On the Couch with Christos Tsiolkas

AAR Christos Tsiolkas - photo by John TsiavisWho is Christos Tsiolkas?
I am a writer, a lover, a friend, a son, an uncle, a neighbour, a citizen, a volunteer on 3RRR, an ambassador for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a patron for Writers Victoria and a supporter of the Richmond Football Club. I don’t take any of these responsibilities lightly. Each and every one of them makes me happy.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I’m not sure there’s anything I’d really want to do differently to what I do now. Maybe if I could time travel, I’d go back to my twelve year old self – I’d tell him that you don’t have to choose between loving the arts and loving football. That those passions can be reconciled.

Who inspires you and why?
Karen from Will & Grace and Stewie from The Family Guy. Culture is so bloody po-faced and safe at the moment, we need to be reminded that there’s elation as well as danger in our ids.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
“Keep talking ‘bout the President won’t stop air pollution. Put your hand on your mouth when you cough that will help the solution.” My first time in New York City was in the early 1990s. I was a naïve lad and I stumbled across a hip-hop festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I slipped into a room, and on-stage, there was a heated and emotive argument between activists over revolutionary versus reformist Black politics. Suddenly an old man from the back of the audience started humming The Staples Singers’ “Respect Yourself”. Very quickly, everyone was singing along. He had made his point: you can be angry but don’t be self-righteous.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Japan. For how the beautiful can be found in the simplest or ordinary of objects, and for how the cordial can be emphasised in the most everyday of activities. And the south coast of NSW for the astonishing natural beauty and for that ocean that never stops singing.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
The monument to the eight-hour day across from Trades Hall. The colonies of NSW and Victoria were amongst the first places in the world to achieve the eight-hour day for workers. Wouldn’t it be great if a day commemorating those struggles and achievements were chosen as Australia Day?

What are you currently reading?
A biography of Bob Fosse by Sam Wasson. It’s a breathless read, entertaining and sharp. I love Bob Fosse: for all that is exhilarating about his choreography and filmmaking, for all that was conflicted and dangerous in the personal demons he battled. His All That Jazz and Cabaret are amongst the greatest films of all time. The book has had me singing the soundtracks to Sweet Charity and Damn Yankees all week!

What are you currently listening to?
A 1977 collaboration between Ben E King and the Average White Band called Benny & Us. It’s joyous. Absolutely joyous.

Happiness is?
Being on the south coast of NSW with my partner, Wayne. Or discovering a new city together.

What does the future hold for you?
Touch wood. My heritage is from the Balkans. I know enough to not tempt the fates.

Christos is the author of Merciless Gods – which is being presented by Little Ones Theatre in a stage adaptation by Dan Giovannoni in the Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the 2019 Midsumma Festival from 6 February. For more information, visit: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au for details.

Image: Christos Tsiolkas – photo by John Tsiavis

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