If Only The Names Were Changed

A forthcoming but ultimately disappointing tale of a writer’s path to mental health.

A memoir that recounts a life of chemical dependency and emotional tumult.

Miller’s (You Must Know This, 2016, etc.) second book is an unflinching confessional that candidly discusses his wrenching personal trials. Essentially an assemblage of essays, it eschews a linear chronology for something more peripatetic; the author freely roams from subject to subject, often slipping into a highly stylized, almost poetic discursiveness. Miller delves into such topics as his fraught relationship with an authoritarian father, his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, his monthlong stint in a county jail, and his antipathy for religion. Along the way, he generously peppers his anecdotes with diverse literary references to authors such as Karl Marx, Julio Cortázar, Walt Whitman, and Dave Eggers. These are rarely plumbed deeply, however, so they remain merely references rather than points of illustrative intellectual departure. Miller is at his best when mixing unabashed candor with analytical self-scrutiny; for example, his discussion of his history of erotic adventurism with emotionally wounded women is both fascinating and unsettling. Also, Miller’s treatment of fatherhood, and of his newest relationship after two failed marriages, flirts with a theory of redemption. However, he often stops well short of analysis in favor of undisciplined venting: “I fucking hate the whole system of authority we humans have put in place. And by we, what I mean is white-European-males. The particular group of assholes to which I belong; though I wish I didn’t.” The prose is often gratuitously fractured, as if meant to parallel the author’s rage-filled disorientation. However, this device is neither new nor very artfully executed. The opening chapter contains a thoughtful, if derivative, reflection on the relationship between autobiography and shame. Indeed, Miller is to be commended for the courage with which he willingly exposes his life in order to capture some sliver of truth. However, this in itself won’t likely satisfy readers looking for something of greater substance.

A forthcoming but ultimately disappointing tale of a writer’s path to mental health.

Pub Date: June 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937865-70-2

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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