Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 42, 43

42.43.0 Miller briefly speaks about his failed suicide attempt. He awakens a changed man; something in him has died, leaving only the mind-machine. He is alone with his mind; a prisoner in a snowbound apartment, patiently waiting for human contact.
42.1 mind machine
The on-going reference to the "mind machine" began on Page 38. Before decribing himself as being in a mind-machine state, Miller describes the dead as having ceased to wonder--instead, they endlessly ruminate on universes full of matter without substance.
42.2 Kronski
In real life, Dr. Emil Conason [see 9.2, 13.5]. He is referenced here as providing Miller with "innocent white pills" which Henry used in an apparent suicide attempt.
42.3 "the night I died to wonder"
Here, Miller describes his attempt to kill himself by taking Conason's white pills, then lying naked in his apartment while the icy winter winds blow in from an open window. Miller first makes reference to this on page 38 [38.2]. He's surprised to awaken, alive, yet something feels dead within himself, leaving him only with the mind-machine.
42.4 aux autres de faire la guerre
Roughly translated, this means "let others make war." I couldn't identify this as a specific French saying or famed quote, but I assume it is since Miller adds it here in French. He uses it to explain his new feeling upon awakening from his suicide attempt. He feels like a solider who has been "dispatched to the rear." Despite his negative comments about the mind-machine state, Miller appears to welcome it here.
43.1 Et haec olim meminisse iuvabit
Miller gives this quote significance by setting it apart from the paragraph and placing it all in caps. This is a Latin quotation taken from Vergil in The Aeneid. It means, Perhaps someday we will look back upon these things with joy [1]. Although the original quote appears to contain the word forsan ("perhaps"), Miller has chosen to make this statement more definitive by leaving it out. Miller writes this quote on the "toilet box which was suspended above Stasia's cot." Miller calls himself "clairvoyant" for having done so, because he would later spend much time looking back at these events.
43.2 the place
Miller brings us back to the real time of events by describing the apartment. In 9.15, I admit that I'm uncertain as to whether Henry, June and Stasia have already moved into their Henry Street apartment yet, or whether the action is still set at Henry and June's second Remsen Street apartment. I think we're pretty safe, however, to assume that all of Nexus takes place on Henry Street. Henry mentions that the apartment is dark, and that he'd taken possession of it during a snowfall, giving him the impression that the "whole world outside our door would remain forever carpeted with a soft white felt." Snow and winter are motifs for much of this page.
43.3 prisoner of Chillon
In this apartment, Henry feels like the 16th-century imprisoned monk written about by Lord Byron in a poem of the same name.
43.4 divine Marquis
See 23.3 for Miller's first references to the divine Marquis de Sade, with whom he compares himself alongside the prisoner of Chillon.
43.5 mad Strindberg
Another in the collection of comparisons; this is a reference from the first page of Nexus. Miller "lived out my madness" in this apartment.
43.6 the two of them appearing arm in arm
The "two" are Mona and Anastasia, although he doesn't say their names here. He says he can always count on them coming back to the apartment in the "wee hours," arm-in-arm, excited about the previous day's events.
43.7 the madman, Osiecki
His freind would tap on the windowpane when he wanted Henry's attention. See his previous reference at 9.9.
<--- Previous pages 41-42 . Next pages 44-45 --->

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Miller On Mailer

Miller: "Many people have written to me asking what I thought of Genius and Lust, they seem to be as puzzled as I was by his intent.'What do you make of it Henry?!' they ask me.It sure as hell beats me. I don't know what he was trying to get across. Sometimes I wonder if he himself knows. It's either too far over my head, or just a poor piece of writing. I like Norman as a man, but as a writer I really can't recommend him."

Over at Blog About Town, David Marc Fisher has posted--in honour of Henry's birthday on December 26th--a piece about Miller and Norman Mailer (who died this year). Included is the quote above, and several others, culled from Twinka Thiebaud, from the 1981 book Reflections.

I had previously posted an item listing the synopsis of a Today Show piece from 1976 in which Mailer and Miller were interviewed upon the release of Genius & Lust (Mailer's essay on Miller).

