Alex Miller

Max by Alex Miller

by
October 2020, no. 425

When Alex Miller first thought of writing about Max Blatt, he imagined a celebration of his life. But would Max have wanted that? He was a melancholy, chainsmoking European migrant, quiet and self-effacing, who claimed nothing for himself except defeat and futility.

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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 ...

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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, pas ...

Alex Miller (1936–), is an Australian novelist. His first novel, Watching the Climbers on the Mountain was published in 1988. Since then, he has won many awards for his fiction. He has twice won the Miles Franklin award, for The Ancestor Game (1993) and for Journey to the Stone Country (2003), and also twice won the Christina Stead Prize for ...

There is no recommended apprenticeship for writers. Nor are there any prescribed personal or professional qualifications. Hermits, obsessives, insurance clerks, customs officers, women who embroider, men who write letters, public servants, soldiers, drunks, provincial doctors and gulag inmates have all become great writers. How? A mystery. But avidity – about the ...

We do nothing alone,’ writes Alex Miller, in his brief memoir ‘The Mask of Fiction’, where he gives an account of the generative processes of his writing. Art, according to Miller, comes from the capacity of the writer to ‘see ourselves as the other’. Early in his career, Miller’s friend Max Blatt woke him, in his farmhouse at Araluen, in order to dismiss the weighty and unsuccessful manuscript that Miller had given him to read. Blatt’s urgent and unsociable rejection of the manuscript may have saved Miller’s work, establishing a new emotional basis for his writing. ‘Why don’t you write about something you love?’ Blatt asked. That night, Blatt told Miller a true story of personal survival and Miller began to write afresh. In the morning, Blatt accepted Miller’s version of the story he had told with the words: ‘You could have been there.’

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As creative writing programs continue to surge in popularity, it has become something of an uphill battle to recruit students for literature courses in universities. In an environment overstocked with would-be writers fixated on the image of a potential publisher whose own field of vision is a mass of BookScan figures, a collection of critical essays on a literary writer has something of an ambassadorial role to play. Can those who profess an interest in books and writing be persuaded that there is value in complex engagements with context and tradition, form, and theme?

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With the likes of Helen Garner, Arnold Zable, and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, the contents page of this essay collection reads like a who’s who of Australian literature. The editor–contributors are the poet Alex Skovron, philosopher Raimond Gaita, and novelist Alex Miller. The publisher is Picador. The man honoured in these essays is Jacob Rosenberg.

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Not since Marguerite Yourcenar’s classic Memoirs of Hadrian (1951) have I encountered a novel of such bravura intensity and insight into the jagged contours of the human heart.

Autumn Laing opens with a mercurial soliloquy. Over eighteen shimmering pages, the novel’s eponymous heroine draws scarcely a breath as, in a soul-scouring torre ...

Alex Miller has been named as a finalist in the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature, a rich award given triennially to a Victorian author for a body of work. It is hardly surprising that a writer who has twice won the Miles Franklin Award and frequently been the recipient of, or short-listed for, other prizes should be among ...

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