Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Henry Miller's Red Phoenix

James Cooney’s magazine, The Phoenix was meant to be the beacon for “writers who believe in the truths that D.H. Lawrence propagated and who are seeking, as he did, to bring about the beginnings of a new way of life by which men may deliver themselves from the fatal debris of this crumbling Christian civilization …” [1]
Henry Miller caught wind of the project while it was still in the development stage. In the midst of his own Lawrence project (The World of D.H. Lawrence), Miller had found a means to be published in his home country—which he’d barely cracked—by offering an excerpt of his unpublished Lawrence work to appear in its debut issue early in 1938. Miller and Cooney soon found themselves in a mail correspondence and collaboration, in which Miller (based in Paris) acted as the magazine’s European Editor, as well as being the connection between The Phoenix and writers such as Anais Nin and Michael Fraenkel, whose appearances would help lend significance to the struggling arts journal. After four issues, a feud between Miller and Fraenkel—as well as the on-coming war—pushed Miller out of the project, leaving Cooney with his shattering dream.

Karl Orend’s book, Henry Miller’s Red Phoenix: A Lawrentian Quest (Alyscamps Press, 2006) tells the story of The Phoenix magazine project. At the same time that that tale revolves around the earnest and tragic James Cooney and his suffering young wife, Blanche, it does so within a Henry Miller-shaped frame. Orend has a way of weaving his various narrative threads into a tight cord; even when the narrative is deep into description about James Cooney, Blanche Cooney, the Woodstock artist colony of the 1930s, Anais Nin, and Michael Fraenkel, Henry Miller is always present in some way (as is the subject of D.H. Lawrence, who inspired not only Cooney, but Miller and the entire Villa Seurat circle as well.)

Keeping chronological pace of this story is a detailed description of the correspondence between Miller and Cooney, allowing the reader to feel the intimacy of each letter exchange. It certainly proves Miller a supporter of the arts and his fellow writer.

Published biographies often, by their nature, streamline a life for practical purposes. If you’ve read all of the Miller biographies, then you’ll find this refreshing because it allows us to view the Miller you know from another perspective. The 100+ pages allow us time to observe a single chapter in his life as it ebbs and flows, allowing time meet the other players involved, often as asides, as if Miller has left the room yet we are still there to listen in on the gossip; we see, for example, the relationship develop between Cooney and Michael Fraenkel, to the extent where Fraenkel joins Cooney in Woodstock, New York, to work on the small press and attempt to create an artists’ utopia.

Orend, who has been researching and writing on Miller for years (see Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal, for starters; there’s also a wealth of independently-published works), knows this material inside-out, and shares it with extensive notations. The book also presents significant biographical information about Eduardo Sanchez, cousin to Anais Nin.

The second half of Henry Miller’s Red Phoenix, titled “Henry Miller’s Journey into The World Of Lawrence,” details Miller’s relationship with Lawrence’s work, including the trials of writing World. In the Appendix, Orend has included Conrad Moricand’s horoscope analysis of Henry Miller (which also appears in the latest Nexus journal).

Alyscamps Press doesn’t appear to have a central presence on the internet, but it you’re interested in the book, I can probably put you in touch with the author if you send me an e-mail.

[1] New York Times announcement, June 13, 1937; as cited by Orend.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Delivering Mail To Miller

Over on the Common Ties website is a short anecdote about someone who used to deliver mail to Henry Miller during his final year of life. The mailman in this case was James Michael Dorsey [photo below], who was 23 at the time, but now defines himself as an "author, photographer, lecturer." Dorsey's story is a brief portrait of an old, talkative Miller who would rather tell his life story to a young man than to read his mail. Miller's houseguest, Twinka Thiebaud [seen in banner art], also makes an impression on Doresey's memory.
"I found myself staring at an ancient looking man in white pajamas, wearing large black rimmed glasses sitting in the middle of the bed, surrounded by newspapers and magazines. He was writing on a legal pad and without looking up, he told me to sit. While I looked around for a chair, he peered over his glasses and said, 'Here,' patting the bed.
'I see you met my assistant,' he said with a wry smile.
I was shaken by my experience and wanted to leave, but being young and naive, I did what I was told.
I handed him the letter, which he tossed aside onto a pile of unopened mail. He began to fire questions at me. What was my name? Where did I live? How old was I? I was completely bewildered by this onslaught from a total stranger and stammered out answers as quickly as I could.
I spent most of an hour sitting on Henry Millers bed before realizing my job would be in jeopardy if I did not get back to work. As I rose to leave, the old man called out, 'I will see you soon.'"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Annotated Nexus - Page 22

22.0 Miller remembers the last conversation he had with Stymer: masturbation and prostitutes. After an hour, Miller returns to Stymer's office. Stymer begins the momentum of his one-sided conversation, asking Henry about literature and telling him about his affair with a young woman.

