Saturday, December 31, 2005

Henry Moves Into 18 Villa Seurat, 1934

"Henry feels this is a new cycle," reported Anais Nin in her diary, shortly before Miller moved into his new studio apartment at 18 Villa Seurat in Paris in 1934. I thought this a fitting Miller post, as we all enter the new cycle of 2006.

"I am living here at the Villa Borghese," wrote Miller in 1931 while staying briefly [and free of rent] at 18 Villa Seurat, firing off the first words which would eventually form Tropic Of Cancer. In May 1934, Miller was offered to become a paying tenant--at a reduced rate of 700 francs a month--at this same house, shared with several other artist-types. Henry was excited by the idea, but also hesitant about returning to the "ghosts" of his past. [Letters To Emil, p.149]

Micheal Fraenkel was the landlord at #18. Their mutual friend Walter Lowenfels was the one to offer Miller the apartment there, supposedly on behalf of Fraenkel. Anais Nin, however, claims in her diary that she "found" the studio apartment for Henry. [Diary, 1931-1934, p.333] Regardless, the Miller biographies insinuate that Nin had a financial hand in acquiring or maintaining the pad for Henry.

When actor/artist Antonin Artaud moved out of his apartment around August 1934, a vacancy opened up that allowed Henry to move in for September 1st, though he started settling in a couple of weeks beforehand with the help of Nin and others. While cleaning out a closet, Anais found a photograph of Artaud from the film La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc [the same pic at left].

Before the official move-in date, Henry and friends had the plumbing fixed and the pillows cleaned. Pictures were hung on the freshly re-painted walls, including Miller's own watercolours and his handwritten character chart.

Lowenfels was soon leaving for the States, so he let Henry have a few household basics as well as his record collection. Anais gave Henry a Victorola, a large studio rug and curtains. "Henry tremendously excited about the idea of living there. Café Alésia. Artificial geraniums. Many mirrors. Jazz. All red and white." [Diary Of Anais Nin, 1931-1934, p. 333]

On September 1, 1934, Henry was no longer lodging at the home of Anais Nin's mother, but had a home to call his own. That same day, Tropic Of Cancer was finally published and delivered to his door. His apartment was on the top (2nd) floor, a large studio space with a skylight, balcony/sun parlour, an old piano, and bathroom. His kitchen was cramped into a closet. The apartment was heated with steam, which did little to warm the place as the autumn descended. "The studio here is swell," Henry wrote to Emil Schnellock, "--perfect! except that it gives you neuralgia. Always a fly in the ointment. If you have light and air and space you have draughts too. And I have no covering anymore on top. No shag-pate, what! I work with a hat and shawl on." [Letters To Emil, p.157]

Hearing Henry's typewriter thwacking on the other side of the wall was Arnaut de Maigret, a photographer. Hearing Henry's heels knocking against his ceiling was Michael Fraeknel, one floor below. Across from Fraenkel was Betty Ryan, whom Henry would befriend, and would be the inspiration for Miller running off to Greece in 1939.

By the end of 1934, Henry thought he was returning to America for good. Instead, Alfred Perles subletted the Villa Seurat apartment during Miller's absence, and Henry Miller returned to 18 Villa Seurat until the threat of war set him running in 1939.

A photograph of his Villa Seurat writing space can be found here.

Besides the Antonin Artaud photograph, all other images in the post are screen captures from Robert Snyder's documentary The Henry Miller Odyssey (filmed in the late 60's, when Henry returend to visit 18 Villa Seurat).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Merry Birthmas Mr. Miller

"To add to my distress, Christmas was almost upon us. It was the season of the year I not only loathed but dreaded. Since attaining manhood I had never known a good Christmas. No matter how I fought against it, Christmas day always found me in the bosom of the family - the melancholy knight wrapped in black armor, forced like every other idiot in Christendom to stuff his belly and listen to the utterly empty babble of his kin."
--- Henry Miller in Nexus (1960; p. 72)

As paranoid conservatives worry about the supposed "War On Christmas," hybridizations like 'Chrismukkah' keep merrily procreating every year. I think that maybe it's time for the victims of another long-neglected holiday predicament to find their place amongst the bastard festivities. These poor unfortunates are those whose birthdays occur on or around Christmas. Merry Birthmas to all of you and, of course, to Henry Miller, whose overshadowed birthdays began on December 26th, 114 years ago!

