Bukowski and Henry Miller (1 Viewer)

I know Miller's influence on Bukowski has been mentioned now and again in various threads but I find the parallels between the two fascinating, they're like two aspects of a single entity.
I was reading an essay on Miller by Kenneth Rexroth from the 60's earlier, and he describes Miller as a 'Lover of disharmony', taking almost sadistic, misanthropic pleasure in the eventual breakdown of mankind. In retrospect, Miller's alienation and misanthropy appears almost tame when compared to Buk's best polemics!
As Bukowski quit the Post Office, Miller took an even bigger leap of faith when he quit the "Cosmodemonic Cocksucking Corporation", left his wife and family and fled to Paris penniless with only his genius to declare.

Rexroth claims that what Miller found so invigorating about Pre-war Paris was that it reminded him of the Brooklyn of his childhood. 'Miller's Paris' triggered an eidetic memory of an unmediated, un-sanitized, gritty, 'true' America, where individualism still reigned and group-think collectivism was still relatively unheard of.
Miller escaped to Bohemia and ultimately metaphysics. Bukowski is like the younger brother who stayed at home, the younger aspect of Miller, preferring sensuality over intellectualism, still in love with the idea of being an all American loner, a drifter, an urban cowboy.
Both writers were intensely masculine and honest, both despised the yoke of wage slavery and 'family life' that Miller described as belonging to those "Heroic little souls whose very obsession is to liberate themselves from the thraldom of work served only to magnify the squalor and misery of their lives."

Miller chronicled bohemian depravity, Bukowski everyday blue-collar depravity and both achieved an almost supernatural lack of sentimentality in doing this.
Read Tropic of Capricorn and Ham on Rye together and the parallels are spooky.
Miller wrote of his hatred of Walt Disney,and Buk despised Disney's greatest creation 'Mickey Mouse'. Both wanted an America before the cartoon had overlaid the reality - both sort the truth out at great cost to themselves and their sanity.

Maybe Miller had sensed the birth of his 'younger brother' when he wrote in 1945:
"What I like about (some of the artists I've met in the U.S.), Is that they know enough not to want to do a stroke of honest work. They would rather beg, borrow and steal...They look at their fathers and Grandfathers, all brilliant successes in the world of American flapdoodle. They prefer to be shit-heels, if they have to be. Fine! I salute them. They Know what they want."
As Buk and Miller and many other people have found, becoming a 'shit-heel', quitting your job and just taking a long hard look at this world, is often the first and most important step to enlightenment.
Nice observations there Dogbreath. As I recall, Chinaski is reading Tropic of Capricon in Factotum.

Methinks it's about time I read it, too.
Nice post on Miller and Bukowski. Miller's Air-Conditioned Nightmare takes on the dismal plight of the artist in America "” he took a year off to travel the country and try to find the good in it, to little avail during the 1940s.

In Tropic of Capricorn Miller tears apart the Horatio Algers myth that destroyed so many lives, where one supposedly starts as a lowly janitor and works his way up the ladder of "success" to become the head cocksucker. His exposition on his days as an employment manager for Western Union is one of the greatest literary diatribes I've ever read: he goes on and on about the horror stories of those casualties who fell to their own self-destruction between the cracks in American capitalism.

Many have read Miller's Tropic of Cancer, but it's actually part one of a trilogy that includes Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn. Tropic of Capricorn also takes the sexuality of Tropic of Cancer to its next level where he gives his accounts of his early sexual exploits "” almost as if the entire book was written in one long breath. Highly recommended for those who like completely uncensored writing and honesty.

Miller appeared more enamored of Bukowski's writing than the other way around, except when Miller was writing about sex. (The Bukowski Tapes.) Bukowski mentions that he thought Miller was too wordy and had his head too much in the stars. I think Bukowski's reading of Miller may have been limited and he underestimated Miller's tremendous range of interests and missed out on Miller's optimism. Miller's scope was comprehensive and included a deep interest in mysticism as well as sexuality -- such as the teachings of the great Indian sages Ramakrishna and Krishnamurti. Nevertheless, both writers had a great deal in common and not only American but world literature would be unthinkable without both of them.
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I too would recommend "Air-Conditioned Nightmare". an (unfortunately) timeless piece. and of course "Cancer" & "Capicorn" and all of the others.
I like Miller but from what I recall Buk didn't fancy him.

