Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Page 14

14.0 On this page, Henry follows June and Jean from one Greenwich Village cafe to the next, seething with jealousy, bitter at the lesbian aspect of their relationship and at the Greenwich Village social circles in which they mingle.

14.1 Woof woof! Woof!
See Nexus - Pg 1, Item 1.1. Henry follows June around like a dog, continuing the idea that he is subservient to her (especially since she is continuing an affair behind his back--as well as in his face--without much regard for how he might feel about it).

14.2 The Iron Cauldron
This seems to me a pretty obvious allusion to The Pepper Pot, one of the Greenwich Village clubs at which June (Mona) worked in the 1920s.

14.3 "the two tables nearest the windows were Mona's"
Assuming that this is The Pepper Pot, this implies that Mona (June) was working the top floor at this point (as opposed to the basement bar -- "The Catacomb"). Henry observes Mona at work, greeting customers, etc. Stasia (Jean) sometimes sits at a table until business slows down and Mona can join her for "an animated conversation." Henry burns with curiosity as to the subject of their conversation.

14.4 bottle fly

14.5 "Answer me that and I will write the history of Russia for you in one sitting."
Of course, the history of Russia is an epic one. The shortest contemporary one I found is 336 pages. This also refers to the fact that Mona and Stasia have Russian backgrounds; the implication being that the burden is equal to that of dischipering the two women combined.

14.5 Sheridan Square
Sheridan Square (also known as Christopher Street?) is located at the heart of Greenwich Village, bordered by West 4th St., Washington Place, and Barrow St. [ref]. Today it is the centre of the 'gay village' and has been the scene of the Stonewall riots and famed jazz club Cafe Society. [a bit of history here, and here it is on a map].

Miller also references this square on page 134.

14.6 "Minnie Douchebag's hangout"
This hangout is said by Miller to be at "one corner of the square," "always lit up like an old-fashioned saloon." Miller states that Mona and Stasia always "wind up" here, which is why he has followed them here.

"Minnie Douchebag" was referenced previously in Plexus. On page 197 of that book, Mona and Ulric discuss the increasing seediness of Greenwich Village. A restaurant is mentioned "on Sheridan Square," which Mona says is "Minnie Douchebag's hangout." She goes on to describe Minnie as "that crazy fairy who sings and plays the piano ... and wears women's clothes." Ulric recognizes the description and elaborates: "A real zany, by God. I thought at one point he'd climb the chandeliers. What a vile, stinking tongue he has too!"

If you're interested in Miller's low opinion of this quarter of Greenwich Village, read pages 197-198 of Plexus. Much of it conveys a distaste for the homosexuals who had come to dominate the area (Miller uses the derogatory "homo" to describe them; this piece is essential for anyone wishing to write a thesis about the subject of homosexuality in Miller's writings).

Interestingly, my internet quest for "Minnie Douchebag" references only turned up this one on In its analysis of American swear words, it credits Miller's Plexus with introducing us to the word "douchebag" as an insult. This same article says that the Oxford English Dictionary cites Tropic Of Cancer for introducing the term "douche-bag" in print (in refernce to the object and not as an insult).

As for the identity of the real Minnie Douchebag, I can't say, but the most popular gay club on this square in the 1920s seems to have been called Stewart's Cafeteria [ref], if anyone cares to look into it.

14.7 "dear creatures"/ "dearies"
Earlier in the page, Miller refers to Mona and Stasia as "dear creatures," in a sarcastic way. He is disgusted with them; with their lesbianism, or at least their pose of lesbianism [the extent of which has never really been confirmed]. He continues to use this sarcastic term to describe the people in the club who give them "solicitous" attention upon arrival and "understood them so well and ever rallied to their support."

14.8 a Bertillon expert
Alphonse Bertillion (1853-1914) had devised a means of identifying criminals based on their physical traits [here are his methods]. While riding the subway home after spying at Minnie's, Miller is "amus[ed]" by the fact that a Bertillon expert would have trouble identifying "which was boy and which girl." This is a reference to the transgendered attire of the clientele at Minnie's restaurant.

And so, as Miller is on the subway, away from Mona and Stasia, he is most preoccupied, it seems, with his contempt for the nature of homosexuality and the betrayal of classic gender roles. This shows a conservative streak in Miller and/or is simply his anger over the social condition that is immediately threatening his marriage.

