Plexus (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Paperback – 4 Aug 2011
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Praise for Henry Miller:
‘American literature begins and ends with the meaning of what Miller has done.’ Lawrence Durrell
‘I regard Henry Miller as a master.’ Colin MacInnes
Praise for ‘Sexus’:
‘A huge, sprawling narrative of Miller's life in New York, “Sexus” culminates in a description of an orgy as remarkable for its account of the author's powers of sexual endurance as for its versatility. Interspersed are descriptions of his friends, some of them extremely funny and all of them lively. The lack of inhibition and genteel or moral restraint with which Miller describes these various characters gives “Sexus” a unique vitality. Miler cannot be pompous, a rare virtue, and his honesty is absolute.’ Spectator
About the Author
Henry Miller was born in 1891 in Brooklyn, New York but he soon moved to Paris. His first book 'Tropic of Cancer was published in 1934. It was followed five years later by its sister volume 'Tropic of Capricorn'. In 1940, Miller returned to the US where he wrote the 'Rosy Crucifixion' trilogy which received great praise from the likes of Eliot, Pound and Beckett. Outside of France, however it was universally banned due to its sexually explicit and candid nature and was not published until 1963. Miller died in 1980.
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Top customer reviews
I have always found Henry Miller addictive, having first read Tropic of Cancer in 1954, and smuggled it into England as if carrying dynamite. Ever since I’ve been a sucker for anything he wrote. I suppose I admired the man rather than the books themselves. He had done what many of us at some time in our lives have done or, rather, wished to do: given up the rat race. In his case it was choice rather than necessity that drove him into poverty and finding his destiny in writing. Unlike Orwell, whose experiments at living with the poor and downtrodden were exercises in discovering other lifestyles, Miller was less interested in his subjects’ welfare than his take on them. He loved the floating immigrant population of Brooklyn; Poles, Jews, Russians - they were his raw material. He had no Etonian background, no wealthy parents behind him, and no connections in the literary world. He began from scratch, borrowed books on his mother’s library ticket and read anything that took his fancy. ‘No doubt it is important to read the classics,’ he admits, but more valuable ‘to a writer at least, is to read whatever comes to hand.’ He wandered the museums and galleries, and the bars and speakeasies of Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, bumming a crust, listening to life stories, picking up crazy people, and squatting in condemned rat-infested tenements.
Plexus, the palm of his oeuvre says William Gordon, treats the period from his leaving the Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company to his first (bad) marriage, his divorce and his obsession with Mona, an easy girl who believes in his ‘work’ and helps him emotionally and financially. Beginning with erotic bliss (see first volume, Sexus) his relationship with his new wife is ecstatic - until gradually things fall apart. The reader suspects and so does Miller that his wife is a loose woman, living off richer and often disturbed lovers. The bothers Miller not one jot. He loves stories or anecdotes and welcomes all comers!
When I open a volume of Miller such as Plexus a huge grin comes over me. I know what to expect and am never disappointed. The account of his and friend Dr Kronski’s entertaining of the handsome and gullible Alan Cromwell, one of Mona’s beaux is sheer knockabout farce. To start with, Mona never appears to discuss the business proposition with her lover, so the three men drink, Miller listening in the role of Dr Marx, a Jewish surgeon to Kronski telling gruesome stories about animal experiments, one of which was about a rabbit that indvertently died. Afterwards Kronski made it into a stew! Unfortunately he’d forgotten the poison used as a sedative. ‘Cromwell, slightly sobered by the bloody tale, remarked that it was too bad that Kronski hadn’t died, then laughed so heartily over this thought that absentmindedly he swallowed half a glass of neat cognac. Whereupon he had such a fit of coughing that we had to stretch him out on the floor and work over him like a drowned man.’ Dressing and undressing the soused Cromwell and telling the revived guest that while he’s been ‘out’ Mona has phoned, saying she’d gone to Washington to meet him.
Interspersed among Miller’s encounters with riff-raff in the streets, we find long passages of reminiscence and much philosophical rambling on Nietzsche, Lawrence, and Freud, Rank, Alan Watts, Van Gogh, Dostoyevsky and other writers. But wherever his steps take him in search of ‘a five spot’ a drink or anything but office slavery Miller is an entertaining guide.
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