22.1 masturbation
Stymer has been trying to stop masturbating for years; Miller calls it a "viscious habit," but it's not clear whether he is paraphrasing Stymer or not (he also sets the word masturbation in italics). On page 24, Stymer will contemplate how his chronic masturbation has affected him. On page 28, he blames his wife for turning him into a masturbator. In Tropic of Capricorn, Miller admits, fleetingly, to have also indulged in the common practice at the age of 15 (p. 252).

22.2 "filthy whores"
Miller recommends that a visit to a "whorehouse" might help Stymer kick the masturbation addiction. Stymer seems digusted with the idea to take up with what he calls "filthy whores" ("They're not all filthy," Miller replies. Miller had already experienced prostitution at this point). Stymer also uses the fact that he's married as a moral reason for not visiting a brothel. This sets up the ironic farce that is Stymer's personlaity, as we shall see.

22.3 package of samples
Miller brought samples of fabric along with him as he visited potential customers for the tailor shop.

22.4 "I didn't come here to sell you a suit."
In 21.4, Miller has already established his real reason for visiting Stymer. Stymer last bought a suit from Miller's father five years earlier, but still hadn't paid in full. In a gesture of goodwill, Stymer offers to buy another suit, but Miller tells him not to bother since he doesn't "need any new clothes" (Stymer) and for the reason stated above.

22.5 Oblomov
Henry had last recommended the Russian novel Oblomov [full text] to Stymer. Written by Ivan Goncharov, the story revolves around an indecisive nobleman; it takes him 150 pages to simply leave his bed. "[D]idn't make much of an impression on me," critiques Stymer. He wants another recommendation.

22.6 "I've been having an affair"
Stymer launches from Oblomov right into an admission that he's been having an affair with "a young girl, very young, and a nymphomaniac to boot. Drains me dry." On page 27, it's established that her name is Belle. Stymer is bothered not by the affair, but by the way his wife (who knows about the affair: pg 28) "works over" him because of it.

<--- Previous page 21 Next page 23 --->

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nexus: The Int'l Henry Miller Journal - Vol. 4

The fourth Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal is now available. I highly recommend it.
Cover: Photograph of Henry Miller, 1965 (by Peter Gowland).

Page 1 - Editor's Note.

Page 2 - Photograph of Rue de Vanise, Paris, 1931.

Page 3 - The New Instinctivism (A Duet in Creative Violence) (by Henry Miller & Alfred Perles; notes by Karl Orend).

This spittle-spattered manifesto rant by Miller & Perles was nearly published in The New Review in 1931, but an alarmed Samuel Putnam put an end to the duo's plans to take advantage of his absense. 76 years later, this essay is published for the first time. "The essay radiates with energy and prefigures many of Miller's later concerns" (Editor's Note). An astounding 133 end notes by Karl Orend help dicipher the more arcane and antiquated references, and give the work, as a whole, a more robust context than if read alone. Adding to the significance of the journal's publication of this piece is Orend's translation of the lengthy French passages written by Perles. Essential addition to any serious Miller collection.

Page 57 - Betty Ryan, Her Life Inspirations (by Rémy Deshayes).

"I would never have gone to Greece had it not been for a girl named Betty Ryan who lived in the same house with me in Paris": these are the opening words to Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi. Ryan was both inspiration and object of affection to Miller. This essay about her life, written by Deshayes--a personal friend of hers--explores her love for Andros and Paris, her Villa Seurat years, her life from front to end, with particular focus on her later years, during which Deshayes knew her. Supplemented with end notes by Karl Orend.

Page 87 - Horoscope of Betty Ryan (by Conrad Moricand; translation by Rémy Deshayes, with Karl Orend).

Moricand's anaysis of Ryan's horoscope, from June 1938.

Page 93 - Horoscope of Henry Miller (by Conrad Moricand).

Miller's own English translation from French of his own horoscope, drafted by Conrad Moricand in July 1936: "This is the horoscope of a rebel, an insurgent, an uncompromising non-conformist."

Page 98 - Two photographs of Alfred Perles.

Page 99 - Transposing Rilke (by James Brown).

