Nostalgia without chaos: Henry Miller and the Book of Friends.
Boym's concepts hold important ramifications for a study of Henry Miller's work. (2) While casual critics sometimes view Miller as either a gritty realist or a comic surrealist, commentators rarely address his nostalgic rhythms. Those who do, such as Kingsley Widmer, generally focus on Miller's late period and deride his writing as "slight addenda" to his earlier productions (93). Miller himself seems to reinforce this strategy, writing to Lawrence Durrell that his final major undertaking, the Book of Friends project, would be "Simple, nostalgic, perhaps even sentimental" (Durrell-Miller Letters 461). Critics are in virtual agreement that the later books seem inferior to those written prior to the sixties, and Durrell himself diplomatically called volume III of the Book of Friends "great fun," although his comment that "I wish you could have brought the portrait up to date" subtly expresses his disappointment with the trilogy and, indeed, with most of Miller's later work (509). (3) Despite this perception, however, few analysts attempt to trace the source of their distaste for Miller's final narratives, apart from some brief, pejorative remarks about nostalgia or repetition. Nevertheless, while definitely foregrounding nostalgia in his final decade, Miller also employs nostalgia in most of his more acclaimed books, although he does so in a much more technically sophisticated way. While in most, but not all, of his later books Miller uses restorative (generally) nostalgia in isolation, in his Parisian and Big Sur books he combines his reflective nostalgia with a wide array of stylistic strategies. In valorizing Miller's early period, critics are in part receptive to what Boym labels the "ironic, inconclusive, and fragmentary" ideology concomitant with reflective nostalgia (50). In addition, they prefer the rhetorical pyrotechnics of what Paul Jahshan labels Miller's "marked" passages, verbal flights that serve as counterpoints to his more anecdotal prose (17). Via an analysis of Miller's shifting use of nostalgia in his early and late periods, readers will better grasp Miller's philosophical and aesthetic evolution from Modern Skepticism to "Chinese" Acceptance. In this way, readers should also recognize the ideological basis for preferring Miller's more technically complex work to that of his more straightforward narratives.
Henry Miller is an unabashedly nostalgic writer. Given his reputation as a literary gangster and sexual bad boy, such an observation will no doubt meet with disapprobation by some. Part of the confusion rests with an overemphasis on certain aspects of certain of his narratives, while much of the remaining befuddlement stems from a deeply rooted semantic bias that ignores recent efforts to clarify the phenomenon known as nostalgia. As the former will become apparent in subsequent paragraphs dealing with the texts, I will attempt here to elucidate why nostalgia may have held a strong appeal for one of the twentieth century's most notorious writers. In his manuscript "The New Instinctivism" (published in Nexus 4), Miller offers readers a clue as to how he initially employed nostalgia in his writings. Arguing for a return to humanity's original instincts, Miller declares that the modern world "is a world in which science attempts vainly to give solidity to nothingness" (124). A few years later, in "Megalopolitan Maniac," Miller further laments how war and progress have destroyed what he sees as the past's spiritual and psychological equilibrium:
Men are delirious in their new-found freedom. A perpetual seance with megaphones and ticker tape, men with no arms dictating to wax cylinders; factories going night and day, turning out more sausages, more pretzels, more buttons, more bayonets, more coke, more laudanum, more sharp-edged axes, more automatic pistols. (245-46)
In both passages, Miller chafes against the supposed virtues of technological progress, yet he does not uncritically pine for a restorative retreat into a pastoral haven of the past. Rather, he employs nostalgia as, in the words of Sylviane Agacinski, "a mark of religious or metaphysical thinking that condemns the present world" (18). As John J. Su observes, writers of the modernist period tended to use nostalgia out of "iconoclastic impulses" that sought a "partial or vestigial recovery of a past that has been betrayed and effaced by bourgeois modernization" (11). In Miller's early work, therefore, nostalgia represents not a dewy-eyed escape from the present or an unconscious self-delusion but rather it functions as an ideological weapon, what Su refers to as "a means of expressing resistance" and "a conscious decision to reject the logic of modernity" (4). In his early use of nostalgia, Miller does not seek to destroy the automobile, does not wish to implode the skyscraper, does not desire to expunge store shelves of radios and other shit "wrapped in cellophane" (Sexus 375). No, his apocalypse is more fundamental in that it calls for a revolution of the spirit in which humans do not allow such symbols of modern life to overwhelm their sense of the marvelous. His early use of nostalgia, thus, is often both self-conscious and reflective, and it draws from artistic and philosophical traditions Miller felt were more in touch with spiritual and physical harmony.