A curious addition to the Blog About Town posting is a YouTube clip of 1950s TV program You Bet Your Life, in which Lord Buckley drops a reference to Henry Miller while speaking with host Groucho Marx (it occurs at timecode 4:22).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alfred Perlès - Obituary

Alfred Perlès died on January 27, 1990, in Somerset, England. His obituary was published in The Guardian (London) three days later, on January 30th. Perles--who went by the name Alfred Bartlet while living in the U.K.--was employed as a messenger by the Reuters news agency in the 1960s. While there, he befriended a "senior sub-editor" named Hubert Nicholson (who'd been employed with Reuters since 1945) [*1]. It is Nicholson who wrote the Perles biography for The Guardian.

Drawing from information in this published obituary, I've updated my posted biography of Alfred Perlès.

"His was an extraordinary life. He must be one of the last men to claim the distinction of serving the Kaiser in the first world war and serving the King in the second. Half French and half Austrian, he was reared in Vienna, made his way to Paris as a Czech national, and began publishing memoirs there. He reached England in 1938. In an amusing and touching passage in his book, Round Trip, he has described the moment when he realised he was destined to become a true Englishman. Walking down Oxford Street he suddenly said to himself: 'I am dying for a cup of tea.' He added" 'With every sip I took, England became clearer to me.' And he goes on: 'Once more I have struck root.'"

"He was a wonderful talker, a wise and witty correspondent and a lovable friend. Small, rubicund, cheerful, eloquent in several languages, he cherished a personal mystical philosophy and firmly believed he would survive death somewhere and somehow. Always, he was sustained by his sense of humour."

Besides the facts of Perles' life (which have been incorporated into by biography posting), Nicholson goes on to explain why Perles took a position as Messenger for Reuters and not Journalist: "he chose the lowliest job that would give him bread and butter [...] He did this on principle, to withhold himself from world affairs." Perles would have been in his 60s when delivering these messages. He was 92 years old when he died.

*1 - Although it is Nicholson himself who states that the two men met at Reuters, the Alfred Perles Collection contains a letter from Perles to Nicholson from 1956. Perhaps they only met in person in the 1960s.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas 1934

Christmas Day, 1934. Henry Miller is at the Villa Seurat. He is sick with emotion: "I'm sad, I'm homesick, I'm lonesome." Since Christmas Eve, people have been stopping by the Villa Seurat to socialize. Alfred Perles brings a woman named Etienette to the house, and a few other guests, including writer Roger Klein. But Henry does not feel festive. He's been waiting desperately for a response to a letter he'd mailed Anais Nin. The letter had set sail for America on the S.S. Europa on December 16th. In it, Henry had laid everything on the line: "When you get this letter, and after you have thought it over carefully, I want you to send me a cable, and a letter too, if you will. I want to know if you will give up everything and live your life with me--not part time, not furtively, but twenty-four hours of the day and for good." Just five days earlier, Henry's divorce from June had become official. Although Anais is still married to Hugh Guiler, Henry is anxious to get the word from Anais to get on a boat and be with her in New York. "[W]hat I want is an immediately is a definite answer. That ought to be before Christmas. Make it my Christmas present!" [Dec 14, 1934].

At very least, Henry is expecting a Christmas greeting from Anais, but no telegram arrives on Christmas Eve or Day. The impatience is making him hysterical. "Je m'en fous de vous," shouts Henry at his house guests, "Je suis triste, je suis triste!" ["I don't give a fuck about you, I'm sad, I'm sad!"] Henry asks an American lieutenant and his wife to come up to his room because he needs to "talk to an American." "I can't stand the sound of French voices." When everyone finally clears out, Henry lies in bed, weeping. Midnight arrives, and Christmas gives way to Henry's birthday: he's now 43 years old. "It was the weakest moment of my life since I have been in Paris."

For Christmas, Henry is giving Anais a creative re-working of her own story, Alraune (which will be evetually be published as House Of Incest. Henry's version will eventually be called Scenario (A Film With Sound).) On December 23rd, he'd sent a cable to Anais, which she receives on the 25th:

This image is not the real telegram sent by Henry on Dec 23, 1934--I made it up myself. But the text is his. Source: A Literate Passion. Editor: Gunther Stuhlman. Harvest: 1987, p. 271.

