Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nexus: The Int'l Henry Miller Journal - Vol. 5


The fifth volume of Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal is now available for 2008. This annual publication is now bigger than ever, at 342 pages.

CONTENTS
p.1 - Editors’ Note

p.2 - Henry Miller’s Letters to Herbert Read: 1935-1958 (edited by James Gifford)
Miller’s letters to English poet and critic Herbert Read (1893-1968) are bursting with his characteristic mix of insightful opinion about the state of the world and of Being, along with references to his personal life and work. The meatiest portion covers a period from Summer 1935 to October 1936, and offers new detail about the elements of this life chapter, from opinions on Alfred Perles and his own Black Spring, to his attitude about the English and ruminations on Surrealism, War and Communism. Only Miller’s side of the correspondence is reprinted here; ample footnotes help enlighten our understanding of his comments and fill in the gaps left by Read’s missing voice. A treasure trove of new Miller insight into events from his life (random examples: “I went through three months of hell watching [my mother] die” and a reference to the fact that Miller had only realized that Orwell had reviewed Tropic Of Cancer when Read sent him a clipping of it from the New English Weekly.).

p.36 - Surrealism’s Anglo-American Afterlife: The Herbert Read and Henry Miller Network (by James Gifford)
Gifford explores the personalities and ideas of the English Surrealist movement--to which Read was a senior artist and critic--and how they connected with Miller and his Villa Seurat circle. Attached to these links are people like Lawrence Durrell, David Gascoyne and Dylan Thomas, whose usage and opinions of Surrealism varied throughout the years, and were often at conceptual odds with their contemporaries. The intellectual conflict between Miller and Read over their conceptions of Surrealism is analyzed through their letters and through comparison of Read’s essay "Surrealism" to Miller’s response, "Open Letter To Surrealists Everywhere." Gifford writes: “In accepting Surrealism as a technique and influence while rejecting it as a movement, Miller fueled similar disenchantments among those who admired Surrealist works but could not accommodate its orthodoxy.” This essay gives a real sense of the vibrancy of an artistic movement as it’s happening. We understand its influence on Miller and how this inspiration and counter-reaction manifested itself in his work.

p.65 - On Reading Henry Miller’s The World of Sex (by D. A. Pratt)
Did you realize that there are two versions of The World Of Sex? Pratt identifies and contrasts the original 1940 version and the more widely-read 1957 edition—which Pratt calls the “wrong version.” In comparing the differences, Pratt states: “[w]hile maintaining the narrative flow of the essay when he was answering the urge to revise it, Miller changed virtually every sentence – the changes are extensive. Secondly, he made major deletions – the original version is a much longer work. Therefore, at the very least, if you haven’t read the original version of The World Of Sex, you have a significant amount of ‘new-to-you’ Henry Miller material waiting for you.” Pratt goes on to give a draft history of World and an analysis of the autobiographical work. Finally, it’s a revelation to read the several pages of narrative comparison printed here, in which text from the 1940 version is laid alongside the revised text of the 1957 version. Not only is this a chance to read some rarer excerpts from the original manuscript, but also to consider Miller’s writing technique as we witness him—in a sense--in the act of revision.

p.135 - Sex Dreams, Cancer & Nightmares – Joseph Millard Osman, Anonymous Friends, The Tribune Crowd, & Henry Miller’s Unknown Book (by Karl Orend)
Orend presents a detailed snapshot of Henry Miller in the year 1931, from the miserable, impoverished circumstances of the first half of the year, to his fortunate employment with the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune during the second half. Added to this overview is Orend’s discovery of an extremely rare and overlooked document found only in the Bibliothèque nationale de France: Miller’s very first published book (on which he is uncredited). The academic treatise entitled Les Ouvres socials fondee a New York pour les enfants infirmees, was ghostwritten in English by Miller for an American student at the Sorbonne named Joseph Millard Osman, who then translated it into French. Not only did Miller benefit in material ways for this work, he also made important social contacts through Osman: Michael Fraenkel and Walter Lowenfels. While exploring Miller’s psychological makeup in 1931, Orend concludes his essay by considering the meanings found in Miller’s dreams over the following two years, which Miller often recorded in a “dream book.”

