"... 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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."