Anais has wired $20 to Henry for Christmas, "thinking you might be short." But her reply to his letter of December 14th has not come. He fears she is ill, perhaps dead. Her response will arrive only after Chritsmas, and will be somewhat reassuring, but complicated. A few weeks later, Henry will return to New York City.

All quotes from letters published in A Literate Passion, edited by Gunther Stuhlmann. Harvest Books, 1987.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Speakeasy at 106 Perry Street

On September 4, 1925, Henry Miller wrote to his ex-wife Beatrice to tell her that he and his new wife, June, had “at last secured the Tea Room in the Village. Start in tomorrow night.” [1] The “tea room” he refers to [2] would become just one of many speakeasies found in New York City during the prohibition era. It was one in a series of ventures Henry and June made to earn money as Henry attempted to establish himself as a writer. In telling his ex about it, Henry was likely trying to assure her that he would soon be making money and in a position to send her alimony payments again for their young daughter, Barbara.

Henry and June’s speakeasy was located in a basement at 106 Perry Street, in Greenwich Village [Google map]. The three-story building was built in 1847; 6,668 sq ft in all. [3] Although the modest club was initially profitable, business fell off soon afterward. By December 1925, Henry was no longer even in New York and the business was a bust. In hindsight, Miller would recall “those Arabian adventures in the speakeasy on Perry Street.” [4] This period is described most explicitly in the pages of Plexus (Chapter 10).

106 Perry Street in 2007. This photo was taken by jschumacker and may be viewed on Flickr.

“To run a speakeasy, which is what we are doing” wrote Miller in Plexus, “and to live in it at the same time, is one of those fantastic ideas which can only arise in the minds of thoroughly impractical individuals.” [5] (p.392). The arrangement certainly was impractical: a basement flat with three small rooms, one of which—the kitchen!—would act as their cramped residence. When they retired to bed, sometimes towards dawn, “the smell of beer, wine and tobacco was overpowering.” [5] (p.397). In the small main room, a ping-pong table was set up, as was a chess board.

A third front room was used by June to entertain her paying male guests. “[E]fficient, somehow legitimized, prostitution,” is how Mary Dearborn described this entertaining of admirers at the speakeasy. [6] Many of these men, often wealthy professionals, frequented the club at first. In order to keep up appearances, Henry hid the fact that he was June’s husband [5] (p.393). When the doorbell rang, Henry was to remain silent in the shadows: “in case it’s a detective or a bill collector. Or one of the more recent, hence ignorant and intrepid, lovers.” [5] (p.393).

Henry acted as the manager. “I also wait on tables, fill short orders, empty the garbage, run errands, make the beds, clean house and in general make myself as useful as possible.” [5] (p.393). This also included collecting ice for the icebox which Henry loveed rummaging through. The illicit booze was acquired by June through an underworld connection, and sometimes from a visit to Allen Street for some Jewish “sacramental wine.” [5] (p.481).

Perry Street at Hudson, looking westward, with #99 at right. This photo taken in 1937, from the New York Digital Archives.

“The opening night came off with a bang,” [5] (p.395) bringing in an astounding (for 1925) $543.69. “For the first time in my life I was really lousy with money,” said an excited Henry [5] (p.395). But the short term gains quickly dropped, and, as Thanksgiving approached, the typical evening at the speakeasy consisted of Miller and his friends like Joe O’Reagan, Arthur Raymond, Emil and/or Ned Schnellock playing ping-pong, chess or the ukulele, drinking up the house stocks. "It doesn't take long for the speakeasy to become a sort of private club and recreation center. On the kitchen all is a long list of names. Beside the names is chalked up the sums owed us by our friends, our only steady customers." [5] (p.480).

They fell into debt. Henry’s unpaid alimony alone had stacked up to $650. Legal papers were served to Henry at 106 Perry Street for his failure to pay; he was facing possible arrest [7]. One evening shortly before Thanksgiving 1925, while June took care of customers, Henry and his friends sat in the kitchen and concocted an idea: go to Florida to make money off the “boom.” [5] (p.486) Just a couple of days before they left, the Perry Street landlord served them with a summons for unpaid rent [5] (p.486). June was unable to maintain the business on her own, so the speakeasy went under, and she went to stay with her parents.

Another view of 106 Perry Street as it looks today (photo: Christopher Nesbit).


