8. The Last Book
The Last Book - Notes
1First Epigraph: Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1939; New York: Grove Press, 1961), 170. Second Epigraph: Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 346 (last line).
2 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1941), Vol. II, 373:
In anchoring myself here in Villa Seurat these last four years I was unconsciously identifying a state of inner peace with the place which reflected my aura. Until that place was threatened vividly I was unaware of what I had done.
3 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, Vol II, 382.
4 Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi (1941; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1958), 225.
5 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, Vol II, 462-465.
6 The first edition of Tropic of Capricorn published by Jack Kahane's Obelisk Press bears the imprint February 1939, but typographical errors required the insertion of an errata slip, delaying distribution until April.
7 Hugh Ford, Published in Paris: American and British Writers, Printers, and Publishers in Paris 1920-1939 (New York: Macmillan, 1975; Yonkers, N.Y.: Pushcart Press, 1980), 383.
8 To say that The Colossus of Maroussi "strictly adheres to the travel genre" by no means detracts from the importance of that genre or Miller's achievement in that genre. The Colossus of Maroussi is in its own right a masterpiece belonging, alongside Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, to a long history of American tourist literature denying the fugitive reality of the journey it describes,
9 Henry Miller, "The Philosopher Who Philosophizes," in The Wisdom of the Heart (1941; New York: New Directions, 1960), 73. Miller had been in correspondence with Keyserling.
10 The major difference between Frank Harris' My Life and Loves and Miller's The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus is that Harris "backtracks" in his later volumes in order to renarrate his life with an emphasis upon previously neglected aspects, whereas Miller, by any measure the more accomplished writer, shifts emphasis from volume to volume within a single chronological frame.
11 Frank Harris, My Life and Loves, Volume Three (New York: Grove Press, 1966), 575. Due to an odd coincidence, Harris was one of the first "established" authors Henry Miller met: Miller's father had been Frank Harris' New York tailor.
12 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin, Clichy (October 1932), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, ed. Gunther Stuhlmann, (1965; New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons-Capricorn Books, 1976), 66.
13 June appears as first "Mara" and then "Mona" in The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus (New York: Grove Press, 1965). The Grove Press edition was the first simultaneous publication of Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus as The Rosy Crucifixion.
14 James Joyce, Ulysses (Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922; New York: Random House-Modern Library, "New Edition, Corrected and Reset," 1961), 671-672.
15 Henry Miller, Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion Book One (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1949; New York: Grove Press, 1965), 197. Miller announces that Mara decided to "change her name again"--at this point, only readers of Tropic of Cancer could know that her name had ever been other than "Mara," opening the question of which "influences" and "significant changes" Miller alludes to here:
It was under Kronski's influence that Mara decided to change her name again--from Mara to Mona. There were other, more significant changes which also had their origin here in the purlieus of the Bronx.
Whereas the shift from "Mona" to "Mara" between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn argues a programmatic flattening of residual symbolism, the return, mid-stream, to the pseudonym, "Mona," suggests the more fundamental difficulties Miller later encountered explaining the relation between his Paris and American works.
16 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 170.
17 William A. Gordon, The Mind and Art of Henry Miller (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), 138, 139.
18 Leon Lewis, Henry Miller: The Major Writings (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 192.
19 Leon Lewis, Henry Miller: The Major Writings, 194.
20 I do not suggest that this method of "reading" is illegitimate per se. Some texts "ask" to be read in this fashion--one thinks immediately of Julio Cortázar's Rayuela (; Hopscotch, trans. Gregory Rabassa [New York: Random House, 1968; New York: Avon Books, 1975]). More generally put, the aesthetic discourse of some authors and critics demands that all texts be read in this piecemeal manner--Stuart Gilbert asserts that such a "reading" is "natural" to Ulysses, and Saussure's linguistics, whatever its rhetorical import within the discourse of theoretical linguistics, when "imported" to the discourse of the novel naturalizes such a method of reading as the model of all language use. Although Miller's narratives, before and after Paris, may be "read" under this aesthetic, they do not "ask" to be read piecemeal.
