Of Alex Miller and Christopher Hitchens


Helvi Oosterman

I’m missing my books, they are physically here, in milk crates and sturdy boxes, stacked high in the garage of my temporary dwelling, but I can’t get to them without disturbing the equilibrium of our possessions waiting to be transported to our permanent abode in three months time.

It’s not only the books I’m missing but also the simple white built-in book cases, we had on the farm. One wall in the family room was ‘sacrificed’ to our old and most faithful friends, books. The bedroom shelves were a home for books in process, not to be written but to be read.

This small townhouse is easy to heat, we have nice neighbours, the living room is cosy and sunny, enough rooms to house the grandsons during school holidays, a garden for Milo, and not too far from shops, coffee lounges and libraries. This will do for us but I find myself complaining about the lack of shelving. The second bathroom eats up too much of the space; a space that I could use to put up a bookcase, however temporary. I’m totally unfair, and find the handy floor-to ceiling shelving in the laundry irritating. I’m even angry about the dishwasher: What’s wrong about using the kitchen sink!

What an unreasonable woman, I hear Daughter muttering to her dad behind my back, fancy complaining about a dishwasher when there are so people who are homeless. Thank god the little boys are outside on their bikes; otherwise they would join in with their homilies: Don’t you know Oma that the poor African children don’t even have books.

I’m fair enough to realise that family is right and that I’m being totally selfish, or did I hear the word ‘childish’. Looks like I have some explaining to do. See, I promised not to buy any more books, life’s too short and it’s time to downsize, libraries are pleasant places, I’ll swap my existing books with family members and friends, and I’ll have enough reading material till the end of my days.

All those promises were made when I was in the middle of the moving, when I was tired and fed-up just looking at yet another box waiting to be filled. Now it’s different, I’m close to shops selling new, second hand, and even antique books; I’m an hour away from my favourite flea markets, those Meccas for book addicts like myself.

I give up, I have a low chest of drawers next my bed, it has a good reading light, ear-rings, bottles of perfumes (some never used= wrong choice of Mother’s day present),last week-end papers, a writing pad and other such things sitting on it. I clear it all away sniffling a bit, no, I’m not crying, I have the flu, I leave only the lamp. I now have room for at least five or six stacks of books, I’m cheering up.

I have finished the Updike memoirs, so I place Hitchens’ Hitch-22, a memoir, carefully on top of it. Some other lovely finds in between and on top, the one I have to read in more or less in one session: Alex Miller’s Lovesong. It’s beautifully written by an older Australian author, it’s hard cover, and what a cover!

The jacket is so eloquent that seeing it you almost believe that you CAN judge the book by its covers; in Alex Miller’s case, you can. Now I have to get the rest of his books…

Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “Of Alex Miller and Christopher Hitchens”

  1. auntyuta Says:

    This blog of yours, Helvi, reminds me that I still have to downsize as far as books are concerned. Also a lot of boxes are waiting to be sorted with collected bits and pieces, as for instance letters and photos from way, way back! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • auntyuta Says:

      Now, more than three years later, I am still in the process of throwing out books, and I still need to decide, what from the above mentioned boxes needs to be saved, so that some of my descendants maybe can find out a few things about my long life?

      With very bad eyesight, and the need for downsizing due to very old age, I soon won’t have any need for book shelves any more! 🙂

      Whatever my children would like to have for themselves to keep, they should take it already now, if I do not have any use for it anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. auntyuta Says:

    Reblogged this on AuntyUta and commented:
    About the Author

    Alex Miller is one of Australia’s best loved writers. He is twice winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s premier literary prize, the first occasion in 1993 for The Ancestor Game, and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country.

    Conditions of Faith, his fifth novel, was published in 2000 and won the Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the 2001 NSW Premiers Literary Awards. It was also nominated for the Dublin IMPAC International Literature Award, shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award in 2000, the Age Book of the Year Award and the Miles Franklin Award in 2001.

    He is also an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, for The Ancestor Game, in 1993.

    Miller’s seventh novel, Prochownik’s Dream, was published in 2005. Landscape of Farewell, published in 2008, was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the Miles Franklin Award and won the Annual Foreign Novels 21st Century Award from the People’s Literature Publishing House in China.

    Also in 2008, Alex Miller was awarded the Manning Clark Cultural Award for an outstanding contribution to the quality of Australian cultural life. In 2009, Alex Miller was named as a finalist for the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Literature and his most recent novel, Lovesong, was published in November 2009 to great critical acclaim. In 2012 he won the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature.
    I have to find out, whether I can get one of his books in large print!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: