Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Henry Miller’

27 MAY, 2013

Henry Miller’s Notice to Visitors

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“When you come please be so kind as to check your neuroses and psychoses at the gate.”

Fame comes with a vexing flipside — the constant barrage of requests and, in the pre-digital days, the common offense of unannounced in-person visits to the famed person’s home or workspace. Managing this onslaught of generally well-meaning but suffocating adulation with the right balance of graciousness and firmness, the kind that both honors the admiration and protects one’s creative space and regimen, is an art unto itself. Hardly anyone has mastered it with more humor and heart than the great Henry Miller — he of profound cosmic insight, great wisdom about life, and creative discipline worth protecting. Shortly after he moved to California’s Big Sur in 1940 in search for a haven to write, as his literary fame and notoriety were gathering momentum in America, Miller hung the following delightful and inimitably Millerian handwritten note on his front door, included in his altogether fantastic 1971 autobiography, My Life and Times (public library):

The undersigned wishes to inform all and sundry that he has long since left the Abode of Peace, that he no longer has any comfort or inspiration to offer, and that even the migratory birds avoid this spot. Prayers are offered up daily — without charge. The garden has been transformed into an open air Vespasienne. Look toward Nepenthe when you water the flowers. If you are seeking Truth travel a little farther south : you will find it at Ojai Chez Krishnamurti. Be kind to the children – they abide. For a metaphysical treat stop at the Big Sur Inn which is also a haven for stray cats and dogs. Life along the South Coast is just a bed of roses, with a few thorns and nettles interspersed. The life class meets every Monday regardless. Refreshments are served when demanded. Those interested in celestial navigation are advised to first obtain a rudimentary knowledge of integral calculus, phlebotomy, astral physics and related subjects. The use of liquor is strictly forbidden on interplanetary flights.

When you come please be so kind as to check your neuroses and psychoses at the gate. Gossip may be exchanged during the wee hours of the morning when the gremlins have left. Please bear in mind that this is a small community and news travels fast. (Carrier pigeons are provided when necessary.) Fans and other obnoxious pests would do well to maintain silence. Questions relating to work-in-progress will be answered in stereotype fashion in the columns of the Big Sur Guide at the usual space rates. God is Love — and in the ultimate Love will prevail. Remember, man is the ruler, not Saturn! Let us do our best, even if it gets us nowhere. In the midst of darkness there is light. “I am the light of the world,” said Jesus. He said a mouthful. Light, more light!

Respectfully,

Henry Miller

The notice is currently on display at the Henry Miller Memorial Library at Big Sur and can be found in Miller’s autobiography. Complement it with Miller on creative death and the joy of urination.

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03 MAY, 2013

Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers

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Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Didion, Sontag, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Orwell, and other literary icons.

By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.

Please enjoy. (If you’re unable to scroll within the embed below, open the full reading list in a new window.)

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11 APRIL, 2013

Henry Miller on the Joy of Urination

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“To relieve a full bladder is one of the great human joys.”

Henry Milleroracle of writing, modern philosopher, man of discipline, wise heart — may endure as a literary legend, but part of what made his spirit so extraordinary was his irreverence and his childlike wonder at the world. From This Is Henry, Henry Miller from Brooklyn: Conversations with the Author from the Henry Miller Odyssey (public library) — the same 1974 gem that gave us Miller’s meditation on the mystery of the universe and the meaning of life — comes his delightful paean to something far less exalted and much more grittily human: urination.

I do not find it strange that America placed a urinal in the middle of the Paris exhibit in Chicago. I think it belongs there, and I think it a tribute that the French should be proud of. … I am a man who pisses largely and frequently, which they say is a sign of great mental activity. One likes to piss in sunlight among human beings who stand and smile down at you. Standing behind a tin strip and looking out on the throng with that contented, easy, vacant smile, that long reminiscent pleasurable look, is a good thing. How many times have I stood thus in this smiling gracious world, the sun splashing over me and the birds twittering crazily, and found a woman looking down at me from an open window. Standing thus with heart and bly and bladder open, I seem to recall every urinal I ever stepped into. To relieve a full bladder is one of the great human joys.

This Is Henry, Henry Miller from Brooklyn is a treat in its entirety, an unprecedented glimpse of Miller’s character in all of its dimensions, from the playful to the profound. Complement it with Miller on the art of living and the future of mankind.

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