COUNCIL’S manager of development services James Dryburgh recently launched his first book, Essays from Near and Far.
Fortunately for readers, it is not about local government planning or management! Described by Kevin Brophy, author of 13 books and professor in creative writing at University of Melbourne, as “informative, dramatic, thought-provoking, immersed in questions of history, perspective and values,” the book is a collection of articles, many of which have been published in various magazines over the past three years. He describes the book as simply “true stories of real people and real experiences.”
The book covers a wide range of subjects. It begins by exploring the grief felt at a friend’s death kayaking a river in California and ends by sharing the joy of welcoming his first child in to the world. In between, the reader meets ‘Chico’ who has lived in Australia for 25 years after fleeing El Salvador’s civil war as a refugee in the eighties, but is nevertheless determined to return to his poverty stricken country to help his unfortunate community. Also, in El Salvador, there is an article about David Rodriguez, who had been a senior priest, became a guerrilla fighter and is now a Member of Parliament.
In Bolivia, James worked two days in the infamous Potosi mines, inside ‘the Mountain that eats men alive.’ Once back in Tasmania, he toured the MMG mine in Rosebery to write the article A Tale of Two Mines which compares mining lives in a poor country with those in a rich country such as Australia.
James also includes an article highlighting the deep, and relatively unknown, similarities between Tasmania and Tierra del Fuego. There are interviews with Ingrid Betancourt (Colombian presidential candidate held captive by FARC rebels in the jungle for more than six years) and Martin Lynch (Irish playwright).
Closer to home, the book questions if our modern technologically-advanced lives might be stifling our imaginations and explores the short-lived Pontville Immigration Detention Centre through the lens of Brighton’s long history of compassion towards refugees.
James lives in Lenah Valley with his wife Anna and one-year old son Santiago. He says he has enjoyed writing since he was very young, but it remains a hobby he gets a lot of satisfaction from. He believes the essay-style article is one of the simplest, most effective, forms of communication.
Why did James write this book? He argues that politics and the media tend to pander to peoples’ vices, like greed, fear and hate, and hopes the book exposes some of our inherent virtues, like resilience, empathy, hope and humour. But more simply, he says, because “all of the people and experiences in the book are worth sharing.”
James’ book can be bought online for $20 (free postage) from http://jamesdryburgh.com/books/ or from most Hobart bookshops.