3. Miller and the Emerging Modernist Canon
Miller and the Emerging Modernist Canon - Notes
1 Epigraph: Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1939), Vol. I, 124-29. This passage is cited in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans., Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (New York: Viking Press, 1977; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 298-299. Originally published as L'Anti-Oedipe (Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1972).
2 June Edith Smith called herself "June Mansfield" during the years when Miller met her. Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright: The Life of Henry Miller (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Capra Press, 1978; New York: Penguin Books, 1980), 99-104. According to Martin, Miller raised money toward this trip by publishing a series of short stories under June's name in Snappy Stories and Pearson's Monthly Review--stories written by reworking pieces from the back issues of the same magazines.
3 The completed manuscript was "Moloch," originally entitled "This Gentile World." The unfinished draft was as yet untitled; its protagonist was named "Tony Bring." Revised during Miller's first year in Paris this draft became "Crazy Cock," which Miller subsequently put aside in favor of Tropic of Cancer. The library collections of these manuscripts are as follows:
Henry Miller, "Moloch" manuscript, originally entitled "This Gentile World" (Written in New York: 1927-1928). "Moloch MS," Henry Miller Collection, Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles.
Henry Miller, "Tony Bring" manuscript (Written in New York, 1928-1929). Deposited as "Crazy Cock 2nd MS. Version," Henry Miller Collection, Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles.
Henry Miller, "Crazy Cock" manuscript (written in Paris, 1930). "Crazy Cock MS," University of Texas Library; "Crazy Cock MS. II" [corrected carbon copy], Henry Miller Collection, Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles.
4 Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 167, 181.
5 Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," sc. 1, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92).
6 Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 181.
7 Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 180-181.
8 It would be an interesting adventure in literary sociology to compare the literary practices of college educated modernists with those of their peers who rose through the more traditional route of journalism. At the very least, there appears a common ground shared by such eclectic modernists as Henry Miller, Hart Crane, and Nathanael West: an idiosyncratic use of symbolism, odd interpretations of the import of Eliot and Joyce, and the use of caricature and burlesque. The common ground exists despite their varying class, ethnic and geographical origins.
9 One of Miller's more elaborate later fictions, The Books in My Life (written 1950; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1969), concludes with a list of "The Hundred Books that Influenced Me Most" which no biographer should trust, and a more reliable and longer list of "Friends Who Supplied Me With Books."
10 Henry Miller, epigraph to "The Fourteenth Ward," in Black Spring (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1938; New York: Grove Press, 1963), 1.
11 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1939; New York: Grove Press, 1961), 12. Miller's position has frustrated and enraged radical critics who otherwise would like to approve his representation of the life of the streets. See Richard H. Pells, Radical Visions & Radical Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years (New York: Harper, 1974), 202, 343-345. Pells quite correctly attributes Miller's post-war popularity to a general intellectual dissatisfaction with radical politics. But, he incorrectly concludes from this reception that Miller was "a stranger to [America's] literary and ideological wars." (343).
Pells' analysis rests upon an untenable antithesis between individualism and social consciousness. He lumps together a variety of "autobiographical" works by "the 'radical' artist" of the 1930s: "Malcolm Cowley's Exiles Return, Louis Adamic's My America, Michael Gold's Jews Without Money, Joseph Freeman's An American Testament, Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory, Edward Dahlberg's Bottom Dogs, Jack Conroy's The Disinherited, James Farell's Studs Lonigan trilogy, Henry Roth's Call it Sleep, Nelson Algren's Somebody in Boots, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, William Saroyan's short stories, all the novels of Thomas Wolfe." He summarizes:
In most of these cases the primary focus was private and introspective; the central event was not so much a conversion to revolutionary politics as an assertion of personal identity. In such works the author or character who could not understand himself would never understand society; his was a failure not of doctrine but of sensibility.
(Radical Visions & Radical Dreams, 202
It is Pells, however, who demonstrates a "failure of sensibility." He is oblivious to the fact that what he constructs is by and large a list of works, including Tropic of Cancer, by American ethnics. The "assertion of personal identity" in many of these works, while not "revolutionary politics" nor correct radical "doctrine," is far more social than Pells recognizes. Their "introspection" is hardly a "private" exploration of the "cogito" or the "psyche." If these works look inward, it is not to celebrate a "personal identity," but to represent the social impossibility of asserting the integral self-identity Pells takes for granted as the object of his criticism of essentially middle-class, British-American complacency. Pells assumes that understanding the self is a simple matter of "sensibility" and a precondition to any genuine social understanding. Most of the works he lists assert the reverse: they understand that society has rendered the self incomprehensible. If they "wander in the splendid labyrinth" of their perceptions, it is not as Emerson did, because of an epistemological uncertainty, but because their selves are socially split. The working-American and by the 1930s the rural-American are as much "hyphenated Americans" as the Jewish-American, the German-American, the Irish-American, etc.
