Thursday, 19 January 2012

Always Merry and Bright

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller

I loved Henry Miller at one point in my life, when he turned up to lift my spirits and give me courage.

"What we all hope in reaching for a book, is to meet a man of our own heart, to experience tragedies and delights which we ourselves lack the courage to invite, to dream dreams which will render life more hallucinating, perhaps also to discover a philosophy of life which will make us more adequate in meeting the trials and ordeals which beset us. To merely add to our store of knowledge or improve our culture, whatever that may mean, seems worthless to me".
Henry Miller

So I would always defend his reputation, especially when confronted by people who dismiss his work without having actually read any of it - just based on rumours and a bad reputation.

In the 70s he got accused of misogyny, for instance, by Feminists - but if Erica Jong loves him enough to write a memoir/biography (The Devil At Large), and Anaïs Nin remained a close friend, perhaps you might consider him worth another look.

Not that I care to promote him - the world remains full of books you and I may never read. I'll just keep him as my little secret treasure.

His position in challenging censorship stays valid, surely - a successful battle - and one from which we all still benefit (if you don't mind reality). In many ways he broke ground for the later Beats, for instance.
Brenda Venus and Henry Miller

Like I said, his particular form of Gonzo autobiography may simply no longer appeal to people, but I have a soft spot for his philosophical musings, and other stuff. Hey ho, but you may still have trouble finding his books in your library.

Check out some online resources:

Henry Miller: personal collection (a site by his daughter)

The Henry Miller Library (in Big Sur) You can buy his books here.

Always Merry and Bright - an unauthorized biography, by Jay Martin


  1. It does seem a trifle odd of the NY Times to get Jeannette Winterson to review a book about Henry Miller.
    I realise that feminists have pointed him out as a chauvinist, misogynist, etc. I think this is (to some extent) based on the misunderstanding that the books are entirely autobiographical, rather than (as with so many books) only partly based on reality. People who knew him at the time deny that he was a completely lazy flaneur but displayed quite a lot of ambition and energy. That he sometimes survived by writing porn (with Anaïs Nin) only indicates what his audience were like, really, but hey. I don't plan to defend him, except to point out how different everyone was in The Thirties, for instance. It seems extraordinary, some of the casual racism, anti-Semitism and sexism of the period, but that typifies the time, not just Henry. IMHO.
    I guess the wrath created by the casual approach to life of the narrator blinds many readers to any other qualities of the writing. Bukowski seems more scurrilous to me.
    Oh, and here's the podcast version.

  2. writing a past time. Yo. I'm reading my first book by Miller...what a genius and what a visionary...he wrote porn?...with a woman? far out...I wish he,d been my grand dad. thx.