QWS Podcast S1E1 – Nigel Featherstone
QWS Podcast S1E1 – To listen to the podcast click on this link from Words and Nerds.
In this episode Rob interviews Australian author, Nigel Featherstone, about his new book My Heart is a Little Wild Thing. Full interview transcript below. Blarney Books and Art book reviewer, Grace, discusses Anything But Fine, by Tobias Madden and Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo.
Books mentioned in this interview
Bodies of Men, by Nigel Featherstone
My Heart is a Little Wild Heart, by Nigel Featherstone
Cloud Street, by Tim Winton
Nigel Featherstone’s Shout Outs
The End of Eddy, by Edward Louis
Rainbow Milk, by Paul Mendez
Real Life, by Brandon Taylor
What Belongs to You, by Garth Greenwell
The Tradition, by Jericho Brown
Night Sky with Exit Wounds, by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
The Pillars, by Peter Polites
QWS Podcast S1E1 – Nigel Featherstone interview transcript
Please note: this interview transcript has been modified for ease of reading.
ROB: Today’s guest is Nigel Featherstone the author of Bodies of Men which was long listed for the 2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize, highly commended for the 2020 ACT Book of the Year, shortlisted in the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards and received a 2019 Canberra Critics Circle Award. Nigel lives on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales and spends a considerable time in Canberra, the national capital of Australia. His new novel is My Heart is a Little Wild Thing which will be released in early May 2022. Welcome to the show Nigel.
NIGEL: Thanks so much Rob.
ROB: Nigel we start each episode with an opening question that we ask all our guests, and that question is “How has your work influenced your identity?”
NIGEL: Yeah, it’s a fantastic question and you did email through to me a little while ago which I very much appreciated because it’s really quite tricky. Because normally it’s the other way around isn’t it?
Because it did make me think but what is my identity? And I suppose my work influences my identity and my identity influences my work. Um, but in terms of chops and changes and depending on where I am and what I’m doing and how I’m feeling about everything. But I suppose I always wanted to be a writer I always wanted to be a creative person. I always wanted to be involved in the arts and known as an artist.
I remember that ever since I was a kid, when I was 10 or whatever — I’ve got 2 older brothers and they might be playing footy or back out cricket out in the garden and I’d be watching on Sunday afternoon an arts documentary on the ABC. I remember watching the Russian dancer, Rudolph Nureyev. I remember watching a documentary about the Stradivarius violin, I think I remember watching a documentary about Patrick White and my mother would always say go outside and play with the brothers and I would. I would go outside and quite honest I’d quite get into playing a bit of footy or cricket or whatever, which bores me to death these days, but I was a team player, literally with the family. I was more interested in that, here I am, what forty two years later, talking about the Stradivarius violin and Rudolph Nureyev. It makes me sound a bit like a wanker but that’s just what I was interested in. And so I thought wouldn’t it be great to be able to do that? To be as driven as they are, to be as talented as that, to be as gutsy as that?
I have always pursued a creative life. It didn’t actually start out as well as that. I’ve always written ever since a 10 year old. But I didn’t go to university to study writing initially, I did go back to university to study writing, and I suppose I’ve always (written).
NIGEL: And I was thinking about this walking yesterday that my career started before the internet. It started before social media. Started before email. It was a matter of writing a short story sending them out to a literary journal, waiting six months, a year, eighteen months, to hear back, or not hear back more often or not.
It was a rejection of some sort or other and then trying again and trying again.
Learning that there were great literary Journals like Meanjin up the top of the food chain and then there were other ones down the bottom of the food chain. And I started off being published down the bottom of the food chain and then I got better and better and more persistent and more determined and read more and learnt more and eventually get published in Meanjin and Island and Overland and Review of Australian Fiction. All those sort of places — that was a bit later. So I guess I just started out life as a literary writer. I wanted to be known as a literary writer. You know I started out being inspired by people like Dorothy Porter and Tim Winton and Peter Carey, so they were kind of my touchstones, Australian touchstones. Anyway, and yes I’ve always seen myself perhaps at the artist end of writing.
And again there’s 7,000,000,000 ways to write and they’re all valid. So I don’t think the artist’s way to write is the right, is the better way. But that’s where I see myself fitting.
You know I’m naturally not a patient person. Put me in front of a queue at a supermarket I’m at steam in 10 seconds but for some reason, maybe it was just that process of sending out stories and having to wait sometimes up to a year to get a “no”, taught me to be patient.
ROB: Yeah, because I was going to ask how would you get on with submission, on submission, if you’re not a patient person?
NIGEL: Yeah, I think I just learned that you’re not going to hear back a week later. You might get a little slip in the mail three months later, if you’re lucky, and 90% chance to it say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So I guess I just learnt to take things slowly. I never had this idea that I’d burst out of the blocks and have a novel published at the trade or commercial end of publishing in the first year. Of course I probably dreamed about that. But I just thought I’ll start on the bottom and work my way up. I’ll learn heaps. And I’ll do it my way I suppose. So I’m glad for that.
ROB: Yeah, absolutely. And I think there’s a lot of bravery, and I certainly have a lot of admiration for people who have done what you have done. They’ve continued that on from school. I know myself and a lot of people put it aside because of expectations from family, or pressures that we felt that it wasn’t a real career, and all that kind of nonsense. And so we delayed it for years and years and years. Whereas you just got in there and got cracking, which is really admirable, I think.
NIGEL: Well, I’ve said this before, I was really lucky I did grow up in a very privileged part of Sydney. I acknowledge that. And I left there consciously at eighteen because I knew that I needed to know a different world, as members of my family have never left that world, and I purposely chose to leave at 18 and never went back there. But I am lucky that I had creative writing until Year 10 and it was a two period class. So, all we did was write stories and the only time I didn’t write stories was probably Year 11 and 12. And then I actually went to university to study landscape architecture, which I loved studying, but I turned out to be a terrible landscape architecture.
ROB: Why so terrible?
NIGEL: Because I’m the least practical person in the world. So probably should have joined the dots there. But I loved learning about it because the degree I did was with architects and graphic designers and industrial designers. And I loved the thing about big ideas. I loved things about problem solving which is what architecture is all about.
I loved all those architects like Gaudi… completely reinventing what architecture was meant to be about. So I learned a lot and I got a job as soon as I graduated over in Perth. And so I put my car on the train and took it across the Indian Pacific and within about a month of being in Perth I was quite, I guess a bit lonely, but two things happened; One was Tim Winton’s Cloud Street was published. I don’t actually know who Tim Winton was but I thought if I’m living in WA I should read about this read something written by this WA guy. And so I read. I was living on Cottesloe Beach and I was reading Cloud Street which was set like a kilometre away from where I was living and I still got sand literally in my copy of Cloud Street.
ROB: Oh wow.
NIGEL: Cloud Street did show me how magical in so many ways Australian fiction could be and how it could fuck with the rules. You know you do what I think he had the thing of “I’m going to do whatever I like with the page.” which I love.
ROB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
NIGEL: And the second thing is when you go to architectural school you learn to keep a sketchbook. But when I got to Perth instead of doing sketches, I started writing little word sketches. Sometimes poems sometimes short stories. And so I did write a piece, send it to a friend, and she said, “You know that’s actually quite a good story.” It was probably a rubbish story, but she was very encouraging and I’ve been writing ever since. So really, it’s probably only four or five years there where I wasn’t writing, and I’ve just kept going.
ROB: Brilliant, that’s amazing. And it may be a controversial question, but circling back around to how you would write and then send it off to a literary journal, do you see that landscape as the same? Because I know there was a big move for a lot of journals towards creative non-fiction, and I imagine when you were writing, you were writing short story?
NIGEL: You’re right it was all prose fiction. Yes, a little poetry but mostly prose fiction.
ROB: So, do you see that that’s changed in terms of opportunity? Or it’s just you’ve got to seek those opportunities a bit harder? Or is it the same?
NIGEL: I think it’s probably more or less the same. Almost all those journals when I started out were all, print only, well before websites so to be frank I think readership was very small.
