Thursday, June 29, 2006

Autobiographical Notes, 1943

From the "Personal Archives of Henry Miller" catalogue of auctioned items on the PBA Galleries website, is a partial transcription of autobiographical notes written by Miller in 1943. The typed letter had been written for Bern Porter, in preparation--I assume--for Porter's 1945 bibliography of Miller's work. The five pages apparently give yearly accounts of his life up to age 52 (in 1943).

Here is the excerpt provided by PBA [see Item 25]:

"1905 - Met ideal image of woman in person of Miriam Painter. 1907 - Met first love, Cora Seward, at Eastern District High School, Brooklyn" ..... early manhood ... "1923 - Wrote first book (Clipped Wings) during three weeks' vacation from Western Union duties [...]

"Began tremendous correspondence with Harolde O. Ross, musician, of Minnesota. Met June Edith Smith in Broadway Dance Palace [...] 1927 - Open speak-easy in Greenwich Village with wife June. Trip to Florida in search of a waiter's job. Job in Park Dep't. (Queens) while June is in Europe. Compile notes for complete autobiographical cycle of novels in 24 hours." [...]

"1930 - Was befriended by Richard G. Osborn and Alfred Perles. Made friends with Ossip Zadkine, John Nichols, Frank and Paula Mechau, Bertha Schrank, Brassai. 1931 - Began writing Tropic of Cancer while walking the streets and sleeping where I could: day by day existence. 1932 - Met Anais Nin in Louveciennes, France. 1933 - Took apartment with Alfred Perles in Clichy. `Black Spring' period: great fertility, great joy. Saw June for the last time.

"1934 - Tropic of Cancer published in September. Decisive moment. Had rewritten it three times; original ms. twice as big as present book. Divorced from June in Mexico City, by proxy [...]"

The autobiography ends with Henry's life in Big Sur. This Miller document sold for $400 in 1998.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Page 13

13.0 Continuing from page 12, Miller discusses the methods with which Mona and Stasia each deal with "evil" in the world. Miller then wonders what the truth is regarding Stasia's apparent release from a mental hospital: was it by Mona's tearful coaxing of the medical staff, a favour from Dr. Kronski, or were the wards just overflowing?

13.1 "she walked through fire unharmed"
Miller's description of Mona's ability to waltz through life (especially the "fire" of the underworld cirlces she sometimes asociated with) without incident, which he attributes to her fearlessness ("almost nothing in life frightened her").

13.2 "she wore amulets to ward off the evil powers"
This in reference to Stasia, who "had a nose for Evil," "To Stasia the Devil was an omnipresent Being ever in wait for his victim." For this reason she wore amulets for protection, made signs "on entering a strange house," and sometimes "repeated incantations in strange tongues."

13.3 "It's the Slav in her"
Mona attributes the use of "magic" by Stasia to her Slavic background. I made an attempt to find something about the stereotypical character of the Slavic people with regards to superstition, but could not find anything concise.

13.4 "the authorities had placed Stasia in Mona's hands"
The authorities in this case would be those in charge of the mental hospital Stasia was being held at (see 10.1 - page 10). This is a reference to Mona's claim, part of her lie; probably an excuse to allow Stasia--her secret lover--to move in with them.

13.5 Kronski
[see Page 9 - 9.2] Kronski's version of the story of Statsia's release is that he was the one responsible for her release (not Mona) and that she is not in Mona's care (not in anyone's). Still, Miller isn't sure why Kronski is "interested in the case," except, possibly, that Mona's had pleaded with him. "In the back of my head was the resolution to visit the hospital myself one fine day and find out precisely what occurred. (Just for the record)."

Miller ends the page with a mention of "the Village," which is covered in more detail on the next couple of pages.

<----- previous page 11 & 12 next page 14 ---->

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Nat Pendleton, Admirer Of June

While annotating Nexus, page 9 [see item 9.7], I mentioned that Henry saw June with a wrestler name Jim Driscoll. I was unable to turn anything up about this manhandler, and wrote him off as obscure. In Robert Ferguson's Henry Miller: A Life, however, he devotes half of page 144 to a wrestler and Hollywood actor named Nat Pendleton, whom June had been seen dating while she was with Miller. Ferguson doesn't make note of his source for this information identifying Pendleton, but I get the impression that Jim Drsicoll is just a fictional name given to Nat Pendleton by Miller.

