It's apparent Donald Miller has regained the creativity that made Blue Like Jazz a good book—only now it's tempered, a little older, a little wiser, a little funnier. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is unclassifiable, equal parts comedy, memoir, lunatic ramblings and script-writing guide, less self-indulgent than Miller's previous work and in many ways more believable.
Which is odd, since it's the most "fictional" of all his books. Miller reinvents revisionism, applying it to his own life and experiencing a kind of resurrection to renewed purpose and meaning. He's clearly an existentialist of some kind, but more of the Kierkegaardian variety than the nihilists who followed—he looks to order his life in such a way that it is meaningful, that the things he says and does add up to some kind of essential narrative drift.
The basic story of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is this:some guys wanted to make a movie based on one of Miller's earlier memoirs (we assume, though he never confirms, that it's Blue Like Jazz). At the time, he was resting on his laurels, depressed, unmotivated, directionless. And that's basically where this book starts, except he tosses in other bits from time to time and where we are chronologically doesn't always make perfect sense.
But there is order among the (dare we say, incorrigible?) chaos. Miller talks about his life as though he were organizing and drafting a film script, dividing the text into sections like "Exposition" and "A Character Who Wants Something and Overcomes Conflict." He says at the outset that he wants something to talk to God about when they discuss his life, and we get the sense there will be no lack of conversation material.
Reading about someone's life—or, more precisely, reading someone's representation of their life—is always a bit awkward. This account is no different. It's easy to wonder, with all Miller's talk of meaning, why he doesn't mention God more. Maybe that's not his point. We do seem privy to gut-wrenching honesty, and that makes us at least sympathize with him more.
As always, Miller is funny, insightful, a good writer. He isn't insightful in a wise sage sense, though, more like a human trying to be human in a dehumanizing environment (The World) and having about as much success and failure as we'd expect. So maybe this is his story and maybe it isn't, maybe he just makes up all this stuff. Whatever the case is, Miller has finally hit upon something Universal it seems, and that is reason enough to read this book with all its flaws and everything else.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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