NIGEL: Readership probably was mostly those involved in literary studies and academia and that kind of stuff. Some of the big ones like Meanjin you could find in your local bookshop, maybe Island, but that was probably it. Many of the others were kitchen table cottage industry stuff with somebody sticking staples onto a photocopied thing up in the Blue Mountains. You know that kind of thing for a long time. So how people found those was very difficult. So, I think having online opportunities is brilliant then being able to state them on social media.
ROB: Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
NIGEL: So if you get published in Kill Your Darlings, or Meanjin online, or Island, or Overland, you can then once it’s published put links out on your social media, and you can drum up a bit of readership. So, I think that’s actually a massive positive.
I certainly remember when I would get my author copy, or a couple of copies in the mail, when I started. I’d be chuffed for about 10 minutes and then I’d be depressed for an hour because I think, “Who’s going to read this stuff?” You know I’d have to leave it strategic on a coffee table and hope that a friend might pick it up and read the first sentence.
I think there’s I think it’s probably more positive. And it’s also wonderful to see some literary journals that are very much focused on queer writing and also, marginalized writing, Western Sydney writing. So I think there’s a lot of great opportunities there.
ROB: Fantastic. That’s great now I wanted to tell our listeners about your book, your latest, My Heart is a Little Wild Thing. From your brilliant publicist who has made a summary, so I want to read that out. “First deeply personal and the themes it explores. My Heart is a Little Wild Thing charts gay history in Australia over several decades via the character of Patrick from the 1980’s through to contemporary times. It explores family obligations, sibling relationships, the lure of love and lust, as well as the role nature can play in bringing us back to ourselves. A story about family love and the cost of freedom. My Heart is a Little Wild Thing serves as a reminder that we all deserve to pursue our dreams. And published by Ultimo Press. And the publication date beginning of May.”
Now Nigel congratulations on the book. I have read it and I loved it. And I think the thing is you don’t realise, I guess, how rare it is to see a character that has a similar background to yourself until you read it. I think you kind of forget. So, Patrick is a gay white cis-male, middle aged, and from I’d say middle to upper class background. And a contemporary in terms of age. I related a lot to the time period and the character and also that sort of family dynamic. And I think you capture that very unique and special relationship which is between a gay man and his mother.
I think we as authors, we always get that thing around, “How much of you is in your characters?” So is there any crossover firstly between you and Patrick?
NIGEL: Yes, and no. I see Patrick as a completely separate entity to me. You know, only a couple of days ago I got my author copies from my wonderful publisher, Ultimo, and I thought, “Go well, Patrick, with your story.” That was that was my initial response. I look at it as if it’s Patrick’s book, and partly that’s because I wrote it as Patrick writing a memoir.
I set Patrick up as a character, but I stand back from Patrick and let him do whatever he wants with the page. And it was very different to writing my second novel, but the novel that I guess I’m known for so far, which is Bodies of Men which is war novel.
And that’s very much about two young Sydney boys who basically continue their love during the Second World War while they’re serving in Egypt and that’s my war book.
And it’s interesting because actually I set out to write a nature book. I wanted to write about conservation and nature. And I’ve been working on something around these ideas that ended up in My Heart is a Little Wild Thing for a long time. Probably for about eight or nine years I had done various versions of it, really quite different.
In fact I probably shouldn’t even talk about the different versions because they’re quite different The only thing that was similar to them was a guy who’s struggling with his life goes to a farm and sees an animal who introduces him to somebody who will change his life. It was only two years ago that I basically chucked out all the versions I was writing, and I just suddenly had this question of “What if I had obeyed my own mother?”
My mother had recently passed away and I had quite a loving but quite complicated relationship with my mother. She actually really lived her last couple of years very badly demented and we did completely reconcile but I just sort of wondered, “What if I had obeyed what my mother wanted?” She was very certain of what she wanted for her sons and if we sort of deviated from that she made a lot of noise about it and I didn’t obey her.
