HM, Arizona Republic, 6-29-69
It all began with Henry Miller By BOB THOMAS Associated Press PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - He possesses the benevolent air of a retired priest. The rheumy eyes narrow into slits, and he speaks in freshets of monologue monologue about his concern for America, the generation of youth and the future of literature. In this seaside suburb of Los Angeles, he resides in a two-story white stucco house surrounded by businessmen, doctors doctors and other members of the upper middle class. It seems a strange place for the great bohemian Henry Miller, hailed by some as a liberator of American language and morals, assailed by others as a literary pornographer. His early novels paved the way for the whole stream of sexually explicit works now coming off the printing presses. Like many a father, however, he is appalled appalled by what he sired. The relaxed, standards of films now permit his literary works to reach the screen. His "Tropic of Cancer" is being filmed in France by Joseph Strick, who directed the movie version of James Joyce's "Ulysses." A Scandinavian company company is bringing forth "Quiet Days in Clichy." Miller himself is starring in a full-length documentary. "The Henry Miller Odyssey." "All this happens so late, so late," laments Miller, shaking his head. "Why couldn't it have happened sooner, when I could have enjoyed it more? Why does recognition come 30 years afterward? "I wrote 'Tropic of Cancer' in 1931, and it was three or four years before HENRY MILLER the publisher in Paris dared to print it. Not until 1961 was it printed in America. "When I meet with young writers today, today, 1 hear them complain that they have a wife and family and they can't make a living from writing. I tell them that it is unfortunate, but any serious writer must wait 20 years before his work will be recognized." By most standards, Miller's works might be considered obscene, but Miller's Miller's artistry raised them above the level of pornography. The books are mostly symbolic rambles through bars, brothels and low-life byways of Paris and other citadels of sin. Does Miller feel responsible for today's today's frankness hi books? "Yes, I suppose I am, along with Joyce and D. H. Lawrence. But they liberated the novel more in a literary way, while I did it for the man in the street." And what does he think of the result of this "liberation?" "I am appalled. I could be a censor, but only on matters of taste and values, That is what is lacking in today's writing. writing. But, of course, I would never impose impose censorship for any reason. I feel that any man is entitled to express himself himself with complete freedom. In time, perhaps, the writing will achieve taste and sensitivity. But it is liable to get worse before it gets better." For Henry Miller, the waiting for fame began in Paris in 1930. He had known a harsh childhood in Brooklyn, studied at City College in New York and at Cornell, then bummed around the United States in odd jobs before seeking the bohemian life of a writer in Paris, But even in prewar France, Miller's writings were considered too avant garde. He scrabbled for a living from magazines and the meager sales of his books, "Tropic of Cancer," "Tropic of Capricorn," "Black Spring," "The Cos* mologicaj Eye," and others. They were too far out to achieve wide readership, as well as too explicit in sexual acts and language to gain entrance to puritanical America. t The war sent Miller back to the United United States and greater poverty. His total assets on arrival: $10. He settled in the mountainous Big Sur country near Monterey, Calif., living a primitive life as he tried to continue serious writing. "WTienever I run down America, it is the institutions and customs that I attack," attack," he reflects. "I find that if I ever go directly to the people, I am never disappointed." The war helped a change of fortune. American GIs discovered his works in France, and his reputation began to spread. After the war, his publisher had amassed $40,000 in royalties, but Miller didn't go to France to collect the money. money. When Supreme Court rulings loosened laws against obscenity, Miller's books finally were printed in his native land. "Tropic of Cancer" was published in 1961, and others followed — too quickly, he believes. Miller was asked: "What is the state of the novel?" "I stay away from reading them. I've thought for some me that the novel died 30 years ago with Joyce. I don't get any nourishment from reading any of today's today's novelists, except for one: that fellow fellow who writes Yiddish novels, Isaac Bashevis Singer." What does he see as the future of writ- Ing? * "I believe that writing will some day give way to another mode of expression. Eventually I think that we will communicate communicate without words. This could perhaps be done by another breed of human being who can develop extrasensory communication. Then we. won't have to talk so much. There is entirely too much talk in the world."