Abracadabra : I've said it before and I'll say it again ...  - Robert Dessaix

Abracadabra

I've said it before and I'll say it again ...

By: Robert Dessaix

Paperback | 14 April 2022

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Booktopia Comments
Finally — and for the very first time — some of Dessaix's favourite short works are brought together in this thoughtful, beautiful gem of a book.
Product Description
'The first time around these pieces were not widely heard or read. A roomful of festival-goers in Sydney or Penang or Ballarat could well have heard me hold forth on the subject of Enid Blyton, say, or kissing, it’s true, and a few of my newspaper articles – my feuilletons, as I’m calling them – may have caught the eye of some readers of the Byron Shire Echo some years ago. It’s not that these audiences were unappreciative, but they were limited. Nowadays a podcast can attract an audience of tens of thousands around the globe, while I performed for the most part in more intimate spaces – these were entertainments, so to speak, for un-known friends.'

No festival organiser, newspaper editor or publisher who has worked with Robert Dessaix is likely to have escaped a request for copies of his wonderful, fleeting talks and short works, or feuilletons.

These ephemeral pieces — including an overlooked short story ('not my usual genre, but [it] is also a performance, after all, a turn, a numéro, about love’) — are the work of a conjurer whose words dazzle, then seem to vanish almost as soon as they arrive. They are collected, and often annotated, for the very first time in Abracadabra.

From the wonder of learning foreign languages, to 'the words I wished I’d said’, Abracadabra is brimming with the thoughtful, witty and humorous observations for which Dessaix is known, and proves, once again, that his way with words is equally magical on the stage as it is on the page.

Part memoir and personal record, Abracadabra is a work many years in the making, an engrossing collection of observations and ideas which remind us why we read: for pleasure, after all.

Robert Dessaix is the recipient of the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature
Industry Reviews
"I first encountered Robert Dessaix in the 1980’s when he presented Radio National’s Books and Writing. His interviews with writers were incisive- well researched and relaxed, making enthralling and rivetting listening. Already a voracious reader, I became a dedicated listener, and was introduced to books that had slipped past my radar.

Since those halcyon radio days, Robert has gone on to write books and become a much sought after speaker at festivals casting his magic orations on subjects literary and the world at large, certainly the quad squad of art, travel, culture and society.

Some of that magic has been captured on the page in the aptly titled ABRACADABRA, a collection of talks and chatty journalism, which he calls his feuilletons. In pronunciation, feuilletons sounds like furry tongue, but no one could ever accuse Robert Dessaix of furry tongue. Silken, smooth scholarly, seemingly, seamlessly, creating as he speaks, there is nothing stubbly in these pieces.

Reading these pieces triggers an audio book in one’s mind, such is the memory of his voice back in the radio days, and later on the festival circuit, you hear as you read, the tone unmistakably Dessaix.

Whether he is musing on marriage equality, reminiscing on romance, returning to travels through Italy and India, riffing on fascinations, or dissing Spicks and Specks, Robert’s singular voice cuts through.

All of these writings have the feel of “spirited table talk like considered asides to a friend” cheeky and chiding, casually iconoclastic, comically caustic and always a pleasure to read.

It really is no wonder that Robert Dessaix is the recipient of this year’s Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. This award acknowledges the achievements of eminent literary writers who have made an outstanding and sustained contribution to Australian literature. Past award recipients include Helen Garner, Bruce Pascoe, Kate Grenville, David Malouf, Thomas Keneally, Frank Moorhouse so Robert is in stellar company."

Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide

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