Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 61, 62

61.0 Continuing from page 60, Henry’s young, troubled acquaintance Curley and his pal come back to the apartment to go through Stasia’s personal belongings in her messy room. A potentially incriminating note is found from Mona to Stasia. The two young men fuss over putting Stasia’s room back in order.

61.1 the paintings
On page 55, Henry talks about a portrait Stasia makes of him. On page 60 [see 60.10], he talks about borrowing her paint and brushes. On page 61, we see further evidence that Stasia [Jean Kronski] was a visual artist, whose works were displayed inside the apartment. The moment the light in the basement apartment is switched on, Curley and friend jump at the sight: “[Curley’s] friend pretended to be frightened by the paintings. He couldn’t take his eyes off them.”

61.2 booby hatch
Curley’s friend claims to recognize the type of art—he’s seen the likes of them before “in the booby hatch.” A booby hatch has come to mean a mental hospital. A full etymological history is provided on the website Grammarphobia, which explains that a “booby” originally meant a fool or dunce. Interestingly, in explaining when the word “booby” came to be slang for a woman’s breast, the article refers to the Oxford English Dictionary as it cites Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer with the earliest reference ("boobies," p.111). However, the Online Etymological Dictionary states that “boobs” came into the language in 1929, and was likely derived from late 17th century references to boobies.

But breasts are not relevant in this case. The connection being made to Stasia and mental hospitals on page 61 has been established several times already in Nexus, starting at 8.26, 10.1 and elsewhere.

61.3 jimmy
I think most people recognize this word as meaning an object that is used to pry open, or used to manipulate a lock so that it opens without a proper key (see etymonline). This is what Curley’s friend uses on a big trunk of Stasia’s found under her toilet box, and again on a little iron casket found inside. On page 62, Curley will refer to his friend as a “thief,” which explains how he happens to have a jimmy with him.

61.4 billets-doux
Once the small iron casket is removed from Stasia’s trunk and opened, the three men are confronted with a “heap of billets-doux—from friends unknown.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary translates this from French as “sweet letters” (or love letters), a term dating from 1673. Henry recognizes the handwriting of one of these letters as belonging to Mona. The letter opens, “Desperate, my lover…”

61.5 supposedly been flushed down the toilet
It’s curious that Miller comments that this letter from Mona had “supposedly been flushed down the toilet.” It would be easy to recognize paper that had been wet, but how could he know it had been in a toilet? A few days earlier, Miller had discovered bits of a torn envelope in the toilet [p.52], so perhaps he’s making his conclusion based on that. Curley tells Henry to hold onto the letter, because he “may need it later on.”

<---- Previous Page 60 . Next pages 62, 63 ---->

Monday, September 07, 2009

Tropic Of Cancer: 75th Anniversary

“TROPIC OF CANCER is, therefore, strong meat and not for the unripe intelligence. It cannot usefully be attacked or defended: it must be accepted or denied. In no work hitherto has been seen such a remorseless description of thwarted appetites and unappeased desires.”
-- Obelisk Press publicity leaflet for Tropic Of Cancer [1]

The general media may acknowledge the 75th anniversary of Tropic Of Cancer in the year 2036, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the publication of the novel in the United States in 1961. However, 2009 marks the 75th anniversary of the first pressing of Miller’s controversial masterpiece. In fact, it was 75 years ago this month, in September 1934, when the Tropic Of Cancer first edition became available in Paris.

Shifreen and Jackson’s Henry Miller: A Bibliography of Primary Sources (Vol. 1) codes the first edition of Cancer as “A9a.” It details that the book was published by the Obelisk Press (338 Rue Saint-Honoré) in Paris, and was physically printed in a batch of 1,000 by Lecram Press. Each copy sold for 50 francs and displayed the written warnings: “NOT TO BE IMPORTED INTO GREAT BRITAIN OR U.S.A.” and “MUST NOT BE TAKEN INTO GREAT BRITAIN OR U.S.A.” For each copy sold, Miller earned a 15-franc royalty.

In honour of this anniversary, I provide the following links to items (on this blog and elsewhere) regarding this classic Miller novel:

THE PHYSICAL BOOK: image of the pictoral cover, as well as the customized half-leather box it apparently came in. From Manhattan Rare Books.

THE COVER ARTWORK: notes about the cover and its young artist, Maurice Girodias.

THE PUBLISHER: overview of Jack Kahane and his Obelisk Press in Paris.

WHO'S WHO: list of the real people who are portayed as pseudonyms.

ORIGINAL FIRST DRAFT PAGES: at the Beinecke Library.

THE CHOICE OF TITLE: the meanings behind the title, Tropic of Cancer.

MILLER'S HOME AT TIME OF PUBLICATION: he moved in the day that Cancer was published.

TIMELINE OF THE NOVEL: 15 moments in the life of the novel (with emphasis on the first few steps leading to its creation and publication).

THE FILM ADAPTATION: the making of the 1970 film version.

THE HATER: Judge Michael Musmanno's quotes reflect the opinon of those who are offended by the novel.

THE PEDDLER: Eve Adams sells Cancer at Parisian cafes.

THE BLOG TOUR: takes you on a then-and-now tour of Miller's Paris, as portrayed in the novel.

THE MONETARY VALUE: the cost of a fist edition (note: visit the Manhattan Rare Books link above to see the current value).

THE COMPREHENSIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY: everything you ever wanted to know about every edition of Tropic Of Cancer.

THE SEARCHABLE TEXT: Cancer is available on Google Books, where you can read selected pages and do a word search...yes, even the naughty words.

[1] The entire single-page publicity leaf is re-printed in Karl Orend’s On the 70th Anniversary of Tropic of Cancer (Alyscamps Press, 2004). It appears to be the same text printed on the inside flap of the original novel (see image at the top of thhis post).