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Issue Details: First known date: 2012... 2012 The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction
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'One of Australia's most respected novelists, Alex Miller's writing is both popular and critically well-received. He is twice winner of Australia's premier literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award. He has said that writing is his way of 'locating connections' and his work is known for its deeply empathic engagement with relationships and cultures.

This collection explores his early and later works, including Miller's best-known novels, The Ancestor Game, Journey to the Stone Country, Lovesong and Autumn Laing. Contributors examine his intricately constructed plots, his interest in the nature of home and migration, the representation in his work of Australian history and culture, and key recurring themes including art and Aboriginal issues. Also included is a memoir, illustrated by photographs from his personal collection, in which Alex Miller reflects on his writing life.

With contributions from leading critics including Raimond Gaita, Peter Pierce, Ronald A. Sharp, Brenda Walker, Elizabeth Webby and Geordie Williamson, this collection is the first substantial critical analysis of Alex Miller's work. It is an invaluable resource for anyone teaching and studying contemporary Australian literature.' (Publisher's blurb)


* Contents derived from the Crows Nest, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,:Allen and Unwin , 2012 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Disestablished Worlds : An Introduction to the Novels of Alex Miller, Robert Dixon , single work criticism (p. 1-28)
The Mask of Fiction : A Memoir, Alex Miller , single work criticism
'I've been asked for a memoir for this occasion yet I am uncomfortable writing directly about myself. I prefer the mask of fiction. In this preference it is self-deception I fear most, for who but the self-deceived would claim to be able to write with moral detachment about themselves? I am also cautious of the fate of WB Yeats, the poet, of whom Richard Ellmann wrote, 'The autobiographical muse enticed him only to betray him, abandoning him to ultimate perplexity as to the meaning of his experiences' (Yeats, 2). Memoir does not offer us a sure means for contacting the deeper dualities of the self. For his journey to the heart of darkness, fiction is a more certain, if more oblique , way.' (Author's introduction)
(p. 29-41)
Alex Miller and Leo Tolstoy : Australian Storytelling in a European Tradition, Brenda Walker , single work criticism
'Alex Miller may be Australia's greatest living writer. I certainly believe this to be the case. I base my view on the depth and range of his narrative preoccupations. He writes about love but his lovers often come from very different cultural backgrounds, and this illuminates what is foundational in love while respecting diversity in the most intimate of human connections. He writes with scrupulousness about the human complications of invasion, massacre and armed conflict. The American novelist Philip Roth writes that art is concerned with nuance, and politics cannot afford nuance (I Married a Communist, 223). Nuance is the most welcome and apparent characteristic of Miller understanding of the politics of territorial dispossession. He writes, also, about art and literature as cultural forces and as imperatives within the lives of individuals. In all his fiction, he is both a great writer and a great thinker. This chapter offers a much more brief appreciation of his work and thought then I would wish, more brief than it deserves. In it, I plan to consider Alex Miller and Tolstoy: both great writers, both great thinkers, especially on matters of love and war.' (Author's introduction 42)
(p. 42-54)
'My Memory has a Mind of Its Own' : Watching the Climbers on the Mountain and The Tivington Nott, Peter Pierce , single work criticism
'Not long ago, Alex Miller remarked at a literary event (my witness is a bookseller from Launceston) that 'My memory has a mind of its own'. What might this mean? Perhaps a memory that is truant, given to reinvention, but also set free. Another implication might concern the double insecurity of memory: the tenuousness of our hold on what we can recollect from the past, and the uncertain hold that memory gives us on our present. In any event, that remark by Miller began and then informs this discussion of the first two novels that he wrote, works that draw closely on some salient events of his youth. They are Watching the Climbers on the Mountain (1988) and The Tivington Nott (1989)...' (From author's introduction 55)
(p. 55-65)
Alex Miller : Migrant Writer, Ingeborg van Teeseling , single work criticism
