Indulging a desire to read Henry Miller and Anais Nin
Immersed in Henry Miller and Anais Nin
I’ve lost track of where my notes have got up to with Henry Miller and Anais Nin.
I am still reading ‘Sexus’ and ‘Henry and June’.
Over the holidays I have marked passages and words. There could be more overlap with where I left off, or gaps if I fail to go back far enough.
The idea is to note passages that have personal bearing on my life and reflect on these compared to the lives of Anais Nin and Henry Miller.
For example, and this takes me some way back into ‘Sexus’ on the questions of the ‘Frustrated Creative’.
‘When one is trying to do something beyond his known powers it is useless to seek the approval of friends. Friends are at their best in moments of defeat – at least that is my experience. Then they either fail utterly or they surpass themselves’.
(Sexus, Henry Miller p28).
D seven years ago, then a would-be journalist, put me down when I wished to be a copywriter. He told me I couldn’t write. He’s far too ‘self-impressive’ for that. Indeed I wonder if any of the few friends with whom I have much contact who would put themselves out to assist.
Continuing with the same passage:
‘Sorrow is the great link – sorrow and misfortune. But when you are testing your powers, when you are trying to something new, the best friend is apt to prove a traitor. The very way he wishes you luck, when you broach your chimerical ideas, is enough to dishearten you.’
(Sexus, Henry Miller, p29)
Even I do this … with J, with T… but not with fellow ‘down on their luck writers’ like Peter Dillon. It’s as if the uselessness of my own ‘chimerical ideas’ is revealed when I hear others carrying on in the same fashion.
Dad is the worst of all for putting me down
He’s yet to say ‘grow up, settle down, behave’, but I can read it in his looks. He seems to despise the fact that I should seek happiness in what I do with my day-to-day working life.
There are others, I know, who would despair of me in that respect those who are similarly getting nowhere (or somewhere slowly) are my best allies: Ian Singleton, Richard Johns, Susanna White.
Continuing with Henry Miller and the relationship between friends and the writer:
‘He believe in you only in so far as he knows you; the possibility that you are great than you seem is disturbing for friendship is founded on mutuality’.
This seems like an excuse to be the lonely introvert – but how much is it necessary to cut yourself off?
Can I take Wanda along and live in a mud hut, or cottage, or chalet somewhere?
That would isolate us from friends and family – but Wanda is my friend and family. That is the compromise?
I would certainly never sacrifice her to bury myself in some life long hermitage. But I can see the sense in trying to confide in semi-strangers; in someone who might believe in me (whether or not they have the right to judge).More of Henry Miller ….
‘It is almost a law that when a man embarks on a great adventure he must cut all ties. He must take himself off to the wilderness, and when he has wrestled it out with himself, he must return and choose a disciple’.
My own idea of a disciple is a pupil – ‘Robin’ to my Batman, but probably (undoubtedly) female. So that there is a hint of sexuality, a taste of sexual involvement – something to make the blood race, lustre and speed to the imagination. Temporarily I have felt in such positions with V and T.
I need my Anais Nin!!
Wanda is my rock, my support, my love.
I shouldn’t burden her with a side of my mind she accepts but cannot switch into – she is numbers, I am words; she is pragmatic, I’m inventive.
More from Henry Miller on the writer’s need for a disciple:
‘It doesn’t matter how poor quality the disciple may be: it matter only that he believe implicitly. For a germ to sprout, some other person, some one individual out of the crowd, has to show faith’. (Sexus, p 28)
Who has this been for me?
L when we wrote ‘The French Test’. K when I was setting up ‘Last Stand Video’. V when I was composing ballads and singing – and now R with ‘The French Test’.
(Spot the problem with this one, he is male).
For a time J (and her kids) have inspired me with ‘Little Green Hannah’ and ‘Little Red Jake’. Who could be such a disciple? A –because the was she read ‘Henry and June;’ even R.’
Who else do I know who has tried, or is trying, to struggle with the same task.
Yet more from Henry Miller …
‘Artists, like great religious leader show amazing perspicacity in this respect. They never pick the likely one for their purpose, but always some obscure, frequently ridiculous person’.
(Sexus, p 28)
The choice must be theirs not mine, one which judges their enthusiasm, not their academic merit or related experience – a graduate wanna-be agent.
And Miller goes on, leading the way to Anais Nin who clearly made the writer:
‘What aborted me in my beginning, what almost proved to be a tragedy, was that I could find no one who believed in me implicitly, either as a person or as a writer, someone outside the vicious circle of fake admirers and envious denigrators’.