Composer James Brown's story of his inspiration to base a musical work on Rainer Maria Rilke's The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke. The Miller connection here is Alfred Perles, whom Brown had met when Fred was quite old, and whose translation of Rilke had inspired Brown to compose the piece. A parital portrait of the final years of Perles.

Page 104 - Photograph of the Republic Burlesque theatre in New York, 1930s.

Page 105 - "That crude mixture": How Theater Gives Shape to 'Plexus' (by Jeff Bursey).

Jeff Bursey seeks to re-define the significance of the often-overlooked Plexus, by putting a spotlight on the idea that it's a successful merging of "the theater form and the novel"; in the process, Plexus is given a rare defense from its critics.

Page 120 - The Dostoevsky/Miller Project: Investigations in Human Consciousness and Doubt (by Frank Marra)

In-depth, intense analysis of the influence of Feodor Dostoevsky on Miller's writing technique.

Page 150 - Photograph of Henry Miller with Joe Gray, 1970s.

Page 151 - Henry Miller on Japan, the Young, Films (by Harry Kiakis)

Harry Kiakis, friend of Henry's, stops by to visit him on April 11, 1970. Harry later writes a journal entry about the visit, which makes for some intimate reading: like you are there yourself, playing ping pong with Henry, getting his opinions on travel, Japan, all of the latest popular culture, and how he just can't understand young people these days.

Page 156 - Photograph of Henry Miller, 1969.

Page 157 - Letter to Kate Millett (by Henry Miller)

"I think you have missed the boat": Miller's defensive letter to feminist critic Kate Millett, from May 27, 1969, refusing her permission to use his material in her book.

Page 159 - 'Miller In Love': The Twisted Saga of an Unproduced Play (by Mark SaFranco)

It starts with a guy who wants to do a Henry Miller monologue simply because people say he looks like Miller. So SaFranco--a Miller fan--is asked to write it. This "Miller Project" changes direction, inflates, deflates, explodes, implodes. SaFranco's engaging, entertaining tale of woe in the worlds of theatre and film production revolves around his play, based on the Miller-June-Jean Kronski triangular tribulations in their Henry Street basement apartment (as told in Nexus and Crazy Cock). The script is unproduced to this day, except for ACT II, Scene 4, which is included with this piece.

Page 181 - The Observations Gathered Concerning His Morality and Probity Are Favorable: Henry Miller Glimpsed by the French Secret Service (by Karl Orend)

Henry Miller: a German agent, a Nazi spy? That's an idea the French Secret Service got into their heads when they opened a file on Miller in 1934. This is a completely fascinating analysis of the records kept on Miller by the Renseignements Généraux and the historical events that inspired such suspicion. I don't think this material has ever been made available anywhere else. Includes transcriptions of the actual records, including notes about suspicious amounts of mail Miller received, and notes on his daily activites and personal character.

Page 194 - Two Poems (by Jean Kronski)

Two poems attributed to Jean Kronski: "To HMV" and "Sappho, Dear Ghost."

Page 196 - Illustrated interpretation of June's 'Count Bruga' puppet (by Gene King)

Page 197 - Dear Ghost - A Few Fragments on Henry Miller's Nemesis, Jean Kronski (by Karl Orend)

Orend presents us with the most up-to-date, concise and detailed portrait of the intriguing nemesis of Miller and intimate friend of June, Jean Kronski, with focus on the period in which she met June, moved into the Henry Street apartment, then skipped off with June to Paris.

Page 217 - Miller Notes.
Updates on current scholarship and references to Miller in popular culture.

Back cover - Reproduction of an original section of a typed, early draft of The New Instinctivism.

Issue #4 of this journal may be ordered via the Nexus website.

Here are some summaries of previous issues, which I believe are still available as well: Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Time Magazine: Miscellaneous Miller

This final Time Magazine post focusses on minor references to Henry Miller within its pages, as found on its on-line archive. These include letters to the editor, passing references, and quotes. In many cases, the descriptions I provide cover the entire extent of the reference. There are a few Miller references I did not include because of their utter lack of significance (in my mind, anyway).

JUN 28, 1937. "Word Workers"
(ref) The anthology New Directions in Prose & Poetry includes "fantasies by Henry Miller, incorrigible author of the more-than-Rabelaisian Tropic of Cancer."

DEC 15, 1941. "The Year In Books"
(ref) " Among the avantgardistes who ferment, sometimes germinally, at the thin edge of commercial publishing, the year's most notable were Henry Miller and Kenneth Patchen. Miller continued with Michael Fraenkel his extraordinary correspondence about Hamlet ($3) and published The Colossus of Maroussi ($3.50), a freewheeling book on Greece."

