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  • Writer's pictureShailja Chandra

Flesh Wounds is about Love, Longing and...Belonging

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Richard Glover is a writer, an author and a broadcaster on ABC 702. His weekly humour column has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald for over twenty years. Richard also presents the top-rating Drive show on ABC radio in Sydney (adapted from http://www.richardglover.com.au/).

Flesh Wounds is Richard’s most recent book. It is a family memoir ...about his mother who, for reasons that remain largely uncomprehended, invents an aristocratic past. It is about his father, who despite his goodness, could not find and give lasting happiness...and the many tragic-comic-tragic events in between that break your heart, make you laugh and compel you to turn page after page...

Flesh Wounds is about two extraordinary life-forces.


Love. Finding it in unexpected time and places. And giving more than received. 


And Longing. For piercing deep into the dark crevices of the past to find traces of love.


It is the latter the book belongs to. The Longing. For love. For the unknown. For being seen, with all the wounds and blood exposed.


It is a poignant portrayal of the author’s emotional landscape that remains lush-green and raw with a sense of longing. The alternating sense of detachment and attachment, the regret and the sense of loss of ‘what may have been’, and the tender and at once valiant yearning to touch the unknown-unseen of the past - longing is one potent glue that seamlessly holds these disparate emotions together.


This longing is also the birthplace for the love, humour, poignancy and the rather unexpected and surprising sense of belongingness that can be found pulsating in the book. Belongingness to the parents that were not what he ordered, belongingness to a past that would never be completely unraveled. It is there - like an undercurrent but palpable, detectable. Belongingness…despite the wounds...is the centrepiece of the book.


As I turned page after page, this, that I wrote sometime ago, resonated in me. ‘Longing is truly belonging.’ That longing, with its resident belongingness, is one powerful force that keeps relationships from perishing. As Rebecca Solnit said, ‘Some things we have only as long as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.’


The book also celebrates our innate desire to be ‘seen’, to be understood and to be related to, looking for connection and offering connection. In Flesh Wounds, Richard Glover brings us plenty of points for connection. When he grants himself the vulnerability of being seen. When he, with a refreshing creative and emotive forthrightness, talks about the literary ‘ostentation’ in teenage years (Me - a confused mix of pretentious and patchouli oil). Or him oscillating between self-doubt and self-confidence, and more importantly, having respect for both. In all this, we witness a courageous creative mind that is not shying away from vulnerability and shame, one who can face his own blind-spots. And for reasons well researched by Brené Brown, it instantly makes a connection. Not just with his readers, but before that, he would have forged a deep connection with his own, inner world too. 


Some quotes from the book with my reflections are shared here:


“We were pretentious and ridiculous of course, competing with each other as to who would be the first to claim they’d read Camus or Sartre.” And..

“……about my need for approval, my hunger to prove myself worthy through my work, and how one bad piece of writing, or one criticism by a listener or reader, will leave me hurt and bruised…’ 

This reminded me of my early years at the radio (FM89.7, Voice of India).  If listeners made the effort to call in to say they loved my work, I would first check it against my own assessment of my work, before accepting or discarding the praise. But if someone called in to feed me criticism, I instantly felt hurt. I am now more open to criticism, but not if they are laced with sarcasm! Well I’m working on this too. One step at a time.


Some more shining insights from the book that reflects, refracts and rebounds in me are shared below:


“I’d met bad in the world, and I’d met good, and good had the louder voice.” 

This is the most defining insight that shines light on why such a dark period of his life couldn’t erode his spirit (physical abuse). It reinforces that love and longing and goodness of life are much more noble and potent pursuits, and strongly aligned with our innate nature. 


“This I thought, is the problem with Self Love. It’s so rarely reciprocated.”

Loved the brevity of this! And the brilliant insight it offers into the isolating, alienating effects of narcissism and self-obsession (yes, despite the deceiving ‘connectedness’ with thousands of friends, fans and followers on the million social media platforms).  


“…. I felt myself landing inside my own body. I wasn’t hovering above, watching in the way I’d always done - doubting, distrustful - as if I were an actor forced to play a role called ‘myself’.

An exquisite expression of the seeded sublimity of love and its ‘moorings’, these line reminded me of something written by Gulzar, one of the most celebrated and a Grammy award and Academy award winner poet from India - Tumi se Janmoo to Shayad Mujhe Panaah Mile...I will secure my ultimate sanctuary when I am born of you. And something written by Buckminster Fuller, “Love is metaphysical gravity.” All these expressions are about that virtue of love that can collapse the ‘distance’ from time and space to nothing, and bring us a ‘Here and Now’ experience.


And finally this one. 


“…In the end, the doors that close determine your path in life as much as those that open.”

Resting at the intersection of faith in serendipity and spirituality, this insight is a great gift of hindsight. And when it is shared by someone who is willing to expose their inner-world and wounds, it raises in leaps and bounds our appreciation for the blessings in disguise and the acceptance and trust in the bigger schema of our lives. 


Unseen wounds lurk, hurt hard and don’t heal.Flesh Wounds allows the author to expose and sublimate these into Love.


I don’t have a dysfunctional family. Well at least that’s what I would continue to believe until I am up against Richard, playing ‘Who’s Got The Weirdest Parents.’ But well-portrayed human emotions are brilliant equalisers of the variability of human experience. I find my throat tightening at many times and spaces in the book. Even when my own family is a whole time, space and culture away. 


When I had asked Dymocks sales girl about the new Richard Glover book, and she said ‘oh yeah I know that one, something with flesh…’, I had foreshadowed a deep connection and a fresh ‘vantage point’ to ‘see’ Richard Glover. 


It is indeed the wounds where ‘grafting’ takes place between two people - just like trees. The connectedness stems from that. His columns, his radio shows now bring me a whole new level of meaning, fresh humour and poignancy. For me, it is already a Richard, oops I mean a richer experience of life and the ubiquitous radio waves!

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