Sunday, November 30, 2008

Miller in Yale's Beinecke Library

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library was opened at Yale University in 1963. The Beinecke Library "contains the principal rare books and literary manuscripts of Yale University and serves as a center for research by students, faculty, and other scholars, whether affiliated with Yale or not." (source:Beinecke Library-About the Building). In it, a few Miller items can be found.
1. Tropic of Cancer, original corrected typescript title page and first page.
From the Frederick R. Koch Collection: the original title page of Tropic of Cancer, on which Miller has scracthed out the title "Capricorn" for "Cancer." Signed "Anonymous," Miller includes his handwritten address in Clichy (circa 1932). The original first page of Tropic Of Cancer contains Miller's hand-made corrections on the typewritten page. The text includes direct references to Michael Fraenkel, later to be veiled under the psuedonym "Boris."

2. Henry Miller with friends at Sommiers, July 24, 1959.
A photograph of Miller with freinds, taken by Hilda Doolittle at Sommiers on July 24, 1959. A cropped version of this photo is below. From left to right: Richard Aldington, Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, F.J. Temple. Miller had just finsihed Nexus three months earlier, and left for an extended stay in Europe immediately afterwards. He would return to his home in Big Sur about three weeks after the picture was taken.

3. Henry Miller at his desk at Big Sur, March 18, 1945.
The photograph of Miller at Big Sur in 1945 contains its own description, handwritten on the back by Miller: "This is a poor snapshot of your humble Zen disciple at work in his Sanctum at Big Sur. Looks like a classroom, no? Henry Miller 3/18/45." This photo was donated to Yale in 1951 from "Henry (sic) Peyre." Henri Peyre is referenced by Miller in his Books in My Life, p.19: he was a professor of the French Department at Yale. He was an acquaintance of Wallace Fowlie, who'd written to Miller on December 28, 1943 to mention that Peyre was an "excellent critic" who "thinks highly of your books ... He may write to you." [1] A friendship was to later follow; Peyre proved to be someone with whom Miller could share his new enthusiasm for Rimbaud.

Miller had moved to Big Sur in 1944. He may have been working on Sexus in this photo (which he'd complete later this year) or perhaps he was hammering out a (later aborted) translation of Rimbaud's Season in Hell. His daughter Valentine had been conceived about a month before this photo. [2]

The above photo has been cropped from the original, which may be viewed in full and at a large scale so that you can admire Henry's 1940s California decor. Love those curtains, Henry.



[1] Letters of Henry Miller and Wallace Fowlie, 1943-1972; p.27. [2] See Miller's own biographical timeline posted at the Big Sur Memorial Library website.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life Magazine Photo Archive

Last week, the vast photo archive of Life magazine went online in an arrangement with Google. Life began in 1936. Its large-format photo journalism has spawned many iconic images of the 20th century. The magazine folded in 2000 but was revived as a newspaper supplement until April 2007. The entire archive of 10-million photographs will be posted online by early 2009, but millions of images are already available through a search at Google Images (and soon, at the Life website).

Henry Miller appears in two photo sets. In the first, he is shown riding a bicycle with his children Tony and Valentine at Big Sur in 1958. The second set features Miller in Paris during the filming of Tropic Of Cancer in 1969.

Photographer J.R. Eyerman’s first Life magazine photographs were published in 1938 (Eyerman bio: Image Museum). In 1942, he joined Life as a staff photographer, and spent much of the following years covering the war, often from the decks of U.S. navy ships. In 1958, 51-year old Eyerman was working out of Life’s Los Angeles office. About 200 miles north of L.A., the small community of Big Sur was developing a reputation as an artist colony. The previous year, in 1957, Life’s parent company, Time, had reviewed Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, calling Miller Big Sur’s “leading prophet and pressagent” (Miller articles in Time). In 1958, Eyerman was sent to Big Sur to document this burgeoning community in a photo essay.

“Rugged, Romantic World Apart: Creative Colony Finds a Haven in California's Big Sur” appeared in the July 6, 1959 issue of Life magazine (p.56-63; photo of cover: 2Neat Magazines). Besides Miller, the essay featured other Big Sur artists such as Harry Dick Ross, Eric Barker and Giles Healey (ref: 2Neat Magazines; Ebay; Jeffers Studies). Eyerman captured 66-year old Miller on a bicycle ride with his children Valentine (age 12) and Tony (age 9 or 10, depending on the exact date of the photo). Miller had been a lifelong bicycle enthusiast, so these images are fitting.