In a passage I will analyze in other respects, Miller asserts the impossibility of being a "human being" without first understanding the meaning of urban social life:
She used to say to me, Mona, in her fits of exaltation, "you're a great human being," [...] I am the one who was lost in the crowd, whom the fizzing lights made dizzy, a zero who saw everything about him reduced to mockery. Passed me men and women ignited with sulfur, porters in calcium livery opening the jaws of hell, fame walking on crutches, dwindled by the skyscrapers, chewed to a frazzle by the spiked mouth of the machines. I walked between the tall buildings toward the cool of the river and I saw lights shoot up between the ribs of the skeletons like rockets. If I was truly a great human being, as she said, then what was the meaning of this slavering idiocy about me?
(Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer [Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973], 226.)
What puts Miller on Pells' list is not any failure of sensibility on Miller's part--Miller is not confused about his class and ethnic origins--but a failure of doctrine. Miller looks to Spengler rather than Marx to explain the modern world, though at every point Miller's representation of "self and society" exceeds Spengler's simplistic "morphology of forms."
12 Henry Miller [Henry Val Miller], review of "The Unbidden Guest," Black Cat, (May 1919): 43.
13 Ben Reitman sold Miller two books: Max Stirner's The Ego and His Own (1845) and Nietzsche's The Anti-Christ (1888). See Martin Jay, Always Merry and Bright, 38.
14 Miller tells the story of his compulsive friendliness and sympathy in Tropic of Capricorn. Although Miller's account seems self-serving, especially in light of his later contempt for just about everything and everyone who did not immediately strike his fancy, his Paris associates' accounts of the Miller they first met seem to bear out Miller's claims. See Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931-1934, Vol. 1 and Vol.2 (New York: The Swallow Press and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich-A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1966 and 1967); and Alfred Perles, My Friend, Henry Miller: An Intimate Biography (Toronto: Longmanns, 1956; New York: Belmont Books, 1962). Both Nin and Perles record regrets as to the man their Henry Miller was becoming.
Michael Fraenkel's description in The Genesis of Tropic of Cancer sums up Miller upon first impression:
Looking back on that first meeting now, if I ask myself what it was that drew me to him the moment he entered the room and began to talk, I can only think of this: the man's absolute simplicity. He was a complete stranger to me, I didn't know a thing about him except for a few oblique remarks my friend Walter had dropped, and yet I felt perfectly at home and at ease with him the moment he entered the room and began to talk. You are likely to feel that way sometimes with someone simple, an idiot or a half-wit or--possibly a saint. But this man was no simpleton or idiot, to be sure, nor did he strike me exactly as a saint. But there he was, absolutely himself, open, natural, artless, and no bluff about it, no "putting on," no play-acting. It was the real thing if ever I saw it. We moved in an atmosphere of perfect ease, there was nothing of the nervousness, reserve, constraint, that prevails so often between two people who have just met for the first time. I felt as if I stood in the presence of a friend, a good old friend whom one hasn't seen for a very long time who now turns up from somewhere at the other end of the earth; a most welcome find. With this man, I said to myself, you can go the whole hog, you can deliver the whole package, all of yourself, and without the wrappings or the strings. And I did; you couldn't do otherwise, even if you wanted to. For this was not a one-way affair. The man gave, gave of himself, freely, graciously, without forethought or afterthought. And so, like him, you gave--it was a contagion.
(Michael Fraenkel, The Genesis of Tropic of Cancer, [Berkeley, Calif.: Bern Porter, 1946], 7-8.)
Of course, the caricature of Fraenkel as "Boris" in Tropic of Cancer suggests that this "open, natural, artless" Henry Miller was observing, and measuring with quite a bit of "forethought and afterthought" all along. Miller had kept "naturalist" notebooks on his family, friends, lovers, and chance acquaintances since the First World War.
