Saturday, November 02, 2013

Nexus: International Henry Miller Journal 10

Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal celebrates its 10th anniversary with a 276-page edition, with 47 illustrations. Copies are available via online purchase for $15 postage-paid (U.S.) or $25 (Int'l) via the Journal’s website. See website for mail order details.


White Rabbit: The Reader, The Writer, & Ekphrastic Anxiety in Henry Miller’s “Reflections on Writing” by Dominic Jaeckle

Examining the Dump Heap: Prejudice in Henry Miller’s Moloch by Eric D. Lehman

Open Letters from the Hotel Central: My Reply to Emil Schnellock and Henry Miller by Kathleen A. McCloud

Henry Miller: Creating the ‘New Man’ out of ‘Chaos’: Getting a Handle on Henry Miller by Barry Lee Russell

Nostalgia without Chaos: Henry Miller and the Book of Friends by James M. Decker

A Confession by the Ping-Pong Table by Harry Kiakis

Anaïs Nin’s Buried Child: Translator’s Afterword to the Japanese version of Winter of Artifice (the Paris
edition, 1939) by Yuko Yaguchi

The Five Henry Millers: A Personal Essay on Approaching the Story of Henry Miller by D.A. Pratt

Henry Miller: A Study by Kevin M. Gallagher

Deleuze and Miller’s Machines – A Reading of Desire in Tropic of Cancer by Steffen Reitz

Henry Miller: A Comic Get Well Card by Anonymous

French, Swedish, Japanese and Chinese Publications: A Photographic Listing by Roger Jackson


I have been away for a while ... a long while. I keep thinking I'm coming back. But I don't think I am. This blog will remain here but new postings are increasingly unlikely. My thanks to people who used to read here and my apologies to those who've sent me emails over the past two years. I really haven't been on top of checking that inbox, so a number of you have probably had your queries go unanswered. Sorry.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nexus: Int'l Henry Miller Journal: Vol. 9

Volume Nine of Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal has been released. The 160-page journal features the following essays:

Tropic Of Cancer: The Happy Nihilist”- Nobel Prize for Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa reflects on Miller’s masterpiece, navigating around the fictions of that novel’s “Henry” character and his bohemian Paris, to find the genuine artist who presents the modern reader with a nostalgia for his ideals of utopian freedom.

“Henry Miller’s Inhuman Philosophy” - Indrek Männiste uses his Ph.D. in philosophy to consider the philosophical value of Miller’s writings. He finds Miller taking a stand against the linear trends of the Western modern era; “What Miller is trying to say, it seems, is that if we continue to think in terms of past, present and future, we will never get out of the web of history.” Miller sought to subvert “traditional time” and find resurrection through the concepts of timelessness and inhumanness.

“Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer in the College Curriculum of One Happy Teacher” -  James C. L. Brown recounts a Banned Book curriculum he taught at George Washington University, which began with readings of Tropic Of Cancer that triggered student debates about gender sexual double-standards.

“Henry Miller and the Possibility of Wisdom Unfulfilled” – Samuel G. Kardec identifies a Henry Miller who sought wisdom through sexual cultivation. Miller became an “expert at giving life to his revolt,” yet, possibly disillusioned with his fame, possibly manic depressive, and certainly selfish, he was never truly loved and failed to truly love in return.

“The Embodied American: The Cosmological Eye and the River Through” – Dominic Jaeckle looks to Emerson and the failure of the transcendentalist movement, to explain Miller’s position on the nature and meaning of “America,” from which he felt alienated, and the impact made upon the author by the “cultural trauma of the great depression.”

Quiet Days in Clichy: Henry Miller’s Urban Idyll” – Eric D. Lehman cracks open his dictionaries to make a case that Quiet Days can be defined as an “urban idyll” (or pastoral): a romanticized, nostalgic portrait of a city “paradise,” written with a light-hearted, carefree voice that lyrically lingers on descriptive prose (whether food or sex).