Euphoria in writing
And describing the private joy of a day spent writing in the head:
‘At last I reached that point where you abandon all hope of remembering your brilliant ideas and you simply surrender to the luxury of writing a book in your head. You know that you’ll never be able to recapture these ideas, not a single line of all the tumultuous and marvellously dovetailed sentences which shift though your mind like sawdust spilling through a hole. On such days you have for company the best companions you will ever have – the modest, defeated, plodding workaday self which has a name and which can be identified in public registers in case of accident or death. But the real self, the one who has taken over the reins, is almost a stranger. He is the one who is filled with ideas; he is the one who is writing in the air; he is the one who, if you become too fascinated with his exploits, will finally expropriate the old, worn-out self, taking over your name, your address, your wife, your past, your future. Naturally, when you walk in on an old friend in this euphoric state he doesn’t wish to concede immediately that you have another life, a life apart in which he has no share. He says quite naively ‘feeling rather high today, eh? And you nod your head almost shamefacedly’.
Say what you want to say the way you want to say it. Hey, Presto! There are great chunks of Miller, some of which I may have already written out.
In Sexus, look at pages 77,78,79, then 92,93.
Here Miller describes the image of his wife when she discovers Henry’s intentions to leave her. It aptly describes my parting moments with S (No. 1) and J (No 12 ?)
‘At this she hung her head. She looked indescribably sad and weary, like a human wreck hanging from a meat hook. I looked down at the floor, unable to bear the sight of her face’.
(Sexus, p 91)
Art makes you restless, dissatisfied.
On art, Miller says this through the mouth of Ulric:
‘The world is going to the dogs. You don’t need much intelligence to get along as things go. In fact, the less intelligence you have the better off you are. We’ve got it so arranged now that things are brought to you on a platter. All you need to know is how to do one little thing passably well, you join a union, you do as little work as possible, and you get pensioned off when you come of age. If you had, any aesthetic learning you wouldn’t be able to go through the stupid routine year in year out. Art makes you restless, dissatisfied’.
On art, a variety of thoughts:
‘You only become something in order to be it – there wouldn’t be any fun in just becoming all the time’. And …‘The enjoyment of a beautiful thought is nothing to the joy of giving it expression – permanent expression’. On earning a living (or not) ‘Recognition and reward are two different things. Even if you don’t get paid for what you do, you at least have the satisfaction of doing. It’s a pity that we lay so much emphasis on being paid for our labours – it really isn’t necessary and nobody knows it better than the artist. The reason why he has such a miserable time of it is because he elects to do his work gratuitously. He forgets that he has to live’.
(Sexus, p 128)
And more …
‘Do you suppose for one minute that a millionaire enjoys food or wine or women like a hungry artist does? To enjoy anything you have to make yourself ready to receive it; it implies a certain control, discipline, chastity, I might even say. Above all, it implies desire, and desire is something you have to nourish by right living’.
It’s all part of this ‘immerse yourself in a period until you hear its people speak.’
E H Elton. ‘What is history?’
and ‘concept boards’ in deign to surround your mind with a plethora of relevant and related visual stimuli. If its one thing I fail to do in my attempts to write its to treat it like any professional creative work and do my research.
If only in terms of gathered newspaper cutting, photographs, images – favourite phrases and authors.
Models. Be it prose or script …
I may even consider writing some episodes as poetry first in order to capture the imagery. Here, if not recorded already, is a scene from Sexus that aptly describes the several sweaty entanglements I remember.
The goal of life is the living of it
‘The goal of life is the living of it.’
(Sexus, p 149)
Henry Miller found the person he needed to facilitate his writing in Anais Nin, who writes in 1931:
‘I want to fill the world with Henry, with his diabolical notes, plagiarisms, distortions, caricatures, nonsense, lies, profundities’. (Henry and June, p149)
On understanding women’s sexuality Anais writes in a way that gives life to the way Wanda sometimes feels (and Vicki).
Combined with mine and using letters could I split a novel into two view points?
A final word.
Pepys and doing a Sunday ‘Church Crawl’.
I’m amused to discover Pepy’s attitude to the church, ‘his ecclesiastical views … were simply the working rules of a worldling who favoured ecclesiastical uniformity for the sake of civil peace’ very Robert Heinlein (Lazarus Long) and his curiosity which meant that he ‘enjoyed sermon-tasting in several churches on a single Sabbath … even Presbyterian preachers’ like a latter-day zap through the TV channels.