It took me a while to disobey her, but I eventually thought you know I am going to have to disobey her and find my own path. And so what I wanted to do was I thought, “What if I had obeyed her. What would my life have been like?” I wouldn’t be out, and an out gay man. I wouldn’t have been with my partner, Tim, for 25 years. I wouldn’t have had that lovely journey. I wouldn’t be a writer and also I’d live in the same street as her.
So, I created Patrick as basically that. He’s 45 – a little bit younger than me – he lives in this same street as his mother in a regional New South Wales village. He cares for his mother who’s aging and becoming frail. He’s not really out yet. Certainly not publicly out yet. But we learn a little bit about what he does to explore his sexuality. He dabbled a little bit with writing, but his mother said, “No.” so he went, “Okay I won’t write,” and then they have this massive fight and that starts the novel.
And immediately Patrick thinks to himself “I’ve got to get out of there.” This is, “If I stay here any longer I will… something worse will happen.” So, he removes himself down to the Monaro which is a neck of the woods between the far South Coast of New South Wales the Victorian Border and the Snowy Mountains. And that’s where he really spent the happiest time of his boyhood. And there he does see a strange animal in the garden which leads him to meet a man called Lewis who does change his life.
But I guess more going back to more your question, you know as I always say with these things, I say to myself, Rob you know, don’t say anything ridiculous and then I always say ridiculous things. And I’m sick and tired of the gay community being obsessed with physical beauty, obsessed with beauty, youthful beauty. You know every book about gay stuff has got to have a young, beautiful, young and often white man, on the front. You know shirt off and beautiful abs and chest and all that kind of stuff. And you know that’s all wonderful, and when I was 23 that was kind of my ideal. But I’m now a man who will be turning 54 this year so I wanted to explore not only what my life have been like if I obeyed my mother, but what would life be like if you didn’t find love until into your middle age. And Patrick shares his journey through memoir.
ROB: I think it’s so beautifully done. I really love hearing a story from someone — and we do get that flashbacks or you know we do get that historical view of Patrick’s life — but to have a protagonist who is a middle-aged gay man and that’s not, you know there’s nothing apologetic about that. It’s just we see it through his eyes. It was actually really refreshing and the mother character, I’m kind of obsessed. And I think you captured her beautifully and their relationship, and I love that Manaro is a special place for her as well. How you tied their relationship in. And I also have a fictional crush on Lewis.
NIGEL: And yeah, he’s a tricky character. And thank you for saying that you resonated with Meredith, Patrick’s mother, because she’s sort of a tricky character. And the way I sort of think of the book, and I have been saying it even though it sounds weird — I see it as a three-way love story between a man and his mother, the man and another man, and the man and a place that has meant everything to him. And the reason why he goes back there when he’s in his mid-forties is he needs to rediscover himself and he needs to rediscover happiness.
And I noticed you quoted Ultimo in saying that I track recent gay history and I didn’t realize I was doing that until the end. And I’m sure as a novelist yourself, you often don’t know what you’ve done until you’ve done it. It wasn’t until I realised that the story begins just before 2017, so with marriage equality becoming law in, or same-sex marriage, becoming law in Australia.
But Patrick’s life, like mine, starts in the in the early eighties. Now I was 15, Patrick’s slightly older than me, but I was coming out when I was 15 in 1984 at the time New South Wales was debating whether to get rid of the anti-sodomy laws which were essentially anti-gay laws. So, I remember reading the Sydney Morning Herald on the front page. You know?
Will New South Wales scrap these anti-gay laws? But also that was a year that AIDS landed on Australia’s shores so I’m looking at the Sydney Morning Herald going, “Oh I think they’re debating laws that have will affect me.” And then now just when I’m starting to get a handle on who I am there’s this this pandemic that will kill millions of people, including a lot of gay men. So, for Patrick he goes – and like I did to be honest – “Well I won’t do anything because if I hold a boyfriend’s hand I’ll die.” That that was my fear. You know, if I get a little bit intimate with a man I’ll be infected. His blood will come into my blood, and I’ll die, and I won’t even make my eighteenth birthday.