Nevertheless, Miller drew from a different source of nostalgia from the start, although its manifestations became much more pronounced in his later years. This latter form of nostalgia, the restorative, surfaces via Miller's use of sentiment, frequently uncritical sentiment. Amy M. Flaxman notes that emotions frequently "overwhelm" Miller, and argues that "emotion drives his writing as much as its 'characters'" (51, 57). Karl Orend also points out Miller's hyper-emotionalism, writing that "Henry could write excessive and dramatic all or nothing letters to a woman he had just met" ("Childhood" 70). Orend explains elsewhere that Miller often "projected his deepest feelings and turbulent emotions into his prose and brought to life a reality that he imagined and wished were real" (Brotherhood 17). Such descriptions dovetail nicely with Boym's concept of restorative nostalgia, the form of nostalgia most associated with escapism and fantasy. When Miller makes use of restorative nostalgia, as he frequently does in connection with his character Una Gifford or with memories of the 14th Ward, he often lets down his critical guard. At such moments, Miller reveals a persona that, in the words of nostalgia expert Andreea Ritivoi, "is constantly and painfully aware of loss" (6). Here, the expatriate Miller waxes on the superiority of bygone days and places. In "The Fourteenth Ward," for example, Miller embraces both the heroes and villains of his boyhood: "No one seemed to notice that the streets were ugly or dirty. If the sewer mains were open you held your nose. If you blew your nose you found snot in your handkerchief and not your nose. There was more of inward peace and contentment" (4). One must recall that in the early days of his Parisian exile, Miller positively trembled with homesickness, expressing physical symptoms similar to those described by the originator of the word nostalgia, Johannes Hofer. Miller wrote to Irving Stettner that "I was afflicted with nostalgia, whose original Greek meaning is 'longing for the womb' and not just longing" ("A Few Chaotic" 37). In such instances, Ritivoi reminds us that nostalgia can take on the guise of a "psychological filter" that helps individuals maintain their sense of identity (30). In his earlier works, Miller managed to embed such restorative nostalgia among a host of other conventions, such as diatribes, sexual fantasies, microessays, catalogues, and surrealist flights, but later in life, he consciously stripped his writing of such devices.
Most critics far prefer the violent, often chaotic, prose of Miller's Parisian days to the more measured lines of the Rosy Crucifixion and certainly to the Book of Friends trilogy written in his waning years. Of the latter, Erica Jong notes, for example, that "As Brooklyn recedes it gets sunnier and sunnier" (319) (4), while Earl Rovit less charitably refers to the trilogy's "washed-out form," (2217) and Widmer lambastes the books as "three tritely written and imperceptive little volumes" that offer a "flatter retelling" of earlier stories (93). Miller certainly, but not exclusively, makes use of incidents that he deals with in other books. However, Miller repeats himself even in the Parisian works, and it is all three critics' emphasis on form and style that reveals the underlying thread of their respective dismissals. Rovit, in particular, alludes to the chief distinction between Miller's use of nostalgia in earlier works and his adoption of a nostalgic pose in his later narratives.
