Sunday, March 14, 2010

An Overwhelming Sense of Millsness...

Ironically, one huge roadblock in trying to search the internet for "George Mills" is the myriad of references to Stanley Elkin's 1982 book entitled George Mills that are strewn along the path. As if there weren't already a seemingly endless array of George Millses festooning the worldwide web, every bookseller has a page for the award-winning book, and some for the author, Elkin, as well, adding to the cacophony of on-line G.M. references.

On the George Mills page at, Elkins's book is described: "An ambitious‚ digressive‚ and endlessly entertaining account of the thousand-year history of the George Millses‚ GEORGE MILLS is the antithesis to the typical Horatio Alger story. Since the First Crusade‚ there has always been a George Mills‚ who—despite his best efforts—is unable to improve his position in life or that of his descendants... But the latest in the long line of George Millses may also be the last‚ as he obsesses about his family’s history and determines that he will be the one to break this doomed cycle."

So, it appears that I've actually decided to winnow out the proverbial needle in a haystack: An unknown man whose only identifiable characteristic—his name, George Mills—makes him one of a litany of the indistinguishable so lengthy that it's become the gold standard of anonymity, at least according to Elkin!

Elkin won the 1982
National Book Critics Circle Award for George Mills. In that same year, the New York Times book review by Leslie Epstein asks the same question of Elkins's book that we focus on here: "WHO, then, is this George Mills?"

The review continues, with my emphasis: "By the middle of the book… we know this much about him: He is married, childless, fiftyish, employed by a company that specializes in dispossessing ghetto blacks… What distinguishes him, at least in his own eyes, is, first, his conviction that he is saved, and then his overwhelming sense of 'Millsness,' the burden of his family history, which hangs over his head like a curse."

Apparently what I'm now trying to work around is this 'overwhelming sense of Millsness', which in 1982 had to have been more of a sensibility than a fact that internet search engines can now confirm. I mean George Mills is found on far more websites than that paradigm of ultimate anonymity, John Doe, according to's search engine [
142,000,000 results to 31,900,000 results .

Yes, trying to tease one, single George Mills out of the boundless fabric of the internet won't be easy—even a Mills who's actually a published, 20th century author with four volumes residing on the shelves of the British Library alongside the Magna Charta and the Lindisfarne Gospels, for cryin' out loud!

Now that's anonymity! Still, I intend to continue to try to unravel the answer to the seemingly impenetrable question: "WHO, then, is this George Mills?"

No comments:

Post a Comment