Don Miller was the mystical magical master of metaphor at Melbourne Uni in the politics department when it was mad for theory. In those days, Alan Fu Davies, John Cash, Nikos Papastergiadis, Scott McQuire, Glenda Sluga and others met regularly in the open coffee area (now boarded up as cubicle offices) to discuss psycho-social politics, Foucault, Derrida, Spivak, Rose, and where Anthony Giddens came and tore his stretch denim jeans on an armchair and Jean Baudrillard talked about everything as simulation and was asked ‘so why do you write’.
Don has now perpetrated another book, his fourth, a long time coming, but a beauty. Happily published by Pavement, it is endorsed by the great and the good of time studies, but it is much more. Also a theoretical book, but filled with examples, cases studies and commentary on everything relevant to Australian politics, global theory, matters of the minute and problems of the ages. It is infused with sport and science, India and Europe, Melbourne to its core yet never parochial in a way that will wind some people up and get others scratching their heads to think. The ‘think piece’ indeed was Don’s meter, asking his students to sit under a tree and consider their assignment before writing them in – as he encouraged – prose that challenged the stiff conventions of Political Science in its day, and today.
Time itself is more than a metaphor, but then nothing can escape time, or metaphor. The book benefits hugely from years beyond the university, talking to people as a conversationalist, a life coach, an advisor and a neighbour. A product of travels across the globe and across the shelves, armchair readings of psychoanalysis and on the spot samples of subcontinental conflicts, dilemmas and designs. The book is a conceptual challenge to tik-tok and clock time, taking temporality through its paces, trialling different angles, wearing away, shifting, displacing the assumptions of the watch, how duration has a face, apparent and hegemonic, which orders time and is thereby disrupted by those who champion fluidity of thought and action. McEnroe’s sublime.
In his blurb for the book, the China specialist Michael Dutton, also a one-time member of the Melbourne Uni Politics Department, says Miller ‘hones in on the ethereal and the everyday quotidian yet paradoxically political character of timing’. Too much perhaps, but that hits the head of the nail in ways most florid writing cannot. Don’s prose never exceeds its remit, but its remit is to provoke you to think again, to think of how style is bound up with what a book says, to think of multiple times of reading, and living. To accept the gift of being responsible for reading and thinking and living in your time and for all time as a finite yet multiple being. The longer perspective is not in the length of the book but the time that these thoughts will stay at the back of thinking, a contemplation engine informing and reforming thoughts and schedules. Make time to read this book, it will be worth the wait (for the delivery, in this time of Covid, will also pass fast enough, in due course).