"Jim Driscoll" is mentioned a few times in Plexus as being one of June's admirers:

"Jim Driscoll, whom I have seen in the ring, is a wrestler with intellectual pretentions." (p. 394)

"[Arthur Raymond's] idol was Jim Driscoll, who had lately turned professional. Perhaps it was because Jim Driscoll had once studied to be an organist that he adored him so." (p. 406)

"Another [who lavished attention upon June] was the wrestler, Jim Driscoll." (p.591)

I've found no evidence on the internet that Pendleton studied the organ, but, according to this biography of Pendleton, he spoke several dialects and was not at all the dumb lug he was often portrayed as on film (see his filmography here; Pendleton [at left] as Eugen Sandow from The Great Ziegfeld, 1936 -- taken from this website).

Pendleton was born in Iowa but came to New York to study and begin his wrestling career. In 1920, he competed as a wrestler for the U.S. Olympic team and came home with a silver medal. He became a popular pro wrestler, which led to a few supporting roles in feature films in the mid-to-late 1920s, when June was hanging out with him. As Ferguson says in his book: "Pendleton had lately been having some success in films as a 'heavy,' and June may have hoped that he could help further her own acting career." (Henry Miller: A Life, p.144).

Ferguson also relates a story of Miller spying on June and Pendleton and then confronting his wife about the affair, similar to the incident depicted on page 9 of Nexus.

Miller likely fictionalized his name as "Jim" in honour of a Greek wrestler Miller admired called Jim Londos. Miller wrote about Londos in one of his earilest written sketches (a mezzotint I think).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 11 & 12

11.0 On this page, Miller explains how Mona and Stasia exist in a world of lies, yet draw blanks when discussing their childhoods ("From the cradle, apparently, they sprang into womanhood.") Stasia sometimes gives Henry clues by way of Dostoevski references.

11.1 "Details bore them."
Henry must ask them "point blank" or "coaxing" questions about their childhoods, but they never "permit themselves to slip into the past." Here are the few scant facts he managed to find out: they can swim, skate and have played jacks; one or the other has broken a leg and sprained an ankle.

11.2 Russia, Roumania, Vienna, and the flatlands of Brooklyn
Miller tries another tactic: mention their homelands and perhaps childhood memories will be tapped. All they do in response, however, is talk about "strange places, Russia and Roumania included, but as though they were recounting something which had been related to them by a stranger or picked up in a travel book."

11.3 "Stasia, a little more artful.."
This is an example of Henry's sympathetic portrait of Jean Kronski in Nexus, compared to his critical portrayal of June Mansfield.

11.4 Dostoevski
Fyodor Dostoevski [1] [2] (1821-1881) is of course one of Russia's greatest writers. He is mentioned over a dozen times throughout Nexus. In Miller's Books In My Life, he credits Dostoevski's "works in general" as being amongst his 100 most influencial books.

Here, it is Stasia dropping Dostoevski references, which Henry takes as a challenge to his memory of Dostoevski's works.

11.5 "I have an excellent memory for the aura of things read."
Miller is never sure whether the facts presneted in Stasia's Dostoevski references are true or not, but he feels certain that he could identify "a false Dostoevskian touch." I included this as an annotation because, some day, I'd like to explore the subject of how Miller read books.

11.6 The spelling of "Dostoevski"
Miller spells is as above in Nexus, but I'm sure everyone recognitzes the fact that Mr. D's name is often spelled in different ways. Here's a little essay about these discrepancies. In Books In My Life, Miller spells it "Dostoievsky." Maybe that was just the editor's touch.

12.0 This entire page is devoted to Dostoevski and his versions of madness and evil, as perceived by Mona, Henry, and Stasia.

12.1 "her god, Dostoevski."
This refers to Mona's reverence. Mona is happy to hear Henry and Stasia talk about her idol, yet Miller adds an insult to her portrayal by contrasting this with the comment on page 11 that she is "aware neither of truth nor falsity" in their discussions of her supposed "god." [see 11.3]

12.2 "As if he invented all those mad people, all those crazy scenes which flood his novels."
Miller commenting on Mona's wish that Dostoevski was with them. He seems to be responding to an idea Mona has that the madness in D's novels was invented for "pleasure" instead of being drawn from real life. Miller then suggests that Mona and Stasia don't realize that they exactly the type of real-life "mad characters" that he would have included in his books ("'mad' characters in a book that life is writing with invisible ink.")