So Patrick had very similar experiences. I eventually of course did go, “You know I will literally go in insane,” I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, “I will lose my mind if I don’t pursue this stuff I’ll just have to be responsible,” and there’s times when I’ve being irresponsible but I’ll have to go on that journey. Patrick just takes much longer to go on his journey. But I don’t want to spoil too much in the narrative. We do learn that Patrick has not been the saint that he might suggest he is at the beginning of the book, and I think it just shows I think for a lot of particularly gay men of that era that they were doing a lot of dangerous things because you can’t hide this stuff. Can you? You know it’s a part of your being.
ROB: No, no, it’s who it’s who you are right at your very essence. And I loved how you didn’t shy away from that, nor should you. And that you captured that yearning and what Patrick was doing, to what would you say, justifies is not the right word, well I guess has to validate his actual being, sexually.
NIGEL: Yeah, and I just do think that. I mean I’m sure some people do, but I am for whatever reasons, whether it’s religious reasons, or familiar or cultural reasons. But it does such damage and I think it’s one of the things – you know I worry about everything, and Robert Watkins, my publisher Ultimo, was also my publisher at Hachette when he published, Bodies of Men. But he knows that I worry about everything. And I kind of thought we are over these sorts of books? And I can only write what I’ve wanted to write. And going back to what I was talking about before with short fiction publish literary journals one thing I did learn is to do be completely disinterested in trends, so I’ve kept with that, and this is certainly not a coming of age book. Maybe it’s a kind of coming of middle age. But it’s not a coming out book but I wanted to explore.
I was very pro Marriage Equality. I wrote submissions to cabinet, Senate inquiries, and wrote to Members of Parliament and I confronted, probably that is the word, a Federal Parliamentarian and at a gallery once and said, “When are we going to get marriage equality?” So, I’m completely there for it. And I always knew that it would just send this beautiful positive Rainbow shockwave across the country saying there is no reason why anyone can’t be themselves now. And I now realise of course that’s lovely, but it’s just not realistic, and you know look it’s just true. There’ll be times even now, wherever I am in Sydney, Goulburn where I live, or Canberra, where I’ll cross the street because I’ll see some people ahead and there’ve just been too many times when someone yelled out “You fucking faggot.”
ROB: Yeah, yeah.
NIGEL: You know? Yeah that only needs to happen half a dozen times in your life where you just think I just can’t deal with that right now. And 99% of the time you know if I cross the street because of some kids wearing tight black jeans are going to shout at me. But you know. Then again six months ago Tim, my partner, and I were walking back from Queanbeyan and we had one of those incidences. So yeah that’s, you know what, years after marriage equality. So are there people struggling with this in Western Sydney probably, in Broken Hill probably, in Surrey Hills probably, in Darwin probably, for whatever reason people are still struggling to live there.
ROB: Yes, and I think we’ve still got that road to go down in terms of shame that’s been foisted on our community from external society. And whether that be religious, toxic masculinity, cultural. And that’s going to be a long road. But I think with sex positivity and with celebrating our lives and you know honestly people just not being so invested what we do. Perhaps yeah.
NIGEL: Well yeah, absolutely. And you know you hear someone like Penny Wong on the Ms Represented show on the ABC where she felt she had 2 so 3 strikes against her, and we all know what those 3 strikes are. You know for a contemporary society like Australia’s — but having said that the older I get that the less interested I am in Australia as a concept, and it’s just it’s just as a country. It’s built on the worst fucking foundations imaginable. A violence of misogyny, of homophobia, of racism. It’s just destroyed this continent and we hold ourselves up as this enlightened country and I was just about to fall into that trap. But in a way you know we shouldn’t surprise us. You know it’s a sexist, deeply violent country. So you know reflecting on these things and I guess that’s why we write and make art that you know.
To think that marriage equality would make everything great, and it’s a wonderful thing and I do hope that that there are people who are fifteen, sixteen, going you know, “There’s now a legal pathway for my relationship,” and there’s protection, and as I understand it, there’s no more legislative Homophobia that exists in terms of law. Of course there are people, but not in law. So I guess you know with Patrick and I guess for people of our age – I guess we have similar age that we’re probably always going to carry those scars with us. The shame as you say of society, but also the shame we put on ourselves. You know you just kiss a guy and it’s the best thing ever and then half an hour later you go, “Ah but why is it so wrong?”
