Worthy of this Great City by Mike Miller | Book Spotlight

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Worthy of this Great City

by Mike Miller

Publisher: JAM Publishing
Published: November 3rd 2016
Page count: 252
Genre: Fiction, Philosophy, Contemporary

Ruth Askew is a minor celebrity gone crazy in public. Con Manos is  a journalist on a mission.

Add some highly incompetent philosophy, Philadelphia politics,  and the purported end of virtue.

Loosely based on actual unbelievable events, Worthy Of This Great City is a scathing study of profound stupidity as evinced by some distinguished members of City Council, an easy listening radio station, a disorganized charity, a prestigious newspaper, and other criminals operating within a post-truth, morally uncertain city.

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Q and A

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. A lifelong search for the words I need. That’s a combination of enormous need or ambition and an appreciation for the power of language. I was into sculpture as a kid and I wanted to have that degree of mastery over words, to sculpt with words. I have this great delusion that once I can do that I can do that I can reshape my life. So for me there’s no greater thrill than getting something right, reaching one of those breakthroughs when you understand what you’ve been writing about all along.

Q.  What writers have most influenced your work?

A. Salinger. When I first read Franny and Zooey as an adolescent I was astounded that a book could express my private questions and concerns, could consider such matters important in life and in literature. It set me off on a different course, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. And Twain for Huck Finn with his clear vision and moral independence.

Q.  Tell me about Worthy of This Great City.

A. We have two characters involved in a satire of city politics and scandal. Ruth Askew is impulsive, proud, stumbling clumsily around looking for ideas about God, all that. Like all of us, Ruth eager to take pride in her gifts but gifted at avoiding responsibility for her actions. Con Manos practices brutal truth; he’s Ruth antithesis, and examines her through the lenses of philosophy, law, and journalism. But be careful, because I’m playing a game with the narration. Something else might be going on. 

Q.  How did you choose your cover?

A. Well, that’s a story, because I never wanted to put too much emphasis on the externals, only on text. Covers ultimately have to do with brick-and-mortar shelf space. I’ve termed Worthy a B-game book to keep the focus on content. So I used one of my own photographs, one that seemed to capture the mystery and promise of City Hall’s corridors. It’s golden and beautiful and makes for a cover everyone immediately hated, I assume because it isn’t what a cover is supposed to be. I sort of love that response.

Q.  Did the experience of publication surprise you, or has it been pretty much what you expected?

A. Well, I stopped doubting myself. I could see from various critiques exactly what the reader did or did not grasp of what is after all a very complex, layered work structured to read easily. It can be appreciated simply as a satire or as philosophy or as a commentary on narration and the novel. I think that’s correct, in a way. It reflects the complexity of every living moment, and the ease with which we necessarily ignore that marvelous complexity. Anyway, somewhere along the way other people’s opinions stopped mattering to me, and as a typically insecure writer I find that remarkable.

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes. It’s about immigration law, a political asylum case, but I don’t want to get into more detail because almost certainly everything will change. As in Worthy of This Great City, the fact of the narrator is important. And again as in Worthy, places and times sometimes move subtly, with no sharp edges but merely a shift in influence.  

Q.  You clearly see both fiction and publishing as in transition?
A.  Radical transition. The novel is infinite; it’s a world of unexplored possibilities of both structure and content deserving and capable of advancement, evolution. By which I definitely exclude pathetic tricks of cosmetics and inserted media. Whatever the fashion, text doesn’t need to apologize. But I think we’re entering a new era where major publishing houses produce mainstream, commercial products but also act as distributors, and indie authors are as respected as indie filmmakers. 

About the author

If you know my website and Twitter addresses (asmikemiller.com and asmikemiller, respectively), you must realize Mike Miller is only an author name. It's not a matter of privacy or secrecy; anybody can find me with minimal effort. It's about keeping things separate. My writing is about what appears on the page. It's not about my personal politics or religion or history. 

Worthy Of This Great City is a B-game book. I'm ambiguous about this, being interested in money like most people, but I don't want to compete with a slick professional cover or smooth editing so I've stuck to a sort of reasonable, human middle ground. I value those things for what they are, of course, but I see them as artifacts, part of a system of publishing that fought like hell for a week's worth of shelf space, that fought to catch the eye, not the mind or heart. 

As my character Con Manos says: "It's a revolution, isn't it?" I say: Why fight on the side of the enemy? Why imitate and thus perpetuate a business model that stifles originality? Just to show you can? Unless, of course, you're fighting to attract the eye, not the mind or heart.

I've played some games with this novel - my first, incidentally. Played with the idea of narration to begin with, and who can be speaking after all. Get all very literary and see Mikhail Bakhtin, e.g.

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