Miller's first volume of the Book of Friends trilogy includes portraits of several people who appeared as characters in his earlier work, such as Jimmy Pasta and Joe O'Reagan. Unlike his prior depictions, however, which surface amidst a variety of other types of writing and which rarely span more than a page or two, the recollections in Book of Friends are less concentrated and rarely use mixed modes. While Miller still avails himself of the alinear patterns of spiral form, prompting Mary V. Dearborn to say that the trilogy "digresses maddeningly," the shifts usually denote new anecdotes rather than different writing styles as in the earlier books (303). The effect of this monologism brings Miller's restorative nostalgia to the fore. In his chapter on childhood friends Joey and Tony, for instance, Miller writes that "Just to say their names makes me think of the Golden Age" (37). After describing the history of meeting the boys, Miller proceeds to discuss their adventures, along the way adding details that do not appear in his earlier published work. Speaking of the boys' country sophistication, for instance, he states that "Until I met Joey and Tony I had never held a bird in my two hands, never knew what it was to feel the warmth and trembling of a tiny live creature" (39). While clearly evoking the strong emotions that run through Miller's oeuvre, such passages also reveal a type of utopian longing for the past that is different from the nostalgia used in earlier works such as Tropic of Capricorn. In that narrative, for example, Miller does use nostalgia when speaking of Joey and Tony (here called Gene), but he does so in a more reflective way:
What I am thinking of, with a certain amount of regret and longing, is that this thoroughly restricted life of early boyhood seems like a limitless universe and the life which followed upon it, the life of the adult, a constantly diminishing realm. From the moment when one is put in school one is lost: one has the feeling of having a halter put around his neck. The taste goes out of the bread as it goes out of life. Getting the bread becomes more important than the eating of it ... Joey and Gene were the essence of goodness: they were friends in the old meaning of the word. I think of Joey often when I go out into the country because he was what is called a country boy. That meant, for one thing, that he was more loyal, more sincere, more tender, than the boys we knew. (123-24)
In both texts, Miller depicts a nostalgic world, but whereas the former is a decontextualized "Golden Age," in Tropic of Capricorn, a book intensely focused on the spiritually enervating effects of capitalism and its bourgeois ethos, the nostalgia functions primarily to point out what Ritivoi calls the "critical discrepancy between the present and the past" (30). The special quality that Miller's nostalgia evokes in the second passage concerns less specific actions, or even specific people, than it does an alternative way of viewing life. Miller's discussion of boyhood in the earlier books is heavily tinged with nostalgia, but Miller seeks to recover the spiritual wholeness he felt then rather than the events or places themselves. The cultural anxiety induced by the perceived need to earn more and more, to acquire more and more: this is the target in the earlier book, whereas in Book of Friends, this layer is not as evident. In Tropic of Capricorn, the nostalgic memory stems from a moment of despair wherein Miller contemplates "The immense, frozen solitude of the million-footed mob," and it is but one among many in a book of frenzied and polystylized fragments (113). In Book of Friends, the style is monovalent, and the nostalgia is generally unrelieved.
Another example of Miller's more demotic prose style in Book of Friends occurs in the chapter on Jimmy Pasta, a childhood friend who would later appear as "Tony Marella" in Nexus. Toward the end of the section on Pasta, Miller recalls meeting Jimmy during a period in which he (Miller) is "depressed ... dejected ... [and] starved" (75). In the span of a few pages, Miller tells the tale of June and Jean, a story that would dominate Nexus. Stripped of all but the barest facts, Pasta's role in the narrative is reduced to "what a good, loyal friend he [was]" and his "sterling qualities" (79). In other words, Miller employs monostylistic restorative nostalgia to convey an anecdote about a stand-up guy. Miller treats the anecdote much differently in Nexus. While he does refer to Tony as a "good egg," Miller's style is much more layered in Nexus. In Book of Friends, because of Pasta's influence Miller receives a job in the Parks Department, only to learn (on the same page) that June and Jean have left him to go to Europe. In Nexus, Miller embeds the anecdote between long discussions of his problems with Mona (June), meditations on writers such as Strindberg and Gorky, contemplations about writing, anecdotes about topics such as a high-class speakeasy and meeting Mona's brother, catalogues of French street names, and descriptions of his new job: nearly forty pages. Miller employs nostalgia, but he does so reflectively, as in the following passage:
Suddenly I noticed a heap of discarded clothing in the corner. It was Mona's. I picked up each article--panties, brassiere, blouse--and automatically sniffed them. They still reeked of the perfume she used. I gathered them up and stuffed them under my pillow. Then I began to yell. I yelled and yelled and yelled. (154)
Here, Tony's (Pasta's) gesture is an ironic afterthought, a fatalistic poke in the eye, whereas in Book of Friends Miller foregrounds it to demonstrate the character of the man in sentimental fashion. The nostalgia present in Nexus underscores Miller's pain, with the touching act of smelling the clothing signifying Mona's absence and his utter emptiness. Wrenched out of its chaotic context and stylistic diversity, the anecdote loses its capacity, in the words of nostalgia theorist Horia-Vicentiu Patrascu, "intervene, rearrange, merge different moments, annul distances, [and] have ... an ultimate power over the past" (495).