A search for 106 Perry Street on the internet almost exclusively leads to the name Dawn Powell. Powell (1896-1965) was an American writer of satire. Although she is pretty obscure in my own mind, Herbert Muschamp suggested in the New York Times in 1998 that a plaque be placed at 106 Perry Street to commemorate the place where Powell began writing some of her best novels. Powell moved into 106 Perry Street in 1928, less than three years after Henry and June left it. Powell--whose diaries have been published--would not have been impressed to know that Miller lived in her basement, if this quote from her is any indication: "I feel about his Tropics that reading him is like observing somebody belch - you think, now he feels better but it doesn't do you any good." At any rate, if she is also an important American writer, then, with the combination of the Henry Miller connection, perhaps a plaque should go up at 106 Perry.

At New York Songlines are some other literary historical notes from the immediate neighbourhood.



[1] Henry Miller: The Final Archive (reference document) . "Letters to Henry Miller to Beatrice (Wickens) Miller"; Item #32. [2] I'm making an assumption here, that the "tea room" referenced in this letter is 106 Perry Street. In fact, the date of the letter (Sept 4, 1925) matches with a reference in Plexus--in the scene preceding the opening of the speakeasy--that it is September (p.367). As well, on Plexus 392, the speakeasy scene opens with a mention of the "turn of the solstice." Autumn solstice occurs in September. [3] See contemporary real estate listing at NeXTag. [4] From Tropic of Cancer: Previously unpublished sections. (Roger Jackson, 1999), p. 45. [5] Plexus. (Henry Miller). Grove Press paperback edition, 1987. [6] Happiest Man Alive (Mary Dearborn). Touchstone, 1991; p.97. [7] Henry Miller: A Life (Robert Ferguson). WW Norton, 1991; p.115.

Note: Oddly enough, in both his life chronology in 1943 and for My Life & Times years later, Miller remembered this speakeasy event as occurring in 1927, not 1925. In The Henry Miller Reader (1959), Henry more correctly states “1925 or ’26.” (p.83)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Henry Miller in the Census Records

Thank Kreg from Miller Walks for the following: New York City census records from Henry Miller's youth. Kreg recently posted these as a Comment in an earlier post about Miller in Washington during WWI. With such a great resource of vital statistics, I thought it worthy as a subject of its own post.

New York City - 1900
Henry is eight-years old. He lives with his father, mother, maternal grandfather, maternal aunt and younger sister at 662 Driggs Avenue. His grandfather, Valentin Nieting, was born in Germany in July 1836. He came to America is 1863. At 63 years old, he still works as a Journeyman Tailor (although has only worked half the year). He is the owner of the house (fully paid). His single daughter (Henry's aunt) Anna is 25, born in NYC in July 1874.

Henry's father, Henry Miller (Sr.), is 33 years old. Born in NYC (says the census) in October 1866, he currently works as a Merchant Tailor. He's been married to his wife Louise for ten years. Louise, 30, was born in June 1869 in NYC. Both of her parents, as with Henry Sr's, were born in Germany. Henry Miller (Jr) was born in New York in December 1891, as is listed as being "at school." His four-year old sister Loretta, born in July 1895, is not yet in school.

New York City - 1910
The Miller family now lives at 1063 Decatur Street in the Burrough of Brooklyn. Everyone is ten years older, except for grandpa Nieting, who has died. Henry Sr is now the Head and Owner of the household. He's still making money as a Merchant Tailor, paying off his mortgage. His wife Louise M continues on as a housewife. Our young Henry V Miller, now 18, is working as a clerk at a cement company [Atlas Cement]. Loretta is now 14.

