Bukowski and Henry Miller (1 Viewer)

Miller is ok...but kinda (in my opinion) overrated. He's not a smooth read like Bukowski is. A little too wordy and soft for my taste...but I still read the guys shit. There is some good stuff in there.
 
Speaking of Miller and Anais Nin (as I was a while back), I recently read a scandalous memoir by Bern Porter, My Affair With Anais Nin, and he makes her out to be a major slut, so to speak, sleeping her way into every lecture hall in America. The tone is very dismissive. It made me wonder if he had an axe to grind, and if he was being entirely honest. Any one know anything about this? I'm reading up on Nin, and I may find that he was speaking the truth, but something about the memoir set off my alarms. It was not a flattering portrait, especially if he'd had a love affair with Nin. He didn't seem to have one nice thing to say about her, one fond memory, and describes their relationship in blunt, crude terms. Guess I'm a romantic, but it seemed cheap to me.
 
Bern gets burned

David, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the questions you raised.

Speaking as a man, I myself have never heard of Porter's book/interview before this. But I have read enough about Anais, through her own writings and Miller's, to know of the vast number of men and women who professed to have fallen in love with her. The list includes even one or two of her therapists (such as I believe Otto Rank). Then there was of course her husband, Hugo; Miller himself and his wife June, plus Miller's best friend in Paris, Alfred Perles, who happened to write a book about her that she hated. She even banished Perles as a friend because of it - though Perles wrote it as a tribute - and Miller somewhere in an interview talks about trying to repeatedly reinstate Perles to Nin; and Miller in defense of his friend expressed his own peevish sarcasm that she would have none of it. Poor Alf! (The book can still be found on Amazon.)

Then Porter emerges as another who fell under her spell and his book comes out after all this time, because evidently it wasn't written, or he wasn't interviewed on the matter, until 1997 - or rather the book wasn't published until then. 20 years after her death.

And what I have noticed with some of these jilted lovers - either that, or she simply lost interest in them after moving heaven and earth to help them, or she perhaps met someone else - these lovers turned on her, sometimes viciously. It seemed to have never occurred to them that they ended up spending time with her because she was sexually or emotionally liberated to begin with, perhaps because she was unable to have children, avoiding any chance of getting knocked up, to put it crudely, and she was able to turn the tables on the men and play the conquest came like they did. Must have galled them to no end!

Though Miller and Nin stayed friends until she died, Miller would occasionally take pot shots at her and call her a liar and laugh about it; and now Porter calls her a 'slut' because none of them could have her all to themselves and it was perhaps a major blow to their major swollen ego. I'm guessing of course. But I believe the reason for her copious affairs is far deeper than it appears - that she had an insatiable need to explore her own sensuous feminine nature and had an equally insatiable desire to understand and explore the male psyche - and in order to do so she lied about it to save face, or protect the outer lives of her lovers, such as with her husband Hugo, who knew about her love affairs for many years, even when they were married.

I don't think it was all just about sex for her; if it had been, I don't think the men she'd lost interest in, because of circumstances or emotional factors, would have taken it so hard. And so I view the spitefulness of some of these bruised male egos as evidence of the depth of feeling they had for her. They were also faced with the emotional void she'd been filling - and that usually means it's hurtin' time.

And if one reads "Henry and June,' she had an enormous capacity for love - or what appears to be love - and at one time was able to hold in her heart the love of five or six people and see no contradiction in any of that. Does the heart have an endless capacity for love? I think so. There's always enough room even if the person happens to go out of one's life, and I think she loved like that, and yet because of circumstantial conditions, she had to manipulate people and situations in order to make it all work for her. And naturally, ALL of this went into her famous diaries and she helped emotionally and sexually liberate a great number of women and the men who loved them.

I wonder how many of her lovers would say they wished they'd never met or fallen in love with her? Probably zero! Despite it all. But one probably won't find that in Porter's interview - an interview where she's unable to defend herself or tell her side of the story. I doubt if most people would even know who Bern Porter was except for his friendship with Miller and Nin.
 
