Norman Mailer once said that when Henry Miller gets rolling, there is nothing like his writing: “One has to take the language back to Marlowe and Shakespeare before encountering a wealth of imagery equal in intensity.” I agree but of course in today’s fast-paced quick-gratification world, it begs the question that a wealth of imagery is prized any longer. I have bummed around the many online reading groups for more than fifteen years and it is a common complaint that an author uses too many words. What is ironic is that similar passages in other books are deemed by the same people to be poetic and beautiful writing.
I guess it’s not a secret that literary acumen is not much in demand nowadays outside of academia.
But I have to toss in an an extended quotation from Tropic of Capricorn (I’ll try to avoid those rude words Henry tends to use):
“Before I shall have become quite a man again I shall probably exist as a park, a sort of natural park in which people come to rest, to while away the time. What they say or do will be of little matter, for they will bring only their fatigue, their boredom, their hopelessness. I shall be a buffer between the white louse and the red corpuscle. I shall be a ventilator for removing the poisons accumulated through the effort to perfect that which is imperceptible. I shall be law and order as it exists in nature, as it is projected in dream. I shall be the wild park in the midst of the nightmare of perfection, the still, unshakeable dream in the midst of frenzied activity, the random shot on the white billiard table of logic, I shall know neither how to weep nor protest, but I shall know ways in absolute silence to receive and to restore. I shall make no judgments, no criticisms. Those who have had enough will come to me for reflection and meditation; those who have not had enough will die as they lived, in disorder, in desperation, in ignorance of the truth of redemption.”
If you read Tropic of Capricorn you will realize that this is just a snippet from a long section where Henry Miller is really rolling.
This reminds me of a session at the Hungry I back in the 1960s. Along with the improve, Mort Saul did his nightly reading of the news and discussion of the human condition. I remember him adding to Thoreau’s lives of quiet desperation by suggesting that women are on this world to syphon off some of the anger and poison of the day and to keep their men from going totally insane. Sort of a sexist remark, but not too bad considering the time it was offered. I miss Mort Saul: is he still alive?
One thought on “Henry Miller”
“Less is more, but more is more.” This a quote from no writer – it’s from Donatella Versace, actually. But it’s spot on.
I think that as a rule we should remember to cut things down, keep them to the essential. After mastering this technique we should then let it go, not think about it anymore. That’s the moment when writing turns itself into expression of self. When it is creative writing.
Every rule in art is meant to be learnt first and then broken right after.