The distinction here is rough hewn--to discern how a text "asks" to be read might be said to be, after all, a reading--but to be unable to discern the consequences of reading a given text under different aesthetic agenda is to be indifferent to the disputatious history of the novel within which texts are read and reread to different ends; or more bluntly, it is to be so enamored of a theory of "reading" (of one's own aesthetics) that one cannot "read" the efforts of writers and critics, enamored of other theories of "reading," to further their literature as the only literature worth "reading."
It is symptomatic of the difficulty of reconciling Tropic of Capricorn and The Rosy Crucifixion as works of the same author that both Gordon and Lewis rearrange the sequence of Miller's novels in their presentations so as to bring Tropic of Capricorn directly up against The Rosy Crucifixion. Gordon, who wants The Rosy Crucifixion to guide the interpretation of Miller's Paris narratives, brings it forward, relegating the intervening The Colossus of Maroussi to a last chapter called "Paris and After." Lewis, who wants Tropic of Capricorn to help the reader through The Rosy Crucifixion, discusses The Colossus of Maroussi immediately after Black Spring, and then proceeds to what Gordon aptly calls the "quartet" of The Rosy Crucifixion. (William A. Gordon, The Mind and Art of Henry Miller, 112). The attempt to string together the whole of Miller's career about the nodal point of Tropic of Capricorn sends reverberations through Gordon's and Lewis' analyses of Miller's other works, producing the apparent paradox of two critics who agree on the centrality and brilliance of Tropic of Capricorn but who could not be further apart in their estimate of a book like Plexus. Gordon finds Plexus, "on the whole one of the best things Miller has written," (138), whereas Lewis effectively drops Plexus from The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, finding it "like a six-hundred-page sociology report." (Leon Lewis, Henry Miller: The Major Writings, 215).
21 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 328-329.
22 One such revisionary account of the course of his career is Miller's unelaborated assertion that "Tropic of Capricorn was intended to be the cornerstone of this monumental work. It is more like a vestibule or ante-chamber." (Henry Miller, The Books in My Life [New York: New Directions, 1969], 98. Written in 1950.) It requires an analysis of the history of Miller's career to understand that Tropic of Capricorn later appears the "ante-chamber" to The Rosy Crucifixion, not because in preliminary fashion it "expresses in symbolic form," as Gordon, following Miller, argues, "the meaning of the events" of The Rosy Crucifixion, but because it once was, in execution as well as intention, the "cornerstone" of a subsequently abandoned, formal development of the "monumental" story of June. Ironically, Gordon must produce a New Critical, i.e. "symbolic," reading of Miller's Paris works in order to defend the achievement of The Rosy Crucifixion, a work which in neither execution nor intention competes with the "classic" works of New Critical modernism.
23 The "origin" of the writer Miller became upon his departure from France might be traced to the "influence" of the occult tracts and eastern philosophy he began to study in the mid-1930s, to his developing friendship with the astrologer, Conrad Moricand, and to the expansion of his list of correspondents to include such "mystics" as Count Hugo Keyserling. But this vein of "influence" might be discovered at any point in his life; Miller would prove capable of tracing the "origin" of the writer he became back to his birth and beyond. For the purpose of pinning down the shift in Miller's "discourse," however, the post-Munich letters to Fraenkel and Nin mark the decisive point at which Miller affirmed to his "novelistic" correspondents that his other interests had ceased to inform and commenced to subdue his allegiance to the meta-fiction of novel.
24 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, Vol. II, 366-367.
25 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, Vol. II, 387-389.
26 Indeed, the feminist critique of Miller's ideology of personal liberation is as much to the point here as the charge of cowardly irresponsibility Miller preemptively tries to fend off, since the "prerogative as a man" of which Miller availed himself in 1917 was to enter, "without a moment's hesitation," into a disastrous first marriage, the transparent purpose and only success of which was that it enabled him to escape Selective Service registration.
27 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, Vol II, 366-367, 370. The same reaction, in much the same language, later appeared in a letter to Anaïs Nin of February 21, 1939, in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 157-158.