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Poptop: thanks for your insights. I think you've explained it. I should clarify that Porter doesn't literally call Nin a "slut" -- that's my boiling down of what he says in the interview -- but he clearly regards her as little more than a literary whore. She gave something like 50 readings/lectures during the period he talks about (in America, in the 1940s), and he claims that the unspoken understanding everyone had was that whatever man set up the reading for her (usually a college professor), she would go to bed with him afterwards. She stands up Porter after a reading, whom she had a date with, immediately leaving with one of these guys. Clearly Bern was hurt by this. He sounds quite surly during the interview, several times saying some like like "That's all! End of this part of the Interview!" Not a very likeable guy, based on the interview.
 
David... was most interested in your remarks on Porter and Nin. I am not so familiar with that part of her life where it sounds like she was very much on her own promoting herself, away from her husband and Miller. (According to Miller, he came to Hollywood in the early 1940s to seek work as a screenwriter in order to generate the funds to marry Nin. This correspondence has been published [I forget the title] but it's Miller and Nin at their most candid.)

So without trying to explain her behavior, though I'm in the mood to guess, she may have been in reaction to all of the above. She could never make enough money to live on her own, used Hugo's money to survive, and even tried printing her own books with her own printing press to get better known - to little success.

Part of the problem for her with her diaries is that she felt she couldn't publish them unexpurgated because the people she wrote about were still alive and might be compromised or hurt. She was probably right. That's why she tried to translate the insights of her diary into novels. Unfortunately, her novels do not stand up to the 'presence' of her diaries and it was a terrible literary dilemma for her - one that was never resolved until she and Hugo died and her executor took over and published the real diaries word for word. In the meantime, she may have gone to extreme lengths to manufacture her own financial independence, and all that Porter describes may be part of it, perhaps cheapening her value to herself and others without knowing it. She admitted to being an "adventurer.'

In any event, I'm sure it would have hurt like a dagger to see someone you have feelings for offering herself as a party favor to the organizer of her lecture. But... but I bet they remembered it for a life-time.

I recently discovered that Bern Porter had a brilliant scientific, engineering mind and was well-known for having worked on the Manhattan Project during WW2 and other technological developments. Also, that he helped Miller get published in America. He deserves to be remembered as more than a footnote to the life of Nin, and I now have a new appreciation of his life. He survived Miller and Nin by more than 25 years.

These lives are instructive and I believe that many of us have found themselves in similar situations of hurt and jealously. That's the value of literature, at least for me, and I'm glad to know more about this episode in her life. Thanks.
 
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I gathered from the Porter interview that Anais Nin was still living with her husband, Hugo, during the period when she was lecturing a lot and being the part favor. She wasn't making it on her own, apparently, but still dependent on Hugo's income. I have a very vague memory of having read years ago that there was (possibly) a falling out between Bern Porter and Henry Miller. Not too sure about this. But if there was, perhaps Miller found Porter lacking in some way. Just speculating here, but Porter really doesn't come across as a likeable guy in the interview on Nin. He sounds like a jerk.
 
I'm not familiar enough with the relationship between Miller and Porter to make additional comments. Perhaps it was during Miller's Beverly Glen days in the early 1940s that the falling out between them occurred... I find that I can forgive all of them anything. It would be hard for an ordinary mortal to keep up with Miller and Nin, both of whom were constantly shedding their skins and becoming more themselves, deeper and more expressive, while leaving behind a trail of people who couldn't quite measure up. Perhaps that's the difference between those who are advanced and those with genius.
 