MAR 18, 1946. "Of Ugliness & Henry Miller"
Letter to the editor from Mme. Deweese Ivaldy, an American living in La Ferté-Bernard, France: (excerpts) "...Miller left Europe as soon as the going grew hard in 1940..." "For us, this 'largest force lately to appear on the horizon of American letters' is a man to amuse a very prosperous culture which can still permit itself the undermining, disheartening, demoralizing effect of his kind of literature..." "For let anyone . . . try to survive and keep his family alive, to furnish a pleasant place to live with bits of this and that ... The effort is sure to leave him with the greatest indifference toward the 'literature of despair.'"

DEC 16, 1946. "Dickens, Dali & Others"
(ref) "Town & Country [magazine], which claims to be the U.S. discoverer of Ludwig Bemelmans, Evelyn Waugh, Henry Miller and Oliver St. John Gogarty..."

NOV 24, 1947. "Free Wheels in the Groove"
(ref) Review of the New Directions anthology Spearhead includes the "dithyrambling Henry Miller" who contributed two pages of "exhibitionist prose." Of the collection in general: "The shrill, barren exercises in surrealist freewheeling, the turgid moralizing of those poets who have retired to philosophical hermitages, and the vulgarity of the psychoanarchists—all these are dead letters in 1947."

MAR 22, 1948. "Unhappy Angels"
Miller quote used to open brief article on artist Raphel Soyer: "Have you ever sat in a railway station and watched people killing time? Do they not sit a little like crestfallen angels—with their broken arches and their fallen stomachs? -- Henry Miller"

JAN 16, 1950. "Old Directions"
(ref) Review of New Directions XI anthology: "Expatriate Novelist Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer) writes his way around his subject (Rimbaud) and plunges defiantly into his own thrice-told life and hard times."

JUN 22, 1959. "The Lady's Not for Mailing"
(ref) Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield upholds a ban on Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover going through U.S. Mail, "lean[ing] heavily on a 1953 decision (concerning Henry Miller's notorious Tropics) by Judge Albert L. Stephens of the U.S. Court of Appeals: 'Dirty word description of the sweet and sublime, especially of the mystery of sex and procreation, is the ultimate of obscenity.'"

APR 4, 1960. "The Carnal Jigsaw"
(ref) In a profile of Lawrence Durrell, Miller is referred at as his "literary foster father." "Obviously affected by Miller's Tropics, Durrell erupted with a steamy item called The Black Book ... When his disciple's novel cached Miller, that dithyrambic daddy of all unshy pornographers effused: 'Down with Shakespeare! Down with Chaucer! I greet Lawrence Durrell as the first Englishman.' Even that cool sage, T. S. Eliot, bobbed approval. For Durrell the effect was tonic, 'like suddenly hear-ng your own tone of voice.'"

SEP 19, 1960. "Hello to All That"
(ref) From a review of Durrell's The Black Book: "... his blatant mimicry of such authors as Lawrence, Eliot, Aldous Huxley and Henry Miller (to whom Durrell sent the only typescript of the book with the coy instruction to read it and throw it in the Seine)."

JUN 16, 1961. "Miller's Spoiled Mystery"
(excerpt) C.V.J Anderson of New York City writes a letter to the editor: "... the thing that makes it so hard for us to take it at all seriously, is that it's so incredibly dull."

NOV 30, 1962. "King of the YADS"
(ref) In a review for Burrough's Naked Lunch, the author makes this unnecessary dig: "The reputation of an underground author is a fragile thing. For example, it had been assumed for years that Henry Miller was unprintable but highly readable. Then Grove Press, merely by publishing his two Tropics, proved that Miller is unreadable but highly printable."

SEP 11, 1964. "More Than a Quiet Concern"
(ref) A group of high-level clergymen are upset that bans on Tropic Of Cancer (and the film, The Lover) were overturned by the Supreme Court -- (excerpt from the clergy): "These decisions cannot be accepted quietly by the American people if this nation is to survive. Giving free rein to the vile depiction of violence, perversion, illicit sex and, in consequence, to their performance, is an unerring sign of progressive decay and decline. Further, it gives prophetic meaning to the Soviet intent to 'bury' America."

APR 16, 1965. "The New Pornography"
(ref) 6-page essay on the changing moral landscape in American literature: "Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, once the last word in unprintable scatology, can often be picked up in remainder bins for 25¢. Miller has almost acquired a kind of dignity as the Grand Old Dirty Man of the trade, compared with some of the more current writers."