<--- previous Page 13 Next pages 15 & 16 --->

The Sheridan Square photo is from Iseult on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Many Names Of Jean Kronski

This posting is really just a means of putting the scattered facts in my last post The Real Jean Kronski? into order. The information added by James and Pierre in my 'Comments' section made this possible; thanks to you both.

The real name of Jean Kronski has long been a mystery. Listed below are her numerous potential real identities.

According to June Mansfield in Colossus Of One, "Jean" had been an orphan, possibly brought to America at a young age, with no knowledge of her actual name.

According to the same source, Jean had been taken in by a Mr. & Mrs. Thrall, who gave her the name Marion. Although they acted as foster parents, they never actually adopted her, so her name was never actually Marion Thrall.

Her second pair of foster parents apparebtly went by the surname Fish (again, see June's interview in Colossus Of One). Not sure if they legally adopted her, so her full name may not have officially been Marion Fish either.

As I mention in my previous posting, Karl Orend has turned up a letter from Alfred Perles to June Mansfield from June 1962, in which Perles makes reference to Jean:

"...and Jean Kronski, alias Fish, alias McCarthy, alias Romanoff, as young and ageless then as he is now, wherever she is." (see ref in Nexus Journal 3; "Romanoff" is in reference to the fact that June used to claim that Jean descended from the Romanoffs, a Russian royal family [see item 10.9]).

In his annotated notes to this letter, Orend states that Fish is her actual birth name.

The only reference to this surname seems to come from the 1962 letter by Perles, and Orend seems to believe that this was the surname of one of her adoptive families.

June (in Colossus) says the she gave her the name Jean because "the name of Marion did not fit this beautiful thing at all." June said that the name "Kronski" was in reference to Jean's claimed Russian lineage, and named after Miller's "Dr. Kronski" character (although, in my mind, this character name came after the fact).

In Miller's own personal notes, he refered to her as "Jean Kronski." Alfred Perles has also written about her in his novel The Renegade and named her "Jean Kronski."

The idea that Jean's real name is Mara or Martha Andrews seems to start with Robert Ferguson's Miller biography Henry Miller: A Life. He points to--but does not cite-- "a great deal of cirumstancial evidence" to back his claim that this was her name and that she was the daughter of wealthy parents from Baltimore.

And then there's my very recent cockeyed theory that maybe her name was Thelma Krinsky, based on the flimsy evidence that Miller called her "Thelma" in Time Of The Assassins and that a woman in New York by the name of Thelma Krinsky died on October 28, 1947, and happened to be around Jean's age and have a surname that sounded like her "fictional" surname Kronski (yeah, I know, some more research work needs to be done here).

"Pierre From Montreal" is absolutely right: the discovery of the passanger list from the ship that June and Jean took to France from New York in April 1927 could provide us with some exciting evidence.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Real Jean Kronski?

Was her name really Jean Kronski? Even though Miller referred to her that way in his own personal notes, most experts agree that her name was actually Mara or Martha Andrews. "Jean Kronski" was a false name given to her by June. Then there's Time of The Assassins, the single incident in which Henry Miller refers to Jean as 'Thelma.'

Read this passage from Time Of The Assassins yourself.

This "Thelma" is not a character is some pseudo-biographical fictional novel. Miller is, in theory, referring to an actual person, just as he mentions the real names of Anais Nin and John Dudley in this piece. So why the alias "Thelma" in place of "Jean Kronski"?

Maybe her name was Thelma and this "Mara Andrews" hypothesis is actually incorrect?

Case in point: The New York City Death Index has a listing for a Thelma Krinsky, who died on October 28, 1947 in Manhattan. She was 44 years old, meaning she was born around 1903. If this was "Jean Kronski," she would have been around 24 when she met Henry and June, which is about the right age it seems to me.

Thelma KRINSKY. NYC death certificate # 23094

I couldn't find an obituary listing for this name in the New York Times archives. But that just means no one listed her and that doesn't really prove anything. What we need is a copy of the certificate listed above.

Krinsky is obviously close to "Kronski." And Miller calls her Thelma in Assassins. Do I have a case? Can the scholarly Henry Miller experts out there offer me any feedback?

