Monday, December 26, 2011
henry miller was born december 26, 1891, and died at the ripe old age of 88 years old on june 7, 1980. it's hard to believe more than 30 years have passed since his death - the same month i graduated from high school. at that time i doubt i had any inkling who miller was - it would be another year or so before i would read tropic of cancer and eventually become a huge fan of the man and the incredible scope of his literary output. i like to think of him as a proto-beat - someone who would come to influence kerouac's spontaneous prose.
aside from the controversy over his lifestyle and the more pointed criticism that his work was merely obscene and pornographic (at best), the litigation surrounding publication of tropic of cancer here in the united states in the early 1960's was part of series of landmark decisions expanding the breath and scope of constitutionally protected speech. it's hard to believe a brooklyn boy (proud denizen of the 14th ward - a/k/a williamsburg - during his formative years) could have such a profound impact on both literature and law.
during college i ran into a number of lit majors who were viscerally repulsed by miller - his work and the then (and perhaps still) current trope that he was a blatant misogynist. it wasn't until years later (the 90's) that i read the first, of numerous, miller biographies. he covered a lot of ground in those 88 years - and certainly collected his share of faults along the way. but, going back to the final lines of tropic of cancer, from practically the outset of his literary career, miller offers something of an preemptive apologia:
"human beings make a strange fauna and flora. from a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. more than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space - space even more than time."
happy 120th birthday henrey miller :D