“Time Tested: Nancy & Lawrence Durrell in Corfu” – Joanna Hodgkin, daughter of Lawrence Durrell’s first wife, artist Nancy Myers, writes about the couple in Corfu at the end of the 1930s, in this excerpt from a recent book about Nancy (built upon her unpublished memoir), Amateurs In Eden. Hodgkin describes the reactions of Henry Miller and Hans Reichel to her mother’s paintings, and goes into detail about the strains in Nancy’s marriage to Lawrence.

“Henry Miller’s Black Spring Through the Looking Glass of Jacques Lacan” – Looking to Jacques Lacan’s theories of individual subjectivity for comparison, Hamish Jackson analyzes Miller’s struggle in Black Spring to “comprehend himself and his subject-hood,” finding not answers, but instead “fragmentation and lack.”

“'How long do you intend to stay?’ Desire Meets Proscription in the Subject in Henry Miller’s ‘Via Dieppe-Newhaven’” – Ron Herian considers Miller-the-narrator (as opposed to Miller-the-man/ or the-writer) and the relationship between desire, language, proscription (law) and the subject, making an example of Miller’s “Via Dieppe-Newhaven”—a story in which Miller does not get what he wants.

“To Paris Via Montreal: June 22-23, 1969” – In another of the annual excerpts from the personal journals of Miller’s young friend, Harry Kiakis, we spend time with Henry talking about his kids, about writing, about ping-pong; we eat with him at an expensive restaurant, and drive him off to the airport; Harry and his wife will houses-it tMiller's Ocampo home for three months.

The journal also contains a John Biscello poem, a 1963 London newspaper cartoon, and “Miller Notes” about various newly-published or -discovered (paper or online) items on the subject of Henry Miller.
Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal #9 is available at a special price of $5 (North America) and $9 (International), both post-paid. Visit the journal website to order.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Miller, Nin, and Proust’s 'Albertine disparue'

Thanks very much to this week's guest writer, Steven Reigns. Here, he writes about a copy of Proust's Albertine disparue, once owned by Anaïs Nin and read by Henry Miller, who took the liberty of writing his thoughts in its margins. The book is now part of Mr. Reigns' personal collection.
*   *   *   *   *   *
I purchased this book at The Gotham Bookmart in New York in the summer of 2001, two years before they moved. They closed in 2007 and the majority of their collection is now at The University of Pennsylvania.
The staff was kind enough to pull four boxes from the attic. These boxes housed books purchased from Hugh Guiler (also known as Ian Hugo), Anaïs Nin’s husband, before he moved. I sat in the upstairs gallery with a current exhibit of drawings by Patti Smith. Andreas Brown was kind, personable, and talked with me while I reviewed the books. All of them were stamped in blue From The Library of Anaïs Nin and Ian Hugo. I purchased a third of their collection, selecting books I knew were significant to Nin, some even with her handwritten notes in the margin. I was thrilled to find this copy of Proust’s Albertine disparue.
This volume has Nin’s signature on the cover. She, uncharacteristically, signed the cover Anaïs N. Guiler. The notes are in Miller’s handwriting. In December of 1932 Miller wrote to Nin about Proust, “…reading it in the French (and, by the way, I am marking it up with your permission) how orthodox it sounds to my ears.” [1]
Miller in a letter to Nin expresses his feelings towards Albertine. “Naturally, you have divined how precious this 'Albertine' must be for me. Is not June very similar—perhaps much more complicated, orchestrated, as it were? How much more I know, have lived, have endured, suspected, discovered—and yet, how vast the unknowable! That is why reading Proust is a form of ecstatic suffering.” [2] In the this copy of Albertine disparue Miller makes a note on page 124, “This almost hurts too much to read.”
Note in left margin: "This almost hurts too much to read." Underlined within this highlighted passage are the words, "... cette vie qui m'avait tant ennuye [...] avait ete au contraire delicieuse ..." (Roughly translated: This life which has been irritating has also been rather delicious -- RC)
This copy has many passages marked by Miller and numerous notes in the margin. One reads “Recall Fred’s words at Select Bar.” Page 146 has a long underlined passage and the simple note of “June” in the margin. Miller writes of his markings “I want you to go over the passages I have marked and sort of cogitate over them. If I can talk it out with you when I get back to Paris, excellent." [3]
Miller's note in the left-hand margin: "June."

