There were a few boxes of books dropped off at the goodwill below the apartment a few nights ago. I rummaged through and picked up an old Norton anthology and a copy of Sexus by Henry Miller with an old Montreal subway transfer in the middle. Quite enjoying it between bits of "Scorch Atlas." I like reading "Scorch Atlas" in public places because it makes me feel cool, like a self-conscious kid with new sneakers in grade school. Its well-written, of course, but the book design itself is so excellent, I like the feel and look of it. Good job, Blake Butler/designers/whomever.

Miller reads like a more accessible Leonard Cohen, which is not necessarily good but fine for this moment in my life. I'm on reading week so a relatively lighter read is a good thing. It is filled with lots of sex intermingled with poignant philosophical ruminations. Example:

"A child has no need to write, he is innocent. A man writes to throw off the poison which he has accumulated because of his false way of life. He is trying to recapture his innocence, yet all he succeeds in doing is to inoculate the world with the virus of his disillusionment. No man would set a word down on paper if he had the courage to live out what he believed in. His inspiration is deflected at the source. If it is a world of truth, beauty, and magic that he desires to create, why does he put millions of words between himself and the reality of that world? Why does he defer action - unless it be that, like other men, what he really desires is power, fame, success. 'Books are human actions in death' said Balzac. Yet, having perceived the truth, he deliberately surrendered the angel to the demon which possessed him."

and etc. I find it rings true. Some writing is just honest, without trying too hard to be honest. Miller doesn't give a fuck so honesty kind of leaks out. And it is unflattering but when you read it all you can do is nod "yes" in response to its humanity.

There are lots of subtle and not-so-subtle references to Whitman in this text. So I found Orwell's summation of Miller particularly interesting:

"Here in my opinion is the only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past. Even if that is objected to as an overstatement, it will probably be admitted that Miller is a writer out of the ordinary, worth more than a single glance; and after all, he is a completely negative, unconstructive, amoral writer, a mere Jonah, a passive acceptor of evil, a sort of Whitman among the corpses."

What a lovely, interesting description. Whitman among the corpses.


  1. Wow, I can't stop reading that Miller quote...
    I find it helps me understand what J.D Salinger meant when he said;
    'I'm sick of not having the courage to be a nobody: I'm sick of myself and everybody else that wants to make some kind of splash.'

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  3. great stuff written with inteligents.. thank u..luv yur work