Friday, June 18, 2010

Nexus: Int'l Henry Miller Journal - Vol. 7

This year’s journal issue of Nexus is now available for sale. To celebrate their seventh year, they are selling copies for just $7 post-paid (this offer is available only to those in the United States and Canada). The 188-page journal may be purchased from their website.

Here’s the breakdown:

Four Letters from Henry Miller to George Orwell
(Henry Miller)
In this series of four transcriptions of letters written by Miller to “Eric Blair” (Orwell’s real name) from 1936-1938, we see both the similarities and distinct differences between the two men. Miller starts off by commending Orwell for his Down and Out in Paris and London, in which Miller finds a parallel to his own life in Paris, and offers a few insightful comparisons. However, Miller also criticizes Orwell’s political views and offers his own philosophy about the human condition, literature and surrealism. We understand from Miller’s side of the correspondence that Orwell, in his letters, has critiqued Black Spring and has been in contact with Jack Kahane. The last letter, written in April 1938, contains health advice to Orwell, who was in a sanatorium with an illness.

Miller, writing from his home at 18 Villa Seurat, would receive Orwell as a guest just weeks after the third letter in October 1936. This series of letters is essential reading for understanding the bonds and divides that would have informed their conversation during that Paris visit in December 1936, just before Orwell continued on to fight in the Spanish civil war.

Reveries of a Solitary Old Man and His Angels – Henry Miller’s Unknown Book and His Encounter with the Magician, Joseph Delteil
(Karl Orend)
In 1975, Miller wrote one of his most obscure books, Je ne suis pas plus con qu’un autre. Written completely in Henry’s imperfect French, he insisted that it never receive an English translation. In this essay, Karl Orend doesn’t merely talk about this book; he goes deep into a lifetime of influences and inspirations, as if Henry is reflecting upon them as an elderly man in 1975, tucked away at his Pacific Palisades home on Ocampo Drive. Some of these accounts are directly related to the writing of the French book: Sylvie Crossman, who suggested he write it; Miller’s earliest exposure to and efforts to speak the French language; and a biography of the relationship between Miller and Joseph Delteil, drawn from decades of their correspondences (Miller quoted Delteil in Je ne suis pas). But, like a reverie, there is a lot of room for free association. The narrative swims from Frank Harris to Renate Gerhardt, spirituality to music, and numerous references to books and authors, always ebbing back to Miller in 1975, reflecting on his life. Chock full of fascinating detail.

Henry Miller and the Celebration of Loss
(Natalija Bonic)
Belgium-based philosopher Natalija Bonic explores Miller’s apparent jubilation at the prospect of human destruction in his earlier novels, especially Tropic of Cancer, where personal loss perplexingly elicits joy. For comparison, Bonic looks to the Greek tragedies and the concept of seasonal solstice, from which we may understand the reversal of expectation in the face of loss. In chaos, we are both liberated and shattered as the standard social boundaries come down. Bonic analyzes three techniques by which Miller sought to disrupt order and generate chaos: by “highlighting the trivial and rejected, flattening the standard perspective, and ‘becoming inhuman.’"

Acceptance and Compassion in Henry Miller’s Book of Friends
(Eric D. Lehman)
Miller’s late-life Book of Friends seems at odds with the celebration of the “destruction of values” that appeared to be his agenda in his earlier books. Against this presumption, Eric D. Lehman questions the critics and contemplates the values of Miller’s anarchist position, which was actually less about total nihilism and more a longing for freedom defined by mutually-supportive compassion. Rather than minimalize the nostalgia and sentimentality that is present in Friends, Lehman takes a deeper look at Miller’s efforts to defend the values of human connection, which involve the acceptance of others as individuals.

Henry Miller’s Paris Guidebooks
(Kreg Wallace)
Kreg Wallace, who runs the excellent Miller Walks blog, contributes this essay about two Paris guidebooks that Miller had used to enrich his discovery of Paris in the 1930s: The Stones of Paris in History and Letters (Benjamin and Charlotte Martin) and The Paris of the Novelists (Arthur B. Maurice). Beyond merely directing Miller to various points of interest, these guidebooks offered descriptions that were quoted and even lifted by Miller in Tropic of Cancer.