This cropped image (1958, © Time Inc) available in full: Life/Google image search.
Henry Miller and his kids on bikes, 1958: 3 photo set.

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was made into a movie in 1969. During the summer that year, Henry arrived at the Paris set of Tropic as a consultant. Italian photographer Carlo Bavagnoli (bio: Sardegna Tourismo) was 37 years old in 1969. He’d been working between Milan and New York for much of his career, and lately Paris. He’d been working commissions for Life magazine since at least 1958. (extensive gallery of Bavagnoli photos: Getty Images)

Miller with woman in Paris, 1969. © Time Inc
At some point during Miller’s two months in Paris in 1969, Bavagnoli captured Miller socializing on the set of Joseph Strick’s Tropic of Cancer set. These include a couple of shots of Miller standing next to actor Rip Torn (in a housecoat), who portrayed Miller in the film. Ten of these photos are available in the Life photo archive, including the one above in which Miller listens to an unidentified woman.

Miller on the set of Tropic of Cancer in Paris, 1969: 10 photo set.

I can’t find a listing anywhere that suggests that this commissioned photo essay ever made the cut in any issue of Life. I even tried a keyword search for “Henry Miller” at a Life magazine content database, and the only things I get for the 1969-1971 period is reference to a photo in which Miller appears with Irving Wallace and author Jeanne Rejaunier (1969) and Miller’s essay “Picasso At 90,” which appeared in the October 29, 1971 issue of Life.

According to Time/Warner, 97% of the photos in the Life archive have “never been seen by the public” (according to this recent AFP newswire article). Framed prints of these photographs may be ordered for $79.99 and up; just click on the appropriate link on the right-hand side of each photograph.

Read my post about Henry’s return to Paris for the making of Strick’s film version of Tropic of Cancer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Plexus On The Blacklist

In the early 1950s, Henry Miller pondered whether he should self-censor his novel Plexus or face yet another battle with state censorship. As his recent Sexus had proven, it was not just the United States wielding the big black marker—it was England, Japan, and even France.

Miller was feeling the heat of censorship in the 1950s. In the “Preface” to Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (1957), Miller laments that the majority of his books are still banned in America. “As to how and where to get the banned books, the simplest way would be to make a raid on the customs house of any of our ports of entry.”

Amongst the blacklisted titles in the States were Sexus (1949) and Plexus (1952): parts One and Two of what would become The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy. Sexus in particular created quite a stir. Barely cooled from the printing presses, copies were seized almost immediately upon publication in 1949, even in the (theoretically) more liberal France, where Tropic of Cancer had first been published in 1934. Sexus is at present forbidden to be published—in any language!—in France,” wrote Miller in 1957. [1]

Despite the Sexus controversy in France, Parisian publisher Editions Correa was the first to print Plexus. It came out as a French translation in 1952, in tentative run of 100 copies [2]. In August that year, Miller had no idea if he’d ever see an English edition in France (not to mention the U.S.) [3]. Early the following year, 1953, he received an offer from Maurice Girodias to publish an original English edition of Plexus in France [4]. Released in April 1953 [5], it became the first title under the brand new imprint, Olympia Press [6]; a brave move by Girodias, whose previous publishing house, Obelisk Press, was responsible for releasing Sexus in France, and suffered ruin from the resultant legal troubles. [6]

Plexus was first published in English as a two-volume set, in a batch of 2,000 copies each [5]. The books were not yanked from booksellers’ shelves in France, but were still not legally available in America. A year later, on April 2, 1954, Miller issued a advertising letter to various prospective buyers in the U.S., announcing that there were still “a few hundred copies of the Olympia Press two volume edition of Plexus still available from the publisher in Paris.” Miller had no way to guarantee that the ordered copies would pass through U.S. Customs without being confiscated, so he offered to sell copies on an honour system: if processed through him, he would make sure that a post-paid copy was mailed out to the customer from Paris. If seized, the client would not have to pay for the book he did not receive (otherwise, $10 was expected to me mailed to Henry V Miller, Big Sur, California). The option was available to order directly from the publisher, but, in this case, a pre-payment was required but no refunds offered if the book was collected by Customs. In the letter, Miller also warns readers that (quoting Roger Jackson's summary) “he has reason to believe that it will be [banned in France] in the near future.” [7]

(A copy of this letter is currently in the collection of the Alderman Memorial Library at the University of Virginia, and is listed by Shifreen & Jackson as A89).

