The Simplest Words: A Storyteller’s Journey
Allen & Unwin, $35 hb, 368 pp, 9781743313572
In The Simplest Words, Alex Miller's recently published work on his own journey through country, writing, love, friendship, and fatherhood, there is a remarkable scene of levitation. Miller describes his young daughter soaring up his own bookshelves, past the spines of The Heart of Europe, The Cambridge History of English Literature, A Dream of Red Mansions, Voss. This is not magic realism; his child is not afloat in the air. It's a game between father and daughter: she is pretending not to see him, and he is lifting her purposely rigid body by the elbows; lifting her strongly into the zone of books, while explaining to her that, really, she is too big to lift. I imagine the steady euphoria of this child, delivered up into a higher-than-adult perspective of her father's study. Love and trust, two words that recur frequently in Miller's account of his life, are evident in this description of cherished books and a cherished child.
The Simplest Words is a collection of excerpts from Miller's fiction and reflections on his life and beliefs, chosen and introduced by his wife, Stephanie Miller. The pieces form a cumulative account of the substantial intellectual and creative contribution of Alex Miller, who was born in a South London council estate where 'our caste knew nothing of flight, real or lyrical', and whose life and ideas resist confinement.