Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Times Reviews 'Big Sur,' 1958

A feature on Lawrence Durrell, written by Peter Porter, appeared in this week's print edition of The Times Literary Supplement (and since been made available on-line). Porter writes that Durrell was "indebted to Miller’s libertarian philosophy." Expanding on this passing reference to Miller, The Times has also included a critical exploration of books about Miller, written by Karl Orend. In this piece entitled "New Bibles," Orend reviews recent analytical works about Miller and ties them into an essay about the interconnection between his writing style and his"religious quest."

Among the books considered: Thomas Nesbit's Henry Miller And Religion, James M Decker's Henry Miller And Narrative Form, and Maria Bloshteyn's The Making of a Counter-Culture Icon: Henry Miller's Dostoevsky.

To compliment this Miller article, The Times offers, in both print and on-line, a book review from their archives: Alan Ross takes on Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch in 1958.

Excerpt from The Times Literary Supplement of May 2, 1958:
Mr. Henry Miller, approaching the calm sunset of his enterprising, varied, robust working life, shows himself increasingly an American, less and less a man of Europe. His most reviving, fruitful dreams, it is true, are always of Paris, but for fifteen years now Mr. Miller’s home has been in the paradisal Californian outpost of Big Sur, on the coast south of Monterey, and it seems that the traveller is home, in both spirit and body, for good. In his new book Mr. Miller describes at some length his primitive backwoods life, his poverty, his physical riches, his thoughts, his guests, his unhappy and happy marriages, his children.

Two sections in this typically formless, often waffling, garrulous but marvellously human, book are of especial interest. First, that in which, after his penultimate wife had made off, Mr. Miller attempted single-handed to bring up two small children. Secondly, the final anecdote concerning a friend of his Paris days, who, having been financed and brought over from Europe as an act of mercy by Mr. Miller, turns out as exacting, sponging, evil, cunning and ungrateful a guest as can be found in contemporary literature. Mr. Miller has always been a remarkable creator of character. Conrad Moricand is probably his master-piece.

"[Henry Miller] .... has always desperately needed an editor (much more than a censor) to refer to."

"Boring as much of Mr. Miller’s writing often is – the cosmological gush, the schoolboyish salaciousness, the coarse contemptuousness with which all his sexual encounters arc wearyingly described – it never lacks intellectual passion, a great curiosity and zest for life, an absorbing interest and feeling for his fellow men."
Read the full 1958 Times review here.