It appears that the central problem that the American ‘moral guardians’ had with Plexus related to a particular sexual scene. Miller suggests this in a letter to New Directions publisher James Laughlin on February 8, 1955: “I don’t want to cut words and phrases here and there—just those pages dealing with Ulric and his former schoolteacher—somewhere along the middle of the book” [8]

On page 380 of Plexus, Miller friend Emil Schnellock, under the pseudonym “Ulric,” tells a story about having sex with his former high-school teacher, Miss Barinsfeather, a few years after graduation. Ulric runs through the sexual acts that he and Miss B indulged in, as he attempted to satisfy an unending erection. The sexual references are explicit.

A few days after writing to Laughlin, Miller received a planned visit from Huntington Cairns. Cairns was the U.S. federal censor, but also a literary man who had developed relationships with a few controversial writers, including Henry Miller. “I am going to speak to him about Plexus,” wrote Miller, “whether, if the two or three offending pages were cut, he thinks it might safely be published here.” [8]

Miller did not like the idea of a “castrated” edition of Plexus [9], but, with most of his books unavailable for sale, he welcomed a “good sale” where he could get it. But it was more complicated than just a few pages of sexual bragging from Ulric’s mouth. During his visit with Henry, Cairns made him aware that the Post Office authorities were “very much opposed” to him, as a person, as a concept. They would do everything they could to stop the distribution of his work. Plexus was already on a list of banned books and would combed over, word by word. “I would not only have to delete long passages (several pages), but words and phrases, here and there.” And there was still no guarantee that they would not object to broader content, like his tone or purpose. “I don’t trust them!” [9]

“I grow more and more pessimistic with respect to these books. The climate ere is not improving, that’s a cinch.” [10]

Plexus remained banned in the U.S. until August 10, 1961 [11], after which time it could be legally imported. The first (authorized) American edition was finally published--unexpurgated--by Grove Press in 1965 [12].
[1] Miller, Henry. 1957. Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch. "Preface."; [2] Shifreen, Lawrence, and Roger Jackson. 1993. Henry Miller: A Bibliography of Primary Sources, Vol. 1: A83a, p. 254; [3] Miller, Henry, and Anais Nin. 1987. A Literate Passion. Letter from Miller, Aug 2, 1952; p. 392; [4] ibid, Feb 10, 1953 - p.393; [5] Shifreen & Jackson, Biblio Vol 1: A83b, A83c; p. 255; [6] Gaétan Brulotte, and John Phillips. 2006. Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. CRC Press, 2006; p.978; [7] Shifreen & Jackson, Biblio Vol.1: A89, p. 278. With details from the University of Virginia source linked above; [8] Miller, Henry, and James Laughlin. 1996. Henry Miller and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. George Wickes, ed.; Feb 2, 1953 - p.100; [9] ibid, March 15, 1955 - p. 101; [10] ibid, April 6, 1955 - p.104; [11] Hutchison, E.R. 1968. Tropic of Cancer on Trial. Evergreen, 1969; p. 60; [12] Shifreen & Jackson, Biblio Vol.1: A83o - p.263.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Talking Cinema With Madame Dulac

When Henry Miller managed to meet surrealist filmmaker Germaine Dulac in Paris in 1930, it seemed like he might find a job in French cinema, or perhaps secure a starring role for his wife, June. But Dulac was too busy adjusting to the advent of motion picture sound to be of any benefit to Henry or June.