In the trilogy's second volume, My Bike and other Friends, Miller largely avoids recapitulating events he writes about in earlier volumes because he mainly discusses people he met long after his Brooklyn and Paris days. The nostalgic effect, however, remains the same because the chapters avoid polystylism. The section on Bezalel Schatz, for instance, recounts a European trip in straightforward fashion, while the Joe Gray chapter is a pure character sketch, laced with anecdotes. These and most of the other chapters wistfully emphasize loyalty and companionship. The sketch on Harolde Ross, however, hardly discusses the man at all, opting instead to speak on the "exciting, glamorous epoch" of 1910-1924, the very period he brutalizes in many of his earlier books. While he does point out the horrors of World War I, with its No Man's Land "piled high with cadavers" (9), he mainly concentrates on "glorious silent films," ballet, opera, and theatre, and he refers to New York as "a very civilized place" that had "electricity in the air" (11). The rhetorical tension of the Parisian books has vanished, and the nostalgia's restorative tone is palpable when compared with the more reflective nostalgia of a volume such as Plexus, wherein Miller's opinion of New York's electric properties appear far different, as in this description of
A typical New York throng, no different from what it was in the year One.... The workers were wending their weary way homeward. Not a spark of life in the whole train. Only the switchboard in the motorman's compartment was alive, crackling with electricity. You could add up all the thoughts that were being thought, put a decimal in front of them, and add twenty-six digits to make it even less than nothing. (585-86)
Here, New York functions as a succubus, draining the spiritual and intellectual energy from individuals who must feed the capitalist machine. As with Tropic of Capricorn, however, Plexus also makes use of nostalgia, yet unlike Book of Friends that nostalgia manifests itself within a multi-vocal context. For instance, Miller writes that:
With the slow-motion eyes of childhood one watches breathlessly as this latent realm of life slowly reveals its pulse-beat. One becomes aware of the existence of those invisible rays which emanate perpetually from the most remote parts of the cosmos and which radiate from the microcosm as well as from the macrocosm.... In the twinkle of an eye one is divorced from the illusory world of material reality. (Plexus 316)
Nostalgic as this is, Miller embeds it the passage within the context of Henry and Mona's extreme poverty and the sad changes that have come over his childhood friend, Stanley. Throughout Plexus, Miller notes how economic necessity forces people to lose sight of the vital, miraculous elements of life. The nostalgia used here, as opposed to that in Book of Friends, takes the form of an Emersonian epiphany, wherein Miller demonstrates that true artists must not let quotidian concerns about money and possessions dampen their capacity to experience life in a highly charged, emotional way. Additionally, the nostalgia becomes more effective when juxtaposed with "present day" anecdotes, catalogues, dreams, diatribes, and the like because it enters the readers' consciousness almost seamlessly and without dominating the narrative. The fleeting moments of nostalgia in the earlier books reflect but one mood and one strategy that the narrator employs along his journey to become an artist and to discover himself.
