Narrative Detours

Introduction: I want to make a detour - Notes

1 Epigraph: Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), 231.

2 Edmund Wilson, "The Twilight of the Expatriates," in A Literary Chronicle: 1920-1950 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company-Doubleday Anchor Books, n.d.), 212. This is a collection derived from Classics and Commercials (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1950) and Shores of Light (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1952). "The Twilight of the Expatriates" first appeared in The New Republic (March 9, 1938).

3 Kate Millet opens Sexual Politics (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970; New York: Avon Books, 1971) with an explicit attack upon literary history, narrowly conceived, and "New Criticism":

It has been my conviction that the adventure of literary criticism is not restricted to a dutiful round of adulation, but is capable of seizing upon the larger insights which literature affords into the life it describes, or interprets, or even distorts. [....] I have also found it reasonable to take an author's ideas seriously when, like the novelists covered in this study, they wish to be taken seriously or not at all. Where I have substantive quarrels with some of these ideas, I prefer to argue on those very grounds, rather than to take cover under tricks of the trade and mask disagreement with "sympathetic readings" or the still more dishonest pretense that the artist is "without skill" or a "poor technician." (Sexual Politics, 12)

Protesting the critical marginalization of Miller's work, Millet writes: "The anxiety and contempt which Miller registers toward the female sex is at least as important and generally felt as the more diplomatic or 'respectful' version presented to us in conventional writing," in which Millet includes "not only traditional courtly, romantic and Victorian sentiment, but even that of other moderns [such as] Conrad, Joyce, even Faulkner" (Sexual Politics, 389).

Extending Millet's suspicion that Miller is excluded because his inclusion would reveal the misogyny of the "tradition," Catharine MacKinnon writes: "sometimes I think that the real issue is how male sexuality is presented, so that anything can be done to a woman, but obscenity is sex that makes male sexuality look bad." She gives new sense to the ideology of "protecting innocence": "is it just chance that the first film to be found obscene by a state supreme court depicts male masturbation? [....] Did works like Lady Chatterley's Lover and Tropic of Cancer get in trouble because male sexuality is depicted in a way that men think is dangerous for women and children to see?" (Catharine MacKinnon, "Not a Moral Issue" in Feminism Unmodified [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987], 154, 270n.).

4 Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright: The Life of Henry Miller (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Capra Press, 1978; New York: Penguin Books, 1980), 317. Martin quotes George Bernard Shaw, apparently the first to strike this note about Miller: "This fellow can write: but he has failed to give any artistic value to his verbatim reports of bad language." Evidently, iconoclasm is not made of the same stuff from generation to generation. Frank Kermode took up the refrain: "Everybody agrees that Miller can write[....]" (Frank Kermode, "Henry Miller and John Betjeman," Puzzles and Epiphanies, reprinted in part in Edward B. Mitchell, ed., Henry Miller: Three Decades of Criticism [New York: New York University Press, 1971], 94).

5 Kingsley Widmer, Henry Miller (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1963), 157.

6 Edmund Wilson, "The Twilight of the Expatriates," A Literary Chronicle: 1920-1950, 212.

7 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 24.

8 As editor, advocate, publicist, central author and creator of Obelisk Press's "Villa Seurat Series," Miller tried to gather the adherents necessary to remake a literature during his final years in Paris, but his effort was overtaken by the coming war. He returned to America alone, prepared to pursue new interests.

9 T. S. Eliot, "'Ulysses,' Order, and Myth," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Farrar, Straus and Giroux--A Harvest/Noonday Book, 1975), 178. Eliot's essay was first published in Dial, November 1923.

10 Henry Miller, "The Universe of Death from The World of Lawrence," in Henry Miller, The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961), 114. The World of Lawrence was written contemporaneously with the revisions of Tropic of Cancer. Abandoned, it was not published in its entirety until the year of Miller's death. (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Capra Press, 1980). The Cosmological Eye, the first collection of Miller's Paris work published in America, contains a number of essays originally published in Max and the White Phagocytes (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1938).

11 T. S. Eliot, "'Ulysses,' Order, and Myth," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, 176.

12 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1939; New York: Grove Press, 1961), 170. Miller's direct allusion is to Henri Bergson's discussion of "The Idea of Disorder" in Creative Evolution (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911; New York: Random House-The Modern Library, 1944), 240-258.

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