Five Minutes with Benjamin Freeman


Tell us about your piece?

It’s a piece about a young man from Sydney who can’t see the Southern Cross. He has cancer which somewhat complicates the scenario, too. 

This work couldn’t have been made without...

The Pixies' song ‘Where is my mind?’ I sat down one morning at the computer and put it on. The story kind of just happened after that. I don’t think I listened to anything else for about two weeks. I tried to sneak the lyric, “I was swimming in the Caribbean” into the story but everyone who read the story kept demanding it was taken out.

What styles/genres/writers have significantly influenced your work?

When I was 18 I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac. A lot of people give this book a hard time but it changed my life in the most beautiful and cliché of ways.

What existing book do you wish you’d written?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, partly because it’s one of the greatest books of all time but mainly because it’s the sexiest title I’ve ever seen.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

“It doesn’t really make sense.” I’ve heard that a lot. It’s good advice to ignore.

The aspiring author in Donald Barthelme’s classic story, ‘Florence Green Is 81’, believes that the aim of literature is ‘the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart’. What’s your take on this idea?

It’s difficult to argue with but I’d like to think it’s possible to write a story that makes someone unbearably happy. Maybe something about fairy bread and soft fabrics. Something that makes you feel like you just listened to a Prince song.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A stingray. They’re so dangerous, hairless and charismatic. They’re like the Bruce Willis of the animal kingdom.

Tell us about some strange objects you own, or have seen. Do you have a talisman? What does it mean to you?

I used to have a ceramic panther called Pete. One night I got drunk, did a headstand and broke him. Maybe this meant something significant, maybe it didn’t. Even if it didn’t I’m sorry I killed him but I’m glad I was there for his final moments.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

About twenty seconds. Then I spent about twenty minutes wondering whether it was appropriate.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

The Pixies ‘Where is my Mind?’ Sometimes I listen to the Placebo cover, too. If it's a flighty piece, anything by Michelle Branch.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

I print out Peter Doherty’s song lyrics and read them over and over. I don’t know whether I feel guilty about it but I certainly feel a little uneasy admitting this on the internet. He is probably the poet of our generation.

What book do you pretend to have read?

Anything by Tolstoy or Dickens.

What literary tattoo would you get?

A few years ago I got the words "and Juliet is the sun" tattooed on me. The Juliet I was dating turned out to be more sociopath than eternal source of light and warmth but the sentiment was cute. I think there are several life lessons in that story.

What do you do when you aren't writing?  

I spend the majority of my time pretending I can surf.