NIGEL: And you know we’ll just be talking about that for life, and I’m so glad to hear friends of mine who’ve got teenage, or early adult children, and I’ve got nieces and nephews and I know you have kids where you know if someone says, a boy says, “I want a boyfriend,” then it’s like who gives a shit and that’s just that’s a brilliant.
ROB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And I think that’s our you know, that’s the thing, like we don’t and we will no longer take on any shame that does not belong to us. You know we actually actively push back on that. But with what you’ve said, I mean how as an artist is that something you explore? These echoes? With Patrick having you know, being a contemporary and culture moving on to where you can walk down the street in most situations and be okay. Obviously I think as gay men we are always hyperaware of our surroundings because of the threat of violence.
But is that something that you sort of deliberately explore that sort of echoes of culture or it’s just your lived experience so that is just comes out in your work.
NIGEL: I think it’s both, Rob. And I have always been interested in asking questions of a society. Exploring things. You know I love writing about what makes me angry, I love writing about what makes me blush.
NIGEL: I love writing about what I don’t understand. Again I generally believe this I’m on the record of saying there’s 7000000000 different types of way or ways of writing, and you know mine is just one of them.
NIGEL: But I don’t I don’t think I’d necessarily sit down to entertain, or at least my initial motive is not to. My initial motive, like with Bodies of Men, was about exploring different expressions of masculinity under extreme military pressure. I get fed up with the ANZAC bullshit that we get told every year. That you know men, and they are white men, who served in places like Gallipoli were inherently good and it’s just factually incorrect. That’s not to disrespect the contribution, and amazing contribution, that many of those men made — I could not do it myself. Couldn’t even think about doing it myself. But to say that they’re all saints is wrong. So that that was my mission with Bodies of Men and this one again was about that question, “What would my life had been like if I had obeyed my mother” and I think for Patrick it’s the story of him leaving.
ROB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
NIGEL: Is getting a life and leaving shame aside, and by the end of the novel he is on a new path and a happier path. One that is his own and so that’s sort of you know his story Arc.
And yes when I sit down to write, and I write everything with a pen on paper, what gets that pen moving is you know, either something I’m angry about, or something want to find out. But then through the drafting, of course, it becomes more of a “How people can read this? And what does it mean for people?” And thankfully that’s why we have publishers and editors who then say “Let’s open this book out so more people can enjoy it.”
Certainly I do want people to turn the pages and get to the end and go that was a lovely story. But I also want people three months later to go, “Oh I think I just unearthed another theme in Nigel’s book.” Like that’s what I kind of aim to do and.
NIGEL: They’ll read it again and go, “Oh now I just realise all this other stuff that’s going on beneath the surface.”
ROB: Brilliant. A nice segue into our writing question that we ask each of our guests which is any advice Nigel, or top tips for writers who are listening?
NIGEL: I think it’s write what you want, in in your voice, in your own way.
NIGEL: And I think there’s definitely some nuance and complexities in that there. I think there are some things that, someone like me, a Caucasian, privileged man should not write about. And race is one of those. But I think my general view is to write what you want to write about to find your voice.
NIGEL: You know I love what Irving Welsh says, you know, “It’s your page, you can do whatever the fuck you want with it.” There’s that book of novel of his called Filth which you know it’s about a policeman who gets overtaken by a tapeworm. So the page literally gets overtaken by a tapeworm. The original text of the novel gets smothered by the narration of the tapeworm, and so when you flick through the novel you actually see this sort of graphic of this worm eating the original text. You know that’s just phenomenal, and I love that level of play.
So I think certainly be very thoughtful about what you’re writing, and why you’re writing it, but yes there are rules. Course there are rules to be broken. You can break whatever you want.
Go for your voice. And I think you already talked about the benefits of social media and the online environment, there are plenty of them. I think perhaps a bit of a challenge is that it does tend to funnel people into thinking you have to write in a certain way.
You know they might think, “Ah you know rural crime at the moment is great”, but by the time someone now started writing that novel, finished it, got it published, you know that wave will have been and gone. Maybe they’ll catch the next wave. But you know if you want to write a 100,000 word verse novella narrated from a position of the point of view of a goldfish, if that’s what really floats your boat then go for it.
ROB: Yeah, brilliant. Excellent advice. And another question we ask of guests is any shout outs for any LGBTIQA+ artists Nigel?
NIGEL: Yes and thank you for saying artists. And I know that in your original question you also had organisations, and God bless, I’m an atheist by the way, but kudos all those queer and gay organizations that continue to do amazing stuff. We just wouldn’t be here talking about this sort of stuff without them. But I don’t belong to any of them. Only because I’m a natural hermit who lives in Goulburn and gets around the house wearing a hoodie with holes in it.
But so I thought I’d do it very quick, in 60 seconds or less, quick gay book club and I pulled these off my bookshelves. These are writers that I’ve absolutely adored.
Edward Louis, The End of Eddy, the French novelist writes a lot of sort of auto fiction but very short novels but goodness me, they pack an extraordinary punch.
Rainbow Milk, by Paul Mendez sent in London, about very much from a person a male person of colour and his experience of navigating the queer world in London, Rainbow Milk, by Paul Mendez incredible.
Brandon Taylor’s Real Life which was a finalist for the 2020 Booker Prize. Colm Tobin, who is actually an Irish novelist who I’ve adored since the beginning, called Real Life, “A tender deeply felt perfectly paced novel about solitude and society, sexuality and race.”
What Belongs to You, by Garth Greenwell, another American writer. Goodness me if there’s somebody who really goes there in terms of writing about sex, you know the mechanics of sex, it’s Garth Greenwell. What Belongs to You, and Cleanness was the follow-up to this novel. In What Belongs to You, he just receives an email from his father to say he’s about to die, this is not really going to spoil the story, and then it’s about a 30 page paragraph where he just riffs on his father and the complexities of love and I just read those 30 pages saying I just, I just can’t do that. You know it’s just incredible.
Jericho Brown, moving into poetry, Jericho Brown, The Tradition which won, was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He’s a gay man and I love poetry but it’s rare for me, for poems to take my breath away or really get me in the gut, and that’s just perhaps a taste thing. But there was times in The Tradition by Jericho Brown where I it was I was literally breathless I thought that these are just incredible poems.
I think Ocean Vuong is another one. Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and his incredible novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. He’s a writer, and I know he’s got more work coming out, but he’s a writer that I’ll continue to follow.
And coming back to Australia, Peter Polites from Western Sydney is doing incredible work and particular the The Pillars of his, which is really I guess asking all those really smart gutsy provocative questions about Australian society generally.
So there’s my sixty seconds Queer books.
ROB: Brilliant and we’ll have all of those titles in our show notes for this episode. Thank you very much Nigel, that’s a lot of reading there. And our final question which is what is your hope for the LGBTIQA Plus communities?
NIGEL: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that as I wander around here, or Goulburn, and part of me says keep doing what you’re doing, part of me says make sure that absolutely everybody can be involved in the discussions. I sometimes get lost in all the queer politics and then I just lose interest and I’m glad there are others who are much more interested than me in that kind of queer politics stuff.
I just want to create characters and explore stuff through fiction primarily. But we do need those, particularly I think those organisations that are focusing on youth, and opening up amazing spaces to into the bisexual community, into the Trans community, or those wonderful grey areas that have been in in the dark for so long, and I think they’re doing incredible job to really say however your sexuality is expressed, and I’m sure you agree that human beings are inherently complex, why can’t we have complex sexualities that shift and change and become different things?
And there’s sexualities I’m sure they’re out there that we haven’t got names for yet. So let’s go and discover those, and let’s make sure that everybody can be a part of the discussion, rather and narrowing it down to just those who are one thing or another.
ROB: Brilliant. Excellent. Thank you so much Nigel for being on our show. My Heart is a Little Wild Thing published by Ultimo Press, out May 2022.