JUL 9, 1965. "Sexus"
Two letters to the editor, by Leo Dougherty (of Commerce, Texas) and Ralph Finch (of Detroit) in support of Miller and Sexus. (excerpt): "Henry Miller is one of the few people in our society who spend their lives trying to salvage living souls from the whirring junkheap of robothood."

MAR 11, 1966. "Old Moderately"
(ref) Miller is a fan of Dean Martin.

APR 29, 1966. "The Index Indexed"
(ref) The Vatican has never added Miller to its Index of Prohibited Books.

DEC 9, 1966. "Holiday Hoard"
(ref) Miller wrote the forward to George Grosz's Ecce Homo. Miller: "Once you have glimpsed these corrosive portraits, these street and bedroom scenes, you will never forget them."

APR 5, 1968. "Abel Is the Novel, Merlin Is the Firm"
(ref) From a review of Durrell's Tunc: "In California, Durrell was staying at the Pacific Palisades home of novelist Henry Miller, an old friend and compulsive pen pal. Pursuing his investigations of Western culture, he played ping-pong with Miller and visited Disneyland, where he made three trips on the Mark Twain paddlewheeler and took the 'Submarine Voyage.'"

APR 12, 1968.
(ref) From a bulletin about Durrell's first visit to the U.S.: "'Here I am at the end of a long misspent life,' said British Novelist Lawrence Durrell, 56, in the U.S. for his first visit. And what better way to make up for it than a visit to Disneyland ('I don't remember when I had such fun!') with his old pal Henry Miller? ... Durrell confided that he found the two coasts so fascinating that he's coming back next spring for a three-month bus tour of all the land in between. 'There hasn't been a good travel book about America since Dickens,' said he. 'Maybe Henry and I can write one.'"

JUL 11, 1969. "Sex as a Spectator Sport"
(ref) Miller on pornography: "No less an authority than Henry Miller recently denounced pornography as 'a leering or lecherous disguise' that has helped make sexuality joyless."

FEB 22, 1971. "Women's Lib: Mailer v. Millett"
(ref) Norman Nailer defends Miller (amongst other things) against Kate Millett's criticism: "Mailer's main indictment of Millett is that she misunderstands and deliberately misrepresents her four main male targets: Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Jean Genèt and himself. He accuses her of judging Miller by contemporary standards, and not as a 'wandering troubador of the Twenties,' when 'one followed the line of one's sexual impulse without a backward look at what was moral, responsible or remotely desirable for society.'"

Here are my previous posts about Time book reviews on Miller and features on Miller.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Time Magazine: Henry Miller Features

This posting profiles the articles that Time Magazine published with Henry Miller as a significant subject (not including book reviews, which I've already posted as a separate subject). This includes feature profiles and short bulletins of celebrity-related "news."

NOV 21, 1938. "Dithyrambic Sex"
Profile of Miller's Tropic Of Cancer and Durrell's The Black Book, as well as publisher James Laughlin, as his New Directions publishing house prepares to release Cancer in the U.S. [the release will not happen].
Sample: "What this type of angry, incoherent prose will prove is anybody's guess. Thus far it has resulted—in the work of Durrell and Miller—in dismembered passages of isolated brilliance, lit with lurid imagery and standing out sharply above records of life that are often dull and usually obscene. It stems from James Joyce's Ulysses, but represents a type of curdled romanticism foreign to Joyce—more brutal, less artful, pervaded by a sense of hopelessness and despair beside which Joyce at his most pessimistic seems blithe and full of spirit."

DEC 25, 1939. "Talking & Doing"
Profile of the new release roster from New Directions, which does not include Tropic Of Cancer; plus brief reviews of Cosmological Eye and Tropic Of Capricorn.
Sample: "Written in a naked language not of literature but of a man's talking, unquotable except by the page, Tropic of Capricorn would mean plenty to countless men-in-the-street. The "dithyrambic prose" which excited avant-garde blurbists in Tropic of Cancer—and which was frequently tiresome—has been kept in hand by a new sense of structure —a better interplay of narrative and reminiscence."

DEC 13, 1943. "Life By Mail Order"
Bulletin - Miller published an appeal for charity in New Republic magazine.
Sample: "He said he wanted contributions of old clothes ('love corduroys') and watercolor materials. In Beverly Glen, near Los Angeles, the 52-year-old, free-loving, free-sponging American-from-Paris had been destitute for months. Recently he had taken up painting."

NOV 18, 1946. "Royalty"
Bulletin - "His Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn moved the French moralist society, the Group for Social and Moral Action, to bring suit on the ground of obscenity. In Paris."

