Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Passage of Love' by Alex Miller

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Passage of Love' by Alex Miller

The Passage of Love

by Alex Miller

Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 592 pp, 9781760297343

Every author has some version of origin story: a narrative describing what it was that first compelled him or her to write, or at least what attracted them to the role. You can hear the tale harden into myth as an emerging author shapes themselves to those obligatory rubrics of self-disclosure required by writers’ festivals. Sometimes the transition from would-be novelist or short story writer is so smooth as to be seamless, an osmotic passage from student of literature to practitioner. These are more likely to be authors already inculcated with the requisite cultural confidence and tutored intelligence of their caste. The children of the creative classes are those who are born to write, as others are born to rule.

But there is another, perhaps more interesting kind of author – the sort who emerges from nowhere. The progenitor figure in the modern Anglosphere tradition is D.H. Lawrence, that wild, weird, proletarian genius (in the local context, Miles Franklin offers a different yet no less compelling case, based on gender and nation rather than class). Unlike those who have been raised up in the relatively sophisticated cultural infrastructure of English literature departments or creative writing degrees, whose tendency is to address themes or subjects removed from direct experience, self-made writers are likely to take their own emergence as a subject. They have willingly chosen their way, not inherited the possibility of the writing life. The story they have to tell, at least in part, is the story of their becoming.

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Published in November 2017, no. 396
Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson is a Picador publisher and the author of The Burning Library: Our greatest novelists lost and found (2011).

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