Thursday, November 09, 2006

Books Of Friends

Henry Miller entered his 80s in the 1970s, but his mind was still fluid with memories of his childhood. In that time, Miller created a series of chapbooks, which became known as the Book Of Friends trilogy.

BOOK OF FRIENDS - (Book Of Friends, Volume I)

The writing of the series began with the new year in 1973. "I have begun a big book - 'The Book Of Friends,' I am calling it tentatively," wrote Miller to Lawrence Durrell on January 3, 1973. "It's easy going, to my liking. Simple, nostalgic, perhaps even sentimental at times" ... "The past is like an open book -- rather, a cinerama spactacle. Nothing is ever lost, what! Have 30 friends listed. Hope I can finish it befoe I croak."
[The Durrell-Miller Letters 1935-80, ed. Ian MacNiven, p. 461]

Miller's first installment (over 100 pages) took two years to complete. Miller's agent at the time, Jack Ketchum (who's real name is actually Dallas Mayr), made the deal with Capra Press to publish it (from Ketchum interviews: ref 1/ ref 2).

I. Stasiu (Stanley Borowski)
II. Joey And Tony (Imhof, really Insley)
III. Cousin Henry
IV. Jimmy Pasta (Tony Marella)
V. Joe O'Reagan
VI. Max Winthrop
VII. Alec Considine

The book was released in limited and trade editons by Capra Press in 1976, then as a paperback in 1977. [ref. Ashley's variations]. The U.S. cover was adorned with a Miller watercolour he titled "Happy Days."

MY BIKE & OTHER FRIENDS - (Book Of Friends, Volume II)

Miller continued to write through ailing health. In a letter to Durrell from June 16, 1977, he declared that he had completed volume two ["(five Jews, one Gentile and the last chapter -- 'My Best Friend' -- about my racing wheel!)]. [ref. Durrell-Miller, as above; p. 486]

III. Vincent Birge
IV. Emil White
V. Ephraim Doner
VI. Jack Garfein
VIII. My Best Friend (his bike)

Three editions of this volume were published in 1978, totalling just less than 10,000 copies overall [ref. Ashley]. You can find a description of the Joe Gray chapter on the PBA Galleries wesbite [Personal Archive of HM Pt. 2, Item 39]


The final book of friends is partly a profile of Alfred Perles (ak.a "Joey," "Alf," etc). The majority of the book is actually filled out by impressions of 13 women in his life (amusingly, Miller refers to them as the "other women in his life," besides Perles that is). In the preface to this section, Miller states that, at the end of December 1977 (just having turned 86), he became inspired to write about these women at a time when he thought that he would "do very little further writing, if any at all."

Over the next year and a half, Miller wrote this final part of the series. While reviewing the proofs in June 1979, he wrote to Lawrence Durrell: "It's a queer book with ten stories about women-in-my-life tacked on, together with an epilogue about Anais and her unfair treatment of Joey..." [The Durrell-Miller Letters 1935-80, p.505] From what Miller says, I assume that three more profiles were quickly added before it went to press (but the epilogue remained). Joey was published by Capra Press in October 1979.

I. Joey (Part 1)
II. Joey (Part II)
III. Pauline
IV. Miriam Painter
V. Marcella
VI. Camilla
VII. Melpo
VIII. Sevasty
IX. Aunt Anna
X. Florrie Martin
XI. Edna Booth
XII. Louella
XIII. Ruth And The Fur-Lined Coat
XIV. Renate And The Astrologer
XV. Brenda Venus

In the 1980s, all three books of the trilogy were published in a single collection.


Blogger RuKsaK said...

I have a paperback copy of Book of friends tucked away in an attic in England somewhere - wishing i could look and see which one now. I remember enjoying it - Miller always seemed to show a certain reverance for his friends which is so endearing

8:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 1st printing trade edition of Henry Miller's Book of Friends published by Capra in 1976. My copy has the cover attached upside down and backwards relative to the book. Ashley makes no mention of this variation. Has anyone seen or heard of this?

6:34 pm  
Blogger Ryan Gomito said...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a copy of Book of Friends kept at one of the pastoral houses that our family lived in back in the Philippines. It's the very first book that I truly liked as a kid!

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