APR 14, 1947. "Landscapes into Fish"
Profile of Miller as a "neo-bohemian" idol in Big Sur, who has recently taken to exhibiting and trying to sell his watercolours.
Sample: "Miller's own watercolors are full of gabled doors, heavenly bodies (he believes in astrology), female sex symbols, eyes ('I'm not perverse, but the idea of looking through a keyhole . . . fascinates me'), and echoes of Paul Klee and Abraham Rattner."

JAN 11, 1954.
Announcement of Miller's marriage to Eve McClure.

JUN 9, 1961. "Greatest Living Patagonian"
4-page profile of Miller and Cancer, which is finally released in the U.S by Grove Press.
Sample: "But when Miller moves from the tropics of sex into the horse latitudes of philosophy, something takes over that could hardly be matched by a whole chautauqua of oldtime New Thought charlatans but which nevertheless establishes Miller's importance—not for what he says but for what he is, a man who, in many different forms, rejects the Western tradition and abdicates its heavy honors."

AUG 25, 1961. "See No Evil"
The Chicago Tribune refuses to list Tropic Of Cancer on it's best-seller list, in order to prevent giving it publicity.
Sample: "'We have come to the conclusion,' said the Chicago Tribune, in an editorial about the list of bestselling books that it prints each Sunday, 'that we can no longer publish this list raw. Recently and tardily, we have become aware that some of the best sellers that have appeared on our lists were sewer-written by dirty-fingered authors for dirty-minded readers. We aren't going to further this game by giving publicity to such authors and their titles.'"

SEP 6, 1963.
Bulletin: Just Wild About Harry is censored in Britain, and cancelled after two performances.

JUL 17, 1964. "Tropic Of Illinois"
Bulletin: The courts in Illinois reverse a ban on Tropic Of Cancer.

APR 1, 1966.
Bulletin: Miller is done with writing and is instead making watercolours.
Sample: "'It seems to me that the battle for freedom on the sex problem has been won,' he proclaimed. Then, in a meditation that many wish he had made years ago, he added: 'I would hope that younger writers would find something more important to rebel against.'"

SEP 15, 1967.
Bulletin - Miller traveling to Paris with fiancee Hoki for a showing of his art.
Sample: "Though he is sanguine enough about the marriage, Henry has the yips about his untutored abstract watercolors, which have taken up so much of his time in the past three years that he has stopped writing."

MAY 20, 1974.
Bulletin - Miller recovering from surgery, talking about women.
Sample: "[W]hile he had advanced ideas about sex, he does not approve of the even more radical notions of women's liberation. Denying that he is a misogynist, he said, 'I really love women.' In the next breath he said of sex equality, 'I'm against it.'

JUN 16, 1980.
Obituary - Henry Miller.
Sample: "..earthy novelist and evangelist of unfettered sex.."

JUL 22, 1991. "Essay" by Pico Iyer.
Tribute to Miller, on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Sample: "[Miller] brought to Europe things it was less accustomed to seeing: naked appetite, hopeless high spirits, French spoken with a Brooklyn accent. And what he brought back was something even richer: the great French passions -- of love and talk and food -- translated into a rough Anglo-Saxon vernacular. Joie de vivre made American."

Minor references, quotes, letters to the editor and other curiosities relating to Miller in the pages of Time Magazine will be posted next.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Time Magazine: Miller Book Reviews

"... Henry Miller, incorrigible author of the more-than-Rabelaisian Tropic of Cancer."
-- Time Magazine, in a review of New Directions in Prose & Poetry, June 28, 1937

American media institution Time Magazine has its entire print archive (from 1936) available for free on the internet. My entry of "Henry Miller" into the search engine turned up dozens of matches, covering in-depth features, book reviews, personality bulletins, and minor references. The Time writers, it seems to me, were sometimes harsh on Miller. My apologies, but the Time website does not provide the names of the individual writers.

This week, I intend to post links to all of these Time pieces, broken up into subject categories. Today, I'm focusing on the Time Magazine reviews of books by (and about) Henry Miller.

DEC 24, 1945. "Aphrodite Ascending"
Combined review of Happy Rock: A Book About Henry Miller, and The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (Vol I).
Sample: "Readers of The Air-Conditioned Nightmare may wonder what all the shouting is about. The book reports Miller's recent tour of the U.S. As in most of his books, the prime beef is liberally pieced out with baloney. But the observation is often keen and clinical, the virulence both ferocious and funny."