p.150 - The Unpublished Correspondence of Henry Miller & André Breton, the “Steady Rock”, 1947-50 (by Branko Aleksić; translated and with additional notes by Karl Orend)
André Breton (1896-1966) was a French writer and the father of Surrealism. Here, Aleksić provides a outline of the written correspondence between Miller and Breton, from the collection found at the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve in Paris. “Among the major themes covered in these letters,” writes Aleksić, “are: preparations by Breton for the 1947 Surrealist Exhibition, preparations by Breton for a Surrealist exhibition in Berlin, Breton’s plans for the Almanach surrealiste du demi-siecle and l’Anthologie de l’humour noir, the Paris scandal of counterfeit Rimbaud writings […] and Miller’s own writing on Rimbaud for Time Of The Assassins. Miller and Breton also corresponded about astrology in the life and work of Rimbaud.” These subjects are then summarized (actual transcripts of the letters are said to be in the works for the next Nexus journal). Exchanges of books and manuscripts between the two writers are also referenced.

p.173 - Wilson’s Dancing Studio (by Randy Chase)
In my Nexus journal debut, the editors have published my blog entry on Wilson’s Dancing Studio, at which Henry met June. This was originally posted on this blog on March 8, 2007 and is still view-able online.

p.178 - His Eyes Were the Color of the Sea – Fragments on the Unknown Henry Miller, in Paris, 1931-1933 (by Karl Orend)
The population of Miller’s social orbit in Paris in the 1930s was a substantial one. Many of these names become familiar when reading the Miller biographies, even gaining iconic status in their own rights, yet have largely remained scattered fragments in the telling of the Miller legend. In this essay, Orend shines the spotlight on a handful of these people who went on to become characters in Miller’s classic Tropic Of Cancer. Brassai and Richard Galen Osborn (who had put Miller up in his apartment and is called ‘Fillmore’ in Cancer) figure most prominently, with Wambly Bald and Samuel Putnam also given significant coverage. Several Richard Osborn quotes are included, from his essay “No.2 rue Auguste Bartholdi.” As always, Orend’s in-depth narrative rewards with associated details not limited to the basic track of the presumed premise. We get a reconstructed portrait of the “unknown” Miller of the early 1930s through this enhanced understanding of his friends and the roles they played in his life.

p.215 - “Between Ideas and Living": A Foucaultian Reading of Henry Miller (by Laraine Rungo)
Using Michel Foucault’s theories on the construction of identity, this academic essay challenges the idea that the “Henry Miller” written about in the Tropics is the same as the author himself. As a result, the notion of “truth” in Miller’s writing is placed into question. Credit is given to Miller for constructing a complex, postmodern game for the reader by testing our human bounds through the use of transgressive language. “In the process,” writes Rungo, “he discovers the limitations that prevented that analysis from being liberating, but finds only the recurring questions which still pervade the literary discourses of our contemporary world.”

p.240 - Henry Visits Daughter Barbara (by Harry Kiakis)
This entry from the diary of Kiakis on May 19, 1968, is as fascinating as the entry that was published in Nexus journal #3. It’s a combination of a realistic sense that you are spending a day with the elderly Miller, and being privy to Miller’s thoughts on contemporary life and his own life. Kiakis had taken care to catalogue significant quotes spoken by Miller that day. Sometimes it’s a memoryl about visiting John Cowper Powys or his negative change of heart about Bern Porter; other times it’s trivia, such as Miller’s weight in 1968 (126 lbs!?). The premise here is that Kiakis had been asked by Gerald Robitaille—Miller’s assistant—to drive Henry to a meeting with his estranged daughter from him first marriage, Barbara. Kiakis is asked to leave for an hour, but upon his return he describes Barbara (in her 40s), both physically and biographically. At the end comes a mind-blowing revelation: Henry’s first wife, Beatrice, had been living in a “tiny guest house” behind Barbara’s home at the time of Henry’s visit. Kiakis, like myself, wonders if Henry knew this, and what kind of diary entry this would have been if Beatrice had made a sudden appearance during the visit.
(includes a photo of Gerald Robitaille and his wife Diane, as well as one of Barbara Miller speaking with her father)