28 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin, (February 21, 1939), in Gunther Stuhlmann, Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 157-158.
29 Henry Miller, "The Universe of Death, from 'The World of Lawrence,'" in The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961), 114:
"And, whether he is interested in history or not, Joyce is the history of our time, of this age which is sliding into darkness."
30 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 155.
31 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 241. This is said of Mara in Tropic of Capricorn, where the "clean exit" is, most significantly, an exit into endless fabrication of the self.
32 It is, of course, easier to cite Balzac than to "give way to being." Miller's formulas, taken one at a time and asked to stand on their own conceptual merits, are facile. Miller's arguments, taken as they appear on the page, are little more than collections of bald and often cliche assertions, each uttered with an air absolute conviction that, in admitting no shadow of doubt or irony, precludes the kind of conclusive coherence we expect through the qualification and mediation of provisionally contradictory points and counterpoints. But as my previous analysis of Tropic of Cancer's relation to Ulysses demonstrates, Miller's statements are not designed to stand on their own. In his letters and essays as in his expatriate novels, Miller's narrative polemics flow through ideological structures whose prior existence and rigor they posit without recapitulating. In Tropic of Capricorn, Miller calls these prior structures his "bed of ferroconcrete":
Stretched taut on the ferroconcrete my soul would leave its body and roam from place to place on a little trolley such as is used in department stores for making change. I made ideological changes and excursions; I was a vagabond in the country of the brain. Everything was absolutely clear to me because done in rock crystal; at every egress there was written in big letters ANNIHILATION.
From this bed I have gotten up to dance, not once but hundreds, thousands of times. Each time I came away I had the conviction that I had danced the skeleton dance on a terrain vague.
(Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 197, 192.)
The "vacuity" of Miller's individual assertions makes his polemics difficult to follow, but the obvious difficulties of the "terrain vague" rarely elude the erratic leaps of his "skeleton dance" argument: "People think that vacuity is nothingness, but it is not so. Vacuity is a discordant fullness, a crowded ghostly world in which the soul goes reconnoitering." (Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 192-193). Tropic of Cancer "goes reconnoitering" through the "ghostly world" of Ulysses, offering its narrative as an alternative to the "rock crystal" of symbolism and the "mythic method." The "little trolley" of Tropic of Capricorn, "On the Ovarian Trolley," "goes reconnoitering" through Miller's American past: "From childhood on I see myself on the track of this spectre [writing], enjoying nothing, desiring nothing, but this power, this ability." (Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 6). In his post-Munich letter to Nin, Miller "goes reconnoitering" once again, but this time the "ghostly world" is his own creation.
33 Henry Miller, Black Spring (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1938; New York: Grove Press, 1963), epigraph.
34 Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," sc. 24, 5, 4, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92).
35 Walt Whitman, "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life," sc. 2, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92)..
36 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 158.
37 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 155-156.
38 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), epigraph from Ralph Waldo Emerson. [Emphasis added.] Miller's rewriting of this "transcendental" epigraph to serve the novelistic purposes of Tropic of Cancer is discussed above in the third chapter.
39 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 202.
40 George Orwell, "Inside the Whale," in A Collection of Essays by George Orwell (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company-Doubleday Anchor Books, 1954). "Inside the Whale" was originally published in 1940. Henry Miller, "Un Etre Etoilique," in The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961). Privately printed in pamphlet form (Paris: 1937); published in Max and the White Phagocytes (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1938); reprinted in the magazine Phoenix (Woodstock, New York: 1939). Miller's effort is to describe the stylized world of Anaïs Nin's diaries. He initially draws upon an essay on El Greco's "The Dream of Philip 2nd" by Aldous Huxley, which Huxley remarks in horror that the people in El Greco's pictures always look as though they were in the bellies of whales, in a "visceral prison." Miller celebrates what Huxley finds frighteningly unreal; Orwell finds Miller's celebration a frighteningly real escape from reality.
