Merry Birthmas Mr. Miller
--- Henry Miller in Nexus (1960; p. 72)
As paranoid conservatives worry about the supposed "War On Christmas," hybridizations like 'Chrismukkah' keep merrily procreating every year. I think that maybe it's time for the victims of another long-neglected holiday predicament to find their place amongst the bastard festivities. These poor unfortunates are those whose birthdays occur on or around Christmas. Merry Birthmas to all of you and, of course, to Henry Miller, whose overshadowed birthdays began on December 26th, 114 years ago!
Awkward family Christmas dinners have long been a seasonal tradition. Henry Miller has enjoyed his share, as is attested to in the on-line essay "Choking on my own saliva": Henry Miller's bourgeois family Christmas in 'Nexus.' - Family Systems Psychotherapy and Literature/Literary Criticism by James Decker (Style, Summer 1997). In this academic study, Decker explores how Miller's drive for individualism is undermined by his bred instinct to please his parents: "By highlighting the Christmas scene, Miller recognizes what Henry does not: that Henry's Bohemian, "independent" life simply constitutes one more example in a pattern of escapism." [Decker, p. 2]. It's an interesting, dense read; you may feel the need to un-do the top few button of your brain pants and lie down on the couch afterward.
James Decker also happens to be the editor of Nexus - The International Henry Miller Journal. It's my understanding that a brand new issue of the journal is out this month (email them to find out). One of the contributors will be NormaJean Ulery MacLeod (whose poem Dear Henry will appear), who offers this American religious memoir of Christmases past.
As for myself, I need to skip town for a few days this holiday season to partake in my own secular Xmas family/ies dinner(s). I probably won't post again in here until just before the new year. Please don't stay up for me, but feel free to leave out the milk and cookies just the same.
Don't forget to raise a birthday toast to Henry Miller this December 26th.
“Suddenly at this point I thought of my old friends in the neighborhood. ‘Merry Christmas! Mrs. Reynolds!’ I shouted. ‘Merry Xmas Mr. Ramsay, you old goat! Merry Xmas Mr. Pirossa, may your bananas slowly ripen! Fuck Jesus! Puck the Virgin Mary! Fuck Gautama the Buddha! Peace on Earth with neutron and hydrogen bombs! Vive the clap! Vive Syphilis the brother of Satan! When you are in love you must destroy right and left! Long live the street cleaners. Bless the uncteries! Long live Insanity! A new day is dawning, an even worse one. Run for your life! Take cover! Puck your sister, your mother, your aunt, your cousin! Not a crumb of the past will be left. Not a morsel, not even a speck. A clean sweep. Pure, beautiful annihilation.’”
--- Henry Miller in Joey, 1979
The image of Henry Miller in my banner art is a video capture from The Henry Miller Odyssey by Robert Snyder (makes a great Xmas gift!), which I have rather unconvincingly doctored to give him a Santa Claus beard.