JUN 28, 1948. "The Last Expatriate"
Review of The Smile At The Foot Of The Ladder.
Sample: "The books that followed Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn exhibited less dirt—and less talent. Miller overwrote for the sheer sake of verbosity; he made hyperbole into a principle of composition. Everything he described was either incredibly glorious or incredibly distasteful."

JUN 11, 1956. "Two Pal Joeys"
Review of Alfred Perles' My Friend Henry Miller.
Sample: "This book will be read devoutly by the thin cult of aging Americans for whom Henry Miller was the big name in a bohemian pantheon of goofy godlets. For others it has interest as the life record of a literary anarchist of boundless charm and talent but limited good sense, the loosest member of the Lost Generation, who, now 64, has lived these twelve years past as a sage emeritus in an arty enclave at Big Sur, Calif."

AUG 13, 1956. "Sour Orange Juice"
Review of A Devil In Paradise.
Sample: "Thus, with a bright spurt of one of the most carefully wasted literary talents of the century, Author Henry Miller admits readers into his own first meeting with Conrad Moricand. Conrad must be conceded to be one of the least lovely characters of modern times. He was an astrologer, drug addict, scholar, louse, lamprey or —to reduce it all to Miller's own explicit prose—a "phoney bastard."

JUN 10, 1957. "Big Sur-Realism"
Review of Big Sur And The Oranges Of Hieronymus Bosch.
Sample: "Amid all the dedicated bores, Miller remains a fascinating character. He is rather proud to find himself an institution of sorts—the No. 1 U.S. Bohemian. One of the most appealing things in his book is his shyly proud report that his correspondence (including a postcard from Mecca) is filed in the special-collections division of the University of Southern California's library, a mass of 10,000 items which must comprise the biggest pile of profound piffle since Greenwich Village's Harvardman Joe Gould compiled his 10 million-word Oral History of Our Time."

DEC 28, 1959. "Miller Expurgated"
Review of The Henry Miller Reader.
Sample: "It is ironic that, for the most part, Miller remembers to be an artist instead of an orator only in the wacky, obscene, and sometimes brilliantly comic passages that make most of his books unmailable—but that will not be found here. Reading Miller in his scurrilous top form is like ending a riotously drunken evening by getting a foot caught in a chamber pot; but such sport cannot be had in this book."

JUN 29, 1962. "The Dry Pornographer"
Review of Stand Still Like The Hummingbird.
Sample: "Actually the canny reader skips through Miller not so much to concentrate on naughtiness as to avoid what comes between. What does is ill-written blather on one of two subjects: 1) the downtrodden state of artists in the U.S. (and their uptrodden bliss in Europe), and 2) how the world's troubles would be solved if everyone would be nice to everyone else."

SEP 7, 1962. "Tropic B"
Review of Tropic Of Capricorn.
Sample: "As a pornographer, Miller has been surpassed. As a critic of America, he is a gadfly with delusions of grandeur, an ineffectual rebel who can never make up his mind whether to stick out his tongue or take to the barricades."

MAR 1, 1963. "Larry & Henry"
Review of Lawrence Durrell And Henry Miller: A Private Correspondence.
Sample: "The letters might have been just an exchange of bombast between a couple of literary bums but for the fact that each man is more than a bit right about the other. Each is touched by genius, each sees literature as a personal manifesto against a hostile world. They are not merely correspondents but confederates."

Review of Black Spring.
Sample: "Bits are wonderfully done with vivid scenes of jazzed-up action, like an early silent movie full of custard pies, female underclothes and slightly zany captions. But in the 30 years since these exercises were performed, the avant-garde seems to have gone somewhere else. Surrealist painting seems to have joined the art nouveau lamp shade in the attic; surrealism in writing has fared worse."

JUL 12, 1963. "Tropic Of Corn"
Review of Just Wild About Harry.
Sample: "The play is standard, consistent Miller all the way; that is to say, it is a show of dirty drivel."

JUN 25, 1965. "The High Price of Zap"
Review of Sexus.
Sample: "Miller's books alternate between pornography and preachment, sex and soda water; every bed sooner or later seems exposed to an icy draft from The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. He is a comical windbag, but unexpectedly the reader has the opportunity to see which part is comedy and which is windbag. The emphasis shifts away from sex in Plexus and Nexus. Without his fake phallus, Miller is a clown—the sadist of clowns."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rue Visconti Photograph

I found this photograph on Flickr. The text states that it's the street where Henry Miller taught June to ride a bike. That would imply that it's Rue Visconti. The blurb also states that their "flat can be seen as the first building on the right." Henry & June stayed in the Hotel de Paris at 24 rue Bonaparte during their visit to Paris in 1928. Bonaparte and Visconti intersect [see Google maps]. The image was photographed by Kewalserai on Flickr.