 Albertine disparue is the sixth volume of Proust’s seven-part novel and a book Miller and Nin bonded over. On April 3, 1932, Nin writes Miller from her home in Louveciennes. “Reading Albertine disparue because you asked me to.” [4] Less than a week later, Nin references the book again to Miller “I have found my 'happiness' again. The awareness of the danger which threatened it (which came fully with the reading of Proust and after a talk with Fred) at first tortured me.” [5]
Nin privately wrote in her diary, “I feel hurt while reading Albertine disparue, because it is marked by Henry, and Albertine is June. I can follow each implication of his jealousies, his doubts, his tenderness, his regrets, his horror, his passion, and I am invaded by a burning jealousy of June. For the moment this love, which had been so balanced between Henry and June that I could not feel any jealousy, this love is stronger for Henry, and I feel tortured and afraid.” [6] [7]
Proust’s Albertine character gave Nin and Miller a reference point to talk about June and subsequently their own relationship. A talk about Proust brought this disclosure, recorded in the diary, from Miller: "to be entirely honest with myself I like to be away from June. It is then I enjoy her best. When she is here I am morbid, oppressed, desperate. With you—well, you are light. I am satiated with experiences and pain. Perhaps I torment you. I don’t know. Do I?”
When discussing where to write, Nin suggests Miller might not be able to write in Louveciennes. He states it would bring about a different kind of writing. She recorded her assessment in the diary in March of 1932: “He was thinking of Proust, whose handling of Albertine haunts him.” [8] Miller even wrote in a letter to Nin, “What happens to me after reading Albertine is that I am on fire. It is all I can do not to mark every line. The man seems to take the words out of my mouth, to rob me of my very own experiences, sensations, reflections, introspections, suspicions, sadness, torture, etc. etc., etc.” [9]
Albertine disparue haunted Miller so much he references it over a year later in a letter to Nin. On December 27th 1934 Henry writes Anaïs a very emotional letter about her attempts to shelter him, “what saddens me is that when it comes to a choice you prefer to protect me by a lie rather than confide in me as a man, as an equal, as your partner in life and death. Don’t you know that you can tell me everything? How small I feel when I think of all you’ve had to do—to protect me.” He goes on and ends the paragraph with “Recall for a moment the passage I marked in Albertine disparue. That’s all.” [10]
[1] Miller, Henry, and Gunther Stuhlmann. Henry Miller, Letters to Anaïs Nin. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965) 12.
[2] Miller, Henry, and Gunther Stuhlmann. Henry Miller, Letters to Anaïs Nin. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965) 13.
[3] Miller, Henry, and Gunther Stuhlmann. Henry Miller, Letters to Anaïs Nin. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965) 21. 2/7/1932
[4] Nin, Anaïs, and Henry Miller. A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, 1932-1953. Ed. Gunther Stuhlmann (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987) 46.
[5] Nin, Anaïs, and Henry Miller. A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, 1932-1953. Ed. Gunther Stuhlmann (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987) 48. dated April 9, 1932
[6] This entry is labeled March in Henry & June. I suspect this date is an error since Nin states in April she was reading the text. I trust the dates of the letters over the dates published in the diary.
[7] Nin, Anaïs. Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin. (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986) 91. dated March 1932
[8] Nin, Anaïs. Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin. (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986) 87.
[9] Miller, Henry, and Gunther Stuhlmann. Henry Miller, Letters to Anaïs Nin. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965) 18, dated Feburary 7, 1932
[10] Nin, Anaïs, and Henry Miller. A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, 1932-1953. Ed. Gunther Stuhlmann (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987) 277.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Tailor Shop: Between The Cracks

From approximately 1913 -1917, Henry Miller spent a portion of his twenties working in his father's tailor shop. The soundtrack to the novels he wrote in his head was that of the clattering of Manhattan rush hour in the morning and of sewing machines in the afternoon.