The third volume of the trilogy, Joey, combines the focus of the previous two books, as it discusses friends of both the early and later stages in Miller's life. Interestingly, Joey employs far less restorative nostalgia than the other books in the trilogy. While occasional phrases crop up, such as his description of "Aunt Anna" as an "angel," the book by and large remains at the level of factual anecdote. Apart from a diatribe against Anais Nin and the odd moment of regret, Miller avoids extreme sentiment, which perhaps what lies behind J.D. Brown's comment that the book is the "most remarkable volume of the trilogy" (103). Rovit, though, claims that the book's "dominant accent is [an] intermingling of sentimentality and egomania" (2217). Rovit's remark about sentimentality might apply to the section on Brenda Venus, but it certainly fails to capture the spirit of some of the other chapters, most notably those on Pauline and Camilla. In both chapters, Miller clearly avoids the cloying sentimentality of restorative nostalgia, and his self-portrait is far from flattering, as when he refers to himself as a "son-of-a-bitch of the first water" in connection to his treatment of the "widow" Pauline (67) or when he represents Camilla, the Valeska of Tropic of Capricorn, as calling him a cad (78). Miller's style in Joey, while uneven, more closely approximates his use of anecdotes in the earlier books, although even here he never switches styles as dramatically as he does in narratives such as Tropic of Cancer and Nexus. Miller's nostalgia is less omnipresent in Joey, but it appears in flashes, such as when he breaks down weeping when teased by friends about Florrie Martin (99) or when, in recounting Pauline's abortion, he writes, "I spread the towel and beheld a perfectly formed little boy, red as an Indian. It was my son. I choked on the realization of this fact" (60). The nostalgia here is much more in line with the piece's underlying critique of those social and economic forces that frowned upon a relationship between a younger man and an older women, forces that prompted Miller's mother to threaten him with a knife when he suggested that he might marry her (59). In Sexus, Miller describes the scene with little overt nostalgia:
All through the winter it goes on like this--until the day when I come home and find her lying on the bed in a pool of blood. In the dresser the doctor has left the body of the seven-month toothache wrapped in a towel. It is like a homunculus, the skin a dark red, and it has hair and nails. It lies breathless in the drawer of the dresser, a life yanked out of darkness and thrust back into darkness. It has no name, nor has it been loved, nor will it be mourned. It was pulled up by the roots, and if it shrieked no one heard. (296-97).
Here, the fetus is a thing, an "it," rather than a son, and Miller expresses no despondency whatsoever. An earlier manifestation of nostalgia, however, may shed light on the discrepancy between the two versions. Just prior to representing the aftermath of the abortion, Miller describes a harrowing dream, in which Una Gifford, a character freighted with nostalgic import in Miller's canon, appears as a "frightening loveliness" with whom "there is no longer any possibility of communication" (292-93). Una "vanishes like smoke from the empire of sleep," and Miller realizes that "bliss is the world ... where creation reigns" (294). Miller's nostalgia for Una thus produces two main effects. First, Miller recognizes that art deals less with escape than in possibility, and secondly the dream throws Miller into a deep despair, for he is still more coward than artist. In the later rendition of the scene, a more confident Miller can express his pain and loss through the vulnerable mode of restorative nostalgia.