15 Henry Miller [Valentine Nieting, pseud.], "Black and White," The Crisis, 28 (May 1924): no. 1, 16, 17. Valentine Nieting was Henry Valentine Miller's maternal grandfather.
16 "Houston Street Burlesque," The Menorah Journal. Mentioned in Jay Marin, Always Merry and Bright, 111. Martin cites neither the precise date nor issue of The Menorah Journal within which "Houston Street Burlesque" appears; to date I have been unable to verify his attribution.
17 See Thomas Joseph Ferraro, "Ethnic Passages: The Mobility Narratives of Yezierska, Miller, Puzo, and Kingston" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1988) for an account of the significance of "ethnic experience" for Miller's challenge to Modernist aesthetics.
18 To scrape by during the mid-twenties, Miller wrote, under June's name, a series of "mezzotints"--single sheet works of "bohemian art"--which the two of them peddled in the streets and speakeasies of Greenwich Village. The mezzotints were an opportunity for stylistic experimentation: some intimate Miller's later prose style. One such mezzotint, entitled "Dance Hall," describes the institution of taxi dancing:
AMERICA'S nocturnal pasturage of innocuous iniquity.
Invites the weary business man to enter. Entices the shop girl, the Ford mechanic, the swivel-chair nincompoop.
Price: a nickel a dance. Hire an instructress. She will put you through the ropes. Will walk you through a hundred dances on a piece-work basis. And tell you her family troubles.
Music crashes, hammers, moans piteously. Glistening fiends in patent-leather slippers assume eccentric poses, leer at the on-lookers, press hot bodies together until they fuse into one shameless, molten quadruped. No one gets weary. Jazz babies with haggard eyes keep up a fierce, relentless page under signs reading:
"No improper dancing"
Can a girl retain her virtue? At a nickel a dance? Ask me whether it was ethical of Socrates to drink his cup of hemlock. I know some respectable people who come here twice a week for recreation. Ask them.
(Henry Miller [June Mansfield, pseud.], "Dance Hall" [New York: private printing, 1925]. Reprinted in Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 103-104.)
19 Bruce Barton was the author of the infamous The Man Nobody Knows, an attempt to reconcile the principles of Christianity and American capitalism by unveiling the astute business and advertising practices of Jesus Christ. To judge by its enormous popularity--one of the best-sellers of the 1920s--the book accomplished this reconciliation for many troubled American readers.
20 The piece was called "Diary of a Futurist." Quoted in Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 110.
21 Moving to Paris without financial resources except irregular cables from his wife in New York, Miller of necessity relied upon his ability to make and hold friendships. The "improvidence" of this move should not be inflated into a romance of poverty. Miller quit his job as personnel director of Western Union some years before, returning to the streets and the irregular employment he well knew. His ability to make fast friends and "tap" those friends for funds was considerable, as recorded throughout his writings. In this context, Miller's voluntary poverty was neither fully improvident nor romantic. It was familiar and manageable. Tropic of Cancer contains several vicious attacks on the romanticization of poverty, on those who came to Paris to play starving artist.
22 To the original group were added Lawrence and Nancy Durrell, William Saroyan, Blais Cendrars (French writer), Hilaire Hiler (American painter), Betty Ryan (American painter), Abraham Rattner (American painter), Hans Reichel (German painter), Halasz Brassai (Hungarian photographer), Radmilla Djoukic (Yugoslav sculptor), Conrad Moricand (French-Swiss astrologer), David Edgar (sometime American painter and novelist with an interest in Zen), Richard Osborn (American lawyer and poet), among others.
The international composition of the Via Seurat group was not atypical of expatriate artistic circles in the late 1930s. The Left Bank of the immediate post-war decade was organized along more firmly national lines. With the self-publicized exception of Gertrude Stein, most Americans in Paris during the 1920s associated by and large with other Americans and the English--with some difficulty as noted in The Sun Also Rises. These national and linguistic divisions persisted into the thirties but the lines were significantly blurred. The magazine transition, and particularly its Surrealism anthology of 1928 "officially" authorized by André Breton, did much to familiarize the English speaking expatriate community with the French avant guard. Miller's representation of Mona/Mara owes much to André Breton's Nadja (Paris: Librairie Gallimard, 1928)--so much that Grove Press republished Breton's schizophrenic romance, (trans. Richard Howard, New York: Grove Press-Evergreen Edition, 1960), when they brought out Miller's work in America.