41 Henry Miller, Introduction to Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel (Paris: Carrefour, 1936), 39. Reprinted as first letter in Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1939), Vol I. I have quoted this passage previously in the context of Miller's repudiation of Emerson's Romantic vision of creation, and my remarks there apply here as Miller attempts to return to the Emerson of his youth.
42 The whale tale, reviving this language, suggests a diminution of ambition rather than the possibility of pursuing a new, higher purpose, for in becoming the whale, the artist becomes God's creation rather than God, the Creator. Under this scenario, Henry Miller becomes the caricature, "Henry Miller," created by the "gaseous invertebrate" author of Tropic of Cancer; the drama of self-liberation Miller reads into Tropic of Capricorn is the liberation of the represented self from the narrative of the representing self.
43 Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," sc. 25, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92).
44 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), 91. "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) The passage continues in amplification of the plenary powers of presence, illustrating the extent to which the "aim" of Miller's discourse is no longer that of the "historical genre":
From the many encounters I have had with readers it would seem that antipathies are quickly dispelled in the living presence of an author. Repeated experiences of this sort have finally led me to believe that when I am able to make the written word convey the full essence of truth and sincerity there will cease to exist any discrepancy between the man and the writer, between what I am and what I do or say. This, in my humble opinion, is the highest goal an author can set himself. The same aim--unification--is implicit in all religious striving. Perhaps, without knowing it, I have always been a religious person.
45 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 25.
46 Within the first few pages of Tropic of Capricorn, Miller moves sequentially, from "life" to "nothing," and on up Whitman's tripartite division of being to find at the top--at what Whitman called the "apex of the apices of the stairs"--something quite other than Whitman's "robust soul." (Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," sc. 44). Summarizing the import of his ensuing narrative, Miller writes:
Everything that happens, when it has significance, is in the nature of a contradiction. Until the one for whom this is written came along I imagined that somewhere outside, in life, as they say, lay the solution to all things. I thought, when I came upon her, that I was seizing hold of life, seizing hold of something which I could bite into. Instead I lost hold of life completely. I reached out for something to attach myself to--and found nothing. But in reaching out, in the effort to grasp, to attach myself, left high and dry as I was, I nevertheless found something I had not looked for--myself. I found that what I had desired all my life was not to live--if what others are doing is called living--but to express myself. I realized that I had never the least interest in living, but only in this which I am doing now, something that is parallel to life, of it at the same time, and beyond it.
(Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 5-6, 6.)
At issue in this passage is the structural significance of sex in a book filled with ugly incidents and and equally ugly sentiments. Insofar as sexuality may serve as a metaphor for life, self and writing, sexual acts are potentially the symbolic union of the three; and indeed sexuality has a long literary tradition of service as just such a symbolic unification, and in Whitman's case, a measure of the "robustness" of the "soul" that can encompass all. When Whitman finds himself "left high and dry" he questions his voice, but not the desirability of symbolic sexual union with the "Ocean of Life." Instead Whitman launches into desperate prayer to Father and Mother, whichever beyond writing, beyond naming, will grant his longing for incestuous union. As a history of writing Tropic of Capricorn contradicts Whitman, finding the significance of writing and the end of Miller's life-long desire in the failure of sexual union with life. As in Tropic of Cancer, the sexual "adventures" of Tropic of Capricorn are variations upon the theme of impotence; sexual failure, the vicissitudes of "love" such as it exists in Miller's world, is the cause of thought and writing. This is the import of the stylistic gymnastics of "The Land of Fuck": "It was here in the quiet void of hernia that I did all my quiet thinking via the penis" (Tropic of Capricorn, 179).
Miller's dim view of Whitman's sexual optimism manifests itself through the sequence of assertions in the passage quoted above. His initial formulation--"I imagined that somewhere outside, in life, as they say, lay the solution to all things"--suggests the failure to find "significance" through sex may simply be attributed to Miller's incomplete apprenticeship to the master, Walt Whitman: the young Miller "imagined" union with "outside" life, but not with the inner self. Miller's ensuing formulations of the difficulty deny, however, the existence of any interior access to the "Ocean of Life." Reaching out for something to "bite into" to fill the empty self, Miller finds "nothing." In finding "nothing," he need look no further, for in "nothing" Miller finds "myself"--an empty self, "high and dry," with no desire to be filled by life, inner or outer, but simply to "express" its emptiness.
