Meeting Alex Miller part three: on cross-eyed novels, the time we have, and liberties of language

prochownikSee also – part one: on the origins of a contemporary story and part two: on wisdom and imagination. My feature interview with Alex Miller on his new novel, Lovesong (Aus, US), was published in Readings Monthly. You can find it here

When asked what his favourite is of all his novels, Miller smiled and said he was fond of all his children – ‘even the ones with the crook legs and the turned-in ankle. I kind of defend them even more’ he laughed. ‘Don’t mention the fact that one of my books is cross-eyed. I’m very sensitive about that. Or has acne. Never mention the acne.’ I didn’t press him but I was quite curious to know which he found more flawed. I told him Prochownik’s Dream was my favourite (though since our interview I have finished Conditions of Faith and it might be taking over). He said a lot of people cited Prochownik’s Dream. ‘I wonder why?’ I’m not 100% sure myself – other than my complete immersion in the main character’s (an artist’s) passion, and failures. I read the book in one go.

What about what Miller is reading? And what are his favourites? ‘The Great Australian Novel which I’m reading for the second time – and the book itself is starting to fall apart a bit, the pages are starting to come out – is Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria.’ I expressed dismay that I still haven’t read it. But Miller was comforting: ‘Well look, don’t worry, you’ve got your life.’ Later on, when the tape was turned off, he also reassured me about the time I have to find the missing ‘key’ in my semi-retired novel manuscript.

carpentaria-fullFurther, on Carpentaria, he says Wright ‘has wrenched the form of the novel in Australia out of alignment and into a new cultural alignment. She’s done that. So it’s the truly innovative piece of writing of our generation, of our time. There’s nothing else like it. Everything else that attempts so-called innovation is just tweaking the edges. She’s done it in a massive way. It’s a huge act of the imagination, that book. It’s not going to be repeated. Not by her or anybody else. And it’s hugely energised. The language itself is a liberty, in her use of the language. And it’s a crossover language. It’s the world seen from the Indigenous perspective of people who live on the town dump … it’s this amazing place. It’s where everything good comes from. So that’s the book that’s really… I’m reading it for the second time and the first time around I loved it. I thought yeah, wow, fantastic. Second time around I realised, god, I’m reading the great Australian novel mate. Come on, this is it. There is nothing else like it … She’s the Australian Joyce and Rabelais rolled into one, with that book.’

We talked about long-haul flights giving you time to read. Miller said ‘People say “I’m too busy [to read]”. Well, I’m not too busy to keep fit, I’m not too busy to read, I’m not too busy to write. That’s it,’ he says.

Most readers of this blog will know those are my sentiments exactly.

There will be more snippets from my conversation with Alex Miller in the coming weeks.

4 thoughts on “Meeting Alex Miller part three: on cross-eyed novels, the time we have, and liberties of language

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Meeting Alex Miller part three: on cross-eyed novels, the time we have, and liberties of language – LiteraryMinded --

  2. Hi Ange
    just wanted to say thanks for your posts this year. have really enjoyed them. and especially the convo with Alex Miller. have a good one.


  3. Great post and blog. And I completely agree with Alex Miller about ‘Carpentaria’ – it is THE great Australian novel, alive and kicking in our midst. We should be dancing in the streets.

  4. Angela, these posts are terrific. What a generous subject Mr Miller is. Great to hear his thoughts on Carpentaria especially – there is that rich Rabelaisian feel to it for sure. I read it straight after Gravity’s Rainbow, and I think it helped me get a way into it quickly, but probably DFW would do as well (or the new David Foster book here, by the sounds of things.)

    I am very fond of Conditions of Faith as well. Great piece of writing and somewhat reminiscent of Mauriac, a novel we read at uni called Therese Desqueyroux, about the provincial bourgeoisie in France. Don’t know where my copy’s gone though 😦

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