A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It's been a while now since I've read a Donald Miller book. I read Blue Like Jazz long after it came out in order to figure out why everyone was freaking out over it. I enjoyed it, although I don't make a habit of reading memoir, so I don't think at the time I could rightly judge whether it was good, great or something other. Anyway, in the interim between reading BLJ and now reading this, I've read a number of articles by Don Miller, seen him speak a number of times, and I know that when he writes a book, it's because he can't get something out of his mind. For this book, the things he can't get out of his mind are the mechanics of storytelling, and the notion that God is a storyteller, and we are God's stories.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is ostensibly about the process Miller went through when he was approached to make a movie out of BLJ. As it happens, books, particularly memoirs, don't become movies overnight. He went through all kinds of uncomfortable epiphanies about how thinking is not necessarily living, how comfort is not necessarily compelling. In refashioning BLJ into something that other people might actually sit through for two hours, Miller began to wonder whether the life he was living was a good enough story. We meet an array of interesting people, live vicariously through several of Miller's more interesting episodes (hiking the Andes, biking the United States, et cetera, et cetera) and reflect with Miller on how the dynamics of story intersect with the demands of life.
The thing about Miller's writing is how effortlessly informal it is. He writes as though ideas have just come to him; one wonders how he types with his shoulders seemingly perpetually shrugged. He has a dry wit, so dry you actually wonder if the clearly hyperbolic act he's attributed to his roommate actually happened. It's a winsome style of writing that needs no justification, really. No wonder people love him. The thing more worth wondering about is how such a plainspoken approach has landed him not only so many book contracts, but so many book sales.
I work in Christian book publishing, and I've lost track of how many first-time authors compare themselves to Donald Miller, compare their book to BLJ. The intuitively understand, even as they try to convince us otherwise, that Miller's publishing story is utterly anomalous, totally unique. That is, after all, how a story ought to be.
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