There is an eager vitality and exuberance to the writing which is exhilarating; a rush of spirit into the world as though all the sparkling wines have been uncorked at once; we watchfully hear the language skip, whoop and wheel across Miller’s page.

William H. Gass, The New York Times Book Review

Henry Miller

Henry Miller (1891–1980) was born in New York, and spent his childhood in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. In the late ’20s, Miller came to Paris with his wife June, and became acquainted with Anaïs Nin, who would become his lover and patron. Nin was the first publisher of Tropic of Cancer, which was the subject of a landmark obscenity trial when it was published in the U.S. in 1961. Miller’s writing, which was often sexually explicit, blended fiction, memoir, personal philosophy and social commentary. Forbidden by authorities, his books were smuggled into the U.S. and became highly influential on the new generation of Beat writers. His later years were spent writing and painting in Big Sur, on the coast of California.

cover image of the book The Wisdom Of The Heart

The Wisdom Of The Heart

In this selection of stories and essays, Henry Miller elucidates, revels, and soars, showing his command over a wide range of moods, styles, and subject matters. Writing “from the heart,” always with a refreshing lack of reticence, Miller involves the reader directly in his thoughts and feelings. “His real aim,” Karl Shapiro has written, “is to find the living core of our world whenever it survives and in whatever manifestation, in art, in literature, in human behavior itself. It is then that he sings, praises, and shouts at the top of his lungs with the uncontainable hilarity he is famous for.”

Here are some of Henry Miller’s best-known writings: an essay on the photographer Brassai; “Reflections on Writing,” in which Miller examines his own position as a writer; “Seraphita” and “Balzac and His Double,” on the works of other writers; and “The Alcoholic Veteran,” “Creative Death,” “The Enormous Womb,” and “The Philosopher Who Philosophizes.”

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Resembling a musical sextet where no two instruments are the same, but all instruments blend to form a single sound, Henry Miller’s Sextet combines six fresh and impromptu pieces of writing originally published as individual chapbooks by Capra Press: “On Turning Eighty,” “Reflections on the Death of Mishima,” “First Impressions of Greece,” “The Waters Reglitterized: The Subject of Water Colors in Some of its More Liquid Phases,” “Reflections on The Maurizius Case: A Humble Appraisal of a Great Book,” and “Mother, China and the World Beyond: A Dream in Which I Die and Find Myself in Devachan (Limbo) Where I Run into My Mother whom I Hated All My Life.” Like your favorite band releasing a six-song EP to keep you salivating until its next full-length album, Sextet is a finger-snapping sample of Miller’s clarion-call work, with lots of raucous humor and jazz.

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cover image of the book The Colossus Of Maroussi

The Colossus Of Maroussi

by Henry Miller

With a contribution by Will Self and Ian S. MacNiven

Like the ancient colossus that stood over the harbor of Rhodes, Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi stands as a seminal classic in travel literature. It has preceded the footsteps of prominent travel writers such as Pico Iyer and Rolf Potts. The book Miller would later cite as his favorite began with a young woman’s seductive description of Greece. Miller headed out with his friend Lawrence Durrell to explore the Grecian countryside: a flock of sheep nearly tramples the two as they lie naked on a beach; the Greek poet Katsimbalis, the “colossus” of Miller’s book, stirs every rooster within earshot of the Acropolis with his own loud crowing; cold hardboiled eggs are warmed in a village’s single stove, and they stay in hotels that “have seen better days, but which have an aroma of the past.”

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Sunday After The War

A collection of stories and excerpts from longer works.

