John Kinsella’s latest book Displaced; A Rural Life begins on a somewhat whimsical note which is, to say the least, unusual. In the first pages of the monolog he advises that this a book like no other he has written; a most definite understatement.
Growing up in a rural community, life was pretty good for this young boy; inquisitive and almost obsessed with stalking, hunting and killing things, his far gentler brother tried to help him develop a better understanding of the environment in which they spent their lives.
Their parents separated with the boys moving with their mother to a Coastal town, an event which saw considerable change in both their lives. Bullying was rife in the town where teenage, not so intelligent, angry young men somehow seemed to find or create trouble.
Here Kinsella was bullied and sexually harassed unmercifully as he was different; moving back to the wheatbelt area for summer work during his university years he ‘came of age’, working the silos and carting wheat during harvest in a tough, man’s world and one in which you either fitted, or did not. Life in the 1970’s in Australia in many rural sectors was still basic; rife with bullying and abuse at all levels.
Now, at time in his life many would consider his ‘mature’ years, Kinsella looks back at the milestones and markers which while often brutal, saw him develop a keen, passionate and determined attitude to conservation, climate change and poetry.
Set in and around his beloved Jam Tree Gully where he and his family have their home, we met Tim, his young son who is passionate about the environment and keenly watches the world around their home for seasonal changes in the birdlife of the area, Tracey, his wife who has been with him in his darkest of moments and so very gently, his daughter, wafting throughout the pages of his life.
Living in Ohio, Shull and Cambridge for various amounts of time for work commitments, Kinsella includes vignettes from these years to balance, as well as illustrate, the damage to and beauty of this world, at the same time using this as an undeniable basis for the urgency of environmental change.
Displaced; A Rural Life is a deep, thoughtful multilayered reading experience which is best ‘supped slowly’, as in typical Kinsella style the words are powerful, soaked in passion, a wealth of understanding and more than a soupçon of grief woven throughout.
Poetry does as always, play an important part in his works with various pieces being used sparsely in the first sector of the work, but increasing in quantity as the work progresses to a delightful pause, where selected pieces are included as an end note to this section of his life journey.
Wry, cathartic without a doubt, laced with a sense of humour, frustration and deep understanding of the human psyche, Displaced: A Rural Life could be considered as confrontational, upending so many of the myths about life being better back years ago, but also presenting a strong case for a better, more comprehensive understating of the world in which we all live.