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.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in March 2016, no. 379
Brenda Walker

Brenda Walker

Brenda Walker is the author of the novels Crush, One More River, Poe’s Cat and The Wing of Night. The latter won the 2006 Nita B Kibble Award and the 2007 Asher Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin Award. Brenda Walker is also a critic, essayist and editor. Her most recent book, Reading by Moonlight, was the winner of the 2010 Nita B. Kibble Award and the Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-fiction and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. She is Professor Emerita of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia..

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.