I don't find them that similiar though I can see how someone would. I think of Miller as being optomistic and Buk pessimistic in general.
I agree, slimedog, about the optimist vs pessimist. There are parallels, but Miller is always whistling a happy tune while Bukowski is pulling down the shades. Still, great observations, dogbreath. Miller is definitely worth reading. I think Bukowski sold him short. He's now largely forgotten (or just ignored), but he liberated many minds in his day, and is still a great read.
I do really love Miller's stuff and I think a lot of people who are aligned with buk's sensibility will get a hell of a lot from reading Miller's books too - maybe a little ray of hope! Read Miller's essay: 'On turning Eighty.' Its simply beautiful.

I like what you said about the pessimism/optimism duality between Miller and Bukowski Poptop, that was an important point.
As someone once said about Samuel Beckett, Bukowski is a writer of 'consolation' not 'inspiration'.

P.S. Miller was a better painter anyhow.:cool:
I think Bukowski sold him short. He's now largely forgotten (or just ignored), but he liberated many minds in his day, and is still a great read.

Well Henry Rollins sure loves Henry Miller! Not that it means anything. But I can't remember reading a Henry Rollins book, where he did not mention how phenomenal Miller was. I've read "Cancer" and agree with many members here, Miller is definately an enjoyable read.
I don't think Miller is forgotton but I do believe Buk sold him short.

I worked with a fellow once whose favorite was Miller and he liked Buk but didn't consider him a serious writer for some reason.

Rollins, whose music I like more than his writing, is big on Hubert Selby. I would really recommend him to those who haven't read him. I recently read The Willow Tree by him, very good book.
{...} P.S. Miller was a better painter anyhow.:cool:

I think Bukowski's a better painter. Miller struggled, labored, over details like how to draw a nose. There is a tightness to his work. I like it, but it's not really free. Buk, on the other hand, just said screw it, this will be the nose! His painting is very free, and as a result, much more alive.
I do really love Miller's stuff and I think a lot of people who are aligned with buk's sensibility will get a hell of a lot from reading Miller's books too - maybe a little ray of hope! Read Miller's essay: 'On turning Eighty.' Its simply beautiful.

I like what you said about the pessimism/optimism duality between Miller and Bukowski Poptop, that was an important point.
As someone once said about Samuel Beckett, Bukowski is a writer of 'consolation' not 'inspiration'.

P.S. Miller was a better painter anyhow.:cool:
Enjoyed your comments. I think many readers would find a life-time of satisfaction, friendship and enjoyment, plus tremendous insight into life, with both Miller and Bukowski... I know I have, and I'm eternally grateful for the positive and constructive influences they've had on my life, starting when I first read Miller's sexually-explosive 'Sexus' in my early 20s. It was a rite of passage and I was never the same again. (Sexus is still the most underlined book of literature I've ever read... pages upon pages of highlighted passages... Miller at his best.)

I've read 'On Turning Eighty' and liked it.

I've been lucky enough to have one of Miller's lithographed watercolors and I recommend his book on painting: "To Paint is to Love Again." Pure joy. I learned a great deal about art appreciation from Miller, and overall, without saying in detail why, I consider him a greater artist than Bukowski. Let me quickly add that I enjoy them both. I think Bukowski's line drawings, his caricatures full of charm and humor, are Buk at his best, while so many of his paintings are consistently sloppy, muddy, a mess. He didn't seem to give a damn how his paintings turned out and was simply enjoying the act of putting paint to canvas, and if something happened to turn out well it was a happy accident. I've only seen maybe one or two of his that I would ever consider putting on my walls, because they lack the charm of his drawings, even if it's by the great Bukowski. (I that know others will strongly disagree.)

