Brenda Walker reviews 'The Simplest Words' by Alex Miller

Brenda Walker reviews 'The Simplest Words' by Alex Miller

The Simplest Words: A Storyteller’s Journey

by Alex Miller

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.

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Published in March 2016, no. 379
Brenda Walker

Brenda Walker

Brenda Walker has written essays, short fiction, four novels and a memoir, Reading by Moonlight. Her books have won numerous Australian awards, including the Victorian Premier’s Award for Nonfiction. Her story 'The Houses that are Left Behind' won the O. Henry Prize in 2018, and will be published in Australia in Best Summer Stories in October. She is Emeritus Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia.

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