'Alex Miller, a two-time winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, as written ten novels, all of them featuring protagonists who are outsiders, often in more ways than one. In most, if not all of them, Miller's narrators grapple with personal and societal questions of alienation. Miller's books offer sophisticated literary investigations into issues relating to the 'ownership' of place and landscape, the impossibility of an uncomplicated identity after migration, the role of history, and the nature of belonging and home. Critical reviews of his work have, over time, acknowledged this presence of migrant themes, but the connection between the migrancy of the writer and the content of his work has hardly ever been noted clearly. In fact, the Oxford Literary History of Australia categorises Miller, a little mystifyingly, as a 'non-migrant Australian writer' (Lever, 325). My argument here is that this is not just factually false, but that reading Miller's work as unproblematically Australian takes the sting out of what he is trying to say, and not just about the migrant experience but about Australia as well.' (Author's introduction 66)
(p. 66-77)
The Presence of Absence in The Sitters, Ronald A. Sharp , single work criticism
'In the second paragraph of Alex Miller's The Sitters (1995) the narrator informs us that his memory of Jessica Keal allows him 'to approach the last enigma of my life - my family and my childhood. That cold legacy of silence and absence' (2). Bernadette Brennan's fine essay on The Sitters, in the context of Maurice Blanchot's meditations on death, notes that the narrator never explains 'why his experience with Jessica has given him the energy to begin painting...his childhood' (104). That it does so is indisputable, and Peter Pierce points us in the right direction, in his article on 'The Solitariness of Alex Miller', when he observes that Jessica functions as 'a Wordsworthian trigger to recover past 'spots of time'' (305). The connection between the frame of the entire narrative - and I use the word 'frame' not only to indicate a narrative frame but also in the sense of a picture frame, since this is a novel that foregrounds the connections between literary and visual art, between a novelist creating a character and a painter creating a portrait.' (Author's introduction 78)
(p. 78-88)
Like/Unlike : Portraiture, Similitude and the Craft of Words in The Sitters, Brigitta Olubas , single work criticism
''Portraiture is the art of misrepresentation. It's the art of unlikeness. That's why it's so difficult,' the narrator of The Sitters explains early in his fraught and deeply individual account of painting from life (and death). As the work of painting proceeds, he takes the reader into some of the concerns that have come to characterise Miller's fiction: the dense matter of families and origins, the mechanics of desire and the mediations and complications of art. Within this larger frame, this paper will examine the novel's highly specific concern with the labour of writing and painting, the duplicitous and unreliable crafting of words, lines and images, and will focus on its insistence on the unstable doubleness of words, things and selves.' (Author's abstract:
(p. 89-100)
An Artist in the Family : Reconfigurations of Romantic Paradigms in Prochownik’s Dream, Adrian Caesar , single work criticism
'Romantic paradigms insist on the necessary loneliness and suffering of the artist. Writing about Beethoven and identifying himself with that composer, D.H. Lawrence wrote of 'the crucifixion into isolate individuality.' Rilke, perhaps a more pertinent example with respect to Alex Miller's work, advises a young poet to 'love . . .solitude and sing out with the pain it causes . . .' Furthermore, Rilke urges his protege to perceive the world from the 'vastness' of his own solitude, 'which is itself work and status and vocation.'

Though there are moments in Prochownik's Dream when one might detect the influence of Rilke, the novel's distinction, I believe, resides in its portrait of the artist as embedded and enmeshed in family. Not only is Toni Powlett and his work seen in relation to his father, wife and daughter, but also in relation to his friends, who constitute another 'family'. My paper seeks to tease out the creative connections and tensions between families and art as they are represented in the novel and to demonstrate the way Prochownik's Dream 3 subverts the Romantic idea of creative genius and insists on the often unacknowledged collaborations necessary to the making of art.' (Source: )
(p. 101-113)
Representing ‘the Other’ in the Fiction of Alex Miller, Elizabeth Webby , single work criticism
'Alex Miller began publishing his novels in 1988 at the end of a period of intense debate in literary circles about the ethics of representation, a debate informed by feminism, multiculturalism and postcolonialism. Put crudely, the debate was about whether white, male writers from first-world countries, the dominant literary players up to this point, should continue to have open slather in writing about their others, i.e. those who were not white or male, now that these others were at last finding their voices and writing back.