Awkward family Christmas dinners have long been a seasonal tradition. Henry Miller has enjoyed his share, as is attested to in the on-line essay "Choking on my own saliva": Henry Miller's bourgeois family Christmas in 'Nexus.' - Family Systems Psychotherapy and Literature/Literary Criticism by James Decker (Style, Summer 1997). In this academic study, Decker explores how Miller's drive for individualism is undermined by his bred instinct to please his parents: "By highlighting the Christmas scene, Miller recognizes what Henry does not: that Henry's Bohemian, "independent" life simply constitutes one more example in a pattern of escapism." [Decker, p. 2]. It's an interesting, dense read; you may feel the need to un-do the top few button of your brain pants and lie down on the couch afterward.

James Decker also happens to be the editor of Nexus - The International Henry Miller Journal. It's my understanding that a brand new issue of the journal is out this month (email them to find out). One of the contributors will be NormaJean Ulery MacLeod (whose poem Dear Henry will appear), who offers this American religious memoir of Christmases past.

As for myself, I need to skip town for a few days this holiday season to partake in my own secular Xmas family/ies dinner(s). I probably won't post again in here until just before the new year. Please don't stay up for me, but feel free to leave out the milk and cookies just the same.

Don't forget to raise a birthday toast to Henry Miller this December 26th.

“Suddenly at this point I thought of my old friends in the neighborhood. ‘Merry Christmas! Mrs. Reynolds!’ I shouted. ‘Merry Xmas Mr. Ramsay, you old goat! Merry Xmas Mr. Pirossa, may your bananas slowly ripen! Fuck Jesus! Puck the Virgin Mary! Fuck Gautama the Buddha! Peace on Earth with neutron and hydrogen bombs! Vive the clap! Vive Syphilis the brother of Satan! When you are in love you must destroy right and left! Long live the street cleaners. Bless the uncteries! Long live Insanity! A new day is dawning, an even worse one. Run for your life! Take cover! Puck your sister, your mother, your aunt, your cousin! Not a crumb of the past will be left. Not a morsel, not even a speck. A clean sweep. Pure, beautiful annihilation.’”
--- Henry Miller in Joey, 1979

The image of Henry Miller in my banner art is a video capture from The Henry Miller Odyssey by Robert Snyder (makes a great Xmas gift!), which I have rather unconvincingly doctored to give him a Santa Claus beard.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Timar Lithographs in 1947's 'Tropique du Cancer'

Several editions of Tropic Of Cancer were printed in the 1940's by different publishing houses. A unique edition with illustrations was released in 1947 through Editions Deux-Rives in Paris.

This limited edition (750 copies) contains lithograph images by an artist named Timar. I've searched high and wide on the Net for references to this person and have found no biographical information (though I've tagged a partial bibliography of his works onto the end of this post).

Besides 24 watercolour reproductions--some depicting Henry Miller--there are brick-red illustrations scattered throughout the text, including a title-page vignette of Miller with a penis for a nose! (sorry I don't have a copy of this image to post).

To the right is one of the colour images, showing a woman apparently fleeing a very lecherous-looking Miller. It's curious how much this image looks like the famous Brassai photo of Miller from the 30's, right down to the hat pulled down over the right eye.

According to William Ashley, this edition was printed in September 1947 (Miller was living at Partington Ridge at the time and writing Plexus). According to Antiqbook, the plates are unbound "and housed in stiff pictorial paper portfolio and ocher paper-covered chemise; the original slipcase in three pieces." (see an image of the pages and its case here at

According to a posting on an on-line journal by Julien Varnaud, Henry "detested" the artwork in this edition (being given a cock-nose, it's easy to see why). This same post implies that these works by Timar are on display at the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

If you'd like to see several of the watercolour images from this book, or place a bid on a copy to own yourself, head over to this listing on Ebay. Nooks Of Books also appears to have a copy for sale.

This book also contains a 13-page essay called Le Lyrisme de Henry Miller by Henri Fluchere. Fluchere also provided the intro for the original 1945 French edition (the same essay?). It appears that it has only ever been re-published in a 1975 Hachette edition of Tropique du Cancer and a Denoel reprint in 1960. An issue of The Phoenix magazine from Summer 1982 includes printed letters from Miller to Fluchere.

The following is a bibliography of Timar's book illustration work, culled from internet sources. He seems to have been most active in the 1940's.

* Felicia by Andrea de Nerciat [194?, Paris, Briffault]
* Crainquebille, Putois, Riquet et plusieurs autres récits profitables by Anatole France [194?, Éditions du Houblon; reprint 1956]
* Voyages de Gulliver by Jonathan Swift [1940, A L'Emblème du Secrétaire]
* Notre Dame de Paris by Vicotr Hugo [1942, A L'Emblème du Secrétaire]
* Nos Savants Illustres by Andre George [1943] images
* Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hemon [1943, Éditions du Houblon] images
* Monsieur de Bougrelon by Jean Lorrain [1944, Editions Arc-En-Ciel] images
* Corps et ames en 2 volumes by Van Der Meersch [1944, Editions arc en ciel]
* Marins de Surcouf: Voyages, aventures et combats by Louis Garneray [1945, Les éditions de la Nouvelle France] image

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hilaire Hiler Teaches Henry To Paint

Back on August 28th, I first wrote about the artist Hilaire Hiler, in relation to his place on the editorial staff of The Booster. In that posting, I'd made reference to a memoir Hiler wrote about Miller, called What I remember of Henry Miller. Thanks to 'Pierre from Montreal,' I now have that article.

In 1963, the English-language Dutch publication The International Henry Miller Letter asked Hiler, age 65, to reflect on his relationship with Henry Miller [published in the August 1963 issue]. I'll draw from this article now and again. Today, here's a story about Hiler meeting Miller for the first time and attempting to discipline him in the ways of the visual artist.

Hilaire Hiler:
"I don't remember when I met him except that it was a very long time ago. It was probably in the early 1930's. I believe that it was Walter Lowenfels, who lived across the rue de Val-de-Grace, and that Miller made some arrangement with me to give him painting lessons [...] A few nights later he came to my studio to take his first painting lesson and he wrote of this experience in one of his books. If I recall rightly, he took two lessons in all [...] He seems to have become quickly bored with paper, pencils and colors, for in the middle of the second lesson, instead of pretending to continue, he took out a manuscript (I think that it was Black Spring) and began to read it. After a few minutes I said,

"'Mr. Miller, I must warn you. Of course you may read to me if you like but you must pay me the fifty francs we agreed upon for the lesson whether you take it or not. That's because you made the appointment with me and are taking up my evening. If you like you can come some other evening and read to me for nothing.'

"Henry seemed to think that this was very amusing but I can't remember that he ever pretended to take any further painting lessons -- at least as far as I'm concerned. Although he continued to paint [...]

A decade later, Miller made this admission: "Both Hiler and [Hans] Reichel tried to give me instruction with regard to watercolor technique; they failed, naturally, because I am incapable of 'taking lessons.'" [Big Sur And The Oranges Of Hieronymous Bosch (NDP 161), p.89].

"D. H. Lawrence and Miller both painted. They are both known as being preoccupied with sex. To a painter their work seems at times to be excessively expressionistic and there, if anywhere, might be the basis for the accusations of vulgarity which are so frequently leveled at it."

And finally, the entire article is closed off with this summary of Henry Miller's character:

"Henry Miller is scrupulously honest. He's honest in his life, with his friends and in his work. I can think of no one who is more so. Some one said 'It's hard to be clever and honest at the same time.' The cleverness in this case may be left to the prudes, the hacks, and the smart alecks who are his self-appointed critics."