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The Book Of Friends

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A Devil in Paradise

The devil in Henry Miller’s Big Sur paradise is Conrad Moricand: “A friend of his Paris days, who, having been financed and brought over from Europe as an act of mercy by Mr. Miller, turns out as exacting, sponging, evil, cunning, and ungrateful a guest as can be found in contemporary literature. Mr. Miller has always been a remarkable creator of character. Conrad Moricand is probably his masterpiece…A Devil in Paradise is the work of a great novelist manqué, a novelist who has no stricter sense of form than the divine creator…Fresh and intoxicating, funny and moving…” –TLS

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Aller Retour New York

Aller Retour New York is truly vintage Henry Miller, written during his most creative period, between Tropic of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939). Miller always said that his best writing was in his letters, and this unbuttoned missive to his friend Alfred Perlès is not only his longest (nearly 80 pages!) but his best—an exuberant, rambling, episodic, humorous account of his visit to New York in 1935 and return to Europe aboard a Dutch ship. Despite its high repute among Miller devotees, Aller Retour New York has never been easy to find. It was first brought out in Paris in 1935 in a limited edition, and a second edition, “Printed for Private Circulation Only,” was issued in the United States ten years later. It is now available in paperback as a Revived Modern Classic, with an introduction by George Wickes that illuminates the people and personal circumstances which inform Aller Retour New York.

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Into the Heart of Life

In celebration of the centennial of his birth, Into the Heart of Life: Henry Miller at One Hundred gathers a captivating selection of writings from ten of his books. The delights of his prose are many, not the least of which is Miller’s comic irony, which as The London Times noted, can be “as stringent and urgent as Swift’s.” Frederick Turner has organized the whole to highlight the autobiographical chronology of Miller’s life, and along the way places the author squarely where he belongs––in the great tradition of American radical individualism, as a child of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Miller, who joyously declared “I am interested––like God––only in the individual,” would have been pleased. The keynotes here are self-liberation and the pleasures of Miller’s “knotty, cross-grained” genius, as Turner describes it––“defying classification, ultimately unamenable to any vision, any program not [his] own.” Or, as Henry Miller himself put it: “I am the hero and the book is myself.”

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Letters To Emil

Prepared by Henry Miller for publication in 1938, Letters to Emil––correspondence from 1921 through 1934 with his boyhood friend and successful artist Emil Schnellock––remained unpublished until 1989. A chance encounter by the two men, out of touch since childhood, led to Miller’s decision to become a writer. Throughout the ’20s and into the ’30s, Schnellock acted as his chief mentor, to whom he voiced his exuberant, sometimes cranky views of life and anxiously discussed his dying marriage to June Mansfield and his growing involvement with Anaïs Nin. Miller’s letters are a compelling record of the writer in the making, beginning with his first efforts in 1922, tracing his ten-year struggle to find his own voice, and reaching a climax with the publication of Tropic of Cancer in 1934. Indeed, it was in his actual letters to Emil that Henry Miller developed his vigorously earthy yet philosophical style.

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From Your Capricorn Friend

“It makes me feel good to know there is a comparatively unknown little magazine in the heart of Second Avenue (ghetto to the world) in which l am granted full freedom of speech,” wrote Henry Miller to his friend Irving Stettner, editor of Stroker. In 1978-80, the last three years of his life, Miller generously contributed letters, drawings, and various prose pieces for this magazine’s use, both previously unpublished works from an earlier date and, of special interest, much that was newly written. Presented here are the best of these Miller pieces, including letters he wrote to Stettner in which the author remarks on anything and everything: painting, Brooklyn, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, books and writers, his daily doings. Among the prose selections are pieces on the theatre, “Memory and Forgettery,” “America, America,” “A Few Chaotic Recollections,” and a short story, “Vienna and Back.” His “Toccata for Half-Wits,” an essay on the movie Bonnie and Clyde written in 1968, is the only exception to the concept of this book as a presentation of the fruits of Miller’s very last years. “Squeeze all the color out of the tubes,” Miller advises a young painter friend. As this collection indeed testifies, “Brother Henry,” as he sometimes signed himself, did just that as the end of his life approached.

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Just Wild About Harry

A “melo-melo in seven scenes,” Just Wild About Harry is Henry Miller’s only excursion into playwriting. Harry is pure Miller, welling up from the same abundant love of life and freedom from convention that made its author the dean of writers dedicated to human liberation. Admittedly inspired by lonesco and the Theatre of the Absurd, Miller’s tragicomic slapstick is nevertheless as American as the Marx Brothers and the blues––the simple story of a heartless Harry (the one the ladies are wild about) who learns a bittersweet lesson about life, death, and love. Begun in Europe in 1960, Just Wild About Harry was first published by New Directions in 1963.

