The Passage of Love by Alex Miller – We all have our literary heroes, and this writer is one of mine. As soon as I read his Journey to the Stone Country, set in Queensland, I thought “Ah! Here’s a voice for my country, a voice I trust. Humility and humanity, and a deep, non-romanticised respect for the first Australians.” This latest novel (and Miller is now in his 80s, so this could be his last) is really his own story, sculpted into a novel-shape. Writers tend to want to make sense of things, and this is Miller doing that. His writing is very spare, for one so passionately engaged.
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose – The author sets the performance art of Marina Abramović at the centre of this engaging novel. It references Abramović’s 2010 performance called The Artist is Present, at New York’s MoMA, in which she sat 8 hours a day for three months, opposite an empty chair. Those who sat in that chair locked gaze with the artist for as long as they wished to. No speech or touching was allowed.
Against this completely factual background Rose imagines two people – Arky Levin and Jane Miller. They find themselves mesmerised by the process and visit the gallery often. They get to know one another. This is the story of that relationship, but it’s also, quoting the Stella Prize website, “a meditation on the social, spiritual and artistic importance of seeing and being seen, and listening for voices from the present and past that may or may not be easy to hear”. Rose’s writing is fluid, open, thoughtful, beautiful.