Saturday, December 30, 2006

Six Degrees To The Black Dahlia Murder

While watching a TV documentary earlier this year about the infamous Black Dahlia murder, I came to wonder if there was even a slight connection to the events surrounding it and Henry Miller. He lived in the general region around that time period. My link is very trivial, so I wondered whether to even post it; but this blog is about Miller trivia, big and small. So, why not.
You may read about the murder case here, here, here or here. Budding young Hollywood hopeful Elizabeth Short was found hacked in two in Leimert Park, L.A. on Janury 15, 1947. She was last seen alive on January 9th. The case was never solved and the list of "possible" suspects has grown in the following decades to questionable dimensions. Besides the 22 men investigated by the DA's office, some far-out theories finger celebrities like Orson Welles.

One suspect was Dr. George Hodel, whose supposed guilt was recently decalred by his son in the book, Black Dahlia Avenger. It should be noted that the factual strength of this book has been disputed. And here lies my rickety connection to Miller. In this book, Steven Hodel makes passing mention of Henry: "Another of Dad’s acquaintances, and Man Ray’s as well, was the novelist Henry Miller, whom Joe remembered seeing talking to Father in his library." (p.211, paperback ed.) Yep, that's all I have. If Miller had in fact met Hodel, it was likely through Man Ray, who'd been his neighbour while he was staying with the Neimans.

Some people have suggested that Man Ray's art played some role in the manner of the victim's mutilation. This is explored mostly in the book Exquisite Corpse. Here's someone's analysis of this theory.

Though he had lived in L.A. in the mid-40s, Henry Miller was living in Big Sur at the time of the muder. He wrote to James Laughlin from there on January 1, 1947. In a letter to Lawrence Durrell on February 9th, 1947, Miller states that he was "recently" in San Franciso (where he saw a film), but otherwise he was in Big Sur (a few weeks away from moving into his new house on Partington Ridge). I point these facts out to calm the potential conspiracy theorist who might think that I'm implying that Miller had even the most remote chance of being involved with this crime. Absolutely not! As I said, this is just a minor trivial connection to a contemporary event outside of his own life.

Incidentally, Henry was living in the Pacific Pallisades, probably working on watercolours, when JFK was shot.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Literature As A Dead Duck

Thank you, Tony From London, for your comment on the previous post regarding Miller material available on the internet. I've been so busy lately that I wondered if I'd have time to post something new before Xmas. You've made the task possible, in the limited time I have, by shining a light on Miller's 1955 essay Literature as a Dead Duck.

So grab some rum and nog and read it here [PDF]. If this file doesn't work for you, try this other transcription from the website, Henry Miller: American Author. (and here in Russian).

This critique of modern American literature (especially when compared to European lit) was published in the Fall 1955 issue of the Chicago Review. This magazine's webiste has recently posted loads of material from its archival issues, going back to 1946 (in celebration of its 60th year). Dead Duck was also reprinted in the Chicago Review Anthology 1959 [ref. Item B105]. Opening lines below:

On the Chicago Review webiste, this backstory is given about the article:
David Ray was editor at that time and one of the contributors was Henry Miller. I asked Ray how he was able to get the eccentric author to write for the Chicago Review. He chuckled and told me that most editors sent a long letter to Miller and got nothing. He just sent a letter that said “Dear Henry: We haven’t gotten a manuscript from you in a while. Please send one. (signed) David Ray.”

(the duck graphic above is from the original Chicago Review article. The dead duck in the banner art is made of rubber and available for sale from a variety of on-line stores)

Thanks to all of the regular readers and posters on this Miller blog, and best wishes to you all this holiday season.

Also, thanks to Karl, for his role as this year's Saint Nick.

Finally, don't forget to randomly open a Miller book on December 26th and find a passage to read aloud in honour of Henry's birthday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Rosy Crucifixion' Publicity, 1965

I found this graphic on Ebay several weeks ago. It's no longer listed. Someone appears to have snatched it up for $17.50. The seller originally described it this way:

This is an original 1965 print ad for Grove Press publishers, promoting the release of the complete Henry Miller "Rosy Crucifixion" trilogy- a very unusual ad! It measures approximately 12.75" x 10" overall.

Sorry if the postings come a bit slow over the next few weeks. 'Tis the holiday season and all.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Page 20

20.0 The similarity of Dostoevski's Russians to that of the everyday worker in New York continues from page 19, ending Chapter One. Chapter Two begins mid-page, with a decsription of a cold winter's day in New York.

20.1 Monotonous
In one sentence, Miller uses the word "monotonous" four times to emphasize the monotony of the streets, homes, individuals, and thoughts found in New York City. "Monotonous and at the same time unlimited!"

On page 287, Miller describes New York as having a "morbid monotony" as he walks it's streets one last time before leaving for Paris.

20.2 "lunatical"
This word describes the American lifestyle (just as it is found in Dostoevski's Russia). Miller places this word in quotation marks, though I can't figure out why. Perhaps: a) he is exaggerating and doesn't quite believe Americans are "lunatics," or; b) he is referencing a use of the word by Dostoevski.

20.3 Bosch's creations
Americans may have at one point lived a "human existence," but tomorrow "their world will possess a character and lineament more fantastically bedeviled than any or all of Bosch's creations."

Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516) was a Dutch painter most famous for his surrealistic and sometimes disturbing cluttered scenes with human-animal hybrids. [see a fragment below from his Garden Of Earthly Delights].

20.4 antedeluvian
Theologists define this as the period of history before the flood described in the Noah's Ark tale.
[description]. Again, Miller is negatively characterizing Americans, in their "antedeluvian aspect," living in a time of wickedness that is about to be swept away.

20.5 "a winter's morn"
Chapter 2 begins with a description of a cold winter's day in New York. It seems this moment is in the present tense of the book (as established in 9.4), but it is really just a starting point to delve into an anecdote from the past (which makes up all of this chapter).

20.6 septentrional
Miller uses this antiquated term to describe the winter's day; looks like Henry was milling his thesaurus on this day of writing. According to Wikipedia, this word was mostly found on pre-1700 maps, and means "northern" or "boreal."

20.7 beggars
The bulk of this paragraph places the image of a beggar within this frigid environment. With sarcasm, Miller describes the point of view of a businessman ("comfortable banker") who would not in his right mind take his hands out of his pockets to give the beggar a dime. From here (on the next page) Miller talks about himself, implying that he is the beggar in question (he had indeed begged on the streets of New York during his lean years); this explains his bitter, sarcastic tone.

<--- previous page 19 next page 21 --->

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More Miller And Neiman Photos by Man Ray

Back in February, I made a posting about Henry Miller and his relationship with Gilbert and Margaret Neiman. In it, I posted a photograph of Henry and Margaret taken by Man Ray in 1942. I've recently come across two more photographs from this photo session.

The shot on the left [details] is simply another frame on the same roll as the previously posted image. In this one, Margaret's hand is over her head, and Ray hasn't warped the photograph for effect, as he did on the other photo.

The photograph on the right [details] is of lovely Margaret and Man Ray's wife, Juliet. The leaf design on Margaret's face is the same, so I'm assuming it's from the photo session of the same day.

Prints of these images were up for auction by Phillips de Pury & Co (of New York) in April 2006. The estimate on the left hand image was $15,000 - $25,000. The one on the right was estimated at $40,000 - $60,000 (it was signed on the back by Man Ray).

According to their auction results [PDF], neither of these prints was sold.