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What Days are For - A Memoir

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  167 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Witty, acerbic, insightful musings from Robert Dessaix, one of Australia's finest writers.
One Sunday night in Sydney, Robert Dessaix collapses in a gutter in Darlinghurst, and is helped to his hotel by a kind young man wearing a T-shirt that says F**K YOU.
What follows are weeks in hospital, tubes and cannulae puncturing his body, as he recovers from the heart attack thre
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published November 3rd 2014 by Random House Australia
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Lyndon Walker
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I've spent the last 14 lunch hours with this book. It received quite a bit of criticism from some literary friends but I have stuck with it to the end. It is essentially a book about intimacy and it is an intimate book about intimacy (which is why some of my "in the world" friends found it hard to handle (they would have cringed at the first sign of exaggerated (gay) infatuation. But it starts off in his hospital room after a heart attack and I thought to stand up and leave would have been rude ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
After collapsing in the street late one night in Sydney, Robert finds himself hospitalized attached to all manner of life-saving machinery. Between drifting in and out of consciousness, he ruminates on all sorts of things, but the nub of the book (as the title suggests) is how do we best live out our days. "A well-shaped not hopeless. But what is a well-shaped day?" he rhetorically asks. This meditation on the subject is prompted by coming across the Philip Larkin poem 'What are days f ...more
Kathy Fogarty
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Robert Dessaix's writing is such a marvellous mix of intellect and rich emotional insight. Although I recognise from reading this and other books a familiar bored feeling when reading sections about his passions for Russian language, literature and even some of his travel exploits, I'm utterly smitten by his musings about "what days are for", love, attachment, recognising kindred spirits, religion, learning to be idle, and the changing experience of his place in the world as he grows older. All ...more
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2011, Robert Dessaix spent two weeks in a Darlinghurst hospital after a severe cardiac episode. Rescued by an angel in a profane t-shirt, and vouchsafed by a cautious receptionist, he was shipped off to hospital and saved, though not without a certain amount of bleeding and partner-summoning concern.

The writer's drift in and out of memory on the wings of pharmacy's finest is recorded in What Days Are For. The title is cribbed from a Philip Larkin poem, though Dessaix ascribes more levity to
Jenny Esots
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Saw Robert at the Adelaide Writers' week. I allow myself to buy one book each year at the festival. This was it! Finished the Robert Dessaix memoir ‘What days are for’.

I bought the book after hearing him read, especially his excerpts of hospital life.

On reading he can be acidly funny and sour in the same sentence. He seems to have an active disdain for any belief system.

Yet despite not acknowledging he is on any pilgrimage, has spent large slabs of his life exploring the very sacred places of th
In Sydney for the rehearsals of the one play he's written, A Mad Affair, Robert Dessaix collapses with a major heart attack and spends the next few weeks fighting for life in St Vincent's Hospital. As he's recovering, he reads Philip Larkin’s poem, ‘Days’ and he muses what his days have been for.

What Days are For - A Memoir is a stream of consciousness account as Dessaix muses over his life and loves, his adventures with travel and religion, his thoughts about identity, sexuality and meaning. T
Jen Squire
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Unfortunately I messed my dates up and missed Ramona Koval interviewing Robert Dessaix last year, but because I'm spoilt I was given 'What Days Are For' as a present and I've been looking forward to reading it since Christmas.