"I would get off at Delancey Street on the elevated line. From there I'd walk to Fifth Avenue and 31st Street. It was a good walk -- took me almost an hour. All this time I was plagued with the thought that I was a writer who never did any writing ... Nevertheless, it was there inside me; I would compose novels and stories as I walked, complete with characters and dialogue. Like that I must have written several books [during] the period when I worked for my father in the tailor shop."
(Henry Miller in My Life & Times, p. 87; Playboy Press, 1971)

The business was located at 5 W. 31st Street in Manhattan. I wrote about this location in January and February 2007. The building still stands, directly opposite the Hotel Wolcott where Henry's father used to drink.

Above: "Hy" (condensed form for Henry) Miller listed in Trow's General Directory for Manhattan and Bronx, 1910. Henry Miller Sr. (famous Henry's tailor Dad) works at 5 W31st and lives at 1063 Decatur, Brooklyn. Source:

Recently, one of the current residents of the building made an interesting discovery. Steve Cooper has been an eighth floor tenant since 1976 and had been aware for some time that 5 W. 31st is the location of the Miller tailor shop. Where the exact floor was located, however, has always been a mystery. Recently, Cooper did some rennovations on the eighth floor, tearing up two layers of linoleum and a layer of massonite. While refinishing the wooden floor beneath, he found antique needs and pins, as well as old sewing machine parts, embedded in the cracks of the floor -- 10 ounces worth (the volume of a tennis ball, says Cooper).

Above: Google Maps 2011 low angle view of 5 W. 31st Street (brown building).

While it's fact that the eight floor had been a belt factory (would they use sewing machines?) before Cooper moved in in 1976, and that the entire building had been comprised of commercial factories over the decades, the discovery of sewing-specific evidence makes for an intriguing possibility that Henry Miller & Son may have once occupied that space.

The eighth floor is currently Mr. Cooper's art gallery and framing business, Sybille Gallery.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nexus: International Henry Miller Journal - Vol. 8

The 2011 edition of the annual Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal is now available. The 281-page, book-sized journal contains ten articles relating to Miller, plus a few pages of additional notes.

Letter From Henry Miller to Alfred Perlès - Henry Miller
A previously unpublished letter from Miller to his friend, Alfred Perlès, circa 1936. Miller announces the completion of some of Black Spring and makes a self-assessment about his place in the American writing scene. Not a modest sentiment to be found!

The Face of Richard Osborn – Eric. D. Lehman
One of Miller’s least-known friends from his golden romp in Paris in the 1930s was Richard Galen Osborn, disguised as ‘Fillmore’ in Tropic Of Cancer. Intrigued by the fact that Miller scholars have never seen a photo of Osborn, nor have they known the details of his death, English professor Eric Lehman set out on a quest to fill in these blanks. The task was made all the more convenient by the fact that Lehman’s current home base, Bridgeport, Connecticut, was also the hometown of Osborn. Lehman brings the reader step-by-step along his logical trail, as he follows leads in old school yearbooks. Not only does the hunt produce photographs, but Yale alumni records (updates on the activities of graduates) contain a wealth of information—including short autobiographies by Osborn himself, in which he references Miller. Finally, Lehman uses the new photographic evidence to make a comparison to an iconic Brassaï picture, which may very well prominently feature an image of Richard Osborn in 1930s Paris.

