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‘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 such 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, as you say, that he has to live.’
(Henry Miller, Sexus)
As Anais Nin finds little time to catch up on the backlog of her diary, so I have a stack of eight or more volumes which need to be typed up, edited, expanded and cropped. I’m writing this at work. In theory in my own time. Lunch time. Had to switch gear, to settle into the writer’s mode. So hard to write criticisms, lampoon or caricature the staff, to slag off the area, the accents and the weather.
Perhaps I need a job which does not need to absorb me, that is more predictable, which earns me a living but gives me enough time to myself.
If I lived down the road it would help, I could go home for lunch and have two hours more than I currently have every day in which to write.
And so one day I find myself putting in a few hours during the day and evening, ostensibly to cover some living expenses while I write. Which I do. I write. But I flounder at 70,000 words. I come unstuck on the umpteenth edit. I over plan or don’t plan at all. I get little out. I hate it all until its a decade old. I finish nothing.
Early signs of A.D.D?
Fits and starts. That describes me. Peaks and troughs. Moments of enthusiasm followed by in action, one action followed by another. I remember a Blue Peter programme long before Roy Castle started to present ‘Record Breakers’ in which a man who span plates on top of long sticks set a new world record for the number of plates kept spinning.
A Guinness Book of Records.
That is me at my worst. It explains my behaviour which as a child my mother thought was a problem. The child psychiatrist might have described as hyperactive, might have told Mum of my high I-Q, might have told Mum to tire me out physically as she was unable to tire me out mentally. I tired of activities quickly. I’d do something then want to move on. Other children like to do and redo ad infinitum as if they could never believe they’d done what they just did. I didn’t go for that. Once I’d done something it was over. ‘I’m bored Mum, what can I do ?’ I’d say ten minutes after I’d been set a new task.
In the autumn of 1984 Suzy B had just gone to France. I had just begun JWT. Suzy B and I discussed our break up, then did ourselves up again. The mess lasted for 18 months.
I’m being greeted by Suzy B off a train in Limoges at 3.00 a.m. She has a hotel booked. The train to Tulle is later that morning. Having been so apart for so many weeks we got at it …
‘The gate was locked and I had to turn away from Louveciennes. Foolishly I thought you would be waiting for me ! In the afternoon I tried calling you but was told the phone was disconnected Sundays. At six I gathered up my copy and rushed away – caught the train without a ticket. Figured it all out, what I was going to say to HUGH – I was going to sweep him off his feet and carry you both back to Paris. The last thing in the world I expected was a dark house. I couldn’t believe it. How different it all seemed then when I paced the station platform. I remembered distinctly what time I had waited for the train – your gestures, your words. And now I saw only the stars. My night off ! Christ, couldn’t believe that I would not see you.’
(Letter from Henry Miller to Anais Nin. March 13th 1932)
If I am to be reminded of similar such moving times during various episodes of various affairs. Years too late, not long after she had moved, I walked along her street. Where she had lived for three years, where I could not claim a single encounter. I stood in the lobby and looked at her postal box thinking that this was where a letter I had sent, the thickness of a Mills & Boon, had been delivered.
A few months earlier, amidst a secretive affair, amongst her parents, back at XXX, as nervous as a guinea-pig in a dog kennel, I was shown the designs her architect father had made for her flat shared with XXX. She did more than show me it, she took me inside it, she lead me through the rooms, sold me the place, had me there as we spoke. I overhead Brenda trying to understand why Suzy B should be showing me her flat. Dennis shrugged his shoulders.
Three months later I’m engaged. This time the rebound was powerful enough to land me in the arms of someone who would matter even more.
The Experience of Love
Often as an adolescent I exhausted loves for the experience, I exhausted their possibilities as a means of having something to observe, analyse and write about. What I once considered excessive blue fluff in the belly button inspection of the worst kind I now consider to have been proper preparation for the way I now write.
‘He believes in you only in so far as he knows you; the possibility that you are greater than you seem is disturbing for friendship is founded on mutuality’. (Sexus, P28)
This seems like an excuse to be the lonely introvert – but how much is it necessary to cut yourself off? Can I take Darlingest along and live in a mud hut, or cottage, or chalet somewhere? That would isolate us from friends and family – but Darlingest is my friend and family. That is the compromise?
I would never sacrifice her to burry 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’. (Sexus, p28)
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 VL and with TT.
I need my Anais Nin!!
Darlingest 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.
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 approach to life and writing and reflect on these in relation to the antics and writings 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’. Miller, (1949:28).
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.’ Miller, (1949:29).
Even I do this … with X, with Y … but not with fellow ‘down on their luck writers’ like Z.
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.
Miller, H.V Sexus: Book one of the Rosy Crucifixion (1949)