A Blue Room Book Review – How It Feels – Brendan Cowell

 how-it-feels

A ‘Sunday Telegraph reviewer reckons (Brendan) ‘Cowell looks destined to be one of Australia’s finest novelists’. I wonder what book of this author he/she was reading to make that assertion. I sincerely hope it wasn’t this one!

Now I like Cowell – still best known, I think, for his acting. I have loved him in such television and cinematic features as ‘Love My Way’, ‘I Love You Too’ and ‘Save Your Legs’. Listening to him being interviewed by Ellen Fanning for ‘The Observer Effect’, he comes across as your typical laconic, knockabout Aussie in the Bryan Brown mould. He was engaging and it seemed he had been a bit of a lad in his day. Maybe he still was. As well as act, there is no doubt he can write. ‘How It Feels’ has a reasonable enough story line, with occasionally the actor making this reader sit up and take notice with an original turn of phrase, or clever metaphor. But this punter did not enjoy having to wade through all the f-bombs and c-missiles to find them. I doubt if I’ve read a book with so many ‘fucks’ per page.

The main protagonist is simply obnoxious – no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He ‘outslaps’ the guys in ‘The Slap’. The ‘hero’ is drug-addled, vodka-sodden prima donna who none-the-less seems to attract the ladies, of course treating them abominably. He has a tome-long thing for Courtney and this seemed the major thrust – excuse the pun – of the book – would he ever get to ‘screw’ her. I won’t let the cat out of the bag for any other unfortunate soul who perseveres through till the end. When he loses his best mate to suicide his grief is typically ‘look at me’ over the top. He takes it out on his other mates for years – more fool them for sticking by him. He ‘talks’ to Stuart in heaven to discover that all the ‘chicks’ in his section of what’s behind St Peter’s Gate are ‘…blonde with big tits.’ This is the level Cowell sinks to. The only redeeming feature of Neil Cronk is that he adores my island’s Mersey Valley vintage cheese.

And the sex – oh dear the sex! It is foul. Simply foul, unedifying writing. Cowell’s purple prose drains most of it of any degree of sensitivity or mutual affection – it is just a bonk-fest, and a turgid one at that. It’s like watching the bright pink stuff on-line – revolting.

Yet I read this drivel to the end. Perhaps being up in Mangoland at the time fried my brain. I ploughed on to see if there was any redemption at the end. There was – but what a cop-out cliched one he came up with.

Please stick to your acting Mr Cowell. I found your novel, sir, in a remainder bin for a few dollars. It deserved to be there in spades. If you, dear reader, do the same – don’t dare believe the back cover guff when it spouts ‘…a blazing comet of a book.’ For me it was more like being in a repugnant foul Dickensian black hole. Ignore it and walk on by!

John Stanton

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