Consuming the Big Red Chair…

Greg Johnston is one of those writers I envy… a writer of unique and uncluttered prose. He manages to punch huge weight with minimal wordage. Greg has profound messages in his recently published book Consumption. He says its about our consumptive society, as you will see. I see a story about the use and abuse of friendship. It’s an elucidating, haunting book and one I recommend without hesitation. Which is why I have asked Greg to sit in the big Red Chair for a grilling.


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Hobart, Tasmania, two weeks late.  I grew up in Hobart, Tasmania, mostly running late.  I went to high school at Hutchins but my real education began far later.

 2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why? 

First year high I think I was pretty much trying to take the whole Hutchins “all-boys-school” seriously.  I’d been told to put away childish things, see through a glass, darkly, so I’d given up any ideas of doing anything creative to fit into the serious stuff of learning.  At eighteen I was hankering to be a musician, something along the lines of Jimmy Page who was my hero at that time.  At thirty… I went back to UNI to do a Bachelor of Arts.  I wanted to be able to critique, see the connectivity of things, see clearer.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now? 

That Elton John was straight.

 4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Learning another language made me realize how much I love words and like playing with them like a child in a sandpit.  Reading The Name of the Rose after living in Italy changed me a lot.

But probably the most significant was walking into the kitchen of a share house I was living in, 20 years old, and hearing Joni Mitchell sing, “Like Icarus ascending on beautiful foolish arms” and being hit by a lightening bolt.  For one, how to you drag Greek myths into the popular song?  The combination of beautiful-foolish-arms eroded the idea that Icarus was a fool.  He was beautiful first and then perhaps foolish, but what did it matter that he flew to the sun?  He flew.  Something I’ll never do.  But also realizing that the Amelia of the song was Amelia Earhart and understanding how all the images of the song were resonating, about flight, escape, pushing yourself higher, and seeing failure as a learning experience rather than something to shy away from.  But also realizing I wanted to construct that type of dense synthesis of ideas.

 5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you- – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Despite all the technological advances, people do still read.  The novel has adapted, changed, almost at times pressed itself into the structure of film.  But people still read, people still talk about novels in heart rending terms.  A narrative is hard wired into a human soul.  People will always want to hear stories.  And despite all the fear and loathing of e-books, people are just reading through new mediums.  What can be so threatening about that?

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

At heart, CONSUMPTION: A Novel is about Sara Sexton’s search for a simpler life and someone to love.  She gets increasingly distracted along the way by on old friend, Martin, who has become a successful interior designer with and increasingly complex and erratic life and an increasingly needy personality.  She eventually has to chose between staying faithful to the past or forging in to a new future.

 7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Show people that living a life that is at least critical of all the materialist goods we have on offer will actually lead to a happier state.  Less is far more.

 8. Whom do you most admire and why? Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Anyone who can get through the day with a sunny disposition.  Unfortunately the only present candidate is my dog, Miss Mia.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write and write and listen to what people tell you.  There’s always some truth in well-intended criticism.  At least explore what the person is trying to say and then decide if you agree with it or not.  Don’t immediately feel threatened.

 11.What are the last five websites you visited?

12. What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about? 

White chocolate.

 13. If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

 Writing is the stimulus of the intellect  Good writing puts you in shoes you’ll never own and makes you walk streets you will never see.  Good writing can take you anywhere and that can only keep your brain and intellect fresh and alive and supple and engender empathy for people with lives different from your own.  The only thing that’s interesting in human beings is the differences and writing can take you to and help explore.


The only others I know that like white chocolate, Greg, are my dogs. Ah well, each to their own.  Make me a white chocolate mousse and I shall be convinced! Thank you so much for sitting in my chair. Hope it was the right size and comfortable.

Link to Consumption: