Saturday, February 25, 2006

Miller Speaks: the 'Life As I See It' LP, 1961

In April 1956, Ben Grauer recorded an interview with Henry Miller while he was in New York for a few months (his mother was dying). The interview was released as a double-album (RLP 7002) on NY's Riverside Records as Henry Miller Recalls And Reflects, part of their 'Modern Voices' series. Five years later, in 1961, parts of the 1956 interview were re-assembled for a single LP and re-released on an off-shoot of Riverside called OffBeat Records (OLP 4901).

Ben Grauer [pictured at left from the back of the Life As I See It LP sleeve] was a notable American media personality of the 40s and 50s (I spoke of him briefly in this post). He also happened to be the brother of Bill Grauer, who co-founded the mostly-jazz Riverside Records in 1954. Grauer wrote liner notes for the Miller recordings, which I assume would enlighten me on the context of the interview, but the scan of the back sleeve (from which I found the photograph) is illegible. Ben interviewed others for the Modern Voices series, including Elenor Roosevelt in 1957.

I have heard neither Recalls nor Life and can therefore not compare the content. However, I do have the track listings for Life As I See It:

SIDE ONE: 1. Morality and modern man; 2. Playing it safe; 3. Pebble in the pond; 4. French prostitutes and German; SIDE TWO: 1. Our insect world; 2. The Paris "houses"; 3. Getting free.

Miller had his first private listen to the album on September 22, 1957: "I was moved myself. Some of it might be improved on, but when I reflect how ti was done--no preparation, damned little time, my mother dying, financial worries of the wrost sort, and so on, I think it's pretty good. If I get another try at this sort of thing I know I will be still better. I have offers all the time, but not with the right guys." --- Henry Miller, in a letter to Eddie Schwartz, Sept. 23, 1957 (qtd from Bibliography Of Primary Sources, Vol. II, p. 365).

This album is available for purchase from a few places on the internet. First, all of my graphics came from scans found on this ebay posting (selling for US $100). Another ebay poster is auctioning a copy until February 27th and is still stuck at his starting bid of US $9.99.

The recording is also available for US $121 along with a digitally remastered CD copy, from Vinyl Revolution. Or get a US $60 copy from The Spin Starts Here.

Click here to read an earlier Henry Miller Blog post about another album that Henry recorded, in 1949.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bastard Death

Michael Fraenkel published his Bastard Death: the Autobiography of an Idea on his own Carrefour Press in 1936. A second run was made a decade later on the same imprint (first as a limited edition, then a full second edition -- ref.). Henry Miller provided the introduction in the form of a letter.

The book contents apparently break down like this: Letter to Henry Miller.--Letter to Michael Fraenkel.--I. The Body.--II. The Death.--III. The Image.--IV. The Will.

In Bastard Death, Fraenkel elaborates on his ideas of "spiritual/soul death." As I have never read this book (though I'd love to), I can't really exlaborate on it much further. In a correspondence between Lawrence Durrell and Michael Hargraves in 1979, Durrell offered this observation about Bastard Death:

"I am not fully in the know concerning Fraenkel because I never met him; I missed him by a few weeks when I arrived in Paris. Miller was keen on his BASTARD DEATH at the time; me not very. It smelt of pretence and was wordy and windy...He seems to have been an endearing man and [Henry and Alfred Perles] would tease him to death and play upon his quirks like his meaness over money."

On April 23, 1936, George Orwell reviewed Bastard Death in New English Weekly (ref.). Unfortunately, I don't know what he made of it.

Fraenkel was finishing Bastard Death in 1935, when he, Miller, and Perles formulated the idea of creating a book of correspondence around the deathly ideas in his book. This became Hamlet. Disclosure: I don't own the Hamlet correspondence and have never read it! (it is top of my wish list). My impression, however, is that Bastard Death is explicitly discussed at the beginning of the book, but is eventually left behind for other subjects. Also, it's my impression that Miller's introduction to Bastard Death is re-printed in Hamlet. Maybe someone can correct me on this?

An internet search turns up used copies of Bastard Death going for as cheap as $20-30 (2nd edition), or first editions for around $80.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Michael Fraenkel - A Biographical Timeline

"A writer's first duty is to himself--to liberate himself, to come clean of his past, of his death, to come alive. A personal record. No time for anything else. Anything else is literature--with a bad smell!"
----Michael Fraenkel, The Genesis of Tropic Of Cancer, p. 45.

"Fraenkel! If he were here I would put my arms around him and hug him! Where is that little man with the bright glancing eye, the flame in his guts, the fire in his brain, the fierce, inquiring mind, the shameless arrogance and humility that makes one weep, so deep is it and so genuine. Fraenkel? Why little Fraenkel, so despised, so misunderstood, so tortured and bound up with his inner conflicts--Fraenkel is a man very much alive, a man with the Holy Ghost in his bowels, where it belongs, and if he is the philosopher of death he breathes more life than all that crew combined."
----Henry Miller, in a letter to Emil Schnellock, May 20, 1933

Michael Frankel. The Weather Prophet. "Boris" in Tropic Of Cancer. Henry Miller's landlord, early supporter, muse for all Death-related themes, Hamlet correspondent, much abused friend, blunt critic, publisher, and intellectual.

I can't cover Fraenkel in a single post, so I'm going to break them up into blog pieces over the next week or so. For today, I've strung together a biographical timeline drawn from various books about Miller, plus a few web sources.

If I were fortunate enough, I would have a copy of Walter Lowenfels and Howard McCord's The Life Of Fraenkel's Death: A Biographical Inquest (1970), which I assume contains more detailed information than I'm able to provide here.

[**UPDATE March 2007: Since this biography was first posted, a few errors have been pointed out to me. I mostly used the three most accesible Miller biographies when compiling this timeline, but more recent Fraenkel research by Karl Orend shows that I'm wrong on several points. These changes have been added in red; unfortunately, I don't have primary source references to back-up this updated information; but it comes from Orend's work, which I consider highly credible.]


1896 Fraenkel is born to Lithuanian-Jewish parents (in New York?) [born in Lithuania, came to NYC circa 1902]

1906 (circa) Young Michael must work as a child, selling candy to factory workers. Sells papers.

1916-1926? Sells encyclopedias, plus used, outdated, and remaindered books, off of which he makes a fortune. Compounded with his Stock Market investment returns, he's worth $100,000. [ths was his own business

1926 Moves to Paris to write.

1927? A couple of poems are published in [Eugene Tolas'] transition magazine.

1928 - Living in Vezelay, France, in a schoolhouse called Maison de Carrefour, where his wife Blanche teaches; they have two children (ref. Karl Orend, Nexus journal 3, p. 72)

1929 Begins work on his Weather Paper. [this is the year he really began developing his theories about Death]

1929 Fraenkel's self-made fortune, dwindled after three years in Paris, is hit even harder by the Stock Market Crash.

1930 Fraenkel and fellow expat American Walter Lowenfels create the self-financed Carrefour Press. Their first publication is a pamphlet manifesto called Anonymous: The Need For Anonymity, in which they make a case for writers to hide behind their words. This is followed immediately by Fraenkel's own Werther's Younger Brother ... published anonymously, of course.

1931 Lowenfels introduces Fraenkel to Henry Miller (in the 1981 preface to Hamlet, Miller says that Bertha Schrank introduced them [neither is true -- seems that Miller met Fraenkel through J. Millard Osman] Miller stays at his house at 18 Villa Seurat for a few weeks. Miller is impressed with Werther's and much engaged by Fraenkel's Death talk. Michael tells Henry to destroy [re-write] Crazy Cock. In July, Frankel is forced to sublet the Villa Seurat house [not quite]. He returns to New York [in 1932]. [Fraenkel's divorce from his wife is also underway this year.]

1932 Fraenkel's finances are now exhausted, forcing him to get back into the bookselling business. Anais Nin offers to finance the publication of Tropic Of Cancer on Fraenkel's Carrefour Press, but Michael is not very impressed with the much-reduced latest draft, which no longer contains the Death themes he'd inspired Henry to write. [not true - the book was revised later]. In July, Fraenkel tells Henry he'll have it published in Belgium, but then he and Lowenfels have a falling out and the idea is forgotten. Henry keeps in touch with Michael in New York via his N.Y. friend Emil Schnellock.

[the opening paragraph of Cancer will eventually contain words directly inspired by Fraenkel: "We are all alone here and we are dead."]

1933 Fraenkel goes back and forth between Paris and the States. [Fraenkel was often in China and the Phillipines around this time].

1934 Has made $50,000 from his bookselling business, in which he distributes American overstock to places like China and the Philippines, and sells outdated dictionaries and the like to nuns in Puerto Rico. [this last part apparently untrue].

1934 Henry Miller moves back into 18 Villa Seurat. He and Alfred Perles treat Fraenkel poorly, stealing from his pockets, tormenting him, and, in Perles' case, fooling around with his girlfriend behind his back [this apparently not true]. Tropic Of Cancer is published: Miller sends the first copy to Fraenkel.

1935 In June, Anais is disgusted with Fraenkel's ego and his claims to have been indirectly responsible for Miller's Black Spring. Nin buys a press in which to publish her own work, but Miller and Fraenkel use it for their own purposes [not true?], despite having named it Siana Press (Anais spelled backwards). In September, he, Miller and Perles conceive the thousand page Hamlet book, while having drinks at Cafe Zeyer. The correspondence begins in November.

1936 A collection of his poems from 1927-1930 is published as Death In A Room. Also, his Bastard Death: Autobiography of an Idea is published, and is reviewed by George Orwell in the New English Weekly.

1938 In October, the Hamlet correspondence ends, leaving a rift between Fraenkel and Miller. [this entire conflict is described in detail in the book Henry Millers' Red Phoenix.]

1938 Leaves Paris for Puerto Rico, effectively ending his association with the Villa Seurat group.

1939 An abridged version of the Hamlet letters is published by Carrefour Press while Fraenkel is still in Puerto Rico. Fraenkel's Death Is Not Enough: Essays In Active Negation is published.

1940 Fraenkel goes to Mexico in a quest to get Bastard Death printed there. He stays there for four years.

1941 Volume II of Hamlet is published by Carrefour.

1943 A complete edition of Hamlet is published by Carrefour.

1945 Michael contributes The Genesis Of Tropic Of Cancer to The Happy Rock Miller tribute.

1946 Fraenkel and Robert Duncan put out Death: A Literary Quarterly, which includes a letter from Henry Miller. [Note: Sam Bluefarb has stated (personal email, OCT 2008) that it was not Duncan, but Harry Herschkowitz with whom Fraenkel collaborated on this publication].

1947 Irving Stettner prints Fraenkel's The Day Face And The Night Face.

1957 Michael Fraenkel dies in May (the New York Times obituary defines him as "poet and critic"). His widow, Daphne, inherits Carrefour Press and Fraenkel's work, including the Hamlet letters.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Worth A Dedication: The Neimans

"Dedicated to: Margaret and Gilbert Neiman, originally of Bunker Hill (Los Angeles), now somewhere above and beyond the Garden of the Gods (Colorado). In my memory and affection they are even a little higher than that, above and beyond the gods themselves, because so utterly and perfectly human."
----- Henry Miller, Air-Conditioned Nightmare [1945]

In June 1942, a couple named Gilbert and Maragret Neiman invited Henry Miller to stay rent-free on their new property on Beverly Glen Blvd, L.A. It was during this stay that Henry (amongst other events) sought out Hollywood fortunes, wrote The Maurizius Case, and met Bern Porter. He also felt cramped and distracted from his bigger goals, like writing The Rosy Crucifixion. It was from this tiny L.A. hive that Miller sought refuge at Big Sur.

"[The Neimans are] both poor, both enthusiastic and divinely out of this world."
--- Henry Miller to Eva Sikelianou, 1943

During Miller's first stay in Hollywood in 1941, he met the young writer Gilbert Neiman and frequently dined with him and his watercolourist wife, Margaret, at their home on South Bunker Hill Avenue. Miller and the Neimans--sometimes joined by Man Ray and his wife--would often speak of Art; the Neimans seemed particularly interested in the subject of Mexico (these dinners and the conversations surrounding them are described with vivid detail on pages 379-380 of Always Merry And Bright by Jay Martin).


Back in New York in 1942, Henry accepted an invitation of free-board by the Neimans [UPDATE May 2007: Ariane, the Neiman's daughter, has clarified for me that Miller was already staying in a hotel in L.A. when his publisher contacted the Neimans and suggested they take Miller in as a guest. Ariane: "there was a fierce argument as to whom would call him (he was so revered by the underground intellectuals) mother got the job (my father often chickened out)...and called Henry to invite him over for dinner. The grapevine has it that she cooked like the gods too...Henry turned up for dinner and never left, sleeping on the floor."]

Henry was then installed in the "modest shack" next to the Neimans' home at 1212 Beverly Glen Blvd. By the end of 1942, Gilbert went elsewhere to work with Mexican immigrant labourers. Henry moved up the street a little, over a garage. By the autumn of 1943, the Neimans moved out to Colorado. Henry and an artist friend named John Dudley then took over the premises until Miller left for Big Sur in 1944. At the tail end of '44, Henry and his finace Lepska stayed with the Neimans in Colorado just before they were married. Gilbert and Margaret acted as witnesses.

In the photo at the head of this posting is Henry with a half-naked Margaret Neiman behind him. The picture was conceived and taken in 1942 by Man Ray, a friend of the Neiman's and a neighbour as well (not far away on Vine Street). [this photo is part of a J. Paul Getty collection].

View two more shots from this session here.

I've found no comprehensive bigraphy on Margaret and Gilbert Neiman on the internet, but have cobbled together some sort of timeline, collected from various interbet sources:

1912: Gilbert and Margaret are born.

late 1930s?: Gilbert is part of group of bohemian writers like Weldon Kees, based in Denver, Colorado (ref. )

1939: Gilbert translates Garcia Lorca's Blood Wedding;

1940: Gilbert is published in the anthology The State Of The Nation (Little Man Press, Cincinatti);

1942: Gilbert has three poems published in Poetry: a Magazine of Verse (June 1942) - The Anarchic Architect; The Furious Hero; Keen. (ref. source)

1944: Neimans move to Colorado. Gilbert dabbles in acting (Big Sur, p. 72);

1945: Gilbert's Mexican-themed story Kermess is published in Accent Anthology (selections of from the quarterly of new literaure 1940-45);

1945: Gilbert contributes No Rubbish, No Albatrosses to the Henry Miller tribute book, The Happy Rock; The Neimans move to Big Sur, near Henry. At one point, they live in Henry's Andreson Creek house with their infant, while Henry lives and works out of his "studio" (horse shed);

1945-48: Correpsondences between Man Ray and Henry Miller often reference Gilbert's "drinking problem" (ref.);

1947: Harcourt Brace publishes Gilbert's There's A Tyrant In Every Country. According to this bookseller, it's "an unusual story of a man who overcomes his prejudice toward Mexicans by traveling to Mexico." (abstracts from NY Times reviews here and here);

1960: Gilbert is editor of Between Worlds: An international magazine of creativity, published in Puerto Rico and Denver. (ref./ref.) Significant in its calibre of contributors: Henry Miller, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Herman Hesse, William Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (ref.). Alfred Perles contributed to an issue as well. Notes on Miller's three pieces can be searched here.

1960s: Gilbert becomes Professor of English at Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania. A scholarship is posthumously established under his name.

1977: Gilbert dies.

1993: Margaret dies.

David Lavery has an essay on the Web titled My English Teachers [in PDF format]. He once took an Advanced Compositions class with Gilbert Neiman at Clarion U. This is the only sort of profile--an unflattering one at that--I found on the internet regarding Gilbert. It contains details such as these:

* Neiman claimed to have "written a version of The Godfather long before Mario Puzo";

* Was warned he would be fired "if he ever missed a class because of his alcoholism." Lavery claims that Gilbert was nonetheless "incomprehensible" as he "slurred" in class;

* Gilbert invited Anais Nin to speak to his class in 1969;

More details about Gilbert Neiman's life and character may be found in Miller's Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch (see Neiman's Phantom Radio and Missing Shoebox).


Finally, there is a brief memoir of Henry Miller, posted on by Ariane Goodwin (Ane Neiman), daughter of Gilbert and Margaret. She describes her father as an "erstwhile author and lifelong jealous friend of Henry's" and claims that her mother, Margaret, is actually the one who taught Henry to paint. She states that she has letters in which Henry suggests to Margaret that he sign his name to her paintings in order to make money. Margaret Neiman gave up painting when her daughter was born.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dollar Value Of A 1st Edition Of 'Tropic Of Cancer'

The Guardian recently published a list of the most valuable first edition books "in good condition." James Joyce's Ulysses was #1, at £100,000, or U.S. $174,430.

Henry Miller's Tropic Of Cancer was listed at #66 out of 100, with a value of £6,000+, or, in American currency, $10,469 or more. A first edition of Cancer is listed as being of equal value to first editions of To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee, 1960), En Attandent Godot [Waiting For Godot] (Samuel Beckett, 1952), Sons And Lovers (DH Lawrence, 1913), several titles by Agatha Christie, including The Secret Adversary (1922), The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler, 1939), and Decline And Fall (Evelyn Waugh, 1928).

In 1986, the original manuscript for Tropic of Cancer was auctioned for $165,000. (ref.)

Abe Books lists a first edition of Cancer--paired with a first edition of Tropic Of Capricorn--going for $31, 457. Sounds like a deal, by comparison.

Firsts magazine published an article in their January 2000 edition called "Collecting Henry Miller."

Here is my earlier post about the story behind the cover art of this first edition of Tropic Of Cancer.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Whatever Happened To George Dibbern?

I recently re-read Henry Miller's essay Quest, from Stand Still Like The Hummingbird. In the middle of this admiring profile of George Dibbern's 1941 autobiographical book Quest, Miller, from his perspective of 1945, wrote:

"[Dibbern] was put into a concentration camp in New Zealand because of his German origin. And not for the first time. The same thing had happened to him in the same place during the First World War. His publishers do not know what has happened to him in the interim. I wrote him as soon as I had read his book. I hope that others who read him will do likewise."

This inspired me to go on a quest of my own, to find out what happened to George Dibbern after Miller wrote this review of his book in 1945. [read excerpts of Miller's review here]


First, a bit about Dibbern. Born in 1889 in Kiel, Germany, George sailed to New Zealand in his youth, an expereince that left a deep impression on him. In 1930, the middle-aged Dibbern was broke, in a post-war Germany that was leading toward fascism. His boat, which he'd named Te Rapunga (Maori for "the dark sun"), was calling out to him. Off he sailed back to New Zealand, an experience he wrote about in his novel Quest, published in 1941. As a German in New Zealand during wartime, he was rounded up and kept in an internment camp in January '41, the year he was published.

One of the chief points of interest about Dibbern is his declarartion that he was not a German but a citizen of the world, going so far as to create his own flag and his own passport. His customized passort was not accepted by his New Zealand captors on Somes Island, as one might expect.


Henry read Quest in 1945, wrote a review of it, and saw it published in Circle magazine on July 8, 1946. But it didn't stop there. Henry also felt compelled to write to George at the internment camp:

"Dear George Dibbern . . . great pleasure and instruction on reading the book Quest . . . learned from publishers . . . once again prisoner of war . . . are you all right . . . discovered wonderful book through George Leite. . . good friend Emil White is a good friend and distant relative of
Dr. Bertel. .[..] .. . . . send you a book . . . from the publishers . . . The Power Within Us . . . I hope you are not reading much now, but writing. Your book is a wonderful human document, a spiritual more than a physical saga. I felt that you were a brother, and it’s as a brother that I write you and pray that you are well. All your reflections about life, about war, about people, about the Bible, impressed me deeply. So few men think for themselves. That’s what made your book a feast. . . I always wondered, of course, whether you would continue cruising about, whether you would find nothing but disillusionment whenever you put ashore. The purpose of self-liberation, which you seem to have achieved, is to rejoin society but how difficult, especially when it’s the kind of world we now have . . . The more you succeed in freeing yourself from passions and prejudices, from stupid fetishes and inhibitions, the less place there is for you in the world. That’s how it seems. I know something of what it’s all about, because I made a similar struggle all my life. The feeling of being cut off is an agony. . . This is just to let you know how a book sometimes reaches out and finds warm friends in some unexpected place. I shall send it on its way now — to the four quarters of the earth. You must have friends everywhere. You breathe a spirit as warm and large as Walt Whitman’s. I salute you as one of the good, honest men of the earth, one we shall always be proud of. Call on me if there is anything you think I can do for you. Your book should be translated into many languages. Has it? There I might really be able to help. Let me know. A friend. Signed Henry Miller."

Henry made George Dibbern his personal project and crusade. Henry sent Dibbern money, urged friends to send money to his wife and kids in Germany, encouraged people to buy Quest, and made attempts to have the book re-published.

After five years at the camp, Dibbern was finally freed. Four years later, he won a lottery. With the winnings, he bought an island in Tasmania. One of his sailing crew, Eileen Morris (whom he met in 1935) became his lover and mother to one of his children. According to the New Zealand Maritime Index, Dibbern wrecked Te Rapunga in 1958, and tried to sell his Tasmanian island that same year. Henry Miller's support of Dibbern and Quest continued until George's death in 1962.
The quest for information on George Dibbern has been taken up by Erika Grundmann, whose website is the basis of much of what I have uncovered here. She has written a biography on Dibbern called Dark Sun, for which she has provided the first chapter on-line (this is the source of the Henry Miller letter I've included in my post; it also elaborates on Dibbern's situation in the camp and his reactions to the letter). The webiste includes photographs of Dibbern and Te Rapunga.
Grundmann has also posted a tribute to Henry on Valentine Miller's wesbite. In it, she tells of her discovery of the Miller-Dibbern correpondence, and includes excerpts from these letters, i.e.:
"Dear Henry, what a friend you are! I think you are a kind of angel or reassuring pilot whose letters of cheer always come at the very moment I need them most.” [July 22, 1947]"

LINKS: Reviews of Quest . . . . Review of Dark Sun [1] [2]. . . . Vintage copies of Quest for sale [Terry's] [ReadInk]. . . . Various Henry Miller papers relating to Dibbern, sold as Lot 54 from PBA Galleries. . . . the University of Victoria's Henry Miller Collection contains a typed letter from Miller, dated Jan 30, 1958, which is an appeal for funds for Dibbern (ref. item 1.23).

I hope Miss Grundmann will not mind that I borrowed so liberally from her. Perhaps she will be satisfied that I am drawing attention to her work.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hiler Impressions: Talking to Miller

This is a follow-up to my posting from Dec. 15, 2005, regarding artist Hilaire Hiler's impressions of Henry Miller, as described by him in the International Henry Miller Letter from August 1963.

Hiler: "Henry is that great rarity; an excellent listener. He can not only listen but by his bodily attitude, the little h'ms and 'ums of agreement or interrogation with which he intersperses his listening, he keeps the talker aware that close attention is being paid to his utterances. Thus he draws people out. He can then see and stress their remarkable, exceptional, fantastic or hateful qualities or weaknesses. Because of his work-a-day and Brooklyn early background it's possible that things seemed remarkable to him by contrast which might appear less so to others with other antecedents. I have the lating impression that he talked much less than he listened. He probably felt little need to talk as he got most of his ideas off his chest by his constant and copious writing."
Hiler: "When he talked philosophy, as seems the case with many talented and successful writers, the impression is a different one. His philosophical ideas seem much less interesting. They were confused and colored with emotion and subjective rationalization. Philosophicallly our ways parted sharply and we took different roads. Henry, as a philosopher reminds me of those whom Francis Bacon described when he wrote, '......snatches from experience a variety of common instances, neither duly ascertained nor dilligently examined and weighed, and leaves all the rest to meditation and agitation of wit.'"
Hiler: "We had many long talks and a very copious written correspondence which kept up over most of the years, but in spite of mutual liking and mutual respect, I have the impression that our communication was always rather poor. The reason for this feeling of only partial understanding was a mystery to me at the time. Henry was certainly very articulate and I'm told that, at least for a painter, I express myself quite clearly. Now, it would seem that our difficulties may have been due to the fact that we were using what students of semiotic call different 'types of discourse.' Henry was probably using the poetic or emotive type while I was trying to be more logical, rational and expository."

The picture of Henry Miller is a frame capture from Robert Snyder's The Henry Miller Odyssey.