There is something oddly Jesuitical about this arresting, if not quite thrilling, collection of essays in defence of Modernism (and so modernity). It may be Krishna that Amit Chaudhuri cha More
‘Nothing matters very much,’ says Hilary Spinster, one of the main characters in Philip Hensher’s mammoth mêlée of a novel, ‘and most things don’t matter at all’. How true, w More
House of Names is a grim book, as any retelling of Aeschylus’s Oresteia is bound to be. It is a tale to harrow up your soul, to make your two eyes start from their sphe More
The Last Resort (1986), a photobook by Martin Parr, includes a photograph of a woman sunbaking in the English seaside resort of New Brighton. The woman is lying, facedown and topl More
On the day that Robert Dessaix first came face to face with his birth mother, he was already in his mid-forties. Adopted as a newborn baby in 1944 by a couple who loved and cared for him through his childhood and adolescence, he had grown up in Sydney, had invented his own imaginary land with its own language, had been married for twelve years, divorced, negotiated ... More
Why do you write?
Because it’s magic – it turns the frog of life into a prince. (Or is it the other way round?) And it is, as Wilde once said of smoking, so exquisitely unsatisfying. Actually, the real reason I write is that talking, either aloud or on paper, is the only thing I’m good at.
Are you a vivid dr ... More
Robert Dessaix’s authorial voice reminds me of Christina Stead’s description of a small, clear wave running up a beach at low tide, playfully ‘ringing its air-bells’. He is not a writer of direct, declarative prose. Instead, Dessaix specialises in sentences that skip over and around their subjects, sometimes darting nimbly into brackets to investigate a seco ... More
What a scandal! The Blessed Virgin sprawled on a bed in the half-dark, dead as a doornail, belly swollen, bare legs sticking out for all the world to see. What could Caravaggio have been thinking of?... More
'Pushing against the dark: Writing about the hidden self' by Robert Dessaix (2011 Seymour Biography Lecture)
If you’re a theatregoer, then somewhere along the line you’re bound to have seen The Government Inspector, Nikolai Gogol’s comedy about a rapacious nobody being mistaken for a government official by the citizens of a nameless provincial backwater. (They too are nobodies, greedy to be somebodies.) You might remember (since it’s a line that will ... More