I recently discovered the following subject while searching through the bookshelves at the Little Rock Barnes and Noble: Henry Miller. Nowadays, Miller is seldom brought up in conversation, adding his name to literary pantheon of great dead writers who only enjoy praise in literary circles.
A couple of months ago, I read a book by my favorite author, Jack Kerouac, entitled “Big Sur.” The novel deals with the aftermath stemming from Kerouac’s new “On the Road,” fame, presenting a character struggling to partake in all the activities he once loved as a young man while keeping a distance between his life and his writing career, to no avail. I only mention Kerouac because that was the first time I ever really thought about Miller, who is referenced in the novel when Kerouac decides to visit the aging author and possibly get him to write some sort of foreword for his next novel. Kerouac cannot complete the task because is psychologically paralyzed by drink, and lots of it, causing him to become paranoid and lose sight of Miller’s noble literary aims.
Kerouac looked up to Miller, as did and do a lot of American writers. It takes a lot for me to dive head first into an author, buying up everything in sight with my paltry wallet funds, but over 2010, Miller quickly made the cut, and as now joined my own mindful version of the super literary heroes of my imagination. If you decide to purchase a book by Miller, a few things will stand out to you, if you are like me and like to read the back of the book before you buy it. People often reference Miller as the last great American artist, a true spokesman and critic of our country’s attitudes, ideals, and morals. The author also talks about France, a country that he lived in (the exact time flees my mind) while Another thing that you will find is that modern editions of Miller’s books often display beautiful portraits of naked women, in aid of the very vivid sexual encounters that are, rather than sprinkled in the narrative, overflow it and act as the basis of his novels.
But that is not really fair, because, as I mentioned before, Miller is able to reflect on contemporary American society possibly better than any author. The first book I read by Miller, Quiet Days in Clichy, is not one of his most famous books, but the very short book gave me an idea of who I was contending with. The second novel I read, the first part of his “Tropics” Series, Tropic of Cancer, is the novel that put Miller on the map, almost thirty years after its release. Miller first got the novel published in France, and had to wait that long for the novel to be published in the States. Not many people know this, and I myself did not know this until recently. The novel transformed the medium of art in America exponentially, and many musicians, painters, and writers themselves in our country are forever indebted to Miller and the sacrifices he made to have his one of a kind literary voice shine through in the face of such legal barriers.
Yesterday, my ordered copy of “Plexus,” part 2 of the Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy came in the mail today, so I will be busy over the rest of this month reading it, but I am ecstatic to continue where my Miller adventure left off, with “Sexus ,” which is a fucking fantastic novel that explores some the early stages of Miller’s serious love life and writing career.
Overall, if you can stomach the page length, I would implore you to check out Henry Miller. Many feminists and those that hold feminist sentiments will point out that Miller is a sexist pig. But when one takes a look beyond the surface, and explores the titanic depths at which Miller explores the universe and mankind’s existence in that universe, one will find that Miller was a true genius. I cannot expand and all the things I wish to say about the man, as I have to leave for school soon, but I sincerely hope that this post was not written so haphazardly that it prevents you from going to check out a book by him.