Teach as You Like and Die Happy: Henry Miller as High School Curriculum
(Douglas Matus)

Matus, a (former?) teacher in Texas, makes a case for adding Henry Miller to the American high school curriculum. Although the educational overseers may take exception to Miller’s more “obscene” and therefore unsuitable phrasings, there is still value in teaching Miller in excerpts. With Miller’s “bio as the bait”--students often identiy with his ethic of rebellion--his writing is able to reach young people and allow a chance to reveal its true value. Once connected to Miller’s voice, students learn from the history and American literature that Miller often references, or is reference to. The hope here is to engage young students with literature they find exciting, and to develop the “critical faculties of the teenage mind.”

A Birthday Party for Henry
(Harry Kiakis)

Continuing a Nexus Journal tradition, we have another instalment from the personal journals of Harry Kiakis, who knew Miller late in the author’s life. Here, we are at a surprise party for Henry’s birthday on December 26, 1968. Kiakis documents the day, making observations about the event’s many guests, including Hoki [plus her parents, and friend, Puko], Gerald and Diane Robitaille, Henry’s doctor (Dr. Siegel), Bronislaw Kaper, Lisa Lu, Robert Snyder, Allegra Snyder Fuller, Jakob Gimpel, Joe Gray, Bradley Smith, Sydney Omarr, Michael York, and Riko (of 669 Gallery).

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge: An Ekphrastic Correspondence between Walt Whitman, Hart Crane and Henry Miller
(Katy Masuga)
As someone way smarter than me has summarized on Wikipedia, “‘Ekphrasis’ or ecphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic description of a visual work of art.” In this in-depth essay, Katy Masuga uses the Brooklyn Bridge as a central object and concept that binds together the writers Walt Whitman, Hart Crane and Henry Miller in a complex way; abstract yet imtimate at the same time. While Whitman is, by decades, the literary precursor of both Miller and Crane, the three men share a sort of call and response dialogue in their writings about the Brooklyn Bridge: a conversation that transcends time and space, and leaves an impressionistic legacy on the culture’s collective imagination.

June’s Arizona Grave
(Randy Chase)

Some dude writes about June Mansfield’s grave in Arizona, comparing known details of her life to the evidence provided by her tombstone.

Henry Miller: The Author as Artist
(Magnus Grehn)
This brief article details the facts about a recent exhibit of Miller’s watercolours in Sweden, at the Uppsala Art Museum. These works are from the same collection of 21 watercolours that had been displayed in Miller’s first Swedish exhibition in 1967, and had been purchased and housed in Sweden ever since.

June/Nadja: Symbolic Sisters in Arms?
(Michael Jones)
The title character in Andre Breton’s Nadja seems to share affinities with Miller’s wife June. Both women share an “aura of mystery, danger and sexual promise,” both were born in 1902, and both wanted to become actresses. The fact that Miller lists Nadja as one of the influential Books in my Life brings relevance to these parallels, since Nadja was published in 1928, when Miller was then in the thick of things with June as part of his life. In this essay, Jones compares physical descriptions, personality traits and the madness behind the masks of these two tragic muses.

Finding the Feminine: Rethinking Henry Miller’s Tropics Trilogy
(Allison Palumbo)

Henry Miller’s branding by second-wave feminists as “misogynist” has somehow left Miller “on the fringes of scholastic attention.” Now, in 2010, Allison Palumbo uses feminist theory to re-examine the value of Miller’s work, arguing that his subversion of dominant culture to champion individual expression actually reflects feminist interest. Much of her analysis is based on Hélène Cixious’ concept of écriture féminine, which allows for Miller’s expression of the masculine, while it also appreciates the fact that this masculinity is not presented as a position of privilege, but instead undermines phallocentric constraints. To come to this conclusion, Palumbo analyzes Miller’s writings on the body and on the self in his Tropics trilogy.

Again, this particular volume is only $7 (compared to the usual $20). Get it at the Nexus Journal website,


Blogger Eric D. Lehman said...

I liked that investigation by 'some dude' into June's lonely grave...

12:40 pm  
Blogger Douglas Matus said...

I am indeed a "former" teacher. Thank you for highlighting the publication of the new issue, which I think is one of the best.

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