Reseraching the "mad characters" and "crazy scenes" in the work of Dostoevski is beyond the scope of what I'm doing here, but, if you're interested, you may sift through these essays for clues.

12.3 "'You're such a dear fool, Val.'"
"Val" is of course Henry, from his middle name Valentine.

12.4 "when she gets to raving about my unwritten books"
A reference to the fact that Miller would use June as a sounding board for most of his ideas, but at that point in his life, he had not yet completed a book (not including his hack work Clipped Wings, which he wrote for Wetsern Union).

12.5 "..another Dostoevski. A pity I can't throw an epileptic fit now and then."
Henry wishes he could maintain the "necessary standing" when Mona compares him to Dostoevski. Mr. D was in fact an epileptic, as elaborated on in this essay and also in this study by Sigmund Freud.

12.6 bourgeois
Illusions of Dostoevski often degrade into insults of "bourgeois" aimed at Miller by Mona. My understanding of this term as slander is that it means one is a member of a conservative and fearful middle class. Here, Miller says Mona calls him this for being "too inquisitive, too picayune, too intolerant" as well as too interested in "facts."

12.7 Dostoevski, according to Mona
.."was always in the couds --or else buried in the depths." "He lived only in the imagination."

12.8 "the diabolical element" [in Dostoevski]
This is what Stasia is said to "relish." (she also believed that D had a "bourgeois" side). The paragraph about the "evil" in Dostoevski continues onto page 13. Mona doesn't recognize the evil in Dostoevski's work, whereas Stasia believes in the "reality" of evil and the Devil.

12.9 "she was, after all, a little closer to reality."
This is how Henry describes Stasia in comparison to Mona. Once again, a kinder portrayal of Jean and a critical presentation of Mona's fixation on "imagination."

<--- previous page 10 Next page 13 --->

Monday, June 05, 2006

Robert Towne Remembers And Other Miller Bits

While I was away, I accumulated various Henry Miller internet references through my subscription to the Google Alerts keyword feature. Here are a few very trivial yet mildly interesting items from that collection.

On May 27, The Telegraph newspaper published an interview with filmmaker Robert Towne [seen in banner art above] about Jean Renoir's 1937 film La Grande Illusion. Towne recounts the first time he met Renoir:

"Well, I met Renoir when I was 28, and I'd seen [the film] before then.
"It was at a garden party, and I went out into the backyard, and [the novelist] Henry Miller was there, playing ping-pong with his girlfriend, a very large-busted, 25-year-old Asian girl. Renoir was sitting in the blazing hot sun, wearing a beautiful blazer. I remember his shoulders were sloping and very heavy. He had the Légion d'honneur on his lapel. He looked up at me and he said: 'Renoir.' And I said: 'I know.'
"Later on, I happened to sit with him. There were three of us - Renoir, Henry and myself. I remember Renoir saying that he believed that, in the end, defeated peoples, peoples that were conquered, very often were the people that survived; that victory was not in conquest but survival."


Bezalel Schatz (1912-1978), artist and friend of Henry's (and brother-in-law to one of his wives, Eve McClure), created the artwork to accompany Henry's text, for the 1947 collaborative coffee-table book, Into The Night Life.

Some of this original artwork is apparently in the possession of Brandeis University, which is currently holding an exhibition called Collective Voice: The works of Reuven Rubin and other Israeli artists from the Brandeis Collection.

"To its left is Bezalel Schatz's Into the Night with Henry Miller (1946), in which a monstrous and tortured creature-like an alligator, deformed by stray paint strokes and splatters-lurches violently."


The Long Beach, CA Press Telegram has a story about a long-running barbershop that has a few signed celebrity photos on the wall, including Henry Miller's (it's run by Tom Lasorda and is at 5th and Flower in downtown L.A.). There is no other mention of Miller, but if any of you live in L.A., why not pop in on Lasorda and ask for Henry Miller stories?



"Between Cannes and St. Tropez" on the French coast, in a village called Boulouris, sits a hotel called La Villa Mauresque. The hotel has co-opted the names of primarily French writers and artists and applied them to their luxury-priced suites. The rooms don't appear to have any connection to the artist names, other than to offer some articifical romantic associtaion with their namesakes. Somewhat randomly thrown into the mix of Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rimbaud and Baudelaire suites is the Henry Miller room, at 310 € a night [picture above].

Somerset Maughm stayed here, but I'm not sure if Miller ever did. There is no Maughm room.