New York City - 1920

Link to the original census - 1920

Henry V Miller is now a 28-year old married man; the head of his own home at 507 8th Avenue in Brooklyn. He's working as a Librarian at "Bw. Ind. Rs." His wife's name is Beatrice. The census taker notes in January 1920 that the couple has a 3-month old daughter named Barbara. Beatrice's 59-year old mother, Catherine Wickens, also lives with them, and works as an assistant matron at a hospital. To help cover rent, the Millers have taken in a 28-year old Japanese boarder named Tory Takekawa; the exports manager has been in America for five years.
Also of interest are two census records relating to June Smith Mansfield from 1910 and 1920.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Preface to 'My Friend, Henry Miller'

Miller scattered biographical details of his life throughout nearly everything he wrote. This includes prologues to books he did not write himself. When his great friend, Alfred Perles, published a hardcover Miller biography/memoir in 1955 called My Friend, Henry Miller, Miller provided the preface. After all, Perles wrote the book "virtually under my nose at Big Sur," as Miller states. In 1962, a paperback edition of the book was released on Belmont. The original preface was kept, but re-named "Prologue," and a new "Preface to the Belmon Edition" was added. The latter was written by Miller in Berlin on May 18, 1962. The paperback went on sale in September of that year.

Below are a handful of annotated biographical details found within the preface and prologue.

from the Prologue
* If we meet again, as we probably will [...] if it is not in the rue Delambre that we bump into one another, it will be the same street under a different name ...
Miller confirms for us that he had first met Perles on rue Delambre. This meeting took place in May 1928, during Miller's first visit to Paris, with his wife June. Perles makes reference to this meeting on page 13 of his book: "When I first met Henry with Mona [June], in 1928, shortly before the Wall Street crash [...] I bumped into them in the rue Delambre--they were staying at the Hotel des Ecoles."

* In 1928 I had never even heard of Big Sur. It was about 1930 or 1931 that I saw for the first time the name Point Sur. I was then reading The Women at Point Sur by Robinson Jeffers, at the Cafe Rotonde, a rather strange place for such a pursuit.
The narrative poem The Women at Point Sur was published in 1927. In August that year, Time Magazine profiled Jeffers and "Point Sur." Time even put him on the cover in 1932, a few months after Miller wrote about one of its characters to Anais Nin: "And I don't mind at all saturating my work with it--sex I mean--because I'm not afraid of it and I almost want to stand up and preach about it, like that nut in The Women of Point Sur. He was cracked and people forgive that, but I am quite sane, too sane almost, madly sane." (February 13, 1932; from A Literate Passion, p.8). Miller would eventually meet Jeffers in 1954: "Met Jeffers the other day. He's OK. In fact, he's fine--like a good hound. A trembling rock." (March 5, 1944; HM and James Laughlin: Selected Letters, p. 42).

* Point Sur [...] "looks a little like Bingen on the Rhine," I remarked.
Miller makes this comparison to Alf (one which Perles disagrees with). Miller had obviously visited Bingen at some point during one of his several tours of Europe.

* I remember the day when he [Perles] received that wonderful, appreciative, encouraging letter addressed to him by Roger Martin du Gard, now a celebrated figure in French literary annals.
Miller talks about a fan letter sent after the release of Perles' Sentiments Limitrophes (1936). Roger Martin du Gard (1881 - 1958) was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1937 for his cycles of novels called Les Thibault. Miller states that the two of them "wept a little then burst out laughing" when Perles read the flattering letter aloud.

from the Preface to the Belmont Edition

* Until he [Perles] left for England, sometime in '37 or '38, there was hardly a day when we did not meet, eat together, and above all, laugh together.
My impression had been that Perles left Paris in 1939, when everyone else cleared out. Miller's assertion here suggests otherwise.

* This paperback edition arrives at a timely moment. At the time the book was written neither of us dreamed that the Tropic of Cancer, or any of the other books published in Paris, would be openly distributed in America.
The U.S. release of Cancer (1961) was still fresh in Miller's mind when he wrote his preface in May 1962. For this reason, much of the brief preface dwells on his opinion about the freeodm to read ("the censorship of books, films, plays serves no purpose"). He also writes about the value of paperbacks.

* Only recently, in a small California town, I came upon the scarcely known book which Perles had so often talked to me about in Paris--Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parsifal.
This Mediaeval German poem from the 13th century--about a quest for the Holy Grail--was the basis of a Wagner opera of the same name. Although Miller implies that he'd only heard Perles talk about this book before 1962, he still made reference to Parsifal in Tropic Of Cancer in the 1930s: "On the merry-go-round, one doesn't get anywhere, whereas with the Germans one can go from Vega to Lope de Vega, all in one night, and come away as foolish as Parsifal." (p. 26).