** UPDATE JULY 24, 2006

Take a look at the Comments section of this post for discussion about the real identity of Jean Kronski. The most recent hypothesis is that her name was actually Marion Fish, or, sometimes using her adopted name, Marion McCarthy. Karl Orend seems to have established this idea (see, for example, the annotated letter from Alfred Perles to June Mansfield in 1962, from Nexus - The International Henry Miller Journal #3.)

Why "Thelma?"

If Kronski was in fact named Marion Fish, here's one suggestion as to why Miller would choose the name "Thelma" to identify her in Time Of The Assassins: Thelma Wood. Wood [seen at left] was a contemporary of Henry's, who lived in Greenwich Village in 1928 according to this biography. Like Jean Kronski, she was a sculptor and was bisexual (she had a famous relationship with Djuna Barnes). She was also around the same age and had a "boyish" look, as did Kronski.

I dunno, just a thought ....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New York Residences To 1930

Here is a list of Henry Miller's New York and Brooklyn addresses from his birth in 1891 to his second, more permanent departure for Paris in 1930. The list is not meant to be comprehensive; just a chronological list to use as reference. Some info is not available to me at the moment, but will be updated at a future date. Individual details about each address will get coverage in their own postings at various points in the future.

450 East 85th Street (Brooklyn)
[1891 - 1892]
Miller family home at the time of his birth.
662 Driggs Avenue (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
[1892 - 1900]
Childhood home to age 8 or 9.
1063 Decatur Street (Bushwick, Brooklyn)
[1900 - 1917]
Henry called this his "Street of Early Sorrows." His parents continued to live here for a long time. More than once, Henry would return here with his tail between his legs, to live with his parents as an adult.
244 6th Avenue (Brooklyn)
[1917 - 1923]
Newlywed home, first marriage (Beatrice). Beatrice caught Henry and June in a comprimised position in this house and promptly kicked Henry out in 1923.
Home of Dr. Paul Luttinger, The Bronx
Dubbed "Cockroach Hall" by Henry and June, who stayed here temporarily after Henry was kicked out.
524 Riverside Drive (Manhattan)
[1923 - 1924]
Apartment shared by Henry and June, along with Emil and Celia Conason.
91 Remsen Street (Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn)
[1924 - 1925]
Henry and June's newlywed home after their marriage on June 1, 1924.
Garden Place (Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn)
After being evicted from Remsen, Henry and June rented nearby, only to be asked to leave by the racist landlady who did not like them fraternizing with the neighbouring Syrians.
284 Sixth Street (Brooklyn?)
Old friend Stanley Borowski lets Henry and June stay at his place for a while.
Home of Karl Karsten, Far Rockaway
Henry and June briefly work for their room and board for a pedantic scientist.
Clinton Avenue (Williamsburgh, Brooklyn)
Henry and June rent briefly at an address they can barely afford.
106 Perry Street (Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
[1925 - 1926]
Henry and June open their own speakeasy in a basement, using the kitchen as their home. Henry goes off on a speculative adventure in Florida and comes back to a repossessed home. He once again must stay with his parents on Decatur Street.
Hancock Street (Brooklyn)
Money from writing allows Henry to get a new apartment.
Remsen Street (Brooklyn)
A different apartment than the one before at #91. While in this basement apartment, June brings home Jean Kronski.
Henry Street (Brooklyn)
[1926 - 1927]
I don't know the exact address, but it's at the intersection with Love Lane.
Henry, June and Jean all move into another basement apartment together. The Crazy Cock years and Nexus years. June and Jean run off to Paris without Henry while here. Henry is again driven to Decatur Street out of desperation.
Somewhere in Brooklyn Heights (Brooklyn)
After two months away, June returns from France and find her and Henry a place to rent. In 1928, Henry accompanies June to Europe for the first time. They stay for several months.
180 Clinton Avenue (Brooklyn)
Henry and June move here after their return from Europe. This is Henry's last address before making his fateful move to Paris in 1930.

Here's a posting about the New York apartments Henry stayed in when he returned from Paris for a brief stay in 1935.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Notes On Nexus

The PBA Galleries website contains excerpts from notes left by Miller regarding his book, Nexus. They're found in Lots 81, 82 and 98 of the Personal Archive Of Henry Miller (all items have long since been sold). I've quoted verbatim from PBA; I hope they don't mind.

Lot 81 - "Schema for Nexus." [10] pp. holograph notebook on taped-together versos of reproductions of a Miller watercolor, written during the early planning stages for Nexus, with outlines of plots & charaters mapped out in blue ink. N.p.: [c.1945-50's].

Miller plots outlines for pages 1-100, 100-200, etc., referring himself to some of his other notebooks, including the Bern Porter notebook also in this sale. The notebook also contains memories of real-life events Miller planned to describe: "June - Paris; Varèse, Zadkine, Duchamp, Hotel Müller...Fred and Jeanne - North Africa! Sterling and June - Trip! Clinton Avenue - Dave Elkus, Chess, Learning to drive, Buick throttle - trip to L.I. - June, Writing novel for Pop - Walks and talks, Lexington Ave "L" rides...Trips to negroes Long Island with Elkus..." With list of male and female characters and their real-life counterparts holographed by Miller at rear 2 pp. Yellowing to tape, else about fine, with important outline & character content.

Lot 82 - "Nexus - Censored Pages." 24 pp. carbon typescript of pages censored from the published version of Nexus due to sexual content, describing in detail Miller's weekend romp with "Amy" and "Suzanne," with reflective thoughts on "Mona," in reality his second wife, June. N.p.: [1959]. Truly pornographic (and thoroughly unrealistic) in nature, there is really nothing this cataloguer can quote here - should definitely be seen. (NOTE** See details in the Comments section of this posting).

Lot 98 - Outline notes for Nexus. Printer's dummy of Bern Porter's book of tributes to Henry Miller, titled The Happy Rock and inscribed & signed by Porter to Miller on rear free endpaper, dated 1945. Most of the 160-page book was left blank, so Miller used it as his notebook for very early outlines of The Rosy Crucifixion over the next few years, writing in holograph on 68 pages. N.p.: 1945.

In his "Notes for Nexus" section, Miller writes: "1. Begin by wind-up-en-bloc of all leading to cellar life at Henry St. & Love Lane. Long dissertations on books, music, painting, art and rapid-fire conversations - crazy yet purposeful, with June, Jean, Cohen etc. Develop Jean's pseudo-pregnancy and results of Cohen's examination. Develop morbid hysterical love for June - possessiveness - and wind up with attempt at suicide. Jean raises money for move to Henry St..."

A couple of curious observations regarding names: Miller refers to June as "June" in his notes, although her character's name was "Mona," yet he refers to the Stasia character as "Jean" as if that's her real name, when it's generally known that Jean Kronski's actual name was Mara or Martha Andrews [UPDATE: read this]. Did he only know her by the fictional alias June had concocted for her?

Also, the pregnancy in Nexus was tended to by "Dr. Kronski," who in real life, as I undertsand it, was Dr. Emil Conason. Yet, in his personal notes, he calls him Cohen. Maybe I've misunderstood something, or perhaps that was the name Miller originally planned to use for that character. [UPDATE AUG 4/06: I realize now that Conason's real name was Seymour Emil Cohen. For reasons unknown to me, it was later changed to Conason.].

Sunday, July 16, 2006

June At The Pepper Pot

June Mansfield Miller worked at various Greenwich Village clubs and cafes during the mid-1920s, including Raymo’s, The Perroquet, the Roman Tavern and The Pepper Pot. At the Pepper Pot, as with the other clubs, the waitress work was often just a means for her to harvest admirers who were willing to shell out money and gifts to win her favour.
June [at left] seems to have started working at The Pepper Pot in 1925. After an absense, she returned to the club in the Autumn of 1926, working in the basement bar instead of the more formal restaurant on the main floor. She and Henry had returned from a botched adventure in North Carolina and needed money desperately.
"And that very day she hired herself out as a waitress at The Iron Cauldron *." [Plexus, p. 550] * see below
The Pepper Pot began at 144 West 4th street in Greenwich Village, New York City, some time by 1921. Apparently due to re-zoning, it became #146. Later, due to expansions in the late 1920s, it covered 146-150 West 4th Street. Beneath 150 was The Mad Hatter coffeehouse, which became a significant hangout for lesbians.

The New York Songlines website provides an historical overview of the club. The Pepper Pot was created by 1920, if not earlier. The restaurant was formed by Carlyle and Viola Sherlock, both "retired" from the silent motion picture business [all of this from Songlines]. In 1921, the couple also incorporated a restraurant called The Melting Pot [New York Times, March 13, 1921, p.23]. Legend has it that Al Jolson was "discovered" there, and that actress Norma Shearer once worked there.

As this 1920s postcard describes, The Pepper Pot was the only official stop in Greenwich Village for many bus lines. It also provided chicken and eggs straight from Viola Sherlock's farm estate in Orange County.
In 1927, the Sherlocks leased the adjoining building at 148 West 4th, with plans to re-model it and connect it to The Pepper Pot [New York Times, Feb. 17, 1927, p.40]. By the 1930s, The Pepper Pot turned into The Chantilly Club, which was an irreputable speakeasy. It was shut down after a murder, but re-opened briefly in the 1950s before becoming a jazz club known as The Showcase. Today, #146 seems to be a co-op apartment complex and 148 is a restaurant called Vol de Nuit.


The clientele of The Pepper Pot was distinctly bohemian in the 1920s; actors, artists and the like. According to the book, Tea At The Blue Lantern Inn, many of the hostesses at Pepper Pot were artists and musicians from NYU and dressed in artists' smocks [p.96] The postcard below shows a photograph of hostesses at the Pot.

I'm a bit confused by the layout of the original Pepper Pot, but it seems to me that it comprised of at least two floors and as many as four: the main level restaurant and a bar in the basement. In Jay Martin's Always Merry And Bright, he refers to June's employment at "The Catacomb." It's never explicitly clear that he is referring to The Pepper Pot, although the other Miller biographies refer to it as so. I think that The Catacomb--which implies a basement--is simply the basement bar of The Pepper Pot.

The decor of The Pepper Pot comprised of "red-hot peppers and Chinese lanterns ... strung from a labyrinth of pipes." [Tea, p. 47]. Artists has been comissioned to carve out elaborate candles [pictured at left].


Using the three Miller biographies I always use (A Life, Merry And Bright, Happiest Man Alive), I've tried to identify every incident relating to June, Henry and The Pepper Pot.

* In 1925, within a year of marrying Henry Miller, June took a job at The Pepper Pot to help support herself and the unemployed Miller. As a waitress here, she sold Miller's Mezzotint writings under her own name to her customers, at an infalted price [Merry, p. 104];

* Around October 1926, after returning to New York with Henry after a botched attempt to live in Asheville, North Carolina, June again took a job at the Pepper Pot. Robert Ferguson describes it this way: "The Pot occupied a basement that ran the length of an entire buidling and it had a weird ambience that June liked. The interior was dark, lit by flickering candles which illuminated the drawings that covered the walls, and a sculptor had been employed by the manager, a Mr. Miller, to create figures from the melted wax which were strategically placed around the room. The floor above housed a conventional restaurant" (Life, p. 123). Again, I believe this basement level of the Pepper Pot is what Jay Martin calls "The Catacomb" on pages 118-122 of Merry And Bright. [photo at right is of patrons at the Pot, from collection Sclesinger Library collection, Harvard].

* During the same time, Henry attempted to sell encyclopedias door-to-door. After this venture fell through, he began to drop in on June at the Pepper Pot. This annoyed her, as it interfered with her freedom to connect with potential admirers and sugardaddies. Henry then took to lurking in the shadows and spying on her activities (Merry, p. 121). Often when he showed up, she was not there when he expected her to be (Happiest Man, p. 103);

* At the end of October 1926, June met Jean Kronski at The Pepper Pot. Jean had entered The Pepper Pot looking for a job, even though she was wearing overalls and was without stockings or decent shoes (Life, p. 123). Jean became an obsession of June's, as well as her friend and lover;

* Jealous of Jean's relationship with his wife, Henry tried to embarrass her one day by entering The Peppr Pot and loudly demanding of Jean: "Tell us, are you a pervert or an invert?" (Merry, p. 128, in ref to Crazy Cock);

* Henry showed up at the restaurant with a suitcase, a bunch of violets and a note for June, stating that he was going out West (he didn't); (Merry, p. 130);

* While working on the manuscript for Crazy Cock, Miller took his notes with him to The Pepper Pot for June to read (Life, p. 142). In Crazy Cock, he often refers to a club called The Caravan, which seems to be the Pot (Crazy Cock, pgs. 14, 15, 27, 32, 33, 35, 38, 42, 48, 49, 53, 59, 79-83, 87, 88, 91, 100, 153, 157, 189);

* In Miller's Nexus, he describes himself spying on June and Jean at what he calls the "Iron Cauldron," which to me is an obvious reference to The Pepper Pot (Nexus, p. 14) It's refered to as such in Plexus as well;

"The Iron Cauldron was one of the landmarks of the Village. Its clientele was drawn from far and near. Among the many interesting characters who frequented the place were the inevitable freaks and eccentrics who made the Village notorious." [Plexus, p. 586]

* Henry caught June leaving The Pepper Pot with wrestler Nat Pendleton in her embrace (Life, p. 144);

* June's run at The Pepper Pot was over by April 1927, when she and Jean ran off to Europe together, leaving Henry behind.

UPDATE July 2010: See this post about a Pepper Pot menu from 1929, which sheds a bit more light on the layout of the club.

The photograph of June Mansfield at the top of this posting comes from Stepehn Starck's biography about her, June Scattered In Fragments. Although I know he credits this picture as being June, I confess I don't own the book and found it on the internet, so I'm uncertain as to the source of origin for this photo. If you know, please pass your knowledge along to me.

The majority of the images are from 1920s postcards found on Ebay.

** UPDATE JULY 21/06 - Thanks to 'Pierre from Montreal,' we now have better information regarding the source of the June photograph on this posting. To quote: "it was taken apparently "circa 1927," according to Kathryn Winslow in Henry Miller : Full of Life, Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1986, p. 176. She also adds under the photo : "Courtesy of Capra Press "; so this picture is probably not royalty free, although it appeared previously without artistic credit or ownership on page 142 of Henry’s My Life and Times, Gemini Smith/Playboy Press, Chicago, 1971."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Anais Nin Stage Play Features Miller

On August 5th, 2006, a production of the play Anais Nin - One of Her Lives begins its run at the Beckett Theatre in New York. The stage play includes characterizations of Anais Nin, Henry Miller, June Mansfield and Otto Rank.

The play is written and directed by Australian writer Wendy Beckett (a distant relation to Samuel Beckett). Beckett's career--which spans over 24 plays--seems to favour the portrayal of the lives of artists, such as Joy Hester (Hester), Alma Mahler (For The Love Of Alma Mahler) and Tina Modotti (currently being written). She has also written a stage adaptation of Peter Carey's novel, Bliss.

According to Beckett's bio on the play's website [linked above], she considers Lawrence Durrell her "literary mentor." I assume, then, that she discovered Anais Nin and Miller through Durrell.

The focus of One Of Her Lives is clearly Anais Nin. Here's the promomotional blurb: " [the play]is set in 1930’s Paris, when many artists, escaping the confines of their morals and culture, converged on France in the hope of finding a greater aesthetic life. Thematically the play follows the development of a writer who, in the end, must choose her own path if she is to succeed in her literary ambition. Biographically, the play traces the complicated love triangle between Anais Nin, author, Henry Miller and his wife June. A literary ménage a trois is born that is like no other."

Henry Miller will be played by theatre (and sometimes TV) actor David Bishins [seen at right]. I've never heard of him and can only hope that he can embody Miller beyond being a middle-aged balding white guy. He was apparently on the cast of the American soap opera Guiding Light back in 1991. Soap Opera Digest summarizes his soap character and has a picture of Bishins back in the day when he had a full head of hair.

Anais Nin will be played by Angela Christian [seen at left in 2004], a Broadway actress who recently played the title role in The Woman In White, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. She'll need to work her Parisien French accent in order to cover up the fact that she's from Texas.

June Mansfield will be played by Alysia Reiner, who played the Thomas Hayden Church's bride-to-be (to whom he is unfaithful) in the film Sideways [the rest of her theatre and TV work can be found at IMDB]. Besides the picture of her at right, check out these other photos of her. I like the physical casting of Reiner as June in particular, though all of the casting is pretty inspired. Reiner does double duty as Anais Nin's mother.

Anais Nin - One Of Her Lives begins its run at the Beckett Theatre [directions] in New York on August 5th, 2006, and ends on August 26th. Preview performances occur on August 3 and 4, after which I'll try to find some reviews and link them here. Tickets are $35 - $45 [details here and here].

NYC isn't really that far from me in Toronto. I should try to go. If I had the time, I'd try to arrange some kind of Henry Miller fan meet-up in New York for August. If anyone in New York sees this show, feel free to submt a review for this blog.

A couple of stills from the play can be seen on the Playbill website. Read reviews by Theatre Mania and BlogCritics.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Miller's Astrological Charts

Henry Miller made use of astrological charts since the 1930s. People like Conrad Moricand advised him on his fate in the stars for years. This is a subject for future postings. In the meantime, for those of you who understand this sort of thing, here's a chart made up for Henry Miller by a German website called Astroschmid.

The chart design is credited on the website to Astrosoft. The full chart analysis (in symbols and German) can be found on the website.

Astrology For The Soul also provides an astrological chart for Henry, created by Nick Dagan Best. This companion article not only offers some explanation for Henry's chart [seen below], but also provides a chart for Anais Nin, as well as a chart for the event of the first meeting between Nin and June Mansfield.

I'm sure many of you have already stumbled upon the Cosmic Baseball website at some point while searching for Miller on the internet. My impression is that "teams" are created out of various famous people and their astrological information is competitively-compared Stat-O-Matic Baseball style. To be honest, I'm really not interested and couldn't easily figure out what it's all about. If you're curious, check out Henry Miller's cosmic profile and stats or June Mansfield's stats.

Monday, July 03, 2006

John Nichols And Miller's Beard

In October 1930, Miller sat as a model for American expat painter John Nichols, with whom he then shared a glowing yet fleeting friendship. Nichols, he believed, was destined to become one of the greats. Nichols offered support for Miller as he struggled as a writer in Paris (for example, he fed him from time to time), all the while painting portraits of Henry during a brief phase in which Miller sported an unkempt bohemian beard.

"I feel convinced, when talking to him that I am standing in the presence of a genius. I can see in him another Van Gogh, or better.[...] Nichols is a deeply cultured guy, a rich, ripe guy of the autumnal cities, a man of feeling, of intuition, of instinct, but also of great intellect, and of great ego...charming ego...charming effrontery. The child-man, the wonder-man, soft-voiced, musical, sure, suave, convincing, and never-ending."
----- Henry Miller on John Nichols [Feb. 16, 1931], from Letters To Emil, (p. 74).

I found much of my biographical information about John Nichols from Miller's own words in Letters To Emil and this on-line listing on the AskART website. Otherwise, information is scant.


1899 John (Crampton) Nichols is born in Maywood, Illinois [AskART];

1923? (approx.) Nichols graduates from Amherst College [AskART];

1920s? Nichols continues his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, in New York with the Art Students League, and in Santa Fe with Raymond Jonson;
1920s Nichols "hobnobbs" in Woodstock, NY (art colony) with John Carroll, Speicher, Zorach, Kuniyoshi, and "that gang" [Letters, p. 74]; "he had a shack in Woodstock for a long time" [Letters, p. 103];

1930 (OCT 26/27) Henry Miller mentions in a letter to Emil Schnellock that Nichols "has arrived" in Paris [Letters, p. 66]. Nichols visits the Louvre in Paris every day to study the masters [ibid, p. 74]. Miller and Nichols become friends as Miller poses for his paintings;

1932 Nichols returns to America [Letters, p.103];

1934 Nichols works is given the "Most Promising [Of] The Year" award by the Woodstock Art Association (Keith Memorial Prize) [ArtASK; Nichols' work seen above];

1936 Nichols is included in the Museum Of Modern Art's "New Horizons in American Art" show, in which Williem de Kooning also showed [ArtASK];

1940s onward? Nichols is an art educator [ArtASK];

1963 Nichols dies [AskART];


Throughout his letters to Emil, Miller offers glowing descriptions of Nichols (as seen in blue above). Even when he knocks his weakest efforts, Miller still acts as a John Nichols supporter: "And though sometimes his paintings are so putrid, so vile and amateurish, so weak and wobbly as to make me burst out in laughter, I know that other things of his are on the finest level and they fill me with reverence and awe." [Letters, p. 74]

According to Miller, Nichols has some "original dope" on Cezanne, he's a "great Renoir man" and extols the work of Rubens, but "hasn't much use for Picasso." "Warm, human personality, thinker, artist, scholar, sensualist--and has a private income! Therein lies his great blessing. He has time to do what he wants. Painting can wait on him. He holds the future in his hands." [Letters, p.75].

As for physical description, Miller paints him this way: "Dark glasses, ruddy beard, funny shirts, loud ties" [Letters, p.66]. Then, two years later: "He has a big red beard and silver-rimmed glasses, wears fireman's underwear and is always well bundled up." [Letters, p.103].

In Henry Miller: A Life, Ferguson provides an anecdote in which Miller gets into a fight with flatmate Richard Osborn over the way Osborn treats Nichols (he interrupted him). [Life, p. 178]. Mary Dearborn's Happiest Man Alive refers to a memoir written by Osborn, in which he describes the two men as having a "mutual admiration," "regard[ing] each other as geniuses." [Happiest, p.131].

Despite their great rapport, Miller didn't bother to see Nichols off when he left for the U.S. in the Fall of 1932. He wrote rather flippantly about it in a letter to Anais Nin a year later: "... my good friend Nichols [may have felt] injured vanity--because I, who was really his most cherished companion in Paris, did not even bother to say good-bye to him, or to run with the crowd to see him off, or to say, 'write me a line when you get back.' 'So long,' I said breezily, the last time we met, as though, well, if I never see you again, it was a pleasant time we had, but nothing to be conserved as a treasure."[A Literate Passion, p. 197].

It doesn't appear the Miller and Nichols stayed in touch after this point, though he did recommend his New York friends to seek him out.


Henry's portrait was painted in his apartment at 2 rue Auguste Bartholdi, Paris. At the time, he had grown a beard.

"Yes, I have a full-grown beard now, mostly dark red, but peppered with gray and white. The concierge doesn't like it at all, and my laundry woman says every time we meet: 'C'est pas beau, monsieur. Vous etes vieilli' ['It makes you look old']--or something like that. But it's my beard and I'm very proud of it. It's untrimmed, you know, and in a few more weeks I'll be another Dostoevski. I can't stand these Montparnasse beards--they look so damned artificial." [Letters, p.71].

In a letter to Schnellock dated February 16, 1931, Miller mentions that Nichols is coming by to put the "finishing touches" on the portrait. He decsribes the near-completed work like this: " I think it is a Renoir, with 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, p. 71]

If anyone knows of the existence of this painting, please let me know.


In his Letters To Emil, Miller makes mention of Nichols' "wife," Frances Wood (nee Ginsburg; seen in a 1932 self-portrait, at left). Comparing this reference to this on-line biography of Wood, it seems her relationship with Nichols was not a married one.

In a letter dated March 10, 1931, Miller says that both Nichols and Wood are working on new portraits of him. "Francie slapping the canvas, a la Titian, until it sings with her bludgeon strokes." [Letters, p. 78].

A chronology of Wood's life and photos of her may be found here.


"If he was not a genius he was certainly an eccentric, this caustic Irishman." -- Henry Miller on John Nichols as 'Mark Swift' in in Tropic Of Cancer, p. 191.

Of course, being an acquaintance of Henry Miller during this fertile Paris period means that Nichols was characterized in Miller's Tropic Of Cancer. In it, he is called Mark Swift; his lover is simply refered to as a "Jewess," and is clearly Frances Wood. On pages 191-193, he decsribes a contentious relationship about to crack: "he was now tired of her and was searching for a pretext to get rid of her." Miller gives an unflattering portrait of two critical, competing artists; Nichols/Swift seems to be using her, and Miller focuses on Wood/the "Jewess's" imperfect body.

On pages 221-222, Miller specifically mentions the Nichols portrait of him. He states that Nichols is the one to encourage him to grow a beard. The final product is decsribed like this:

"I had to sit by the window with the Eiffel Tower in back of me because he wanted the Eiffel Tower in the picture too. He also wanted the typewriter in the picture [...] [T]here was Swift's portrait of me stuck on the easel now, and though everything was out of proportion, even a cabinet minister could see it was a human head, a man with a beard. " [Tropic Of Cancer, p. 221].