I have fallen back in love with Henry Miller today. I do it about once every couple of months. I will admit, I have not read an entire book by Henry Miller in a long time (I did pull out Sexus a few months ago and started in on that, though not too long after that, became too engrossed in Angels and Demons by Dan Brown). Today, though, I want to go home and curl up with Tropic of Cancer, which I haven’t read since I was in high school. I want to re-read Black Spring, and I want to sink my teeth properly back into Sexus, and then read the entire Rosy Crucifixion. I want to read it all again! I normally find myself picking through my two favorites: Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch and The Colossus of Maroussi, but today nothing but the sordid tales of a hand-to-mouth living, sex crazed, dingy apartment dwelling, wine slugging, chain smoking, letter writing fool will do. I don’t care how peaceful he felt in Big Sur or how majestic he found Greece and all he met there. I want to know how warped he was by the loss of his June, and I want to hear him borrowing money from friends, acquaintances and sometimes, complete strangers. I want to hear an account of eating food and drinking wine and staying up in bars until dawn. I want to hear the earth shattering philosophy that he tucked into these accounts. I want to place myself with Henry in Paris, and I want to live through it all, and I want him to take me there.
Why this sudden rebirth of the love I have always felt for Henry Miller’s writing? I have started to import onto my computer the scanned images that we have of the Emil Schnellock Collection in the archives here. As it takes around five minutes for each CD to transfer, there is wait time that I am more than happy to spend by reading selections of each disc. The first one I popped in had an eight-page letter that Miller had written to Emil Schnellock, his childhood friend who he wrote numerous letters to during his time in Paris. There is no better way to understand someone’s life than by reading the letters of someone who Wrote Letters. Miller, a pathological writer, would write prolific letters to his friends when he could not figure what to add next to whichever novel he was working with at any given time. They act as extensions of his novels – it is easy to select portions of his novels that stemmed from portions of his letters. Miller’s work is all based in a romantic ideal of his own autobiography (with the exception of Smile At the Foot of the Ladder), and so it is no stretch to connect his letters with his novels and his life. It is an incredibly organic and interesting relationship, and makes the pieces in this archive even more interesting, I would say, than the letters from a writer for whom the work and life and correspondence was more separate. Henry’s zest for writing manifested itself in not only a huge body of work, but also an astounding number of letters to an incredible number of correspondents.
So, I’ll leave you here as I head home to read some Henry Miller (I will also be picking up Letters to Emil edited by George Wickes, which are more letters written to Emil Schnellock by Henry Miller. If you’re interested in a copy of this book we have a few at the library, so come on down or give a call) and maybe I’ll even write a letter. I will also leave you with an image of my favorite find of the day. This is the closing of a letter to Emil Schnellock from Henry Miller from March 16, 1931. It makes me realize that I would have been good friends with Henry. Good friends, indeed.