What I feel they had in common is that they both painted from the guts, but I consider Miller to have gone much farther into the art of painting itself, starting with his love of John Singer Sargent, who Miller and his father both thought tremendous and Miller wrote about. His best friend in New York, before Miller left for Paris, was an illustrator, and he deliberately hung out and studied with some of the famous artists in Paris. He also loved and studied the Japanese masters Hiroshige and Hokusai, and there's a particular joy that is evident in so very many of Miller's watercolors. He also had the critical faculty to know when one of his watercolors was a failure. "To Paint is to Love Again" has all his writings on his love and efforts as an artist. Everything I've ever come across in Bukowski's writings is where he's writing about art in passing and not as a joy or a study in itself; but he does talk about his efforts in painting. I think they knew they had limited abilities as artists. Still, I've found great enjoyment in Bukowski's line drawings and I consider some of them as spontaneous masterpieces in miniature...true art; and there are a great number of Miller watercolors that do nothing for me.
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Again, a bit late in the conversation, I would recommend that anyone considering reading something by Henry Miller should probably start with *Tropic of Cancer* ... it's the book with which his writing "took off" ... I would say that *Tropic of Capricorn* is not the place to start (it's much different -- even if HM thoughts that it was very important to him) ... if one wants to start with something shorter, try some of the pieces in *The Wisdom of the Heart* (readily available as a New Directions paperback) ... I would really recommend a genuine gem called *The World of Sex* but one HAS to find the original version (the readily available revised version is a shodow of the original, amazingly enough -- btw, I wrote a long essay on the differences between the two versions) ... even, a relatively non-serious piece called *Quite Days in Clichy* is not a bad place to enter Miller (somebody would surely object to this comment) ... save *Sexus*, *Plexus* and *Nexus* for later (if one ever gets to them) ... one has to have acquired a taste for the man's writing to really get into all three as a trilogy ...

What Miller really shared with CB was that both created important "moments" in the history of 20th century literature (Miller during his time in Paris and, I would argue, CB in the 1970s) ...

There is some danger of the achievement of Henry Miller being ultimately forgotten ... frankly, some of the major writers of the 20th century struggled with matters that are now taken for granted ... and their proposals are often quaint, by today's standards ... but, heck, *Tropic of Cancer* is a great reading experience! Cheers, DaP P.S. So is the original version of Miller's *The World of Sex* ...
I must confess I wasn't that taken by Henry Miller. I read Tropic of Cancer and, while I thought it had some good parts to it (not a double entendre) I found it a bit tedious by the end and didn't feel motivated to check out any of his other stuff. I appreciate his place in changing the way people could write about sex etc. in America and so on but, coming from the era I do, didn't really find it shocking in any way.
not shocking

I never thought it was particularly shocking either. I never understood how it could be considered pornography, even by the standards of it's day. But I loved it more than anything I'd read up to that point, and I read all of his stuff. I definitely feel like reading Miller prepared me for reading Bukowski. When I first read Post Office after having read the Tropics (Cancer and Capricorn) and the Trilogy (Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus), I felt right at home.
You had to be there, in the severely repressed world pre-1960s, to understand how shocking, how revolutionary Miller was. Now cartoons use four-letter words and sitcoms mention sex organs. It was a far different world back then. Miller busted it wide open. Without Miller and other mavericks like him in the 1920s-30s, the 60s counterculture might not have ever happened. And you'd be watching reruns of I LOVE LUCY and reading LITTLE ABNER comicbooks.
I never thought it was particularly shocking either. I never understood how it could be considered pornography, even by the standards of it's day.