If find it interesting that, in this same word portrait of Miller, Hiler talks glowingly about Miller's great skill at being a listener. Yet this anecdote shows a Miller with a seeming Attention Deficit Disorder. Go figure -- but then again, that is the complex, conflicting personality that was Henry Miller.

The images in the banner are all from works by Hilaire Hiler (except for the fragment of Henry's head), which may be viewed here, here and here. The uncredited picture of Hiler was found along with the article quoted in this post, from the Int'l Henry Miller Letter No. 5, August 1963.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Miller In A Taxi Smash-Up - New Year's Eve 1930

'Pierre from Montreal' had left a comment on my previous post regarding Henry Miller's New Year's Eve taxi accident in 1930. Comments tend to get buried, so I've decided to push his research to the foreground as the subject of its own post. Thanks Pierre.

Miller’s accident in a Paris taxi occurred on December 31, 1930. Jay Martin says this in Always Merry and Bright : "On New Year’s Eve, the last night of 1930, Henry stepped into a taxi after a party at the Coupole; the taxi driver had been partying too, and as soon as he got his vehicle to its highest speed, the cab went out of control and hurtled head-on into another car. The force of the collision was so terrific that Henry’s taxi flipped right over, the glass side window smashed to bits right beside Henry and slivers flew all about inside. Yet he wasn’t even scratched. He celebrated this New Year’s nursing a case of piles and resolving to walk a few miles every day," [p.221 in the Sheldon Press (British) edition].

Martin gives as the source of this anecdote a letter to Emil Schnellock (2-16-31,11) and this is what Henry wrote:"Nearly killed New Year's Eve in a taxi smashup. Ran full on to another car, tipped it over. The glass smashed to bits right beside me, but I got off without a scratch - only to come down with the piles. And never felt the least nervous afterwards. As though it happened on another planet. Can you beat it?" [p.75 in Letters to Emil].

It is indeed possible that Miller had mentioned this incident to Ed Calmer when he was visiting him for a free dinner, and Calmer may have transformed the story into a tragic accident in All the Summer Days, therefore getting rid once and for all of Henry Miller (Irving Brace) "run down by a taxi while in an ecstatic mood"

…Pierre from Montreal

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Miller Characterized in 1934 Novel by Calmer

Henry Miller was the inspiration for the character 'Irving Brace' in an obscure novel by the American broadcaster and journalist Edgar 'Ned' Calmer. All The Summer Days (1934) was the fictional story of a group of ex-patriot Americans working for the Paris Edition of the Chicago Tribune (called the Paris American in the novel). Henry's "Irving Brace" is one such character. This is how Miller described it in a letter to Emil Schnellock on August 28, 1934:

"There is another book, by a friend of mine named Edgar Calmer (a Virginia fellow) who calls me Irving Brace in his book Always Summer [sic], which is being published by Harcourt Brace & Co. He has me killed at the end of the book--run down by a taxi while in an ecstatic mood. (Not to mention that he plagirized a few paragraphs from T. of C.--which I thought a good joke, particularly because he didn't think I noticed them.)"

Ned Calmer (photo left, circa 1950) was part of the real-life clan of Yank ex-pats working for the Chicago Tribune in Paris in the early 1930's, which included Henry Miller, Alfred Perles, Wambly Blad and many others. He had known Henry for at least three years by the time he based that character on him. In Miller's letter, he refers to the book as Always Summer, but it was copyrighted on March 29, 1934 as Beyond The Street and published by Harcourt Brace that same year under that title. When the book was re-published in 1961, it was re-titled All The Summer Days. I am making the assumption that these are the same works under different titles, because the timeline seems to suggest it.

This is the part of the post where it would make sense that I quote the passages about Miller/Brace (funny that Henry was named after the publisher, alluding to Calmer's awareness, I assume, of Henry's heavy desire to be published). Unfortunately, I don't own the book, and it's obscure enough that the reference libraries in my major city don't hold it. If you have a copy, please be a pal and post a comment with a quote or two. (perhaps I should just shell out $20 or so and order a used copy from somewhere).

