irrepressibly optimistic Tigger-ness. Yes, life was appalling at times, the text does say, but ‘This isn’t Angela’s Ashes’. It was awful, but he was saved (as many are) by real, adult, available and honest love, when he met his partner Debra Oswald.
If you want to hear him talk about the book and his family, there’s a great podcast here.
Flesh Wounds for all?
Some will want to find a sub-text or read between the lines for on-going horror or heritable flesh wounds. But Richard is straightforward: ”So many people had inadequate childhoods but we’re not all insane or self-harming or miserable.”
Richard’s message is inclusive and universal: ”We just found the love we needed elsewhere”. It’s OK to look back in anger or hurt, but it’s also OK to look forward in hope and love.
He makes me think of the poem by WH Auden September 1, 1939 and its difficult line: ”We must love one another OR die” which Auden apparently wanted changed to ”We must love one another AND die.”
In the first version of the line, we see love as an act of hope in a terrible world. In the second, as an act of despair. But I think Richard’s book switches that about.
That manic love of the first version as the only alternative to death leads to romanticised despair. In the second version of the line, I like to think of Richard choosing hope and love as the answer to an imperfect world around him, and even despite all his early experience to the contrary.