At the customary risk (for me) of entering an exchange too late, I have a couple of comments on Miller and Bern Porter ... and I will disagree that Porter "clearly regards [Nin] as little more than a literary whore" ... I believe it would be more accurate to say that he was, at some point, quite smitten with her ... possibly for a great length of time ... and it was an unrequited love, one might say ... Porter published several books by or on Miller, including "Plight of the Creative Artist in the United States of America" in 1944 and "Semblance of a Devoted Past" in 1945 ... he also put together my favourite book on Miller: "The Happy Rock", a collection of articles about Miller ... the spirit of this book is truly wonderful (it appears on multi-coloured pages, for example) ... it is still possibly the best book on Miller, for various reasons ... Roger Jackson published several small chapbooks by Porter, several of which are about his obsession with Nin ... I would have to dig them out of my basement to get to them ... when I read them years ago, I had the impression that he was "overly taken" with her but she was less taken with him ... and yes his life was quite varied, as has been pointed out ... and yes there were falling outs ... but he had quite the sense of humour ... DaP
 
D. A. Pratt, thanks for adding some depth to this discussion. I was aware of "The Happy Rock" and Bern's imprtance as a publisher of Miller, but I've never seen that book. The memoir I read about Nin was one of the chapbooks published by Roger Jackson. What comes across in it is his attraction to her, that much is clear, but it seems very cold and designed to hurt her image, like a cheap shot. There is no warmth, no affection, no yearning after a lost love. It's like he's punishing her after the fact, her reputation, and not explaining why, and not taking any responsibility for his own role in how things played out. Like I said, a cheap shot. It really put me off. Maybe I'm a romantic, but when you love someone deeply and then lose them, you don't turn around and burn them. Just my opinion.
 
Hello David ... I understand your comments completely ... where I might disagree (and I'm now going on remembered impressions) is that I do not believe that Porter loved Nin deeply but was, rather, infatuated ... I also do think that Porter's chapbooks on this were written well after the occasion and this represents its own dangers ... and he must surely have understood that she had no way of responding ...

Frankly, I would prefer that the world knew Porter as the publisher of "The Happy Rock" which stands as a truly fine example of "small press" publications (whatever the phrase would be) ... it has over thirty contributions spanning 150 pages including articles by Lawrence Durrell, Alfred Perles and Richard Osborn -- background to Henry Miller's Paris years ... and it also has Michael Fraenkel's vitally important essay "The Genesis of The Tropic of Cancer" ... the latter is reason enough to track down a copy (via ABE) ...

However, Porter did pen the series on his "affair" with Nin ... what's to be said? It surely says something about Porter's condition at the time that he wrote them as much as anything ... okay ... now I'm wandering ... DaP
 
I'll jump in here too since I've read all the Porter things Roger published. My sense was basically that Porter was senile when he wrote alot of that stuff. The material I read was all badly written and seemed a mixture of fantasy and wish-fulfillment. I don't know how "stable" psychologically Porter was before old age, but I thought everything he wrote was basically garbage. I also like however "The Happy Rock" which is a cool book.
 
[...]
Frankly, I would prefer that the world knew Porter as the publisher of "The Happy Rock" which stands as a truly fine example of "small press" publications (whatever the phrase would be) ... it has over thirty contributions spanning 150 pages including articles by Lawrence Durrell, Alfred Perles and Richard Osborn -- background to Henry Miller's Paris years ... and it also has Michael Fraenkel's vitally important essay "The Genesis of The Tropic of Cancer" ... the latter is reason enough to track down a copy (via ABE) ...
[...]
I agree, it's better Bern Porter be remembered for all the good work he did, rather than some shabby comments spoken long after the fact. I've always heard "The Happy Rock" is a very good book. I don't know anything about Porter and it would be a mistake for me to judge the man on one interview he gave during old age. Thanks for your insights.

I'll jump in here too since I've read all the Porter things Roger published. My sense was basically that Porter was senile when he wrote alot of that stuff. The material I read was all badly written and seemed a mixture of fantasy and wish-fulfillment. I don't know how "stable" psychologically Porter was before old age, but I thought everything he wrote was basically garbage. I also like however "The Happy Rock" which is a cool book.
Senility would explain the odd, cold tone of the interview in "My Love Affair With Anais Nin."
 
Not sure that Anais was still with Hugo when she was lecturing, though most likely he was still supporting her financially. They were separated from time to time as she struggled to establish her self-reliance.

