In his compelling dialogue Dryburgh gives us a powerful sense of the forces that still do battle to shape our existence in this country, and on this earth. The glimpses Sylvia gives us of her too-short life were framed by far vaster forces – of migration, colonisation and settlement, of mining interests and endeavours to exploit the wilderness, of nature itself that she encountered in its near-unsullied state along the Frankland River. Her life was shadowed, too, by the things she does not mention – violence against the land’s original inhabitants, by the wars that were building far away. In Dryburgh’s sensitive engagement, this small female voice, so solitary that it sought connection through missives to a newspaper editor hundreds of miles away, reminds us that the settlers’ place on this continent was never a given, and that sustainable existence on it requires acknowledgement of its fragility, and our own.
A fourteen-year old girl writes to her local newspaper from Tasmania’s wilds. Her letters from what we now think of as the Tarkine have gone ignored and been forgotten for a century. James Dryburgh recognizes that these letters are not just worth reading; they require answering, creating a strangely powerful dialogue across time and space.
Sylvia and Mt Balfour will always be with me now. This book takes us further along the track of what is most essential if we are to truly belong – adding story after story, layer upon layer, until we return home… Before I read The Balfour Correspondent I had never heard of Mt Balfour, let alone the spirited Weekly Courier correspondent who lived there. Thanks to James Dryburgh, both the lost Tarkine town and its talented writer – an extraordinary teenage girl called Sylvia – now enrich the humus that feeds my heart.
A spirited girl, a short, bright life, wonderfully unearthed from the mud and gleam of Tasmania’s history. As we still fight to liberate girls’ potentialities, James sends his fatherly admiration back in time. Unique, precious and deeply affecting.
To span the baffle of time. To touch a lost life at once ordinary and extraordinary, across time’s opacity. That is the challenge James Dryburgh sets himself in this sensitive, loving book. Come with James into the sad, doomed bush town of Balfour. Here you will meet Sylvia and your life will shift.
20 minute interview about The Balfour Correspondent with ABC Radio. Listen HERE:
Review from WARP Magazine & Paige Turner. Read HERE:
Essays on the fullness of life from a writer who faces its wonder and pain with open eyes, a listening heart and a skilful pen. James Dryburgh’s raw honesty, keen mind and earthy compassion mean that his every journey, whether it be near or far, becomes a gift to us all.
Informative, dramatic, thought-provoking, immersed in questions of history, perspective and values, and thoroughly human.
In Essays from Near and Far, James Dryburgh manages to contextualise and illuminate the human condition. From South America to Tasmania his collection of essays reveal the motivations and beliefs of those who struggle against economic, historical and political injustices. He also succeeds in articulating his own soul and the reasons why he is drawn to the subjects explored. A great collection by an author not afraid to immerse himself and, quite literally, get his hands dirty in pursuit of the essential story in the tradition of the finest literary non-fiction.
These essays bring literature to the service of analysis and commentary. James asks big questions… James stands in the counter tradition, the Enlightenment tradition that mandates the hard light of fearless critique. We should all read this book. To do so is to encounter a prose of power and a fearless critical intelligence. This book is what the beautiful island’s incongruously deformed public life so desperately needs. I wish it a deep and fruitful absorption into the hearts and minds of my island’s folk.
I step out of the warmth of the coffee shop and into the chill of a Tasmanian Sunday morning feeling grateful for writers such as James. Non-fiction writers who remind us of why we are here and that we can all do something to make a positive change in this crazy world. Read the full article on The Huffington Post here:
Dryburgh presents a thoughtful and thought-provoking contemplation on the human condition, our relationships with each other and our collective, intertwined relationship with the environment. Personal reflections, stories and interviews span death to birth, tie lands and people on opposite sides of an ocean, and introduce a diverse assortment of people through whom we can understand our existence better. Read the full review here:
It was with a mixture of shock and shame that I read this evocative collection of essays by James Dryburgh. Such is the breadth of his experiences… Read the full review here:
Whether or not the reader is familiar with the places Dryburgh covers, his stunning writing and compassionate voice means they will be revealed in a new way… Read the full review here:
…The late great Hunter S Thomson claimed that he was the only journalist to ride with both Richard Nixon and the Hell’s Angels. James Dryburgh is probably the only journalist to have interviewed both Ingrid Betancourt and Martin Lynch. The inclusion of both these in the book shows another dimension of his talent. It is a remarkable achievement to be able to present the experiences and the ideas of these two quite disparate people without intruding his own personality, yet at the same time to use his intelligence and insight so as to shape the interviewing process into a coherent and memorable work… Read more...
James Dryburgh has a wonderful, compassionate heart. He intuitively empathises with the life experience of others and has the gift to then be able to put it into words, memorable and beautifully crafted words.
Author James Dryburgh explores the links between Tasmania and South America (among many other things) in Essays From Near and Far. Listen here (8mins): https://soundcloud.com/#936-abc-hobart/the-silver-that-founded-europe
Interview with Belinda King, ABC Radio (North)