Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 24 to 30

24.0 Henry and John Stymer finish dinner at the Italian restaurant. Stymer convinces Henry to drive out to Long Island with him to meet Belle, his "nymphomaniac" mistress. It's a long drive due to car malfunctions and the cold. Stymer continues to dominate the conversation, with topics such as immortality, living death, sex, and "playing the game" of life.

Belle is not there when they arrive. Henry is invited to stay the night, though Stymer keeps him from sleep through ceaseless conversation. Stymer admits to Henry that he'd asked Belle to leave the house so that he could proposition Henry with an idea: ditch their wives, move to South America, and live off of Stymer's savings while Henry writes books based on Stymer's stories about the people he'd met during his years in the justice system.

24.1 "Wanted to know if I had done any writing yet."
Stymer seguays from his self-description of being a "mind with a prick attached to it" to asking Henry if he's been writing. Miller answers that he has not been writing. Stymer then makes a few observations about Miller:
a) RE: his listening skills: "I know that you're vitally disinterested. It's not me, John Stymer, that interests you, it's what I tell you, or the way I tell it to you."
b) RE: his evasiveness: "... I know in advance you won't give me the right answers. You're shadowboxer" .... "I can't imagine what you deal in, unless it's air."

25.1 Long Island
The New York island on which Brooklyn and Queens may be found, as well as the more suburban and rural Nassau and Suffolk (i.e the Hamptons). Stymer's non-so-secret young lover Belle lives on Long Island; he convinces Henry to come along for a drive to meet her. Long Island is approximately 120 miles long; Belle's place is 60-miles from the New York City limits. It takes them three hours just to reach Long Island, because the cold necessitates visits to garages along the way. While on Long Island, they make frequent stops to warm up.

25.2 Strega
Stymer mentions bringing a gift of wine and of Strega (an 80-proof Italian herbal liqueur invented in 1860) to Belle.

26.1 “To fear is not to sow because of the birds.”
Stymer quotes this "Oriental saying" in order to criticize himself for having "never lived." I couldn't find a source for this quote, except that it does appear to be a Zen proverb (see Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics, by R.H. Blyth, publ 1942). It seems to be more frequently quoted as "fear not to sow because of the birds" (for example, on this headstone in Ohio.) It must have been around for a while, because this aphorism was apparently chiseled in Latin onto a bird bath from a school built in the U.K. in 1874.

27.1 "It's not so terrible to spend your life in prison ... if you have an active mind."
This said by Stymer, after mentioning the Marquis de Sade [see 23.2/3]. The Marquis did most of his writing while incarcerated in prisons and asylums for most of his life. Stymer believe we are all "self-made prisoners" playing roles without courageously engaging the mind.

28.1 a double dose of benzedrine
Belle grew tired of waiting (so the note says) and is not at the house. Stymer offers that Henry stay the night. Henry tries to get some sleep, but Stymer keeps talking. Henry finds himself "electrified" by his words, as if he'd just taken benzedrine.

Benzedrine amphetamines were invented to help clear nasal passages, but the stimulating side-effects turned it into a recreational drug ("bennies") The use of the term here seems to be an anarchronism of sorts. The drug was patented in 1928: this pre-dates both the present-tense of the novel (1926) and certainly the flashback scene of the Stymer anecdote (1917/18).
28.2 Stymer's wife
Stymer complains about his wife to Henry: a) she bores him to death; b) he hasn't heard an intelligent word from her in 20 years; c) she "turned [him] into a masturbator" [see 22.1]; d) he's so sick of her that the idea of sex with her makes him "ill."

Stymer states that he's contemplating murder: "I've decided to do away with my wife." His reason for not just getting a divorce: "Why support a lump of clay for the rest of my life?" He wants to get out of the country, and asks Henry to join him.

28.3 Henry's wife
Henry's first response for not taking up the offer is: "But I've got a wife too!" At the time of this anecdote, this would have been Beatrice Wickens, whom he'd married in June 1917. "Though I haven't much use for her, I don't see myself doing her in just to run off somewhere with you." Stymer offers to help Miller with an easy divorce, but Henry is "not interested." "Not even if you could provide another woman for me. I have my own plans."

29.1 "crazy adventure"
This is how Miller describes Stymer's plan to run off together to Costa Rica or Nicaragua, where they would embark on a writing partnership (described above in the summary). Listening to the plan, Henry hasn't the "slightest fear" that he'll be tempted to go, "but I thought it only decent top pretend to draw him out."

Stymer continues talking for another few pages, but Miller decided to insert a paragraph break in the middle of page 30, just as Stymer takes a drink of ice water.

<--- Previous page 23 . . . . Next pages 31-33 --->


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your careful study into Henry. I'll be back often to see how your research goes.

8:57 am  
Blogger Onny Wiranda said...

hmm. i agree with deanna. i should have bought that henry miller's nexus. ur study can be a good partner in discussing miller's work. i know henry miller from anais nin's diaries and journals.

4:00 am  
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