This bit of trivia about Miller/Brace is mentioned in all the Miller bios I have, but just in passing. Mary Dearborn's Happiest Man Alive goes the furthest in detailing the relationship between Miller and Calmer. She quotes several letters Miller sent to Calmer, but I couldn't identify the source of this letter collection.

Ned Calmer and his wife were part of Henry's infamous list of people to scrounge meals off of in 1931. Henry showed Ned his manuscript for Crazy Cock, but Ned wasn't impressed. Ned showed Henry something that he had written, and was told he was (to quote Dearborn) "in danger of becoming a prig" and that he should (to quote Miller) "chew a little dirt." There are a few personal references to Calmer in A Literate Passion as well.

Ned Calmer was born in Chiacgo in 1907. He began his Paris journalist gig in 1927 and became a traveling foreign correpsondant shortly afterwards. Beyond The Street (which appears to be an extremely rare book) was his first novel. He later went into broadcast journalism, first in radio as an assistant to Edward R Murrow in 1940. He famously announced the beginning of the D-Day invasion on CBS in 1944 (this may or may not be him, but here's part of that day's broadcast in MP3). In the early 1950's, Calmer wrote the WWII novel Strange Land, analyzed here in 1958 [PDF file].

Calmer hosted several radio and television programs, and wrote books about the early days of TV journalism, including Anchorman (1970) and Late Show (1974). He holds notoriety in the history of TV as well: As the headline anchor for the CBS morning show Good Morning in 1956, he witnessed a horse shit on camera during a staged introduction, to which he commented into a live microphone and over the air, "Good God, what a fuck up!"

Calmer died in 1986 (New York Time obituary).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Cover Art For 1934's 'Tropic Of Cancer'

Judged out of context, it's a pretty sorry piece of pulp cover art. A silhouetted human being carried off by a giant crab. The artist tries to interpret the title too literally on two counts: with the zodiacal crab and with the geographical tropic zone shown in the background. But judge this in context and it's pretty impressive work for a 14-year old boy.

The young teen who designed the cover [above] for the first edition of Tropic Of Cancer was Maurice Kahane: the son of the publisher, Jack Kahane of Obelisk Press. At only age 18, Maurice would take over the reigns of Obelisk after his father's death in 1939. During the war, he took on his mother's maiden name, Girodias, in order to help cover the fact that he was Jewish. As Maurice Girodias, he went on to create Olympia Press in 1953.

In his autobiography, The Frog Prince, Girodias [pictured in 1981, below left] tells of his assignment [p.118]:

"[My father] gave me the galley proofs of Tropic Of Cancer to read [...] and [this] made a huge impression on me, although my understanding must have been somewhat incomplete. Seeing me so deeply absorbed in those proofs, my father was suddenly tempted to do a very rash and unreasonable thing: He asked me to draw the cover [of Tropic], and told me that I would be paid the going rate for it.

"It did not make much sense, quite obviously! My father knew me as a prolific doodler; but that could hardly be seen as an adequate qualification, all the more as they only were the doodles of a fourteen-year-old. But it goes without saying that I accepted the assignment without the slightest qualms. It would have been a sensible move for my father to ask a young Montparnasse artist, like Picasso or the others. They might even have done it for nothing, for all we know! But I was the chosen one, due to my father's sudden bout of paternal pride, and all I had to do was to sit down at my desk and fill the order.

"Having the use of two colors only, black and green and gray paper, all I could come up with was an enormous black crab shape sprawled out over a terrestrial globe, and holding in its gigantic claws a human silhouette, prostrate. With smudges and bristles, and trails of snot to make it all really lifelike. Convinced that I had done a masterpiece, I handed it to my father, who looked tremendously impressed by it. Or was it flabbergasted? Anyway he handed me fifty francs, the agreed price, and the thing went straight into production."

