Henry Miller  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Henry Valentine Miller (December 26, 1891June 7, 1980) was an American writer and painter. He is known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of "novel" that is a mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism, one that is distinctly always about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller and yet is also fictional. His most characteristic works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and Black Spring. He also wrote travel memoirs and essays of literary criticism and analysis.

He was played by Fred Ward in the 1990 movie Henry & June, and Rip Torn in the 1970 film adaptation of Tropic of Cancer. In the 1970 low budget adaptation of Quiet Days in Clichy, the Miller-based character of 'Carl' was played by Wayne Rodda. A subsequent adaptation in 1990 saw Andrew McCarthy play the Miller role as "Henry Miller" himself.

Works

Biography

Miller was born to tailor Heinrich Miller and Louise Marie Neiting, in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, New York City, of German Catholic heritage. As a child he lived at 662 Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As a young man, he tried a variety of jobs and briefly attended the City College of New York. In both 1928 and 1929, he spent several months in Paris with his second wife, June Edith Smith (June Miller). He moved to Paris the next year unaccompanied, where he lived until the outbreak of World War II. He lived an impecunious lifestyle that depended on the benevolence of friends, such as Anaïs Nin, who became his lover and financed the first printing of Tropic of Cancer in 1934.

In the fall of 1931, Miller got a job with the Chicago Tribune (Paris edition) as a proofreader, thanks to his friend Alfred Perlès who worked there. Miller took the opportunity to submit some of his articles under Perlès name, since only the editorial staff were permitted to publish in the paper in 1934.

A small number of his works contain detailed accounts of sexual experiences, and his books did much to free the discussion of sexual subjects in American writing from both legal and social restrictions. He continued to write novels that were banned in the United States on grounds of obscenity. Along with Tropic of Cancer, his Black Spring (1936), and Tropic of Capricorn (1939), were smuggled into his native country, building Miller an underground reputation. One of the first acknowledgements of Henry Miller as a major modern writer was by George Orwell in his 1940 essay Inside the Whale,[1] where he wrote: "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."

In 1940, he returned to the United States, settling in Big Sur, California. He continued to produce his vividly written works that challenged contemporary American cultural values and moral attitudes. He spent the last years of his life in Pacific Palisades.

The publication of Miller's Tropic of Cancer in the United States in 1961 led to a series of obscenity trials that tested American laws on pornography. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Grove Press, Inc., v. Gerstein, citing Jacobellis v. Ohio (which was decided the same day in 1964), overruled the state court findings of obscenity and declared the book a work of literature; it was one of the notable events in what has come to be known as the sexual revolution. Elmer Gertz, the lawyer who successfully argued the initial case for the novel's publication in Illinois, became a lifelong friend of Miller's. Volumes of their correspondence have been published.

In addition to his literary abilities, Miller was a painter and wrote books about his painting. He was a close friend of the French painter Grégoire Michonze. He was also an amateur pianist.

Miller died in Pacific Palisades. After his death, he was cremated and his ashes scattered off Big Sur. The Henry Miller Art Museum at Coast Gallery in Big Sur is now the only museum that holds a selection of Miller's watercolours, as The Henry Miller Museum of Art in Omachi City in Nagano, Japan closed in 2003.

Miller's papers were donated to the UCLA Young Research Library Department of Special Collections.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Henry Miller" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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