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The Smile At The Foot Of The Ladder

Henry Miller has called The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder his “most singular story.” First published in 1959, this touching fable tells of Auguste, a famous clown who could make people laugh but who sought to impart to his audiences a lasting joy. Originally inspired by a series of circus and clown drawings by the cubist painter Fernand Léger, Miller eventually used his own decorations to accompany the text in their stead. “Undoubtedly,” he says in his explanatory epilogue, “it is the strangest story I have yet written…No, more even than all the stories which I based on fact and experience is this one the truth. My whole aim in writing has been to tell the truth, as I know it. Heretofore all my characters have been real, taken from life, my own life. Auguste is unique in that he came from the blue. But what is this blue which surrounds and envelopes us if not reality itself?… We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is.”

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cover image of the book The Air-Conditioned Nightmare

The Air-Conditioned Nightmare

In 1939, after ten years as an expatriate, Henry Miller returned to the United States with a keen desire to see what his native land was really like––to get to the roots of the American nature and experience. He set out on a journey that was to last for three years, visiting many sections of the country and making friends of all descriptions. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is the result of that odyssey. It is clear that Miller’s bad dream of the forties is still with us. He saw a nation of big business and little men, mass media at once soporific and violent, giant industries deadening workers and polluting the environment, of credit buying, cheap cars and gadgets ad infinitum, of misinformation and prejudice––a spiritual and aesthetic vacuum. One of his conclusions was that “nowhere else in the world is the divorce between man and nature so complete.” Yet Henry Miller falls in love with his automobile and weeps at the sight of the Grand Canyon. His stories and essays celebrate those rare individuals (famous and obscure) whose creative resilience and mere existence oppose the mechanization of minds and souls.

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The Cosmological Eye

This collection, first published by New Directions in 1939, contains a number of Henry Miller’s most important shorter prose writings. They are taken from the Paris books Black Spring (1936) and Max and the White Phagocytes (1938) and were, for the most part, written at about the same time as Tropic of Capricorn––the period of Miller’s and Durrell’s life in the famous Villa Seurat in Paris. As is usual with Miller, these pieces cannot be tagged with the label of any given literary category. The unforgettable portrait of Max, the Paris drifter, and the probably-autobiographical Tailor Shop, are basically short stories, but even here the irrepressible vitality of Miller’s personality keeps breaking into the narrative. And in the critical and philosophical essays, the prose poems and surrealist fantasies, the travel sketches and scenarios, Miller’s passion for fiction, for telling the endless story of his extraordinary life, cannot be held down. Life, as no other modern author has lived it or can write it, bursts from these pages––the life of the mind and the body; of people, places and things; of ideas and the imagination.

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The Henry Miller Reader

In 1958, when Henry Miller was elected to membership in the American Institute of Arts and Letters, the citation described him as: “The veteran author of many books whose originality and richness of technique are matched by the variety and daring of his subject matter. His boldness of approach and intense curiosity concerning man and nature are unequalled in the prose literature of our times.” It is most fitting that this anthology of “the best” of Henry Miller should have been assembled by one of the first among Miller’s contemporaries to recognize his genius, the eminent British writer Lawrence Durrell. Drawing material from a dozen different books Durrell has traced the main line and principal themes of the “single, endless autobiography” which is Henry Miller’s life work. “I suspect,” writes Durrell in his Introduction, “that Miller’s final place will be among those towering anomalies of authorship like Whitman or Blake who have left us, not simply works of art, but a corpus of ideas which motivate and influence a whole cultural pattern.” Earlier, H. L. Mencken had said, “his is one of the most beautiful prose styles today,” and the late Sir Herbert Read had written that “what makes Miller distinctive among modern writers is his ability to combine, without confusion, the aesthetic and prophetic functions.” Included are stories, “portraits” of persons and places, philosophical essays, and aphorisms. For each selection Miller himself prepared a brief commentary which fits the piece into its place in his life story. This framework is supplemented by a chronology from Miller’s birth in 1891 up to the spring of 1959, a bibliography, and, as an appendix, an open letter to the Supreme Court of Norway written in protest of the ban on Sexus, a part of which appears in this volume.

