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Sean Lovelace Reviews Mary Miller’s Big World




Shaking our heads…

I want to start there.


If Big World was a beer, it would be the type of beer that carpet-bombs hangovers in the form of bowling balls (shard/chunks/stilettos off; the type of bowling ball you find often abandoned in creeks, alongside upended shopping carts, those mud-clutched femurs, skulls), big ol’ Moon Pies echoing upside your forehead. The characters would not bowl. They would watch others, disinterestedly, like observing flies on a windowpane. They would sip from those little crinkly bowling alley cups, and the pitcher urine warm, same cloudy hue, the sides streaked greasy. These characters would not bowl, not ever. They would watch, watch so closely (as in exactly) the pain of others (that they don’t [can’t?] express), that pain a moiling presence, or a caught truth, like hangover sweat seeping through pores, like what ifs, or what wheres. But no bowling. No lift and fling. No fucking way.

“I sat outside with him while he drank his bourbon and Coke and watched the pigeons circle” (Leak)

Big face of the stupid morning. Salty, like blood, or glass added to the beer. Something added to the beer, as if the beer itself was now done, exhausted and boring, not enough. What should we do to the beer now? Put glass in the beer. Like that. But who puts glass in beer? Shut the fuck up. Drink. Drink. Drink, and add glass, crushed glass–make it sparkling, all reflective and sped up like lightning…Do it feel glow now? It do, I suppose. If you don’t live these few minutes, few days, how you feel in your gut and blood and pulsing crackle, what’s the point of feeling at all? (this option also explored, soon).

(These characters caught up in what they should do, versus what they don’t want to, societal vs. self, as in a Burroway paradox: individual and universal. Like that. I know someone reading this can relate. Ndeed.)


[Do I sound like D.H. Lawrence? So?]

{Why did his narrator freak out over the snake?}

To teach U something…

“We feed him shots of vodka and amaretto to catch up…” (Even the Interstate is Pretty)

(note: you might want to be careful what you catch up with here, since nothing moves forward)

A white sleet of alcohol choking down the chimney of your reading house. Clogging it. Filling your hostel/temporary world, all tracheal lodge, cigarettes and pickled eggs and fuck. Onions and bourbon, etc. Life seems to accumulate, to drift up on these characters. One day they look around and go, “Shit, my mirror, false friend. It’s deep and cold now. I am going to freeze.”

(Seeing self in others. Seeing others drink will make a person feel less alone, less insect)

“I’m also at the bar, also drinking something frilly…” (Not all Who Wander Are Lost.)

What I mean is glow/slow headache and waking up alone on a mattress, in low hotel, free will intact and spinning those springs. Maybe itch of done-something. (Amazing the greasy sheen on a hotel TV screen. How did it get there?)


“There were only four left and the bottle of whiskey was almost done.” (Fast Trains)

[Does this seems scattered, complicated? A neat drinking game would be to read each story and take a drink every time a character does the same. Now leave me be.]


Get that lime off my beer.


(If you need a lime on your beer: 1.) Stop reading Mary Miller. 2.) Stop reading my blog.)

B vitamin deficient uptake penance meal: BBQ chicken fried chicken fried. Deep fried Snickers pizza. Meat & 3. I seriously suggest the 15th Street Diner, Alabama

(Sex is fun. When I mean fun the red clock numbers do pass. I mean something is inserted so I guess something happens. Time passes. Friction.)

Shotgun. Where is my shotgun? Fuck, it’s gone, and I smell gunpowder on my index/middle fingers. Somebody get me a big-ass mug of beer. I said full, please my lady.

We thank thee.

“He fixed my drink, put his elbow on the bar.” (Pearl)

Mason jar of. Drinking aluminum pyramid. Recession proof. Common sense proof. Proof, as in sociological evidence–Mary Miller writing of a man, not Man (the writer’s way of whispering).

“She likes wine coolers, she likes daiquiris…” (Aunt Jemima’s Old-Fashioned Pancakes)

Single cold can of beer sold in gas stations.

(Sex again.. This time we just go oral because of monthly practical considerations. My jaw hurting. I have a quickening technique. You can watch the news and do this. Look at the news. Another kid thrown off a bridge, drowned in a bathtub. Jennifer way pissed at Jolie, at Brad, etc.)

“I drink a beer and then another…” (Temp)

Happy hours not so happy.

“I’ve had a few, he said, cocky now.” (Big World)

The best beer is free beer, followed by stolen beer, followed by cold, followed by cheap, followed by sex-for-beer. Followed by beer where someone finally shoots you (more on this later).

“…until he gets up and uncorks another bottle.” (Full)

(on and on, and on, which is how drinking really is, on and on)

“‘We won’t drink this week,’ he said, which was what he always said…” (Animal Bite)


Like a Tuesday returning every week. Like that.

Alcohol as a way to pause, shove away things.

“Tonight I’d like to talk to someone who doesn’t have a story.” p. 78

To look away.

“Fuck your sandwich.” p. 86

There’s so much crazy pain in these pages. I am talking night sweats, real pain. Fingers lopped off like excuses, etc.

“I can’ t think of anywhere I want to go less.” p. 150

So much to avoid, decline, to blur.

“…that if he ripped me open I’d look like the inside of a wall…” p. 198

To slam, to shotgun, to kill–to piss away.

Like that.



I am really pleased how many reviews mention the size of this book.

You douche bags.

Let’s see:

Average size of a Shakespearean Sonnet: 114 words.

Sonnets written in Shakespeare’s Lifetime: 154.

Total words in sonnets: 17556 words.

Cujo, lame-ass novel by Stephen King: 80,000 words.

Fuck + Off, I beg you.

I am done with this issue. I am done. Shut the hell up.



