Brendan Cowell (writer, poet, screenwriter and actor — Love My Way’s Tom) speaks with Kate Mildenhall @ The First Time; Once Upon a Time at Bennington College and Succession

While I wait for the next episode of Once Upon a Time at Bennington College to drop (it’s due 20 October, but Donna Tartt’s ‘people’ have sent cease and desist letters to podcaster Lili Anolik and her people, so I’m fossicking about and listening to other stuff. I’m also stalled in the last episode of Squid Game (don’t know why, might finish it, might not. My partner is very outraged). Also: Season 3 of Succession is released today (will be delayed because it’ll be on northern hem. timeframe. But this is VERY exciting for me. It’s shaping up to be a big week. More about that later).

This is a wonderful interview with Brendan Cowell, whose novel PLUM is released this month. It’s about a sporty man who comes out, as a lover of poetry, and as a practitioner. I’m going to buy this as soon as I can get to a shop, because AUSPOST is seriously slow at the moment so I’m not going to do anymore online orders. Take that AUSPOST.

Some notes about listening to this interview:

Kate Mildenhall is a very good interviewer. I’ve listened to a number of hers, and she is well-prepared and confident. There is no fawning which makes it an absolute pleasure to listen to her. She’s funny and intelligent too, and makes it a conversation rather than an interrogation. Look up her chats with Rick Morton and Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss) as well.

Brendan recites a puddle poem that he wrote when he was twelve.

In terms of lockdown progression (in London and here) he talks about being drunk, then a chunk, then a hunk. He is single, and is happy for any laydees to slide into his DMs. This laydee is not single but I’m going to send him a ‘you’re great’ note anyway

He talks about female poets, Dickinson and Plath. This is so refreshing from a man

His mum (Yvonne, who makes an appearance) reads his early pages; my mum does the same. So does Kate’s mum

He’s someone who can go to the ballet and check the footy score at interval; he can get up and do boxing and then read Sally Rooney. He’s a bit old for my daughter but sounds actually perfect?

He doesn’t drink any more. This is interesting to me. I stopped drinking end of January this year, just to see what it feels like and it feels so fantastic that I haven’t gone back (beyond a very occasional excellent glass of red with a fabulous steak, or a glass of bubbles to celebrate something). He says ‘I now love where I sit’ and I feel the same

He says PLUM is an unconventional book and it needed a ballsy publisher to take it on (Catherine Mile at Harper Collins is this person)

‘[Milne] doesn’t come from a place of fear. She asks “what could this be? What could we do with this? Push that… go further there…”‘

The responsibility of a novelist [artist] to be an ‘upstart’

You have to make a choice — be popular or prod the beast

‘I’m an artist, I’m here to stir the pot’

Cowell’s mother Yvonne makes an appearance. ‘Don’t be middle-of-the road and popular,’ she says.

Cowell agrees: Be authentic, back yourself, don’t try to second-guess the audience. ‘Be you and write it. Don’t be politically correct. Don’t be emotionally correct. Don’t worry about people saying “You can’t say that”. Good. Say it.’

You can listen to the interview here:

Brendan Cowell on process, poetry and stirring the pot

PLUM by Brendan Cowell

Book description from Booktopia:

The wildly impressive, raucously funny and deeply moving second novel from award-winning writer, actor and director for television, theatre and film, Brendan Cowell, confirming the talent he showed in his bestselling debut novel from 2010, How It Feels.

Peter ‘The Plum’ Lum is a 48-year-old ex-star NRL player, living with his son and girlfriend in Cronulla. He’s living a pretty cruisey life until one day he suffers an epileptic fit and discovers that he has a brain disorder as a result of the thousand-odd head knocks he took on the footy field in his twenty-year-career. According to his neurologist, Plum has to make some changes – right now – or it’s dementia, or even death. 

Reluctantly, Plum embarks on a journey of self-care and self-discovery, which is not so easy when all you’ve ever known is to go full tilt at everything. On top of this, he’s being haunted by dead poets, and, unable to stop crying, discovers he has a special gift for the spoken word. With spectral visits from Bukowski and Plath, the friendship of local misfits, and the prospect of new love, Plum might just save his own life. 

From award-winning writer, director and actor, Brendan Cowell, Plum is a powerfully moving, authentic, big-hearted, angry and joyous novel of men, their inarticulate pain and what it takes for them to save themselves – from themselves. It’s got a roaring energy, a raucous humour, a heart of gold and a poetic soul.

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