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cover image of the book Stand Still Like The Hummingbird

Stand Still Like The Hummingbird

One of Henry Miller’s most luminous statements of his personal philosophy of life, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, provides a symbolic title for this collection of stories and essays. Many of them have appeared only in foreign magazines while others were printed in small limited editions which have gone out of print. Miller’s genius for comedy is at its best in “Money and How It Gets That Way”––a tongue-in-cheek parody of “economics” provoked by a postcard from Ezra Pound which asked if he had “ever thought about money.” His deep concern for the role of the artist in society appears in “An Open Letter to All and Sundry,” and in “The Angel Is My Watermark” he writes of his own passionate love affair with painting. “The Immorality of Morality” is an eloquent discussion of censorship. Some of the stories, such as “First Love,” are autobiographical, and there are portraits of friends, such as “Patchen: Man of Anger and Light,” and essays on such other writers as Walt Whitman, Thoreau, Sherwood Anderson and lonesco. Taken together, these highly readable pieces reflect the incredible vitality and variety of interests of the writer who extended the frontiers of modern literature with Tropic of Cancer and other great books.

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cover image of the book Henry Miller On Writing

Henry Miller On Writing

Some of the most rewarding pages in Henry Miller’s books concern his self-education as a writer. He tells, as few great writers ever have, how he set his goals, how he discovered the excitement of using words, how the books he read influenced him, and how he learned to draw on his own experience. For this collection––which should be invaluable to young writers––Thomas H. Moore, co-founder of the Henry Miller Literary Society, brought together, with Miller’s active collaboration, the most revealing passages on the art and practice of writing. A number of them are from unpublished manuscripts; there are private notations, writing schedules, outlines of ideas.

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cover image of the book The Time of the Assassins

The Time of the Assassins

This study is not literary criticism but a fascinating chapter in Miller’s own spiritual autobiography. The social function of the creative personality is a recurrent theme with Henry Miller, and this book is perhaps his most poignant and concentrated analysis of the artist’s dilemma. “In Rimbaud,” writes Miller, “I see myself as in a mirror.” The discovery of the French poet’s ecstasy and sense of horror, of his startling use of language, opened new worlds to Miller. An immediate identification was established. Here was another wanderer, a man both in the world and outside it, another spirit in revolt who was caught in a destiny difficult to define and surmount.

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The Books In My Life

Some writers attempt to conceal the literary influences which have shaped their thinking––but not Henry Miller. In this unique work, he gives an utterly candid and self-revealing account of the reading he did during his formative years. In The Books in My Life he shares the thrills of discovery that many kinds of books have brought to a keenly curious and questioning mind. Some of Miller’s favorite writers are the giants whom most of us revere––authors such as Dostoyevsky, Boccaccio, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Lao-Tse. To them he brings fresh and penetrating insights. But many are lesser-known figures: Krishnamurti, the prophet-sage; the French contemporaries Blaise Cendrars and Jean Giono; Richard Jeffries, who wrote The Story of My Heart; the Welshman John Cowper Powys; and scores of others. The Books in My Life contains some fine autobiographical chapters, too. Miller describes his boyhood in Brooklyn, when he devoured the historical stories of G. A. Henty and the romances of Rider Haggard. He tells of the men and women whom he regards as “living books”: Lou Jacobs, W. E. B. DuBois, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and others. He offers his reminiscences of the New York Theatre in the early 1900’s––including plays such as Alias Jimmy Valentine and Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model. And finally, in Miller’s best vein of humor, he provides a satiric chapter on bathroom reading. In an appendix, Miller lists the hundred books that have influenced him most.

