If Only The Names Were Changed by Andrew Miller

If Only The Names Were Changed

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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 26th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-937865-70-2
Page count: 186pp
Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms
Program: Kirkus Indie
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