Nothing But Light—Notes on Henry Miller’s Birthday Gift for Anaïs Nin & The Tranquility of Struggle – Karl Orend
Between 1937 and 1940, Miller created several hand-written books for friends, some of which have been published (i.e. The Waters Reglitterized), and some which have been hidden away in private collections. In 1939, Miller composed a hand-written book as a gift for Anaïs Nin, called The Heaven Beyond Heaven. In the meaty “Nothing But Light,” Orend uses text from this book to illustrate the lives and minds of both Miller and Nin during the period of writing (1939/40), which includes Miller’s Greece and Nin’s New York. Miller’s personal offering for Nin came at a time when she and Miller had reached the end of their relationship; Miller’s critical words in Heaven may have helped seal this fate. Orend draws from numerous sources to explore the divide in philosophies and personalities between the two writers, from Nin’s fears and literary deceptions to Miller’s insensitivities and immense egotism. For good measure, Orend includes some intriguing paragraphs on Miller’s affinity with China and feeling that he was himself somehow Chinese.

The Genius and Mr. Nobody – Joe Kishton
One of things I like about Miller as a research subject is the way his life intersects with so many other fascinating individuals. In the case of Joe Kishton’s contribution to the journal, that person is Salvador Dalí, and his wife Gala. The Dalís and Henry Miller had shared Caresse Crosby’s Virginia mansion for several months in 1940. It was an uneasy time for Miller, who disliked Dalí. An account of this time is pieced together mostly from interview transcripts of Miller, from documentaries he’d done in the late 1960s. This article, in fact, is a documentary script, in script format, for a recently completed film on this very specific subject. Includes a detailed anecdote about the crazy event that drove Miller and the other guests to leave Caresse Croby’s home.

Miller and Seferis: A Mutual Portrait From One Mythologist to the Other – Finn Jensen
In 1963, George Seferis became the first Greek to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. 24 years earlier, Seferis gained the admiration of Henry Miller, who had met the Greek poet in his home country in 1939. Finn Jensen, in this essay, provides a biography of Seferis, and considers the reasons for the personal connection between he and Miller, suggesting that a shared perspective of life through a mythical lens helped form the bond. Includes a couple of Seferis poems, including one dedicated to Miller (“Les Anges Sont Blancs”).

Love, Pain, Big Sur, and Life as a Bedbug – Harry Kiakis
The latest instalment of Kiakis’s diary entries takes us back to a day in May 1970, when Henry was entertaining Harry and other guests, including a beautiful USC student making a short film about Henry. Kiakis captures many quotes from Miller, on the subjects of old movies on TV, Japan, old age, death, a revelation he had in 1933 about failure, visitors at Big Sur, and freedom. Miller’s final anecdote is very interesting, as he goes into detail about the way he freaked-out when he found the note from June (in their basement apartment in Brooklyn in 1927) saying that she and Jean had run off to Europe without him.

Kilomètre Zéro: Paris Revisited, through the Palimpsest of George Whitman’s Shakespeare & Company – Karl Orend
Anaïs Nin returned to Paris in 1954, for the first time since fleeing the city in 1939. From this visit, came her Paris Revisited, which would not be published until 1972. Here, Karl Orend compares both the departures from and returns to Paris for both Nin and Henry Miller; success (Miller) or lack thereof (Nin) coloured the experiences of each return visit. Orend also examines factual inaccuracies found in Nin’s account, including some about George Whitman, whose Parisian English-language bookshop, Mistral, would later re-brand as the famous Shakespeare & Company. Includes an interesting overview of the support of Whitman and S&Co on people like Miller and Lawrence Durrell, and the lack of support for Miller's associates by the owner of the original S&Co, Sylvia Beach.

“One sits in the middle of a river called nostalgia”: The Henry Miller Research Collections at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. – James Bantin
While this article is in part exactly as the title implies—a run-down of materials relating to Henry Miller, as found in this university’s Miller archive (which you can review online)—James Bantin also describes each group of papers in an enticing way by including quotes from holograph notations and personal letters from the archive. Bantin talks about the hand-written book, Heaven Beyond Heaven, the correspondence with Caresse Crosby, the Lawrence Durrell Papers, letters from ex-wife Eve McClure, publishing records for New Directions, what sounds like an amazing archive of audio recordings made with Miller by Robert Fink, and much more.