Last weekend I stayed in a small timber cottage in Mansfield, part of Victoria's High Country, and though we'd taken heavy jackets, beanies and boots I sat out on the back deck in sunshine and shortsleeves and read this cover-to-cover. The words, the wombats, the mountains
Ian Reid
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
At times verging on self-indulgence but always witty, candid and flamboyantly articulate, this stream of introspective associations charmed me.
Marianne Elliott
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Elegant, passionate, compassionate and witty. I gobbled this up and will have to go back and re-read to suck the goodness from the bones of this wonderful memoir.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Admittedly, reading this genre is not the easiest for me as I prefer fiction and a reasonably straight forward plot. However, there have been memoirs that I have enjoyed, ones that provide an insight into the author's life and thoughts on a particular topic. This did not give that to me and it may be because the stream of consciousness method is not a favourite. So on that note, I have to say that I did not enjoy this book overall. There were parts where the author's humour and frankness was enl ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Ok. But not great. some refreshing view of the world.
Dec 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I usually enjoy Dessaix's books for their erudition and insights. While there are some gems in this book, they are few and far between ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Wonderful writing as always. Preferred his latest book as it seemed more purposeful and focused.
Oct 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Robert Dessaix you have done it again! I love your writing style. I enjoy the tumble and jumble of your thoughts and I’m so glad two Good Samaritans were close by on that night of nights!
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I need to preface this review with a bit of context. I recently sat among the greying crowd of Adelaide Writers’ Week enthralled, amused and occasionally titillated (in that delightful way heterosexual women can be when gay men tease them with sexual innuendo). Robert Dessaix was being interviewed, and he was in fine form. He had just turned seventy one and the span of years was deeply etched across his expressive face, and obvious in the careful tread that took him from chair to lectern when as ...more
Colin Bisset
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the manner of the best memoirs, this feels like a rather nice chat, albeit one that goes off at tangents. Amusing and thought-provoking, much of it accorded with my own thoughts but I particularly enjoyed his question about darshan in society, and the idea of love being present (or not) in religious settings. I've previously judged Dessaix too harshly, thinking him a touch pretentitious, but I'm glad I've seen my error through reading this. A book to savour. ...more
Meredith M
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I saw this book when browsing in a bookstore in the past year or so - the cover caught my eye and I read the inside jacket and author bio. When I came to fill out my Summer Reading Bingo card, I returned to my notes of books to read and chose this one for the category: "I've been meaning to read". With 9 categories on the card I realised I lean toward fiction (albeit a wide range of it!) and thought a memoir would disrupt the pattern.

I didn't immediately connect with the book feeling somewhat
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a memoir and musings from author Robert Dessaix who reminisces about his life as a young boy and now an older man, as he lays in a Sydney hospital recovering from a heart attack.

When Robert comes across Philip Larkin's poem "Days" he begins thinking about what his days have been for, what and how has he loved and why. This memoir is told from Robert's view of the world which come in flashbacks from his young school days to tales of travelling the world and his inner thoughts and feelings
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I heard Robert Dessaix read from and talk about this memoir at Adelaide Writers Week in March. I have been reading sections of it over the past month, savouring the Dessaix prose, wit and incisive observations.

The framework for the memoir is the twelve days and nights he spent in a Sydney hospital after a severe heart attack. The title (taken from a Larkin poem) provides another frame - that of time, mortality and the need to make our days meaningful as we age and become physically limited.

Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a very readable delight. Conversational and derisory, this memoir is both playful and reflective. The title of the book is from a Larkin’s poem ‘Days’ and tracks his recovery after a heart attack. It covers a period of time in St Vincent's Hospital and ignites ideas of the spiritual, travel and various authors.

He muses in his easy to read manor on the big questions like what have his days been for? What and who has he loved – and why? Occasionally, we are yanked from Dessaix’s trave
Helen O'Toole
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I look forward to reading anything by Robert Dessaix and this book was again a remarkable experience. I felt his pain, confusion, weakness, fear and helplessness after he collapses on a Darlinghurst footpath. You suffer with him in the weeks of slow recovery.At times the writing seems as random as his thoughts must have been as he slowly recovered yet there is a wonderful intimacy that develops between him and you as the reader. You really " get into his head"
The last pages( 230 to 231) were exq
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I feel like 3 stars is generous, maybe 2.5 is closer. Maybe I misinterpreted the blurb... This memoir - and I use the term fairly loosely - is more of a brain dump of flashbacks of one or two of his favourite life experiences, and stream of consciousness opinion, rather than his story as such.
Not really my cup of tea.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
As always, Robert Dessaix's writing gives us a lot to think about. This memoir of his first 10 days in St Vincent's Hospital after a near fatal heart attack travels through literature, religion, love and much more.
Finally he decides he is now free to 'wheel and swoop about inside the spiritual city that is my mind, going absolutely nowhere, having the time of my life'.

Nikki Howson
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it
I love Robert's writing style. He does head off into academia a little at times, but his personal touch pulled me through.

(I'd actually give 3 and a half stars, if I could.)
Jon Gray
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good stream of consciousness writing. Beautifully sprinkled with literary thought that has carried impact for the author
Dominic Mugavin
It took me a while to get used to his voice. Some insightful passages.
Ann Tonks
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: australia, memoir, illness
Much as I respect Robert Dessaix, I just couldn't get into this book. ...more
Sep 28, 2015 added it
Some brilliant takes on the human condition. Very quotable.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Robert Dessaix's musings from his almost death bed and eclectic, intelligent and insightful.
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