23 Michael Fraenkel, The Genesis of Tropic of Cancer, 12-13. Note that Fraenkel's account was written considerably after the publication of Tropic of Cancer, in 1946. Properly it should be read as evidence of those aspects of Tropic of Cancer which Fraenkel approved, perhaps before, but definitely after the fact.
24 In this respect the writing of Tropic of Cancer resembles the writing of Moby-Dick. For both Melville and Miller, writing and reading were tandem acts of intellectual discovery. Both self-educated, their texts contain markers of an outward bound voyage of exploration into the realm of the intellect. Although both wrote on and off until the end of their lives, both, in effect, "extinguish this lamp" after their last great, troubled works: Melville after The Confidence-Man and Miller after Tropic of Capricorn.
25 Henry Miller, The Books in My Life (manuscript, 1950; New York: New Directions, 1969), 23:
When you stumble upon a book you would like to read, or think you ought to read, leave it alone for a few days. But think about it as intensely as you can. Let the title and the author's name revolve in your mind. Think what you yourself might have written had the opportunity been yours. Ask yourself earnestly if it be absolutely necessary to add this work to your store of knowledge or your fund of enjoyment. Try to imagine what it would mean to forego this extra pleasure or enlightenment. Then, if you find you must read the book, observe with what extraordinary acumen you tackle it. Observe, too, that however stimulating it may be, very little of the book is really new to you. If you are honest with yourself you will discover that your stature has increased from the mere effort of resisting your impulses.
In keeping with Miller's Big Sur posture, this is a kind of Zen Koan a la Emerson. The only element of "truth" registered here is the global scale of Miller's ambition--Miller being the equal in this respect of Emerson, who complained in the opening of "Self-Reliance," "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this" (Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," in Essays: First Series ; reprinted in Emerson: Essays and Lectures [New York: Library of America, 1983]).
26 Miller had a memory for odd words and phrases similar to Hart Crane's. Jay Martin records a telling incident from the 1920s:
In the meantime, Ronald Millar, the editor of Liberty Magazine, liked some of Henry's sketches in manuscript and commissioned him to write a simple article on "Words" based on an interview with Dr. Vizetelly, editor of Funk and Wagnalls, the beloved dictionary which Henry himself used. Everything went swimmingly: Dr. Vizetelly cooperated and spent an hour with him, giving him a thorough lecture on words, from which Henry carried away the gratifying fact that his own vocabulary was greater than Shakespeare's. Vizetelly not only offered to read a draft of Henry's essay, he even wrote to Henry's father to say that his son was a genius.
(Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 111.)
Doubtless, Miller was showing off for Vizetelly, as when he turned in an unusably long 15,000 word essay to Liberty Magazine.
27 For an account of transition's importance at the center of the modernist debate see Dougald McMillian, transition: The History of a Literary Era, 1927-1938 (New York: George Braziller, 1976).
28 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), 10. The protest is against what Miller takes as T. S. Eliot's accurate description of his own and the modern temper in "The Hollow Men" (1925): "This is the way the world ends / Not with a band but a whimper." The "abortion" language appears throughout Tropic of Cancer as a figure for Modernism, and is discussed below.
29 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 24. The fantasy of "The Last Book," a "New Bible," was taken from Mallarme. "The Last Book" is also Hamlet, and every other book Miller wrote. "The Last Book" represents a formal requirement Miller's various books attempt to fill. The relation between Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the fantasy of "The Last Book" is discussed in Part III, below.
30 Henry Miller, The World of Lawrence, (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Capra Press, 1980). The "brochure" was suggested by Miller's publisher Jack Kahane as a means to "pump" Tropic of Cancer's literary status. Miller liked the idea, but disliked the results. Knowing he had not written a coherent critical book, he prevented its full publication until the year of his death, instead serving up pieces: "The Universe of Death, from 'The World of Lawrence'" and "Un Etre Etoilique," in The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961); and "Reflections on Writing" and "Into the Future," in The Wisdom of the Heart (New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1941). See also, Henry Miller, Notes on "Aaron's Rod": And Other Notes on Lawrence from the Paris notebooks of Henry Miller, ed. Seamus Cooney (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1980) Written in Paris, August-September 1933.
31 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 10.
32 Tropic of Cancer includes letters to and from Miller, and Hamlet's wandering aesthetic debate, which takes in current events along the way, is an extension of the epistolary novel to include not simply two corresponding characters, but two authors caricaturing themselves and each other.