I feel for her artistic dilemma - both Miller and Nin were caught in a vice where Miller's works were banned for more than 25 years, and Nin couldn't publish her diary because the people she knew were still living and would be hurt by her candor. Had she not had to suffer that restriction, I think she would have been recognized as the great writer of the female psyche she was, and made money off her publications. I think a great many women would have felt the power of her insights into the male/female condition, and she was a powerful counterpart to Miller's heavily testosterone outlook, especially when it came to his descriptions of women. No woman that I know of went as constructively deep as she did. She didn't end up a suicide like Plath and Woolf, and I feel that's very much to her credit... She was essentially very healthy mentally despite her neurotic behavior and contradictions. She didn't appear to be troubled by them for long - perhaps the triumph of the heart over logic and the power of acceptance.

Not sure about the falling out between Miller and Porter. I wasn't aware of it from what I've read about both men so far. There seemed to be very few people who actively hated or disliked Miller, except of course his first wife who despised him for his callous treatment of her and their daughter. The extent of Miller's disgust is amply supplied in Sexus. Miller also wrote about her and their honeymoon in The World of Sex. Miller couldn't help taking her mother to bed as well as her, her mother liking him, and vice versa, more than Miller liked his prudish wife. They were badly mismatched until Miller met Mara/Mona (June Mansfield) in a dance hall. There was terrible suffering all the way around until Miller was caught in bed with Mona by his wife; but that sealed his fate with Mona and led to his leaving Western Union, never taking another job again and finding his voice as a writer in Paris. Without Mona he might never have had the confidence to begin. At that period of his life, he says he had no confidence at all, and she was the one to support them both through her financial scams until he could start selling. Sometimes they lived like kings and he had no idea where the money was coming from, but he lived off her just the same.

Anais Nin continued to accept Hugo's money and sometimes give it away to others anyway. Great artists are usually outside of the conventions and all of them lived life to the hilt but made something out of it that fed their art. Even Hugo the banker became a filmmaker, most likely because of Nin's influence. I admire the risks they took and they never glamorized themselves. One of the qualities I like best about Miller is that he wrote about his less than exemplary behavior as a sexual adventurer and the lousy way he treated some of his acquaintances. He could be selfish, blunt and brutal, qualities I don't happen to admire. But according to him, he was not for self-censorship in literature - he hid nothing and was willing to take the heat from his friends and the public. He also softened over the years. Much of the disgust that Lawrence Durrell had for Miller's Sexus is discussed in their 1963 published correspondence, but that's another story...
 
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Miller and Nin -- they are both fascinating people, with rich lives. I assumed Nin was still with Hugo during the lecture period Porter describes because she forbids him to contact her at home, probably to keep Hugo from knowing the specifics of what she was doing. I think Hugo is mentioned in Porter's memoir of Nin, at least in general, if not to say she was with him at that time. Seems he accepted the fact of her running around on him. Maybe it was the price he paid for the privilege of living with an artist of her calibre and reputation. And like you say, he went on to become a filmaker himself. Despite his rough edges, Miller is loveable for his spirit and honesty. Nin saw that in him and valued it highly.
 
Good posts above! Nice read.

I am reading Sexus.
A french translation by Georges Belmont I found in Paris for a few $, along with Nexus and Plexus.
Although I will definitely read it in its original language I must admit that it is very touching and sexy as a translation, knowing that Miller loved and lived in Paris, I am not missing too much flavor I hope.
 
Famous quotes by Anais Nin

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

"This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice."

"...for no one has ever loved an adventurous woman as they have loved adventurous men."

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

"I don't mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don't mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding."

"I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing."

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

"I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls."

"Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them."

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing."

"Dreams are necessary to life."

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."

"People living deeply have no fear of death."

"There was once a woman who had one hundred faces. She showed one face to each person, and so it took one hundred men to write her biography."
 

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Here is a tile with a Millers' quote hand painted on.
It is at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, rue De La Bûcherie.
I can read Sometimes I think I am surrounded by insects masquerading as men for S................... Henry Miller.
Can anyone fill in the missing words? Otherwise I hang.
 

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