The poet Karl Shapiro, in his introduction to the 1961 American publication of Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer," said, "Morally I regard Miller as a holy man'Gandhi with a penis." This was Miller's first book, and its pages were rife with... [more]
The poet Karl Shapiro, in his introduction to the 1961 American publication of Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer," said, "Morally I regard Miller as a holy man'Gandhi with a penis."
This was Miller's first book, and its pages were rife with full, frontal descriptions of sexual joy and despair. He had written it in Paris in 1934, and it had been immediately banned in all English-speaking countries, as were most of his subsequent novels. In attracting the censor's ban, Miller was akin to literary rebels D.H. Lawrence and Walt Whitman, both of whose work he admired extremely. The American public was not ready for Miller until the early '60s, when the Beats, who all read illegal copies of his books, had already begun to dispel squareness from the land.
A New York native, Miller lasted only two months at City College before disgustedly dropping out to take a job as a manager at Western Union. After the breakup of his first marriage, he met June, a taxi driver, who was to be his second wife. She supported Miller during his writerly infancy; when he walked out of his job with ten dollars in his pocket, they moved to Paris. There, Miller became a master of the French and English languages, begged, borrowed, and scraped, and made enough friends to feed him dinner-party fare for years.
One of these friends was Ana's Nin, who wrote a preface to "Tropic of Cancer": "In a world grown paralyzed with introspection and constipated by delicate mental meals this brutal exposure of the substantial body comes as a vitalizing current of blood." Miller's work reflects a great and joyous philosophical mind; his autobiographical novels describe a personal world of intense suffering, an embrace of sexuality, and a simultaneous quest for and celebration of individualism and liberty.
He was lauded by George Orwell, who called Miller's writing the precise opposite of the creepy Existential novelist C'line's, though both authors described lives of the most bitter agony. Miller was also complimented (though barely) by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound; his friends included Lawrence Durrell, Aldous Huxley, John Dos Passos, William Carlos Williams, and Kenneth Patchen. Together with his third wife, Eve, Miller eventually returned to the U.S. and lived for several years in Big Sur, California. He wrote a number of novels, as well as books on traveling in Greece and America. Several volumes of his correspondences have been published, and "Genius and Lust," an anthology, was edited by Norman Mailer. Henry Miller died in 1980. [show less]