38-year old Henry Miller had been only been in Paris for two months [1], but was already deeply involving himself in everything the city had to offer, including cinema. At 4 Square Rapp, near the Eiffel Tower, Henry would bring his American ear to listen to the French intelligentsia discuss the cinematic arts [2]. In that first month in Paris, he was excited by an impressionistic short film by Germaine Dulac called Thème et variation (1929), with what he viewed as sexual-industrial imagery [3]. Around this time he also watched Dulac’s 1922 film, La Souriante Madame Beudet [4], which he would later list as one of the most remarkable films he’d ever seen [5]. Henry immediately sent a letter of appreciation to Mme. Dulac, with veiled hope that she might also prove to be a beneficial connection to Parisian artistic circles: “If that woman would pay me $15 a week I would go work for her. I would be proud to assist in the production of such films as she turns out.” [6]

A still from Theme et variation (1929). Excerpt viewable at Daily Motion.
By 1930, Germaine Dulac (1882-1942) was a feminist activist and editor, cinema critic, lecturer, and filmmaker. She was also a champion of “pure cinema,” young filmmakers, and film appreciation, as proven by her status as Director of the French Federation of Cineclubs [7]. La coquille et le clergyman (1927) is considered by some as the first French surrealist film [8]. Unbeknownst to Miller, Dulac, age 47, was nearing the end of her fictional filmmaking career in 1930. It was this year that French film became dominated by the use of sound [7]. Although this suggested the death of cinema as a purely visual spectacle, Dulac was starting to see film sound as a potential tool for factual documentary [9]. In fact, she was beginning a new career as a producer of newsreels [7/9] around the time that she met Henry Miller on May 16, 1930 [10].

Two stills from La coquille et le clergyman. The film may be viewed on UBU.
“How I ever got to Madame Delorme’s, I can’t imagine any more,” wrote Miller of Dulac as Madame Delorme, in a brief cameo in Tropic of Cancer. “But I got there, got inside somehow, past the butler, past the maid with her little white apron, got right inside the palace with my corduroy trousers and my hunting jacket—and not a button on my fly” (p.15). It is pretty impressive how a penniless American with little French speaking skills managed to be invited to call upon an esteemed queen of cinema. But it was Henry’s Americanism that opened the door to the “golden ambiance” of Dulac’s book-lined study, with her goldfish and antique maps [11].

The mannish “grand Lesbienne” [6] showed kindness to Henry, resting her “heavy hand” on his shoulder [11] and treating him “like a brick” [12]. “The Americans have broken new ground in making films with sound,” declared Dulac to Miller, plying him with questions about the “talkies” he’d seen in New York [13]. It seemed that Mme. Dulac had plans to direct her first speaking film in English. Thinking of his wife June, who was still back in New York and was trying to get a break in Theatre, Henry did his best to sell the idea of a great American actress named June Mansfield to Germaine Dulac, to star in her next production [13]. A few months later, June would sail back to Paris on the assumption that a great opportunity awaited her in the world of French cinema. [14]

“I succeeded in getting a promise for [June] of a job in the first English talkie to be directed by Mme. Germaine Dulac. But that won’t be until January at least,” wrote Miller on October 23, 1930 [15]. But June had already come and gone when he wrote this, after a volatile three-week visit with Henry in Paris. She could see that there was no film project waiting for her. The emptiness of that hopeful promise could not sustain June, who was broke and disillusioned [16]. Nothing more ever came of the acquaintance between Miller and Dulac.

In August 1934, Miller moved into an apartment on Villa Seurat that had recently been occupied by Antonin Artaud, who happened to be the writer of the Dulac-directed La coquille et le clergyman.

Although some of Dulac's 1930/31 short films contained elements of fantasy, her fictional film career was over. She continued to produce newsreels for Gaumont-Franco-Films-Aubert (GFFA), until eventually (1932) going into business doing the same for her own freelance branch of Gaumont, France-Actualités [7]. She died of a heart-attack in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1942 [9].
[1] Miller, Henry. 1989. Letters to Emil. George Wickes, ed. New Directions, 1989; p.15: he arrived there on March 4, 1930; [2] ibid, p.31; [3] ibid, p.32: Henry writes about the juxtaposition of female dancer and a huge piston rod, "thoroughly greased"; [4] Martin, Jay. Always Merry And Bright, p. 192; [5] Miller, Henry. 1938. "The Golden Age." The Cosmological Eye (1939), p. 51; [6] Letters to Emil, p.52 (letter: May 10, 1930); [7] Kershaw, Angela, and Angela Kimyongür. Women in Europe Between the Wars. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007; pp.172-175; [8] For example, at A lot of internet sources list this as being made in 1928, but both IMDB and, more importantly, France's cinema archive lists this as being 1927 (that year, it was banned in the U.K. for being incomprehensible. And probably because there are bare breasts. And a priest who is lusting after them; [9] Dulac saw the educational possibilities of covering social issues for a wide audience; [10] In a letter to Emil from May 10, 1930 (p.52) he mentions that he is going to see Dulac "Friday next week." By referencing a calendar from May 1930, I can see this is the 16th; [11] Tropic Of Cancer, p.15. According to Jay Martin's Always Merry, apparently referencing portions of Henry's May 10 letter to Emil that has not been published, he "vowed he would have a room like this himself." (p.193); [12] Ferguson, Robert. Henry Miller: A Life. Ferguson presents this as a quote, but doesn't list his source (probably from the same unpublished portion as Martin); [13] Always Merry and Bright, p.193; [14] ibid, p.213; [15] Letters to Emil, p.63 (OCt 23, 1930); Always Merry, pp. 213-215.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Annotated Nexus - Page 54