Try "Under The Roofs Of Paris" maybe not considered one of his novels. I believe that he was being paid by the page. But if this isn't considered porn, I don't know what would be.
In his day, and well into the early 60s, there was nothing out there, other than actual under the counter porn books, that were anywhere near as explicit as Miller's work. And Miller was considered literature, not pornography. His books had to be smuggled into the U.S. until a landmark court decision made them legal. It was extreme stuff. Without that legal precident, I doubt you would have had a book like ERECTIONS, EJACULATIONS etc. being published a few years later as legitimate literature from a reputable house like City Lights.
I've always found Anais Nin an interesting person. I realize that as a writer she is too precious for most tastes, kind of a hothouse flower, but she was very perceptive and wide open on all channels. I'm currently reading her diary, and it's good stuff. Her insights into Henry Miller and his wife June are profound. She had them figured out. Well worth the time if you're into Miller. Speaking of Miller, many readers may not be aware that he had several modes. It wasn't all erotica. He often wrote in a comic mode, as well as a metaphysical/spiritual/wisdom mode. Some of his best stuff is not obscene. I haven't read much of Nin's work other than the diary, but I plan to. My wife works in a used bookstore and tells me that there is almost no demand these days for either Miller or Nin. I gather they were more popular in the 1970s. That's fine with me; makes their books easier to find and more affordable.
Under the Rooftops of Paris is definitely pornography. But his novels never struck me that way. Nin wrote some (fairly soft) porn too. I know it well because it was the closest thing to pornography in my local public library when I was a kid. I loved the diary (or at least that chunk around the time that Miller was in Paris), and read a bio and but I could never finish anything else. She was a fascinating woman though.
I have 1st hardcovers of Anais Nin's Diary Vol 3-5, plus Anais Nin Reader. And a couple of soft-covers; Little Birds comes to mind. Moved recently; can't find those.

They really don't do too much for me. Many women I have known like 'em, so I didn't marry them. I married the one who dug Post Office. (No, that wasn't the kicker.)
I couldn't get out much of Nin's Diarys.

"Henry came over. Hugo is a savage. It is the ARTIST in me, who knows Henry today. Hugo picked me up from the train station. Henry still visits his whores. Still I love Hugo. The ARTIST in me had some coffee in the afternoon. Henry doesn't understand June. June doesn't understand Henry. The ARTIST in me understands everything."
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Johannes, that is a riot. Great parody. But come on, she's actually better than that. (It is a parody right, and not a quote? If it's a quote, you win the argument and those of us who like Nin fold our tents and hit the sands)

That Nin "quote" would make a great broadside poem. Capitalizing ARTIST every time is sheer genius.
No, it's a humble parody. Or should be. Too much if that would be a literal quote, hehe. Jesus.

Of course she is better than that, but I'd expected more. I've never tried her novels, though.

Would you recommend them?
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Thursday August 21 ... sorry for the delayed response to David's question (I've been away) ... the first edition of *The World of Sex* is available via ABE ... some copies are not exceedingly expensive (last I looked). The original is significantly better (a curious case -- since one would expect a revision to make something better) ... and definitely look for shorter essays by Henry Miller ...

The main Miller scholar states that Miller did not write *Under the Roofs of Paris* ... Nin's two books would be considered "erotica" I would think ... it's soooo easy to toss around the word 'pornography' ...

What bothers me about Nin's diaries is that they are rewritten and rewritten (by her!) and edited and edited ... but I still want to get into them one day ... and she's definitely part of the "moment in literature" that was taking place while Miller was in Paris ...

Fully agree with the comment that one had to "be there" (for me it was the 60s) as the freedom to read/publish developed ... the publishing of Lawence's *Lady Chatterley's Lover* (a book I highly recommend, esp. to women) ... and Miller's two Tropics ... kudos to Grove Press (and to Penguin in England) ... it's all so long ago now ... or so it seems. Cheers, DaP (also David, in case anyone was wondering)
Yes, those books--Under the Roofs of Paris and the other one--Crazy Cock--were not written by Miller. I think this came up in another thread before. Anyone taking a look at the style could see they could not have been written by him. Grove Press either knowingly perpetrated the fraud or--hard to believe--was too dumb to tell they weren't written by Miller.
Johannes: I haven't read Nin's novels yet. The diary is very interesting. The novels look less so, just flipping through them, but I have copies and will give them a serious try some day.

