Monday, April 17, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Page 1

My reference copy of Nexus is the 1997 Grove Edition. I am not transcribing the entire text here. I will only reference words, quotes, names and subjects of note, sometimes providing full sentences where they serve to clarify context. Otherwise, you'll need to look these up in your own copy of Nexus.
The first page actually begins on page 7. After this post, I will refer to the actual pages; the next will be page 8. This project will be on-going, but will be broken up with other postings to keep things interesting.

One last thing: I've never attempted literary criticism, so don't expect authority in my editorial comments and interpretations. Your opinions and insight are crucial. Feel free to correct me!


1.1 Woof! Woof woof! Woof! Woof!
Miller's barking--which opens Nexus--is a continuation of the barking at the very end of Sexus (p.505, 506) in which Miller portrays himself as a dog--June's "pet"--as a means to illustrate the humiliation he feels at her hands. In Sexus, his barking elicits a treat from her. In Nexus, this barking is unanswered: his cries for attention are unheard.

1.2 “Which do you want—the East of Xerxes or the East of Christ”?
This quote is supposedly presented to June. It's taken from Russian poet and philosopher Vladimir Soloviev, from an 1890 poem called Ex Oriente Lux.

O Rus'! In lofty premonition
You ponder a proud idea;
Which East do you want to be:
The East of Xerxes or of Christ?

George C Marshall interprets the meaning of this line [PDF] from the original poem: "[Soloviev] asked this of Russia, during its quest for the east: between Asian despotism represented by Xerxes or Oriental spirituality symbolized by Christ." In relation to June, Miller uses the question to wonder whether he is to suffer further humiliation in the relationship or whether the two of them will achieve a deeper bond.

1.3 Alone--with eczema of the brain.
Miller is left alone with a brain that is itching with thoughts and ideas. He follows this up by defining the situation as "marvelous," wishing he were "alone with God." By this, I think he's saying, 'June inspires my thoughts and words, but imagine if God were my muse instead! (in June's absense).' Not so much religious reverence as it is a desire to be as the gods.

1.4 the Tilla Durieux bouche
As Miller summons the image of June to his mind, he describes her face and hair. Here [left] are a couple of images of German actress Tilla Durieux (1880-1971), whose mouth ("bouche") Miller compares to June's and describes as "a bow."

1.5 the actress from the Carpathians
A reference to June (who was also an actress) and her family's homeland of origin: the Carpathian mountain chain covers parts of Roumania and that general East European/Russian region.

1.6 My name is Isaac Dust.
I couldn't find any significant reference to this name on the internet. I guess it's a made-up name: "Isaac" is a Jewish name; June is Jewish, and, throughout Nexus, Miller identifies with Jews and Jewish culture.

"Dust" is probably just an analogy; something insignificant, floating, unstable, the powdery ash of an obliterated entity. In Dante's Divine Comedy (see 1.7), there are these quotes:
a) "still may our earthly fame move you to tell who and what you are, who so securely set your live feet to the dead dusts of Hell."
b) "I saw a weeping people everywhere lying outstretched and face-down on the ground. 'My soul cleaves to the dust,' I heard them cry over and over as we stood among them; and every word was swallowed by a sigh."

1.7 I am in Dante's Fifth Heaven.
Identified in Dante's Paradiso (Canto XIV), which is part of The Divine Comedy trilogy (which includes Inferno). [see 1.6] According to this summary of Canto XIV, the Fifth Heaven is Mars. By entering its sphere, one's spirit emits a blinding radiance equivalent to one's inner joy. This sentiment is similar to that in the opening of Tropic Of Cancer: in having nothing, he is the happiest man alive.

1.8 Like Strindberg in his delirium
This posting at gives a good description of Strindberg's delirium and Miller's identification with it. Miller gives dialogue to Strindberg, wondering what it matters if "one is the only one, or whether one has a rival." Strindberg seems to have been bothered that Ibsen was a constant rival to his genius. Miller could consider Jean Kronski (Anastasia) his rival in Nexus, but I think here he simply means, Can I be happy as a solitary creator or must I be dependent on the approval of others?

1.9 Morton Schnadig, etc....
Suddenly Miller recalls a long list of names of "classmates from dear old Alma Mater." I guess this would be his high school, Eastern District. I actually bothered to search some of these names, but, without more information to identify them, the task is futile. Miller paints these individuals as never having raised their heads, "stricken from the ledger," and remaining silent when called upon. This comparison seems to diminish his "rivals" and sets his role as soliatary creator on a higher level. See this post for all listed classmates.

1.10 Yes, it is Strindberg.
Though the former classmates are silent, August Strindberg the artist is heard by Miller, even though August's in a "gloom" with "two horns protruding from his forehead"; Miller's soul brother -- a man possessed by it or not.

1.11 Le cocu magnifique.
The Maginificent Cuckold - Strindberg had been married several times, each ending in bitter divorce. This parallels Miller's marital strife with June as Nexus opens. Strindberg had problems, yes ... Henry understands, empathizes and--magnifique--admires him. He identifies with the lonely burden of the truth-seeking artist.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your Nexus annotation project. Reminds me of the wiki annotation project for Umberto Eco's latest novel.

On 1.6: Isaac means laughter in Hebrew. The pairing of "laughter" and "dust" may be similar to that of "rosy" and "crucifixion".

Also, I believe Miller was fond of the "for all your ills I give you laughter" quote from Rabelais.

12:08 pm  
Blogger RC said...

Hey Kreg, I like the connection you make with "laughter." Sounds like a possibility.

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Blogger BlackSpring said...

I love Henry Miller. And because of this site of yours, I haven't worked today. I'm in my office but just reading and not working.

Thanks (I guess)


PS. Please keep on with the good work. Cheers.

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Blogger Angel charls said...

By this, I think he's saying, 'June inspires my thoughts and words, but imagine if God were my muse instead! (in June's absense).' Not so much religious reverence as it is a desire to be as the gods.

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