54.0 During a rare bonding moment with Henry, Stasia shares her observations about, and concern for, Mona.

54.1 her brothers or her mother or her sister
Stasia asks Henry is he’s ever met Mona’s siblings. Stasia understands that Mona “hates” her sister, possibly because “[s]he claims her sister is far more beautiful than she is.”

According to Ellis Island immigration papers, June (Mona) had an older brother, Herman, and two younger brothers, Sigmund and Ignatz (a.k.a Edward, with whom she would live with or nearby during her grey-haired years in Arizona). June’s big sister Gustava was also the eldest child. Later in Nexus, on p. 146, Henry will see photographs of Gustava, and will confirm that she “was even more beautiful than Mona, no gainsaying it.”

54.2 You’ve seen her on the stage
Henry nods when Stasia asks if he’s ever seen Mona on stage before. “She doesn’t strike me as an actress,” observes Stasia, noting that it doesn’t “fit” with her; it’s just another “huge fabrication” of her character.

June (Mona) did some acting in New York, late in1923. While working at Wilson’s, she had met someone affiliated with the Theatre Guild, who arranged an audition for her. She won a spot as an understudy in Saint Joan. Miller wrote about June’s theatre experience in Sexus (see. pp. 376 + 409). [1]

54.3 this gold-digging
Here, Statsia suggests that Henry out a stop to Mona’s gold-digging because she appears to “dig at someone just to awaken interest in herself,” and not for financial gain. Stasia finds it "disgusting." See notes at 51.1 regarding Mona’s gold-digging.

54.4 Ricardo
Stasia explains how Mona humiliates the men who show her any “real interest.” “Even poor Ricardo had to be tortured; she had him squirming like an eel.”

Ricardo was one of many to lavish attention on Mona. He first makes an appearance in Plexus (pp. 592, 593, 595, 597), and is described as a married Cuban philosopher of metaphysics who loves his wife and kids; “extremely poor but made lavish gifts.” He was quiet, sober, kind, gentle, and tender, yet every time he escorted Mona to the subway upon her departure, he would solemnly state, “If I can’t have you, nobody will. I will kill you.” Mona thinks Ricardo’s gentle nature makes this threat a joke, but Henry shows concern about this man’s fixation on her. Mona acknowledges in Sexus that she doesn’t show Ricardo any attention, and barely listens to him, but still insists that he and Henry are both “pure souls” who need to be protected from the world.

Later in Nexus (p. 65) Henry will meet Ricardo when he is invited to the apartment for Christmas.

54.5 take a job
Stasia continues by telling the unemployed Henry that he could save Mona if he were to “take a job” and bring home a wage so that she wouldn’t need to gold-dig. Henry does not comment on this suggestion, but soon after, on p 77, he announces that he’s going to start looking for a job soon after the Christmas holidays.

54.8 that horrible place
What would Henry’s paying job save Mona from? Going to “that horrible place every night [to] listen to all those filthy-mouthed creatures who fawn over her.” I’m not exactly sure where this specific location is meant to be, but it’s likely in Greenwich Village. It’s probably that same place where the two women put on pseudo-lesbian shows (see p.51).
<----- Previous pages 52-53 .... Next pages 55-56 ----->
REFERENCES: [1] See Martin's Always Merry and Bright, p. 93-94, and Ferguson's Henry Miller: A Life, p.94-95.