47 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 332.
48 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 202.
49 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 164.
50 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 202.
51 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 155-156.
52 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 227.
53 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 328-329.
54 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 332: "welter of crisscrossed tracks."
55 Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, Vol. II, 461.
56 Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch (New York: New Directions, 1957), 393. If one reads Miller's "silence" passages as serious "existentialism," as Ihab Hassan has done in The Literature of Silence: Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967), one must qualify their pretension to profundity with this plain spoken confession at the conclusion of Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch:
Why in hell was I born a writer? Maybe I'm not a writer any more. But deep down I know that, after I have had my fling, I will go back to the typewriter. I will die sitting at the typewriter, in all probability. I know it. But now and then I allow myself the luxury of thinking that one day I will chuck it all. I will do nothing. Just live.
57 This holds for the fall and winter of 1938-39. After finding his exit, Miller did not remain faithful to the conceptual maneuvers that enabled it.
58 Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," sc. 44, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92). Miller could no more hold his tongue after the creation of the "one system" of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn than the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam could hold His after the Creation.
59 In 1957, Miller reiterated this distinction between acts and action:
Meaningful acts require no stir. When things are going to wrack and ruin, the most purposeful act may be to sit still. The individual who succeeds in realizing and expressing the truth which is in him may be said to have performed an act more potent than the destruction of an empire. It is not always necessary, moreover, to mouth the truth. Though the world crumble and dissolve, truth abides.
In the beginning was the Word. Man acts it out. He is the act, not the actor.
Henry Miller, "The World of Sex," in Quiet Days in Cliche and The World of Sex: Two Books by Henry Miller, 140.
60 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 157:
I see a great difference between real desire and mere wishing or the exercise of will and the driving whip of duty. I realize that growth comes only through desire and the recognition of the relation between truth and being.
The distinction between desire (for being) and duty (to the word) reappears in The World of Sex (1957), where, as I will shortly explain, it bifurcates Tropic of Capricorn into its two discourses.
61 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 156-157.
62 Miller "reconstructs" Being along lines familiar to any attentive reader of American literature. If the "deconstruction" of the privilege of "presence" in the "text of Western philosophy" and literature inevitably runs the risk of anachronism, the too hasty application of a Continental "anti-philosophy" to American philosophy and literature runs the additional risk of simple, hubristic Euro-centric error. The American sublime, for example, has always acknowledged and celebrated a temporal "deferral." Emerson's declaration that the I/eye is "the first circle" comprehends that the furthest circle, the "horizon," is the future. The American sublime does not play itself out solely on the axis of Continental being and nothingness: Emerson and his heirs cannot say "presence" without meaning "immanent future." That is, the American experience of self-presence is "sublime," not simply because it is antithetically a perception that "I am nothing," but because the "self" can only be present to itself as Emerson says, "shooting the gulf," or as Miller says, "resting on the cusp of the event." It is precisely this irradicable temporal dimension to American "Self" that differentiates Emerson's aesthetics from those of his European Romantic contemporaries, making his "philosophy" appear "slip-shod" in comparison. In this sense one cannot use a Continental "anti-philosophy" to "deconstruct" the American "Self" without accruing false benefits to the "deconstructor." The American discourse upon the Self is open to criticism on other grounds--social, economic, and political.
63 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 157. Miller writes "action" here, but sustains the sense of "acts" as distinguished from "action" in his prior letter to Fraenkel.
64 Whitman proclaims, "I accept Time absolutely," but he does so within a transcendent consciousness toward which Time moves as it "rounds and completes all" ("Song of Myself," sc. 23, in Leaves of Grass [edition of 1891-92].) Whitman's Being is not a temporal phenomenon as is Miller's; for this reason Whitman, but not Miller, can "stop somewhere waiting" ("Song of Myself," sc. 52).
65 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 157-158.