"[Due to the proliferation of translations in paperback] We are at last beginning to have a worldwide view, instead of an insular one we so long nourished. We are no longer exploring outer space alone but that inner space in which man has his being and through which he will attain in the not too distant future to new levels of consciousness." -- Henry Miller, "Preface"

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

In Defense Of Conrad Moricand

When Henry Miller published his "character assassination" of Conrad Moricand in A Devil In Paradise (1956), it must have sent the then recently-deceased astrologer spinning in his grave. No longer alive to defend his reputation, Moricand has come off as a creepy, vain, poncey buffoon to readers for decades. It's fifty years later, and Moricand's corpse can stop spinning now that Karl Orend has come to his defense in The Brotherhood of Fools & Simpletons: Gods and Devils in Henry Miller's Utopia (Alyscamps Press, 2005).

"Though he was basically not fair-minded, he did his utmost to be fair, to be impartial, to be just. And to be loyal, though by nature I felt that he was essentially treacherous. In fact, it was this undefinable treachery which I was first aware of in him, though I had nothing on which to base my feelings. I remmber that I deliberately banished the thought from my mind, replacing it with the vague notion that here was an intelligence which was suspect."
----- Henry Miller, A Devil in Paradise (published as "Paradise Lost" in Big Sur And the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, p. 276.)

'Treachery' is the central drama explored in Brotherhood of Fools & Simpletons, Orend's small-press book which examines the relationship between Miller and Moricand. By 1948, after the ordeal of shared quarters at Big Sur had concluded, both Miller and Moricand felt betrayed by the other. Earlier, when trying to explain to his wife why Moricand should be invited to live with them in their cabin on Partington Ridge, Miller tried to give importance to the fact that Moricand had once given him a copy of Balzac's Seraphita, the significance of which he had trouble explaining. And so he fell back on an ethical argument: an old friend is at the end of his rope and needed charity. After reading Brotherhood, one realizes that Miller had also presented a simplification of fact to his readers, and constructed a negative portrait of Moricand as a means to exact revenge on him for what he perceived as ingratitude for his generosity. The caricature was considered slanderous enough that, as Orend points out, Moricand's name had to be changed in the French editions of A Devil In Paradise.

"Moricand is almost universally believed to be exactly the way Miller described him to be. Miller's version of events and account is accepted as true. From the start, Miller's account is peppered with distortions and lies. Miller uses his established technique of combining facts and real events with the lies and invention, mixed with caricature and misleading interpretations. He makes his account believable by carefully incorporating praise and positive comments with devastatiing criticism. By the end of A Devil In Paradise, Miller has accused Moricand of being everything from a drug addict to a pedophile. He portrays him as a pornographer and blackmailer, an incurable narcissist and egomaniac and an ungrateful wretch. He has become in fact a Devil incarnate."
------ Karl Orend, Brotherhood of Fools & Simpletons, p. 67.
At right: Conrad Morciand at Big Sur; this photo is cropped from a larger one on page 77 of Brotherhood.

Orend touches on just about every assertion made about Moricand by Miller in his book, and offers some often facsinating defenses of his behaviour and reactions. First, we get a more satisfying explanation of their earlier relationship, rather than the reason of a simple copy of Seraphita (though Orend explores that significance as well). Drawing from unpublished letters written between the men, Orend presents us with a Miller who was once practically in awe of Moricand's astrological powers, and who had a profound apprecaition for him as a person. ("The evenings I have spent with you are the richest moments of all this part of my life here in Paris," Miller wrote to Moricand in a letter quoted by Orend, from July 15, 1938. "I say all this without the least desire to flatter you. It is merely an expression of the great debt I owe you and which I am pleasd to acknowledge and affirm.") After reading this backstory, it's so much easier to imagine why Miller would offer to sponsor Moricand for the rest of his living days.

Then, one after another, Orend offers well-researched explanations for Moricand's complaints, which Miller mocks in Devil: the sores on his legs and his poor health, the horrid living conditions in the shack at Big Sur, the simple requests for things that he had no means of getting himself, the call for some financial assistance--which Miller was obligated by law to do as his sponsor--when he exiled himself from the misery he was going through. Just about everything is addressed in the 200+ page book; I can't summarize it all here, nor the nearly 300 footnotes he uses to back up his research. We also get insight into the more unsavoury aspects of Miller's personality, and how he sometimes "punished" people in his writings for perceived slights.