In the "Camilla" section, Miller stresses the eponymous figure's intelligence and "extremely kind-hearted" nature as well as her race, which he mentions in connection to her employment status at Western Union. Miller then relates that an "ass-sucker" told management about Camilla's mixed-race heritage, which resulted first in threats of termination and then in an offer of a "better job with more money" in Havana (that she refused). Miller conveys this information fairly dispassionately, does not stray from restorative nostalgia, and fails to embed his anecdote with other modes. This is certainly not the case in Tropic of Capricorn, where he covers the same material in a far more nuanced way. Following an extended metaphor about skyscrapers and difference, Miller explains that an "officious little Jew" had complained about Valeska (Camilla) until the company president finally offered her a transfer to Havana. In this version, Miller also notes that he threatened to quit if Valeska were fired. Following this anecdote, Miller writes about the start of a sexual affair with Valeska, being in limbo on the Brooklyn Bridge, Christ, poverty, and numerous other topics. Thus, Valeska's unjust treatment fits into a larger tapestry of America's spiritual and ethical malaise. Her story represents and approximates those of "millions lying on their backs, dead to the world ... the army of men itching to unravel their tale of misery" (59-60). Miller's empathy--which is ironically heightened in Tropic of Capricorn by the touching offer to quit--dissolves into a much broader contemplation of preserving one's identity in a socioeconomic culture that breeds complacency and conformity, Joey lacks the reflective nostalgia of Tropic of Capricorn, a nostalgia in which Miller looks back on his conversion from non-artist to writer: "Just as the city itself had become a huge tomb in which men struggled to earn a decent death so my own life came to resemble a tomb which I was constructing out of my own death" (62). In Joey, the anecdote stands alone, calls back restoratively to an isolated moment detached from struggle.
Miller's work overflows with nostalgia, yet readers almost universally prefer the stylistic chaos of the earlier Miller. However, Miller consciously rejected this polystylism as he grew older, possibly because of his desire to cease struggling and accept life. As he told Roger Jones in 1977, he grew to possess "equanimity" and "even serenity" (214). Clearly, however, those who do not see, or do not share in, Miller's attempts to strip his mind and prose of unnecessary chaos value the textual noise present in the earlier works. Indeed, many readers, such as Durrell, Jahshan, and Caroline Blinder, view even the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy as a diminishment of Miller's technical skills. Such a preference reveals a distaste for the emphasis of a single mode in general and nostalgia in particular, yet it ignores the ample presence of nostalgia within the most critically acclaimed of Miller's works. Indeed, such nostalgia proves crucial to Miller's exploration of identity, as Alexander V. Zinchenko suggests with his observation that nostalgia "serves as a defense against this unknown and frightening 'Self'" (79). Miller's ultimate concentration on restorative nostalgia suggest that he had worked through the anguish and bitterness of his early days and achieved a modicum of peace. Peace may be wonderful, but for most readers of Miller, it is also boring. When used as an epiphanic technique, however, the soothing effect of nostalgia in the narratives offers readers a sharper sense of the worldview Miller seeks to explode and conjures up a sense of self that struggles to be born afresh.
Agacinski, Sylviane. Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia. Trans. Jody Gadding. New York: Columbia UP, 2003. Print.
Boym, Svetlana. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic, 2001. Print.
Brown. J.D. Henry Miller. New York: Ungar, 1986. Print.
Dearborn, Mary V. The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. Print.
Dora, Veronica Delia. "The Rhetoric of Nostalgia: Postcolonial Alexandria between Uncanny Memories and Global Geographies." Cultural Geographies 13 (2006): 207-238. Print.
Durrell, Lawrence, and Henry Miller. The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935-1980. Ed. Ian S. MacNiven. New York: New Directions, 1988. Print.
Flaxman, Amy M. New Anatomies: Tracing Emotions in Henry Miller's Writings. New York: Bern Porter, 2000. Print.
Goodwin, James. "Henry Miller, American Autobiographer." Critical Essays on Henry Miller. Ed. Ronald Gottesman. New York: G.K. Hall, 1991. 297-313. Print.
Impert, Laura, and Margaret Rubin. "The Mother at the Glen: The Relationship between Mourning and Nostalgia." Psychoanalytic Discourse 21 (2011): 691-706. Print.
Janover, Michael. "Nostalgias." Critical Horizons 1 (2000): 113-33. Print.
Jahshan, Paul. Henry Miller and the Surrealist Discourse of Excess: A Post-Structuralist Reading. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. Print.
Jong, Erica. The Devil at Large. New York: Turtle Bay, 1993. Print.
Lehman, Eric D. "Acceptance and Friendship in Henry Miller's Book of Friends." Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal 7 (2010): 71-78. Print.
Miller, Henry. Book of Friends. Santa Barbara: Capra P, 1976. Print.
