Saturday, June 02, 2007

Henry Miller: The Sage And The Garbage

On the radio (National Public Radio, I think) I heard some felicitous and refined-sounding lady quoting Henry Miller as part of her sign off--you remember him, the fuck-shit-piss kinda guy who DIDN'T beat around the bush and who didn't just refer to some 7 words you couldn't say on radio because he was too busy saying them in his books--anyway, the nice lady was quoting him, and I thought it was peculiar. It wasn't any of his vulgarity, but one of the numerous times he happened to say something philosophical like

"If a person pays enough attention to anything, maybe just a blade of grass, one will eventually be forced into the inner dynamics of existence and be overwhelmed by the beauty of all things in life."

That's not actually a quote, but my approximation. Lord knows I read enough nasty Henry Miller when I was a young man that I SHOULD be able to quote him, but that is fodder for another day. I thought it was pretty weird for the nice lady on the radio to be pulling the wool over the public's eyes like that, because she didn't mention him in any context; she just quoted the loony sex-crazed penis-swinging bastard. Don't get me wrong, I used to read him and like it. He was able to take his mind anywhere and was willing to talk about anything that occurred to him. I feel like the fact that he was frequently on the make for any woman who passed his way or fucking more than one or two them at once gives his quote above more gravitas, not less.

But in the world where I grew up, women could not read his worst literature without wanting to throw it down. I know, I tried to introduce some women to it! No sale. All the budding young feminists back then (the sixties) just found him vulgar. He was. Yet that wasn't all he was. I wonder what the age and experience of the nice lady on the radio was? Was she experienced or inexperienced? Did she just get a quote out of some damn book of quotes, or did she know that her Wise Man was also the Garbage Man?

I think I would still like parts of Miller, if there weren't better things to do. I don't need to dredge up that old excuse for women (most of them) to have the solid-gold chance to be pissed off at me again. I'm vulgar enough on my own! Now that I mention it, I consider Henry Miller as the most extreme of all bloggers and honest in an era when there were no bloggers!

If he were here now, I'm not sure he'd be the pornographic leader he was considered to be any more! That's because he effected the culture that we were raised in, even for those who didn't much read him or even know of him. You'll end up reading him out of context, at the very least! Thanks, radio lady, it was fun!



  1. Insightful and interesting post.

  2. Miller isn't liked by "all of us", yet he moved the boundary line for all writers, whatever any of us may think of that. People on TV who don't have the least idea what anything means feel free to boast that Something sucks or blows or otherwise keep us snickering with "saucy" innuendo. God, I hate people who are only pretending to have a brain.

  3. I hate to admit this but I haven't read any Henry Miller. I'm embarrassed. I shall go and rectify the situation forthwith.

  4. That will be weird! I wonder how tame he would seem in this day and age? The sex might seem tamer these days, but he was always a wild and crazy guy!

  5. G'day Ron,

    You might remember me as th guy who runs Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards, where yours has featured for several weeks.

    Gee, they never taught us any of that when I was doing my English Literature degree.

    Thanks for the perspective - and I certainly agree he moved the boundary line for all writers.

    Take care



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