The Simplest Words
A Story Teller’s Journey
Allen & Unwin Australia
A selection of short pieces – both fiction and non-fiction – from one of Australia’s greatest literary treasures.
From one of Australia’s greatest novelists comes this fine collection, a storyteller’s journey. These short stories and essays, written over the last forty years, comprise an insightful and intelligent meditation on the life of the novelist and the culture of contemporary Australia. Personal and intimate as many of these pieces are, this collection forms a kind of assured autobiography, of the sort that only Alex Miller could write.
Alex Miller’s stories are told with a rare level of wisdom and profundity, engaging the intellect and the emotions simultaneously. Stories are, after all, in his blood.
I am very pleased to have made the acquaintance of author Alex Miller. This is my first experience of Alex Miller’s writing and an experience it was! There is so much of Mr Miller’s life and passion in this book you cannot help but be moved by this collection of extracts and observations. The full range of emotional experiences are exposed in the stories of this brilliant wordsmith – admiration, love, a hint of remorse, guilt, awe, passion, reconciliation and sadness (the short story How to Kill Horses devastated me, such a powerful and moving piece, a story that deserves your attention) and lastly an evocation of jealously – I would like to be able to evoke such feeling with my words, to be able to write with such sublime power. If I cannot write like Alex Miller then I would be satisfied to sit in a classroom with Alex Miller as tutor, even for one session – any chance Alex?
There is something here for both the reader and the writer in this collection. Alex Miller shares this observation with us “I’ve had great joy from writing novels. But now I need to obey the rule of necessity for change and have taken on a new challenge. This need to take a critical look at what I’ve been doing with my life possibly has something to do with Socrates’s remark that an unexamined life has not been worth living. I have begun to write what I hope can become a celebration of the tragic beauty of Max Blatt’s life and our friendship. The ocean of my ignorance, I soon found, is far deeper and broader than the island of my knowing. In reflecting on my own history I am aware of the paradox that I am going into a largely unknown landscape along a road I have never travelled. It has become clear to me that recollection is itself fiction….” (p263)
Further he shares this gem about writing and story (he is reflecting on his story about Journey to the Stone Country and some of the inspiration for characters in it)”…His father, Frank Budby, tell me Graham cherishes the book and his role in it, but it was only after I had written the story that I began to see how central to its theme his character was. We never know what we have written, after all, until our readers tell us to look again. Frank tells me that his son has found his dignity in the book. And I think of the books in which I first found my own dignity.” (p.277) [Emphasis added by author]
This book is a delight to read, a highlight of my reading year.