--. "A Few Chaotic Recollections." From Your Capricorn Friend: Henry Miller and the Stroker, 1978-1980. New York: New Directions, 1984.36-39. Print.
--. "The Fourteenth Ward." Black Spring. New York: Grove, 1963. 1-17. Print.
--. "Henry Miller at Eighty-Four." With Roger Jones. Conversations with Henry Miller. Ed. Frank L. Kersnowski and Alice Hughes. Jackson: UP of Mississippi. 207-23.
--. Joey. Santa Barbara: Capra P, 1979. Print.
--. Megapolitan Maniac." Black Spring. New York: Grove, 1963. 241-49. Print.
--. My Bike and Other Friends. Santa Barbara: Capra P, 1978. Print.
--. Nexus. New York: Grove P, 1965. Print.
--. Plexus. New York: Grove P, 1965. Print.
--. Sexus, New York: Grove P, 1965. Print.
--. Tropic of Capricorn. New York: Grove P, 1961. Print.
Orend, Karl. The Brotherhood of Fools and Simpletons: Gods and Devils in Henry Miller's Utopia. Paris: Alyscamps, 2005. Print.
--. "Childhood Dreams and Reveries: Scattered Visions of June, Muse of Henry Miller and Anais Nin." A Calf in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal 3 (2006): 64-99. Print.
Patrascu, Horia-Vicentiu. "Nostalgia--from Disease to Metaphysical Feeling." Philobiblon 16 (2011): 481-498. Print.
Ritivoi, Andreea Deciu. Yesterday's Self." Nostalgia and the Immigrant Identity. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002. Print.
Rovit, Earl. Rev. of Joey: A Loving Portrait of Alfred Perles together with some Bizarre Episodes Relating to the Opposite Sex by Henry Miller. Library Journal 15 Oct. 1979: 2217. Print.
Stevenson, Randall. "Remembering the Pleasant Bits: Nostalgia and the Legacy of Modernism.'" Novel: A Forum on Fiction 43 (2010): 132-139. Print.
Su, John J. Ethics and Nostalgia in the Contemporary Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. Print.
Widmer, Kingsley. Henry Miller. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Print.
Zinchenko, Alexander V. "Nostalgia: Dialogue between Memory and Knowing." Russian Social Science Review 53 (2012): 68-81. Print.
(1) See Laura Impert and Margret Rubin for an alternative binary. They divide the concept into embodied and manic nostalgia, with the former being "intraspychic and intersubjective" and the latter "primarily a defense that forestalls forward movements" (693). Paralleling Boym--and thus enhancing one's understanding of Miller--they contend that "There is a flattened-out affective quality to manic nostalgia, as compared to the affect-saturated quality of embodied nostalgia" (698). Critics of the Book of Friends trilogy tend to hone in on the series' "flat" style and its "matter-of-fact, calmly anecdotal fashion" (Goodwin 311).
(2) Randall Stevenson argues that nostalgia is important to Modernist writers in general and that it functions as "a key and particular component of twentieth-century literature" (138).
(3) An important exception to the near-universal disappointment in the trilogy is Eric D. Lehman, who views the books as grappling with "heavy questions and determining how the individual freedoms he had championed his whole life could sensibly work" (78). Lehman detects several themes in the works, including "regret and guilt" (74), "positive definition[s] of friendship" (75), "literature as a connective force" (76), "the ability to listen and to trust" (76), and "acceptance" (77).
(4) Interestingly, in Henry Miller Asleep and Awake (1975), Miller contradicts this view, calling New York (then and now) an "old shithole" where he experienced "nothing but starvation, humiliation, despair, frustration ... nothing but misery" (Schiller). Decades removed from the locale, Miller projects raw emotion, not sunny sentiment, in the scene.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Decker, James M.|
|Publication:||Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
|Previous Article:||Henry Miller: creating the 'New Man' out of 'Chaos' getting a handle on Henry Miller.|
|Next Article:||A confession by the ping-pong table.|