In Australia, the debate was particularly focused on the question of white writers' representation of Aboriginals. Indeed, in 1979 I was told, after giving a conference paper on colonial poems about Aboriginals, that I was lucky there were no Aboriginals in the audience. But in feminist circles male appropriation of female voices was also a major issue. Although a total ban on representations of others would clearly have meant the end of fiction as we know it, these debates did draw attention to the stereotyped representations of women, Aboriginals, Chinese and other 'others' found in much earlier Australian writing.

When I first read Alex Miller, soon after The Ancestor Game was published in 1992, I was struck by the unusual empathy shown here for his female characters and their predicaments, as well as by his insightful depictions of people from other cultures. These have continued to be hallmarks of his fiction, with representations of 'otherness' also extending to animals, especially in The Tivington Nott and Landscape of Farewell. My paper, however, will have as its focus The Ancestor Game, Conditions of Faith and Lovesong.' (Author's abstract)
(p. 114-124)
Continental Heartlands and Alex Miller’s Geosophical Imaginary, Elizabeth McMahon , single work criticism
This chapter examines 'how the alignment between geography and subjectivity operates in four of Miller's novels to identify his refiguration of the inherited map of modern identities.' (125)
McMahon focuses on The Ancestor Game (1992), Conditions of Faith (2000), Journey to the Stone Country (2002) and Landscape of Farewell (2007).
(p. 125-138)
Personal Perspectives on the Central Queensland Novels, Anita Heiss , Elizabeth Hatte , Frank Budby , single work criticism
'This chapter is a transcript of a panel session chaired by Anita Heiss at the Sydney symposium, The Novels of Alex Miller, on 13-14 May 2011. The participants were Lix Hatte (Northern Archaelogy Consulting), Colin McLennan (Elder, Jangga) (not present) and Frank Budby (Elder, Barada)'. (139)
(p. 139-155)
The Frontier Wars : History and Fiction in Journey to the Stone Country and Landscape of Farewell, Shirley Walker , single work criticism
'There are some stories that must be told lest 'none be left to think of them and shed a tear' (Miller, Landscape, 12). The stories Alex Miller is concerned with in Journey to the Stone Country (2002) and Landscape of Farewell (2007) are those of the Aboriginal massacres which accompanied the invasion of Australia. But he also remind us, in Landscape of Farewell, of all such episodes of mass murder, including the Holocaust, but going back through history to the Trojan Wars and beyond. (Author's introduction 156)
(p. 156-169)
Old Testament Prophets and New Testament Saviours : Reading Retribution and Forgiveness towards Whiteness in Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country, Liliana Zavaglia , single work criticism
'In Journey to the Stone Country (2002), Alex Miller explores a national history in a regional setting, mapping a literary path towards reconciliation between black and white on what we may consider - and what he himself has described - as a place sacred to both Indigenous and European dreaming ('Sweet Water', 104). Yet Journey to the Stone Country is not only a literary journey. Contained within the literary of Miller's intricately drawn fictional world is the literal, the lived experiences of the character's real-life counterparts, whose stories inform the reconciliatory movements of the novel.' (From author's introduction 170)
(p. 170-186)
Dougald's Goat : Alex Miller and the Species Barrier, David Brooks , single work criticism
'I would like to open with a proposition, a theory if you like, that, in a great many narratives , there is a place, a site, where they confess, or at least pay some acknowledgement to, the stories they have not followed in order to follow the story that they have. Their roadkil, one might facetiously term it, their rejectamenta, their abject. And it is not just stories, it is concepts as well, even or perhaps especially ethical positions: places, sites, where they acknowledge all that has had to be set aside in order for those stories, concepts and ethical positions to come to be. I do not say that they in any way specify or itemise them, or that this acknowledgement is anything but the vaguest symbolisation - indeed, it is so much a matter of the subconscious that it is hard to see how it could be - although in some cases they can take a pronounced and almost indisputable form. In one of the bold philosophical projects of which I sometimes dream, I would in fact go further and attempt to demonstrate a collateral premise that much of our human ethics are based upon a separation from and rejection - abjection is a better term, since this is a matter of our identity and what we do to shore it - of the animal, and that the animal therefore always haunts, unacknowledged, our ethical reflections. Miller's texts, I suggest, are ethical reflections, and so are haunted in this way.' (Author's introduction 187)