33 Henry Miller, "The Universe of Death, from 'The World of Lawrence'," in The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961), 114. Contains a number of essays originally published in Max and the White Phagocytes (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1938). The 1961 paperbook reprint appends one essay, "The Cosmological Eye," not included in the 1939 hardbound edition.
34 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 149.
35 Henry Miller, Henry Miller, "The World of Sex," in Quiet Days in Cliche and The World of Sex: Two Books by Henry Miller (New York: Grove Press, 1978), 126. "The World of Sex" originally appeared as The World of Sex (Privately printed by J[ohn] H[enry] N[ash] for Friends of Henry Miller, 1940; Paris: The Olympia Press, 1959).
36 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," in Essays: First Series (1841); reprinted in Emerson, Essays and Lectures (New York: Library of America, 1983), 217.
37 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 216. The language of this memorial comes from D. H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature (London: Thomas Seltzer, 1923; New York: Viking Press-Viking Compass Book, 1964), except that Miller insinuates a different time scheme. Where Lawrence marks Melville as the last poet and Whitman as the robot, Miller argues that it is the task of the present to deal with the human mechanization that Lawrence sees as Whitman's failure. Implicit is a critique of Lawrence: Lawrence cannot see the "poet of the soul" because he has himself not come to terms with the mechanism that he, Lawrence, is.
38 This literalization may fuel comedy, as when Carl is "caught" by a young girl's parents:
"What are you laughing for?" he said. "I may go to prison for it. [....] But do you know what saved me? So I think, at least. It was Faust. Yeah! Her old man happened to see it lying on the table. He asked me if I understood German. One thing led to another and before I knew it he was looking through my books. Fortunately I happened to have the Shakespeare open too. That impressed him like hell. He said I was evidently a very serious guy."
(Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 261.)
The humor cuts two ways. As totems, great artists and great works of art establish "kinship networks" which make genuinely human tragedies seem profane. But, the "purpose" of idols is profane, as Miller remarks of Nananatee's relation to his idol:
He's on a marvelous footing with the deity: knows just how to cajole him, how to wheedle a few sous out of him. It's a pure commercial relationship.
(Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 76.)
The totemic character system of Tropic of Cancer constitutes just such an exploitation of the sacred for profane purposes. Miller praises or chips away at these idols to position his narrative art.
39 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 216-217.
40 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (1886), trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House-Vintage Books, 1966), 40:
A German is almost incapable of presto in his language; thus also, as may be reasonably inferred, of many of the most delightful and daring nuances of free, free-spirited thought. And just as the buffoon and satyr are foreign to him in body and conscience, so Aristophanes and Petronius are untranslatable for him. Everything ponderous, viscous, and solemnly clumsy, all long-winded and boring types of style are developed in profuse variety among Germans--forgive me the fact that even Goethe's prose, in its mixture of stiffness and elegance, is no exception, being a reflection of the "good old time" to which it belongs, and a reflection of German taste at a time when there still was a "German taste"--a rococo taste in moribus et artibus.
This passage no more accurately epitomizes Nietzsche's appraisal of Goethe's stature, than Miller's passage in Tropic of Cancer. By condemning Goethe's "Germanness" Miller, like Nietzsche, is condemning a part of himself and his past. Miller's ambiguous relation to German Kultur and folk culture is depicted at length in Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn, and briefly, with burlesque nostalgia, in Tropic of Cancer, 20-23:
On the merry-go-round, one doesn't get anywhere, whereas with the Germans one can go from Vega to Lope de Vega, all in one night, and come away as foolish as Parsifal.
41 Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," sc. 25, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92). Whitman's immediate reservation, "Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of articulation," also has a place in Miller's writing, but a displaced one. In Tropic of Cancer the self cannot be encompassed by speech because the self is a "zero." Miller does not conceive of the self as a "god in ruins," a preexistent plenitude that need be recovered. Rather, the self is an "equation sign," neither empty nor full, but the "nexus" through which pass endless possibilities of narrative. It is only much later, in California, that Miller's "conversion" to Zen led to a stance resembling Whitman's in the concluding lines of Section 25:
Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.
But, by taking silence seriously, as he did not in Paris and as Whitman did not until he became the "Good Grey Poet," Miller lost the aggressive edge of his narrative. The mystical Miller of Big Sur was as as much a deviation from the Miller of Paris as the Miller of Paris was from the Dreiserian Miller of New York.