Just read that Anais Nin lived in the Silver Lake district in Los Angeles in the 1960s -70s. That's not far from where Linda King lived, if memory serves. Anyone know if their (Bukowski-King-Nin) paths ever crossed at some literary event? Maybe they rubbed elbows in the produce section of the grocery store?
I really enjoyed 'Little Birds' and 'Delta of Venus'. Some of the stuff in there is pretty sexy I thought.

Those are the two paperbacks I was referring to earlier (missed the title of one of them). Let's put it this way: My ex-wife and I never made it through the entirety of the movie Henry and June without grinding one out. I could go through those books without tumescing.

The story is actually sexier than the reality, is what I'm getting at.

Anyone know if their (Bukowski-King-Nin) paths ever crossed at some literary event? Maybe they rubbed elbows in the produce section of the grocery store?

Hell, if they rubbed anything, it sure as hell wasn't elbows.
Just went through my Miller collection and I made an mistake above--Crazy Cock and Moloch are authentic Miller texts--the Under the Roofs of Paris is the forgery, or whatever it is.
Miller wrote about plenty besides sex, and that's a strength in his work. I haven't read enough of Nin to know if she had other subjects besides sex and romantic relationships. The film HENRY AND JUNE would lead you to believe that's all she thought about. It needed a few more scenes where people ate dinner, went to the market, worked in the garden, etc.
Gosh, I never, ever have noticed one iota of a similarity between Miller and Buk, despite the fact that he read Miller. This was an interesting read and makes me want to look for it in Hank's words now, but I just never saw the influence at all. (Subjects/composition: yes; writing style: zero.)
Here's where I felt that Miller and Nin brought out the best of each other's passion and literary genius...the unexpurgated white-hot letters from the time when they first met and over a twenty-one year period. Some of them were written in Hollywood, where Miller went to make money as a screen-writer in the hopes of being able to marry Nin. (He found the commercialism in Hollywood to be as damaging to the soul as John Fante did though he never met him): http://www.amazon.com/Literate-Pass...r_1_23?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251144648&sr=1-23

I always thought Nin was just a powerfully insightful as Miller but from a deeply feminine perspective. Henry and June is at heart her 'coming of age' and blossoming as a women...what the Kaufman movie was based on. Nin was unable to have children and she took full advantage of it to explore every aspect of her sexuality and passion, and on many occasions lied about it to protect herself and others, most of whom knew that she wasn't telling the truth. Later in life, she became a great mentor to other writers and artists in the same way that she'd been to Miller: http://www.amazon.com/Henry-June-Jo...=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251145486&sr=1-1

Miller at his peaceful, serene and metaphysical best: http://www.amazon.com/Oranges-Hiero...=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251144969&sr=1-3

Miller philosophizing on Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and other sundry subjects: http://www.amazon.com/Stand-Still-H...r_1_12?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251144969&sr=1-12
Henry Miller's Miriam

" Miriam is the name of the names. I could mold all women into the perfect ideal, if I could this ideal all the qualities I seek in women, her name would be Miriam. ... I never had an impure thought about her: never desired her, never craved for a caress. I loved her so deeply, so deeply, so completely, that each time I met her it was like born again. All I demanded was that she should remain alive, be of this earth, be somewhere, anywhere, in this world, and never die... " The Rosy Crucifixion

Charles Bukowski's Miriam

. . .I ran down the hall,put the key into the door,
opened it. . .her drinking glass was there, and a note:

sun of a bitch:
I waited until 5 after ate
you don't love me
you sun of a bitch
somebody will love me
I been wateing all day


I poured a drink and let the water run into the tub
there were 5,000 bars in town
and I'd make 25 of them
looking for Miriam
her purple teddy bear held the note
as he leaned against a pillow
I gave the bear a drink, myself a drink
and got into the hot

from the HOT poem.

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