Sunday, March 9, 2014

Alms for the Poor.

She asked me why I was reading Henry Miller and I looked down at the book and my hands and then back at her. How do I tell her that reading Henry isn't about what he said but about my relationship with god?

See I didn’t start reading Henry Miller when all the good kids were telling me that I should because he’s some avant-garde genius who challenges our preconceptions on literature. I picked him up in a used bookstore where the books smelled heavily of patchouli and Checkers cigarettes because the two wiccans behind the counter would rather help a poor cocksucker out than shove him on the street – no matter how bad his books smelled. So I picked up this book with a cover that was falling apart and the line “The literary bomb that has been contraband in the U.S. since 1934” scrawled in red on the back like some sort of scarlet letter for $0.45.

The sweet, old lady behind the counter wrinkled her nose as she looked at the cover and whispered, “That books the reason why I let John Watkins take me behind the clock tower.”

Really? Tell me more.

“Not much to tell, I’m afraid. He had a lot of fun and I ended up a sticky mess. After that I was done with boys for good, you know.”

I can imagine.

You see, the truth is that I read Henry Miller because. I read him because he changed literature and launched my imagination when the rest of the world was too busy telling me that I shouldn't be talking about Dragons and dismissing angels with a wave of my hand. I read him because he tells me truths that aren't spoken out loud in polite company. And he doesn't try to bullshit me into believing that celibacy is a choice made by great men when the truth is that slipping yourself in the arms of another is a far greater sacrifice and opens you up to greater troubles than any other choice you can ever make in this life.

I read him because I dream of Tania and her warmth and hate myself more than anyone could ever hope to hate me. I read him because internet trolls are the shallow after effects of a world of consequence that Miller lived with and I long for in the years since it was absolved. I read Henry because the rest of the world is filled with deceptions and here is the truth in stark ugliness, without a hint of gentleness in words or deed.

So when she asked me why I’m reading Miller I looked up at her and said, Because this world is filled with liars, and I figured I might as well get the truth once in my life – even if it’s long since out of date. 

"You get weirder every day, you know that."


  1. I particulary enjoy his11 Commandments For Writing.

    1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
    2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’
    3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
    4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
    5. When you can’t create you can work.
    6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
    7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
    8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
    9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
    10.Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
    11.Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

    1. I'd never seen that before. Thanks for sharing it Stelios!

  2. Damn, I hate Henry Miller, but I am getting 3,500 words a day done on my new novella. The two don't have any real link with each other but I'm real happy about the way my story is going so I wanted to brag about it.

  3. Honestly I have not read many books from Henry Miller apart Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, and I've read them many, many years ago, but I found them cute. What is the title of the book you're talking about?

  4. Ahahahahah! My old book, in italian, don't have the line "“The literary bomb that has been contraband in the U.S. since 1934” and this confused me. Thanks Charles. :)


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