42 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 12.
43 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 286-287.
44 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 287.
45 Invisibly, Emerson speaks through Miller's use of symbolism:For all symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and horses are, for conveyance, not as farms and houses are, for homesteads.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Poet," in Essays: Second Series ; reprinted in Emerson, Essays and Lectures [New York: Library of America, 1983], 463.)
46 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 93-94.
47 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 107.
48 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 130.
49 Otto Rank, Art and Artist, reprinted in part in Otto Rank, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero and other writings, ed. Philip Freund (New York: Alfred A. Knopf and Random House-Vintage Books, 1959), 193. Selections from Art and Artist, trans., Charles Francis Atkinson [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932]. The Oedipal basis of this aesthetic struggle between generations of artists suggests that Art and Artist is the unacknowledged precursor text of Harlod Bloom's Anxiety of Influence. Who better than Rank would know what it was to break with Freud over a theory of artistic creation?
50 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (March 7, 1933), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, ed. Gunther Stuhlmann (1965; New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons-Capricorn Books, 1976), 81-82. Miller was, in fact, even more directly paraphrasing Rank than my last quotation suggests:
It seems, indeed, from our previous observations, that the mature artist can only be born from the victory over the Romantic in himself.
(Otto Rank, Art and Artist, reprinted in part in Otto Rank, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero and Other Writings, 232.)
51 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 89-90.
52 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 22, 24.
53 Henry Miller, "The World of Sex," in Quiet Days in Cliche and The World of Sex: Two Books by Henry Miller, 95.
54 Much of the misogyny of Tropic of Cancer stems directly from this figure of Parisian modernism as the "womb of death." The muse of Tropic of Cancer--"It is to you Tania that I am singing." (2)--is hostile to Miller's literary creation. It is that hostility, rather than love, that is inspiring.
On different grounds, Kate Millet in Sexual Politics overturns the notion that Miller celebrates sexuality. Millet focuses upon the male-male bonding represented within Miller's texts and implicit between Miller and the (male) "friend" he once said constituted his ideal reader. Miller's stories are about the community of men. As a storyteller, par excellence, Miller constitutes that community, separate from and in repudiation of the communion of men and women in sex--always represented mechanically, artificially. (Kate Millett, Sexual Politics [New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970; New York: Avon Books, 1971], especially 397.)
55 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 26.
56 Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), 76.
57 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 149
58 Henry Miller, Black Spring (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1938; New York: Grove Press, 1963), 241.
59 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 26.
60 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 58.
61 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 259.
62 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 25.
63 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 72.
64 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 93.
65 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 99.
66 Jay Martin, Always Merry and Bright, 264, and fn.
67 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, epigraph facing title page.
68 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 224-225.
69 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890); reprinted in The Portable Oscar Wilde, Revised Edition, ed. Richard Aldington and Stanley Weintraub (New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1981), 159.
70 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 227.
71 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Poet," in Essays: Second Series (1844); reprinted Emerson, Essays and Lectures, 463.
72 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Compensation," in Essays: First Series (1841); reprinted Emerson, Essays and Lectures, 299.
73 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 88.
74 Henry Miller, Introduction to Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel (Paris: Carrefour, 1936), 39, 40. Reprinted in Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1941) Vol I.
75 King James version.
76 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 227.
77 Henry Miller, Introduction to Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel (Paris: Carrefour, 1936), 40.
78 Henry Miller, Henry Miller, "The World of Sex," in Quiet Days in Cliche and The World of Sex: Two Books by Henry Miller, 127.
I have very selectively "cropped" this "remembrance" from the text of The World of Sex which was first written in 1940 and then rewritten in 1957. As I have noted elsewhere, the Miller of Paris and the Miller who returned to America are different authors if not different men. Beginning with his flight to Greece in 1939 and subsequent return to America, Miller set increasing store by the Emerson of "Self-Reliance." In contrast, Miller's Paris writing was shaped by a repudiation of Emerson and the transcendental project of "self-discovery." Miller's retrospective accounts of his Paris period must be read under the banner he provides: "The man telling the story is no longer the one who experienced the events recorded."
79 Anaïs Nin, Preface to Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), xxix-xxxi.
80 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "I. Nature," in Nature (1836); reprinted in Emerson, Essays and Lectures, 10.
81 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 147.