Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Annotated Nexus - Page 60

60.0 Miller recounts several details about living with Stasia in the basement, including secret meetings in her room with Mona, her poems, wall painting, and wrestling. Sometimes he would go out to meet with a friend like Osiecki or Curley, to avoid the basement’s “loony atmosphere.”

60.1 a benefactor
Henry is asked sometimes to leave the basement apartment so that Mona and Stasia can entertain a “benefactor”“who brought a supply of groceries or who left a check on the table.” The women would use various kinds of secret communication to discuss these arrangements without Henry’s knowledge. See 51.1 about the allusion that Mona and Stasia sometimes used sex to raise money.

60.2 the poems Stasia wrote
Miller comments that Stasia’s poetry has been becoming “more and more unintelligible.” On page 48 (48.3), Miller makes reference to Stasia (Jean Kronski) writing poetry. In Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal, volume 4, Karl Orend presents two poems attributed to Jean Kronski, including one that was published in the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune.

60.3 Rimbaud’s influence
Jean claims that it may be Arthur Rimbaud’s influence that has made her poetry, in Miller’s eyes, “more and more unintelligible.” “Rimbaud set out to transform his art, and language itself,” writes Penguin Classics of the French poet, “by a systematic ‘disordering of all the senses,’ often with the aid of alcohol and drugs.” In Miller’s study of Rimbaud, to come much later in his life (Time of the Assassins), he criticizes modern poetry (circa the beatnik era): “They justify their impotence by deliberately making themselves unintelligible” [p.59]. On the previous page of Nexus (59), Miller discusses Jean’s interest in Rimbaud.

60.4 Osiecki
A bit of social relief from the happenings in the apartment (including wrestling matches between the women) comes from Miller’s neurotic Canadian friend, Osiecki. We first saw reference of him in Nexus at 9.9. He is portrayed in Plexus, and will appear in an extended scene in Nexus starting on page 133.

60.5 a funeral parlor, a few blocks away
Osiecki takes Henry out for a few beers, to a speakeasy above a nearby funeral parlor. On page 239, Miller will make reference to an “Italian” funeral parlor, but its location is not specified—it may not be the same. According to a Brooklyn directory of undertakers in 1922, a man named Bernard Reilly worked as an undertaker at 9 Henry Street (at Fulton), which was six blocks north of the apartment. I’m not sure that an undertaker’s address necessarily means that a funeral parlor existed there. Nor does it mean that this was the parlor that Miller was talking about.

60.6 wandering about … Hoboken
When Osiecki wasn’t available, Miller would sometimes “forlornly” wander through Hoboken, New Jersey: “I’d try to convince myself that it was an interesting burg.” Perhaps Miller decided to go to Hoboken because it reminded him of the time he and June were married there in 1924. At that time, he’d thought of Hoboken as “a sad, dreary place. A city more foreign to me than Peking or Lhasa” [Sexus, p.452].

60.7 Weehawken
As an alternative to Hoboken, Miller would sometimes visit Weehawken to catch a burlesque show. The town is compared to Hoboken as “another God-forsaken place.” Weehawken, New Jersey borders Hoboken. “Weehawken was then [in the 1920s] a town of 14,000 nestled on the cliffs of the Palisades, and familiar to most New Yorkers only as the other end of a short ferry ride” (Greg Lawrence, Dance With Demons: New York Times excerpt, 2001). I wasn’t able to identify any burlesque houses in Weehawken for this time period.

A postcard of West Hoboken, showing lower Weehawken in 1913. Source: Maggieblanck.com

60.8 continual chanting of love songs
Mona and Stasia’s constant singing (“in Russian, German, even Yiddish”) is one of the things creating a “loony atmosphere” in the basement apartment, which Henry sometimes wants to escape. See 57.4 about Mona and Stasia repeatedly singing Let Me Call You Sweetheart. They sing it again on page 151.

60.9 dreary talk of drugs
Miller also gets tired of Mona and Stasia talking about drugs. Drug use is not something I’ve found much reference to in Miller’s books. According to Anais Nin, June talked often of drugs: “June talked constantly about drugs, like the criminal who returns to the scene of the crime. She needed to mention the subject while violently denying ever taking drugs (two or three times, perhaps).” She then summarizes Henry’s opinion of drug use: “taking drugs denoted a deficiency in one’s nature” [Henry and June: from the unexpurgated diary of Anaïs Nin, p.201].

60.10 caricature of Stasia
Sometimes, when bored, Miller would borrow paint and brushes and make a caricature of Stasia directly onto a wall in the apartment. In response, Stasia (Jean) would make one of Henry. Henry also tells of painting a skull-and-crossbones over Stasia’s door, to which she added an image of a knife. I assume that he borrowed the paints from Stasia (as the active visual artist of the three).

This reference establishes that Miller was at least casually painting in 1926. It would be amazing to somehow find a photograph of this wall caricature, because it would not only let us see an image of “Jean Kronski,” but also reveal an early example of Millers’ painting abilities.

60.11 pearl-handed revolver
As a random point of interest, Miller mentions that Stasia once showed him a small revolver she owned, “just in case.” In screenwriter Bernard Gordon’s memoir, Hollywood Exile (p.12), in which he writes about his wife Jean Lewin’s younger years (I believe that this Jean is at least in part the basis of “Jean Kronski” a.k.a. Stasia), he mentions that Jean left New York with another woman, hitch-hiking to California, dressed as boys. While doing so, they ran into some trouble, remedied by a revolver produced by Jean’s friend. Maybe the gun actually belonged to Jean?

60.12 Polish section of Manhattan
During one of Miller’s local wanderings, he ends up at a pool-hall in the Polish section of Manhattan. As far as I can tell, the traditional Polish neighbourhood of New York is Greenpoint, in Brooklyn, with a couple of others in Queens (see this Newsday article). As for Manhattan itself in the 1920s, all I can really dig up as a possibility is the neighbourhood around St. Stanislaus's Polish Roman Catholic Church, in Seventh Street, between First Avenue and Avenue A” (New York Times, Oct. 15, 1922, p.16). Maybe some of you New Yorkers know better?

60.13 Curley
While in the pool-hall mentioned above, Miller happens to see a young man he knows named “Curley,” who is with a strange young friend just out of prison. They want to go back to Miller’s apartment to hang out. On the subway there, Henry tells Curley about his strained situation with Stasia; Curley reacts as if this is a familiar scenario to him.

In Tropic of Capricorn (pp.111-119), Miller describes his young friend Curley, who applied to Miller as a messenger boy when he was 14, back in Miller’s Western Union days as an employment manager. In Capricorn, Miller states that Curley lives in Harlem, and has no moral sense or shame, which made it easy for him to act as an opportunistic thief. His parents were carnival folk who were always traveling and had no use for him. Henry liked the young lad, but he never trusted him: “He would do anything in the world for me and at the same time betray me” (112).

In Sexus, where Curley makes frequent appearances, Miller describes him twice (pp. 16, 47) as his “little stooge.” Throughout the novel, Curley is mixed-up in Miller’s tangled love life.

Even in Plexus, Curley re-appears. When we last see him (Plexus precedes Nexus chronologically), Henry and Mona try to reason with him to not lead a life of crime, nor to kill the step-father that he loathes (p.521-525). Hearing Miller describe Stasia as an unwanted 'third person' probably reminds Curley of the intrusion of his hated step-father.

In Nexus, the psychopathic Curley will be in the basement apartment for the next couple of pages, fixated on the idea to help Henry “rid” himself of the troublesome Stasia.

<--- Previous page 59 . Next page 61 --->

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