Close Your Beautiful Eyes: The Denigration of Louis-Ferdinand Céline—a Prelude to his Evisceration & Inquiry into the Fate of his “unfortunate plagiarist,” Henry Miller, “The American Céline.” - Karl Orend
“Celine’s anti-Semitism is, like sex in Miller’s writing, the red herring. It is neither the core of his writing and philosophy nor the main thrust of his attacks on civilization or humanity,” writes Karl Orend, in this engaging defense of French author, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, who had been an influence on Miller’s writing style. While not absolving Céline of all charges of anti-Semitism, Orend challenges some of the most-damning, prevalent myths about Céline’s activities and sympathies during WWII. (Orend had done a great job, in The Brotherhood of Fools & Simpletons, of shedding new light and offering defense for Conrad Moricand, whose negative reputation has been biased due to Miller’s unflattering and previously unchallenged portrayal of him in “Devil In Paradise”). This essay is part one of a forthcoming sequel, which will explore Céline’s influence on Miller, and will compare the charges of anti-Semitism launched against both authors.

On an Old Book about Henry Miller – D.A. Pratt
D.A. Pratt takes the reader on an enthusiastic tour of his favourite Miller biography, The Happy Rock. Starting with the story behind its creator/editor/scientist, Bern Porter, Pratt then gives context to Miller’s career and reputation at the time of publication in 1945. Next, the reader is treated to summaries of the major contributions to the book (of the 30 in total) with generous excerpts provided; special attention is given to the in-depth essay by Michael Fraenkel, Miller’s Villa Seurat flatmate and thematic inspiration for Tropic Of Cancer. Finally, Pratt examines the reception of Happy Rock, from a brutal critical thrashing by Lawrence Durrell to its general neglect by the big Miller biographers. 65 years later, however, this book has proven to be a gem for its ability to introduce us to Miller through the immediacy of those who knew him personally.

This volume of the Nexus journal is available for $20 (U.S.) or $24 (International)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is This A Portrait of Henry Miller?

On September 26, 2011, a private art collector in New York State will be auctioning work by artist John Nichols (1899-1963). One such painting will be a portrait that the collector(s) believe is meant to be Henry Miller, or based on Miller.

American painter John Nichols spent some time with the artists’ colony at Woodstock, New York, before going to Paris in 1930. There, the 31-year old painter befriended Henry Miller. That year, a bearded Miller (a temporary experiment) sat as a model for Nichols. He may have posed for other paintings, as well. Nichols left Paris in 1932, but his time there would be permanently recorded as the character Mark Swift in Tropic Of Cancer. For an overview of the relationship between Nichols and Miller, see my blog posting from a few years ago, “John Nichols and Miller’s Beard.”

Although a few Nichols paintings are apparently owned by the Woodstock Guild and Art Association, the largest collection of his works (120) are owned by a collector (or collectors) in the Woodstock area, where Nichols used to live in a “shack.” My information comes mostly from the Nichols collector via email. Nichols is said to have been a colourist who experimented with several styles, including abstract expressionism, drips, and primitive minimalism. After leaving the art shack in Woodstock, he went to New York City to teach Art, then was eventually committed to the Bellevue Hospital where he died in 1963, in his sixties.

In my personal opinion, if I were considering a venture with my own money, I would say that I lack the confidence to conclude that the man in this Nichols portrait is in fact Henry Miller. You may come to a different conclusion. What is lacking is a date on the canvas to aid speculation, or a clue-embedded title, or any documentation (that I know of) that suggests that Nichols or his wife Frances had personally identified this as Miller.

It would have also been helpful if there was a more convincing resemblance to Miller in the painting itself. The pale blue eyes, and maybe the lips, are suggestive of Miller, but the hair is a complete fiction. Miller was bald in his 20s (he was around 40 when he had his portrait painted, and his beard had spots of grey). No amount of testosterone-evident beard growth could have sparked the youthful mane that we see in this Nichols' painting.