Big World has a religion, a code and cult. Like poetry, look to the last line, read backwards to unearth the core.


“I watch my hands pretend they’re birds and then I take a sip of my coffee, and he takes a sip of his and we’re sort of pleased with ourselves, with what feels like a revelation isn’t.” (Not All Who Wander Are Lost)

(falseness of sustaining suddenness–reality of everything fades. Hegel, final words before death: “Only one man understood me. And he didn’t understand me.”)

“He piled it all high on his bed, and I thought of the things I’d pile on ours, how I would keep going and going until the bed finally gave way under the weight.” (Animal Bite)

(I will call the narrator, SHE. SHE would get a lemon, make it into lemonade, then mix it with gasoline and pour it into her eye socket, her eyes (hoping to fill her skull). Ignite with Zippo trick. SHE fears good. Or feeling good. You offer your hand, she wants it, to twist, disconnect from the hand, for kindling on a memory, funeral pyre.)

{much of this metaphorical. There is no gore, only true existential horror.}

SHE would not use the word pyre.

Sometimes I wanted the narrator to take her life out back, to offer to the creek, the forest, to do something Native American, to accept the life and death and struggle of who we are. To hug meaningless. To pray to flux, to death, to the nothingness of dead leaves. To just break away into flakiness/realness, as some form of exercise…


(Offering of respect. This book is so detached it may be brilliant. I can’t say. But God, you might find this book clogging your sink, artery, the hollow cavity of your next Wal-Mart chicken, the shrunken rat inside your clam chowder (You bought clam chowder this far inland?? Well, you are  a fool.), the thing you contact CNN and sue over.

It is a presence.

It is a presence.



Big World is a nihilist text. Are we allowed to say that anymore? Hell, half the reviews I’ve read of this book haven’t even mentioned a central thesis–alcohol, in all its manifestations; that this narrator is walking dead and empty, waking to drink (a form of shooting yourself in the head, though the bullet takes years to travel, one novelist says {I have noted this elsewhere, so those that notice, uh, no shit}), but still alive somehow, still watching (this word said again for emphasis, repetition a poetic tool)–so aware, aware–the core of HER pain–and no one says it, so I figure it’s all good now, I can say what the hell I want. To miss the alcohol?? There are other excellent themes here. But to skip our national hypocrisy, love, adultery, peace, wrestle, hate with alcohol. Who is zooming who, folks? Fuck it, that’s not even the core.

I want to say Big World is the first Nihilist text (and I have read many–they used to be in vogue [not so much now, and BTW, do not misconstrue: this isn’t Mary Miller’s purpose, to write a nihilist text]) since The Stranger (sweet and sad  Meursault, our narrator, who smokes cigarettes and feels up women at the theater the day of his mom’s funeral) that I have felt an interest, attachment to the narrator. This is Mary Miller’s art here. What separates this book. For some damn reason, I care–in varying degrees, but always care–for HER. I mean the HER of these stories.


1.) SHE (narrator, not writer–don’t make that simple, easy mistake) is female. Not sure if anyone’s noticed, but 89% of the shit we talk/blog/teach/ shall I go so far as “like”  is male-centered writing, voice, even author (though not as relevant to my point, the author). I might have initially had a Lorrie Moore response to this book. Finally a full collection of female narrators, in 1st POV (though Moore is 2nd, obviously). I look/need female narrators, as weird as that might sound. It deepened, my feel, my attachment as I read  (I don’t blog a book this hard unless it deepens, for example).

2.) The nihilism is a result, not an origin. A result of acute observation. Ignorance is bliss, they might say, but these women are too perceptive to sustain ignorance. They watch. The core of their pain is that they do NOT turn away. They keep absorbing. So where do they turn? The abyss. I mean this, not being pretentious. They embrace the abyss. Finally, we return to out birthright now. And the abyss has no footholds, no bars, handholds. It is, by definition, deep, as in inescapable. These characters aren’t getting out, and they are not so interested in the process. What is out? No. What is?



Good answer.

3.) In some alternate world, I wanted to date the HER. I bet this book is going to get this a lot. And then I hope the book slaps me (and all readers seduced by the nihilism), and says, “Fuck you!! I mean, really fuck your longings for outward appearance versus inward significance, the PAIN of these pages–FUCK YOU!!!” Who wouldn’t want a bourbon with this HER? Who? I hope this seduction is addressed in other reviews, by smarter individuals, to engage the larger context I am aware and somewhat ignorant of, I do. There’ something…

4.) Sometimes I wanted SHE to barbaric yawp. To kick some ass. To break kneecap. I hate to be naive to a complete book but I took this photo in my office today and I wished it for the book (this may be a sign of insanity). This isn’t a criticism, obviously. More a longing. Any book that gives me a longing, cool. I’m actually wanting a sequel.


I wanted the SHE to run over someone in the book, honestly. But hand them flowers an instant before.



In “Fast Train” SHE is shot, and is so relieved (in many ways). SHE wants to be shot. She has wanted to be shot her whole life. This story I will call flower, the mystical, the microcosm. Wow. These character want to be shot, to be wounded, but in the back of their drifting (ETOH) minds: Do I even deserve the cost of the bullet?


End Thing:

I’d like to end this review by saying I have bought several copies of this book. I handed them out the way I hand out hallway “What’s up??” comments and/or Lorcets to close friends with “stomach pain” (a nebulous term–usually means the person is lonely and want to just take Lorcet, a break up, or cable went fritzy that night, etc.). Either way, at least 19% of the people who have started this book have returned it, shuddered, and said, “Wow. I couldn’t go there.”

I translate: They saw themselves in this book.

That is a compliment, Mary Miller.

Rock on.

People, buy her book HERE.


It worth. Or why? I just said why.

So fuck

fuck off