At right: A drawing by Moricand. This and others at Livrenblog.

In the Appendices, Orend has included a real revelation: translated letters and essays written by Moricand in 1948 on the subject of Henry Miller, immediately after the fiasco: Moricand's version of events, in his own words. "Miller was as usual unable to see the bigger picture. He answered me very bitterly, as if I had refused the gifts of Artaxerxes. It was as if I had shat in his best boots," wrote Moricand to Theophile Briant on April 1, 1948. Titles of two of his essays--"A Perfect Heretic" and "Graduate of Hell"--give you an idea about his feelings about his stay with Miller. Translated poems by Moricand are also included.

If some publisher were wise, they would do well to publish the already highly-enjoyable A Devil in Paradise along with Orend's Brotherhood and Fools & Simpletons, in a single edition. Brotherhood was published in a very limited run, but some copies are apparently still available for $50 (U.S.) plus shipping. Send queries to

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 41, 42

41.0 This passage extends from mid-way page 41 to mid-way page 42. Continuing from the preceding pages with the idea of lost love, Miller laments the neagtive state of "minus love" from which most men operate. Now stuck in that state himself, he retreats into the vacuum void of the "mind machine," that keeps him running on a bleak auto-pilot.

41.1 "high unfathomable ache of emptiness into which all creation might be poured and still it would be emptiness"
Miller places this phrase in quotations, but I can't find the source for it. Miller follows this by saying "this aching for God, as it has been called." Perhaps he's quoted an obscure religious text. Miller believes this aptly describes "the soul's loveless state." To explore these views in a larger context of Nexus and The Rosy Crucifixion, take a look at Chris Light's essay, Art And The Artist in The Rosy Crucifixion [PDF].

41.2 rack and wheel
Miller has entered the loveless state described above, "fully equipped with rack and wheel." This could have two meanings. First, he could be referring to the rack and wheel structure of a bicycle, implying that he foolishly raced headlong into the current situation (he follows this by commenting on how alarmingly fast "events piled up"). Secondly, he could be referencing the mediaeval torture devices of rack and wheel; this is consistent with his self-portrayal as a lovefool who is a glutton for punishment in his relationship with Mona/June.

41.3 thought-machine
This is a continuation of the idea of the "mind machine" (also mentioned in this paragraph) state of being, which he first introduced on Page 38.

41.4 toboggan
For those of you in the warmer tropical zones, a toboggan is a snow slide, sled or sleigh. An Olympic bobsleigh is technically a toboggan, so you know what kind of barely-controllable momentum we're talking about here. Miller is comparing a toboggan ride to the journey to self-destruction we take when he go into a "mind machine" state. As long as there is a "flicker of life," the mind machine ploughs forward without being slowed by any other self-regulating emotional factors; in fact, he is an empty vessel (a "victim") into which any "demon" may take possession.

41.5 "this side of Paradise"
Miller compares life inside the "vacuum of the mind" to "this side of Paradise," which he places in quotes. Although these words are more famously attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel of that name (1920), it originated with the poet Rupert Brooke, and his poem Tiare Tahiti (1914).

As I interpret it, Brooke's line is meant to dileniate the pleasures of earthly life (this side) from the "paradise" of an afterlife (that side). The "wise," Brooke claims, agree that Paradise exists after death; therefore, in the primal pleasures of "this side of Paradise" there is "little comfort in the wise." Miller, then, is saying that he is locked into a pursuit of reckless passion without wisdom.

41.6 St. Vitus' Dance
Miller is so deeply into "this side of Paradise"/"the mind machine" "that even the rigor of death seems like a St. Vitus' Dance." The St. Vitus Dance is a neurological disorder now identified as chorea, in which the victim suffers involuntary, almost-rhythmic muscular jerks. In Mediaeval times, the condition was named after Vitus, patron saint of dancers (as well as actors and comedians). Miller's metaphor, then, describes someone in such a state of passionate auto-pilot, that not even death itself would cause him to rest. As he states in the following paragraph, after equating himself to a dead horse galloping in a void, "I kept galloping to the farthest corners of the universe and nowhere finding peace, comfort or rest."

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