The name “Henry Miller” has been written on the back of the wooden frame, but only after “Man With Beard – John Nichols” and in different handwriting. I would need to know more about the provenance of this artwork to be able to evaluate who added this identification and when. After 40 years of painting, I imagine that Nichols' had plenty of opportunity to paint any number of bearded men. I will, however, offer some considerations to support the arguement that this could be Miller.

1. Nichols was not obligated to, or didn't necessarily intend to, paint a portrait in the likeness of Henry Miller. Henry may have been posing simply as a human object. As such, Nichols could take liberties, such as adjusting features to achieve a certain dramatic look, or adding hair (a bit more romantic than baldness). The title on the frame backing, “Man With Beard,” also suggests the intent of a general image than a specific individual.

2. Nichols painted Miller more than once, and each a little differently. In March 1931, Miller wrote that Nichols and his wife Frances were working on “more portraits of him.” The collector from Woodstock says that he has a few other portraits from the “Man with a Beard” series, each done in a different style. This one is said to be the most “masterful” (if he has just a single bald one, that would go a long way to suggesting the model was Miller).

3. Nichols was not exactly the king of capturing likenesses. According to the collector, he owns self-portraits of Nichols that are “completely different.” In Miller’s description of Nichols’ portrait of him in Tropic of Cancer, he does mention that his head is “out of proportion” but was still a “man with a beard” (p.221).


John Nichols,
Standing Female Nude
(c. 1930)
Although I reference Cancer in the passage above, the painting therein is not the one under review here, because Miller adds that Swift (Nichols) added a typewriter and Eiffel Tower within the portrait (not seen in this one). The one under review is also not the portrait Nichols made of Miller in February 1931 (possibly the same as the one in Cancer?) which Miller describes as having “a slight element of the caricature, a la Grosz--if that conveys anything to you. The underlip is very prominent and the dome bulges out eloquently, very like the Invalides" [Letters To Emil, p. 71]. The baldness clearly rules this one out.

There is a Nichols portrait of Miller at the UCLA Archives, although I have never seen the image. It would be fascinating to compare. Interestingly, the item mentions that it was signed by "Kate Nichols for Henry Miller.”

Anyhow, there is still an association between Nichols and Miller, and that makes Nichols a significant character in the Miller universe. Do your own research, contact the seller/auction house if you are interested. Sorry for the short notice, but the auction for this particular John Nichols “Man With Beard” painting is September 26, 2011, at Hudson Valley Auctioneers.

I welcome your opinions in the Comments section. What’s your take on this?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Henry Miller Memorial Library Bio Project

If you’ve ever surfed the Web looking for Henry Miller related content, you’ve no doubt come across the website for the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. Way back before I started this blog, its website was virtually the only Internet space that provided a centralized presence for Miller content. While the website mostly featured notices about outdoor concerts, film festivals, poetry and other projects that fulfilled (and continue to fulfill) its mandate as a “public performance space for artists, writers, musicians, and students,” it also provided a message board on which people could chat about Miller (the board ceased several years back) and a simple “About Henry” section. This section contained a chronology of Miller’s life, as written by the author for the 1971 autobiography by Playboy Press, called My Life And Times.

A couple of months ago, the Memorial Library decided to beef up Henry’s self-written biography. And you can help. As announced in this blog posting, Library staff are looking for people to submit a “hearty paragraph” about several subjects and people relating to Miller’s life, especially those referenced in his timeline. The idea is to make the chronology as interactive as possible, with each word of interest having its own pop-up box or link to further information. They’ve already started by adding several images to the timeline.

Topics covered include Mezzotints, Villa Seurat, Lawrence Durrell, Greece, watercolours, Time of the Assassins and dozens more—basically any subject relating to Miller’s long and fascinating life. As I’ve learned on my blog, these sub-categories are nearly endless. If you think you’ve got the skills of concision, read the blog posting and get in touch with Laura.

They’ve also added a very helpful guide to Henry Miller archival collections and research sources.

Finally, congrats the site managers and workers past and present: 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the Henry Miller Memorial Library.