The book, with Maurice's cover art, was released by Obelisk in Paris just three weeks later, on September 1, 1934. Miller moved into 18 Villa Seurat that very day; Jack Kahane went there to personally deliver a copy. Young Maurice went to the Brentano bookshop on avenue de l'Opera to admire his work in the shop window. Bretano was one of the few shops to defy the orders on the paper band that surrounded the book: "This book must not be displayed in the window."

Later on in his book [p.272], Girodias mentions that Henry "never even compalined" about the cover art. Henry managed this by not saying anything all about it. In fact, Miller appears not to have been pleased with the artwork, yet was too excited by his work's publication to be bothered much by it.

Everything you could possibly want to know about the publication history of Tropic Of Cancer can be found at the University Of Illionois Urbana-Champaign website and, of course, at William Ashley's website.

The photograph of Maurice Girodias included on this post was taken by Gilles Larrain.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Anais Nin's Thoughts On 'The Booster'

Back in August, I began profiling The Booster magazine, a mouth-piece of the Villa Seuart circle from 1937 - 1939. Anais Nin was both published and "boosted" within its pages (along with Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Alfred Perles) but was not a fan of the project.

From the pages of her diary, here are her thoughts and observations on the subject.

August 1937 -- "The birth of the magazine the Booster, inherited by Fred and dominated by Henry, reawakened my rebellion against Henry's atmosphere of begging, stealing, cajoling, school-boy pranks, slapstick humor, burlesque...." [p 236]

Fall 1937 -- "The sculptor Hughes says to me: 'When I was poor and worked in restaurants, I thought and felt like those I worked with.' I envy him. When I was poor and worked as a model and as a mannequin, I never became like the others. I remained myself. I played roles, but I remaned myself.
This incapacity to alter myself, remaining myself, deep down, is painful to a woman. Woman should be born blind so that she may serve blindly. Unquestioningly.
For this reason I had to give up my association with the Booster. Too much slapstick. Reichel, who was being praised by Henry, did not sleep for several nights wondering how he could tell Henry that he was ashamed to be so crudely 'boosted.'" [p 243]

October 1937 -- [anecdote of Henry's visit to a chiropodist to raise money for The Booster, already transcribed in my blog here.] [p 261]

October 1937 -- "I do not like the Booster. It is vular and farcical. Strident. Then I feel guilty: 'Perhaps I am too austere.'"[p 264]

November 1937 -- "The activity Henry has created is extraordinary. He lives in a whirlpool, drawing everyone to him. I am to edit a number of the Booster containing women's writing. It is out of a discussion of him and Larry [Lawrence Durrell] one night that my essay on woman's creation was born. Larry has written a voyage through the womb which is unmatchable." [p 267]

November 1937 -- "Henry says ' I want to live a deeper life, I know my defect, I expand too much, I should not, for instance, have done the magazine.' The Booster has dispersed his energies." [p 273]

November 1937 -- "Work on diary for Perkins. Work for Paix et Democratie. Work for the Booster." [p 279]

January 1939 -- "When Larry made a vivid description of Anna Wickham, enormous body, moustache, hair in her nose, heavy pawlike hands, her heavy voice, I said: 'She must have hair in her womb too, like a sea urchin.' This set Larry laughing and gave birth to the 'Paper Womb' printed in the Booster, December 1938, later known as The Labyrinth." [p 322]

February 1939 -- "Henry is going through a mystic stage, he looks fragile, luminous almost.[...] We can talk laughingly about his 'errors.' I had opposed the Booster, the letter about Alf, the Gold pamphlet, the letters from the messanger boys, all because they took so much of his energy, they were mere jokes, and they cost all the money which could have been applied to a book. He had to give them away, and very few people liked them. I felt they were mere practical jokes. All these are now piled up in his closet, wasted. He admitted I was right, laughing too, yes, he knew, he confessed they were childish, and then he added: 'But I would do it all over again.'
Now he wants to print Seraphita. [...] However, he has dropped the Booster, which was bleeding all of us." [p 325]

Here are some quick links to my previous entries on The Booster: Introduction; Sept 1937 issue; Oct 1937 issue; Nov 1937 issue; Dec-Jan 1937/38 issue.