I have already written about June on a bike at Visconti, but wanted to feature this beautiful shot.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Photos Of The Tailor Shop

"There we were, just opposite the Olcott, Fifth Avenue tailors even though we weren't on the Avenue."
[Henry Miller, Black Spring, p. 79 (Grove Press, 1989 ed.)]

I was in New York this past weekend. My hotel happened to be in the vicinity of the tailor shop that Henry Miller's father used to co-own, and at which a 20-something Miller worked from approximately 1913-1917. I snapped a few pictures; here's what it looks like today:

The tailor shop was located at 5 W 31st Street, off of 5th Avenue (I have no thorough history of the shop with me today, just these snaps and a few notes). I'm not sure what floor it was located on, though, by sight, it seems to me like the space behind these large windows was more suited to an open work space like a tailor shop, and the units above them are suited more to offices. Not sure when the Heimer-Brier handbag company goldleafed it's name onto the window-front.

"I used to stand at the window facing the hotel and watch George Sandusky hoisting the big trunks onto the taxis. When there were no trunks to be hoisted George used to stand there with his hands clasped behind his back and bow and scrape to the clients as they swung in and out of the revolving doors. George Sandusky had been scraping and bowing and hoisting and opening doors for about twelve years when I first came to the tailor shop and took up my post at the front window."
[Henry Miller, Black Spring, p. 82]

Ideally, I would have managed to get into this building to take a picture from the POV of Henry, who would have stood at the shop window, facing the Wolcott Hotel opposite (where his father used to spend much of the work day drinking.) Unfortunately, I couldn't manage my way in, so this shot of the front of the Wolcott--which Henry would have looked at all day--must suffice:

I entered the orante Wolcott lobby to see the bar, but was told that there is none. (note that, in the quote at the top of this posting, Henry chose to refer to it as the Olcott, not the Wolcott. To clarify, there is actually an Olcott Hotel in New York, on 72nd street; it was not opened until 1930).

Finally, here's the front door entrance to 5 W 31st, through which Henry used to arrive every day with "the black breath of melancholy" [p.111] after having written pages and pages in his head during the walk to work from Brooklyn:

I have previously written about the customers at the tailor shop.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What Is The Greatest Treason?

On April 12, 2003 (three weeks after the U.S. invasion of Iraq), the Counterpunch website posted a couple of Henry Miller excerpts from The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. They titled the section What Is The Greatest Treason?, which is a phrase drawn from the piece. Miller was often very critical of his home country, a fact that did not escape the leering eyes of the FBI . These paritcular excerpts, which may be read at Counterpunch, seem as relevant today as they were when first written in the 1940s.

Here are a few quotes:

"We are accustomed to think of ourselves as an emancipated people; we say we are democratic, liberty-loving, free of prejudice and hatred. This is the melting pot, the seal of a great human experiment. Beautiful words, full of noble, idealistic sentiment. Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous."

"What is the greatest treason? To question what it is one may be fighting for. Here insanity and treason join hands. War is a form of insanity-the noblest or the basest, according to your point of view. Because it is a mass insanity the wise are powerless to prevail against it. Above any other single factor that may be adduced in explanation of war is confusion. When all other weapons fail one resorts to force. But there may be nothing wrong with the weapons which we so easily and readily discard. They may need to be sharpened, or we may need to improve our skill, or both. To fight is to admit that one is confused; it is an act of desperation, not of strength. A rat can fight magnificently when cornered. Are we to emulate the rat?"

"We have a condition now which is called 'a national emergency.' Though the legislators and politicians may rant at will, though the newspaper tribe may rave and spread hysteria, though the military clique may bluster, threaten, and clamp down on everything which is not to their liking, the private citizen, for whom and by whom the war is being fought, is supposed to hold his tongue."

"If it takes a calamity such as war to awaken and transform us, well and good, so be it. Let us now see if the unemployed will be put to work and the poor properly clothed, housed and fed; let us see if the rich will be stripped of their booty and made to endure the privations and sufferings of the ordinary citizen; let us see if all the workers of America, regardless of class, ability or usefulness, can be persuaded to accept a common wage; let us see if the people can voice their wishes in direct fashion, without the intercession, the distortion, and the bungling of politicians; let us see if we can create a real democracy in place of the fake one we have finally been roused to defend; let us see if we can be fair and just to our own kind, to say nothing of the enemy whom we shall doubtless conquer over."