66 Miller's recovery of a Being "too striking to be ignored" turns upon a pun on "abandoned," presented in the first paragraph of his letter to Nin. Here too, Miller's argument is made through a single substitution, radicalizing the conventionality of the language:
In the beginning was the word, but for the Word to come forth there had first to be a separation of some kind. To detach itself from the bosom of creation there had to be a need, a human need. The word is always the reminder of a more perfect state, of a union or unity which is ineffable and undescribable. Creation is always difficult because it is an attempt to recover what is lost. To regain we must first feel abandoned.
(Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin [February 21, 1939], in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 154.)
"In the beginning was the word"--the phrase echoes the biblical play that opens Tropic of Capricorn--"From the beginning there was never anything but chaos." The "word," deliberately not capitalized, is "chaos": in the beginning there was Miller's novelistic narrative. But after the first phrase Miller's time keeping grows ambivalent. The "Word," the Being, Miller needs to recover, must be recovered from the "word" if there is to be a "clean exit" from the world of writing. The dilemma is where in time to place "exit," here the "separation" or "need." The "word" is the "bosom of [artistic] creation," the "one system," sufficient unto itself. Yet having granted that the "Word" succeeds the "word," Miller also wants to have it that the "word" is a "reminder" of a lost "union or unity which is ineffable and undescribable." To have it both ways, Miller puns upon "we must first feel abandoned." "Lost" in the written is the abandon of the act of writing: that abandon, that irresponsibility, always there from the beginning, can be recovered. Freed from imprisonment "between the covers of a book," the "Word" regains what it retains from writing: the act of putting down always the next "word." The act of description is "undescribable," and Miller finds "self-liberation" in the act of writing freed of any need to defend the "accuracy" of its descriptions through the discourse of the novel.
Throughout the letter to Nin, Miller draws upon Nietzsche's closing remarks in Beyond Good and Evil:
Alas, what are you after all, my written and painted thoughts! It was not long ago that you were still so colorful, young, and malicious, full of thorns and secret spices--you made me sneeze and laugh--and now? You have already taken off your novelty, and some of you are ready, I fear, to become truths: they already look so immortal, so pathetically decent, so dull! What things do we copy, writing and painting, we mandarins with Chinese brushes, we immortalizers of things that can be written--what are the only things we are able to paint?
(Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kaufmann [New York: Random House-Vintage Books, 1966], 236.)
67 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 226.
68 Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1939), in Henry Miller: Letters to Anaïs Nin, 156.
69 It must be noted, though, that if one's goal is more generally to "win friends and influence people," or make enemies and "influence people," Miller made quite a success out of his abandonment of the discourse of the novel. The discourse of "self-liberation" has always been both powerful and lucrative in America.
70 I place the entire phrase, "ambiguity in the text," in quotation marks because the very phrase recapitulates the difficulties, discussed previously, arising from our participation in a literary and critical history marked by the hegemony of New Critical modernism. "Ambiguity" is an aesthetic ideal. The notion that meaning or non-meaning is "in" the text is an assertion of a critical method's validity. And "the text" is a concept precluding historical specificity, and in current usage a more sophisticated way of saying "ambiguity."
71 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 223.
72 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 90.
73 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 89, 88.
74 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 56-57.
75 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 6.
76 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 280-281.
77 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 203.
78 To return to Miller's citation of Balzac to Nin: writing can "give way to being" not because the stasis of omniscient Being is the telos of writing, but because Being, like literary creation, is "but transformation."
79 Henry Miller, The World of Sex, in Two Books: Quiet Days in Clichy and The World of Sex, 91. The specific dissimilarity Miller tries to reconcile is that between his public perception as pornographer and mystic, but ends by trying to explain, without admitting, the disjunction between Tropic of Capricorn the novel and Tropic of Capricorn the tale of self-liberation.
80 Henry Miller, "The World of Sex," in Quiet Days in Cliche and The World of Sex: Two Books by Henry Miller, 95.
81 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 2.
82 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 226.
83 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 233.
84 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 237-238.
85 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 240-241.
86 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 45.
87 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 168.
88 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 50.