p.247 - Finding the Bad in the Good: Miller’s Greece and Big Sur Made Whole (by Garen Torikian)
Miller’s novels, The Colossus of Maroussi and Big Sur And the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch are sometimes criticized as being overly sentimental and somehow inconsistent with Miller’s signature style stressing “the wicked, the ugly, the cruel” (Miller, Art And Outrage). This essay, interestingly, corrects this view by accentuating the negative found in both books. These include critical characterizations of Greek insidivuals who seem to be at odds with Miller’s idealism of Greek society, and Big Sur artists who suffer due to lack of resolve or self-esteem in their art.

p.259 - Tropic of Cancer and Sexual Discourse: A "Critical Hole" (by Phillip Mahoney)
“In speaking about Tropic of Cancer,” opens Mahoney in this academic essay, “one must talk about sex and obscenity.” These subjects, indeed, have been the crux of critical analyses of the novel over the decades. This essay examines the nature of this critical discourse, and suggests that, in the very writing of the book, Miller has created a “kind of hole that no amount of discourse can fill” because “it is one that, in the very act of giving itself up to penetration, refuses to be penetrated, to yield a truth with a content.”

p.272 - Henry Miller and Jean Francois Lyotard: The Aesthetics of ‘The Inhuman’ in Tropic of Cancer (by Eric D. Lehman)
This essay explores the aesthetic of the “inhuman” in Miller’s work, and identifies links and differences to French philosopher Jean Francois Lyotard. Lehman compares Lyotard’s postmodern view of artistic purpose, value and effect to Miller’s accomplishment of creating a narrator that does not seek the sublime but instead acts as a witness of the “eternal now.” A related critique is also made of Welch Everman’s essay “The Anti-Aesthetic of Henry Miller” (1992).

p.285 - Emerging from China – Sketches on a Journey in Search of Henry Miller (by Karl Orend)
This autobiography of publisher, scholar and writer Karl Orend uses Henry Miller as a thread in the life of the author, both as a figurative biographical parallel and as a tangible subject—one of which Orend has researched and written extensively. Much of the content of this article appeared recently on this blog as part of an extended interview with Orend.

p.299 - Henry Miller Art Exhibitions in Sweden, 1967-1970-2005 (by Magnus Grehn)
This brief article summarizes the three Miller art exhibits held in Sweden, with a specific interest in a recent gallery showing at the Grödinge Antik & Design in 2005. Includes a few black and white photographs of the latter.

p.304 - Henry Miller Memorial Archives Library (by Keely Richter)
A two-page summary of the efforts being made in Big Sur to establish a permanent Miller archive (including original materials relating to his relationship to Emil Schnellock) at the HM Memorial Library. Those interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to the project may do so by contacting the library directly.

p.307 - Henry Miller Cartoons (by Roger Jackson)
After scouring thousands of periodicals and news resources, Jackson was able to compile fifteen black & white cartoons relating to Henry Miller, all of which are reproduced here for the first time as a collection. Nearly all of them, of course, refer to the scandalous reputation of Miller’s most famous novel, Tropic Of Cancer. Really interesting to see these representations of Miller within the sphere of popular culture. As requested in this piece, if you have or know of any published cartoons relating to Henry Miller or his work, please notify the editors of the Nexus journal, who will surely publish them in a future edition.

p.323 - Miller Notes: Listings of Millerania that has been recently published or discovered.
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Volume 5 is available through the Nexus journal website for $20 US (shipping included) or $24 US (international shipping included). Previous issues are also available. Read the contents of each back issue here: Vol.1, Vol.2, Vol.3, Vol.4.