I had the pleasure of visiting Fuller’s Book Shop the other evening and hearing an interview with author Robert Dessaix. The shop was packed with people. This Hobartian (moving here from Melbourne) author is a very popular man here it seems. I have always loved his work. Adam Ouston is a Fuller’s employee and is currently working on a PhD about Robert Dessaix’s work and the rapport between the two of them was entertaining. They have obviously spent a great deal of time together.
Mr. Dessaix began his talk discussing writing for the ordinary person. He said it is relatively easy to write about famous people such as (pause…..) Napoleon Bonaparte but it is to ordinary people he shares his writing. He has always appeared to me a man who stops and thinks about things. I have seen him at a social gathering as he stood in a large backyard alone staring into the valley below. His mind never shuts off. His past books have taken place in Europe and Australia but he is now more connected to India which he visits regularly in the Tasmanian winters. He stated the Indians seem to dance, sing, celebrate and not spend a lot of time talking about the truth of their religious teachings. They appear to treat religion as a form of play rather than always searching for the truths of it. They simply live. The Europeans he mentioned, write a lot about mortality. Always trying to verify their teachings especially in religion. What really is true, what is not. The Indians simply believe.
Referring to travel he said that if home life is very good (he described ‘home’ as being anywhere his partner Peter Timms and his dog are) then travel is good. I think it is knowing you can experience the world yet look forward to coming back. He stated that when one travels one must ‘zig-zag’. If you go through your travels, as well as life in a straight line you will hit a wall and die. It is better to ‘zig-zag and see what you find. Who do you meet, what do you see, what do you learn?
In his earlier career he hosted the Book Show on Radio National, ABC. He said when he was first employed his supervisor told him ‘don’t talk to Australia’ but rather talk ‘to the individuals’ listening in radio land. He believes that he writes to the individual, not to the amassed crowds.
He was diagnosed with HIV two decades ago and was told by a doctor he probably wouldn’t live beyond another five years. With the advances in medical research he continues to thrive in 2017. He then had a significant heart attack. These events changed him greatly. He has defined his ‘world’ of life. This includes travel, home and books. Outside of this he largely leaves life events to others. I asked him afterwards as he is such a thinker and analyst how does he resolve the issues of the depressing political events in his mind. He said he follows politics but then lets go of it. He leaves it to others who know it better than he does . “There are people out there who know a lot about politics and I leave it to them.” Maybe I will take up this mode of thinking. I tend to dwell on it at times, become depressed and of course it gets me nowhere. I am still thinking about this.
I particularly enjoyed his comments, “Everyone lives in a splodge….(he pauses for thought, then again…) Everyone lives in a splodge. Enjoy the splodge you are in.” (Laughter from the audience.)
The interviewer, Adam, was responsible for helping get his out of print books reissued. He noticed the earlier ones weren’t being published anymore and he wanted that changed. In working with Xoum publishers the first five major works of Dessaix have now been reissued with splashy new covers within the last month.
In the next post I will share with you his five major books with a blurb of how he described each of them.
I was reminded how much fun it is to listen to an author talk about his/her writing. I never leave without a new idea to think about or some insight into their life. It is interesting to see how those thoughts transfer into books. It is also fun to share thoughts and laughter with others in the room who are all interested in the same things.