(p. 187-200)
The Ruin of Time and the Temporality of Belonging : Journey to the Stone Country and Landscape of Farewell, Brigid Rooney , single work criticism
'At first glance, Landscape of Farewell (2007) appears a simpler, more streamlined story than its predecessor, Journey to the Stone Country (2002). In the first person, Max Otto, a widowed German professor specialising in the history of massacres, tells of his journey to Mount Nebo in Central Queensland, a journey precipitated by his encounter with visiting Aboriginal Australian academic Vita McLelland. His journey is conducted in the context of his not yet assuaged grief for his wife, and of his haunted suspicions about his father's complicity in the horrors of wartime Germany. Peter Pierce (2004) has identified some of Miller's enduring preoccupations: 'solitariness', 'artful evocations of the visceral', tensions between ancestry, freedom and exile, and the indeterminacy of memory. While many of these recur in Landscape, I focus in this paper on how the theme of time is exercised in this novel, with its spare but concentrated prose and apparently straightforward narration. How does Landscape of Farewell draw us inwards as well as onwards, into an intricately nested set of temporalities that speak to selfhood, truth and reparation, to cross-cultural translation, to mortality and relinquishment, and to the intractable terrain of moral debate about the past? What does Miller's mode of narration bring to familiar questions, in Australian culture, of place and belonging?' (Source:
(p. 201-216)
Trusting the Words : Reflections on Landscape of Farewell, Raimond Gaita , single work criticism
'I'm not a literary critic so I won't comment in any detail on what strikes me as very fine writing - some of Miller's best, perhaps. I will discuss instead what I believe to be his great moral achievement in Landscape: to have brought together in the one book dramatic, fictional, meditation on an aboriginal massacre of whites and aspects of the Holocaust, each illuminating the other, but without doing anything that could properly be called 'comparing' them, or 'weighing the gravity' of one against the other. To do that requires, of course, great moral tact, but also much more.' (Source:
(p. 217-230)
'Bright Treasures of Perception' : Writing Art and Painting Words in Autumn Laing, Geordie Williamson , single work criticism
'The novels of Alex Miller are, to a degree rare in contemporary Australian fiction, shaped by an elemental vision of nature and our place in it. This paper examines how Miller's attentiveness to the material, physical and literal grounds of human existence sets his fiction apart, and makes it resistant to certain kinds of reading.' (Source:
(p. 231-244)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Crows Nest, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Allen and Unwin , 2012 .
      person or book cover
      Image courtesy of Allen & Unwin
      Extent: 257p., [8]p. of platesp.
      Description: illus. (some col.), ports.
      • Includes bibliographical references and index.
      ISBN: 9781742378640 (pbk.)

Works about this Work

A Craving for Mythos Jane Goodall , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , June no. 342 2012; (p. 40-41)

— Review of The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction Robert Dixon , 2012 anthology criticism
The Miller Tale Stella Clarke , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 28-29 April 2012; (p. 18-19)

— Review of The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction Robert Dixon , 2012 anthology criticism
[Untitled] Joseph Cummins , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October-November vol. 27 no. 3/4 2012; (p. 156-157)

— Review of The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction Robert Dixon , 2012 anthology criticism
The Miller Tale Stella Clarke , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 28-29 April 2012; (p. 18-19)

— Review of The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction Robert Dixon , 2012 anthology criticism
A Craving for Mythos Jane Goodall , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , June no. 342 2012; (p. 40-41)

— Review of The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction Robert Dixon , 2012 anthology criticism
[Untitled] Joseph Cummins , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October-November vol. 27 no. 3/4 2012; (p. 156-157)

— Review of The Novels of Alex Miller : An Introduction Robert Dixon , 2012 anthology criticism
Last amended 7 Aug 2012 15:35:35