thinking about Robert Dessaix

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Robert Dessaix lately. Sometimes you just need to be with people you understand or who understand you. I certainly feel at home with Dessaix.

Robert Dessaix’s writing is so intimate that it feels as if he is in the room spouting forth on subjects that take his fancy. One of my favourite books is his “(..and so forth).” Strangely I always agree totally with his opinions or else disagree entirely, though this is much rarer. In this book he ranges over his pet topics like travel, particularly to the Middle East, and language, swearing and the use of phrase books in this case. His views on sport and on Australia and his inability to belong to the Team Australia mentality struck a familiar chord with me.  Robert Dessaix always manages to focus our minds on a beautiful idea.

While I feel comfortable with his work, or with his wonderful portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, which is a must visit whenever in Canberra, I was less than comfortable on the two occasions I have met him at literary events.

I found him arch, distant, cold even, despite the fact he was there trying to sell books to his audience. He seemed to want to rise above us all, not to have to mix at such a base level. Those ice blue eyes looked through me even as he signed my copy.

I have read that often when people fall in love, it is not with the person who is really there, but with an image in their minds of that person and when the first flush of love recedes, the person they fell for sadly isn’t there at all.

Yet, here in my lounge room Robert Dessaix is my friend, whose opinions I value and whose company I never tire of. Funny isn’t it?


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