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Remember To Remember

This collection of stories and essays takes its title from a long prose reverie in which Henry Miller, after his return to the United States, thinks back to the happy years of middle life which he spent in France. The qualities that make the French unique have seldom been so movingly expressed. The America he had rediscovered does not come off very well by contrast—particularly the Hollywood state of mind, which gets a thoroughly Milleresque going over in the burlesque “Astrological Fricassee.” What Miller likes on the American scene are the individuals who have broken through the pattern of conformity, the rare and often isolated creative personalities who are resisting the dehumanization of our so-called “civilization.” He gives us vivid portraits of the painters Abe Rattner, Jean Varda and Beauford Delaney; the sculptor Bufano; and Jasper Deeter, director of the hedgerow Theatre. Two of Henry Miller’s greatest essays are also in this volume: “Murder the Murderer” (on war), a declaration which ranks with Randolph Bourne’s War and the Intellectuals, and, with particular relevance to the censorship codes which kept his Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn out of this country for so long, “Obscenity and the Law of Reflection.”

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cover image of the book Big Sur and the Oranges Of Hieronymus Bosch

Big Sur and the Oranges Of Hieronymus Bosch

In his great triptych “The Millennium,” Bosch used oranges and other fruits to symbolize the delights of Paradise. Whence Henry Miller’s title for this, one of his most appealing books; first published in 1957, it tells the story of Miller’s life on the Big Sur, a section of the California coast where he lived for fifteen years.

Big Sur is the portrait of a place—one of the most colorful in the United States—and of the extraordinary people Miller knew there: writers (and writers who did not write), mystics seeking truth in meditation (and the not-so-saintly looking for sex-cults or celebrity), sophisticated children and adult innocents; geniuses, cranks and the unclassifiable, like Conrad Moricand, the “Devil in Paradise” who is one of Miller’s greatest character studies.

Henry Miller writes with a buoyancy and brimming energy that are infectious. He has a fine touch for comedy. But this is also a serious book—the testament of a free spirit who has broken through the restraints and clichés of modern life to find within himself his own kind of paradise.

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cover image of the book Laziness in the Fertile Valley

Laziness in the Fertile Valley

by Albert Cossery

Translated by William Goyen

With a contribution by Henry Miller and Anna Della Subin

Laziness in the Fertile Valley is Albert Cossery’s biting social satire about a father, his three sons, and their uncle — slackers one and all. One brother has been sleeping for almost seven years, waking only to use the bathroom and eat a meal. Another savagely defends the household from women. Serag, the youngest, is the only member of the family interested in getting a job. But even he — try as he might — has a hard time resisting the call of laziness.

Read a section of the afterword by Anna Della Subin at Bookforum.

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There is an eager vitality and exuberance to the writing which is exhilarating; a rush of spirit into the world as though all the sparkling wines have been uncorked at once; we watchfully hear the language skip, whoop and wheel across Miller’s page.

William H. Gass, The New York Times Book Review

Here is an artist who re-establishes the potency of illusion by gaping out at the open wounds, by courting the stern, psychological reality which man seeks to avoid through recourse to the oblique symbolism of art.

Anaïs Nin

I think he’s the greatest American writer.

Bob Dylan

[Miller] sees things as nobody else sees them.

Edmund Wilson

No one ever embraced life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness more lustily.

Pico Iyer, Time

…it has shape, like a good poem: it has emotional density, delicacy of thought and beauty of language.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Henry Miller is the nearest thing to Céline America has produced. He aims not at the ears, brains or consciences, but at the viscera and solar plexus.

New Leader

It is difficult not to admire a writer who has so resolutely gone about his own business in his own way without the slightest concession to any fashion.

Gore Vidal

The people that banned words in books didn’t stop people from buying those books. If you couldn’t buy Henry Miller in the early sixties, you could go to Paris or England. We used to go to Paris, and everybody would buy Henry Miller books because they were banned, and everybody saw them, all the students had them. I don’t believe words can harm you.

John Lennon

The only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past.

George Orwell
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