Friday, May 8, 2009

The Henry Miller Method of Diplomacy

Henry Miller was one of the more misunderstood writers, often censored or banned simply because of the use of profanity. A funny comment he made was "sometimes you just have to blurt out 'Shit!', as nothing else is as appropriate." He used a stream of consciousness technique that let his mind flow from one idea to another with little cohesion other than that it perfectly illustrated how our minds work, while revealing his underlying philosophy, which was a love for humanity, abhorrance of war, strife, and materialism.

My favorite books of his were the trilogy called "The Rosy Crucifixion": Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus. In all of these he has many dinners with a diverse group of friends. He says that he purposely invited about eight people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds, believing their differences would make for interesting debates and conversation.

He says after one of these that "if the world leaders would only get together, have a three hour dinner and share many bottles of wine, they would all agree to disagree, but would emerge as friends after the evening, and all wars could be prevented." He also thinks that the average citizens of each nation never prefer war, but the leaders are able to thrust them into wars without their consent, or use the media to manipulate them into wars for political reasons.

Most of his writing was done after WW1 but before WW2, but I think, along with the Dadaist art movement, that they could all see the potential for another war looming, and were all concerned with its prevention through common sense and comraderie. Too bad we can't seem to make this work in practice, on a large scale.

Miller's best book critically was edited by friend Anais Nin, who took about 2000 pages of outtakes from the pair of Tropic books and created the wonderful short story collection called Black Spring. If Miller's work is new to you, I'd start with this book. The stories "The Tailor Shop", about his dad's shop in the garment district of New York, and "The Angel is My Watermark", about painting a watercolor, are two of the best stories I've ever read. I suppose many writers could benefit from a great editor, as this book illustrates.


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