RELEASE THE MILLER EPHEMERA!

Recently I confirmed my prediction in my essay “Scraping The Bottom of the Beat Barrel” that the recent aquisitions of various Beat archives by various public institutions would result in a deluge of ‘new’ material by Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac. Actually, so much has come out lately, I haven’t been able to keep up. Just googling around a bit, I found out Viking has released And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, the legendary collaboration between Burroughs and Kerouac on the topic of the killing of David Kammerer by their friend Lucien Carr. Penguin has finally released Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha, Kerouac’s attempt to spread the Buddhist gospel, which hadn’t seen print except as a series in the venerable Buddhist journal Tricycle back in the mid-nineties. A batch of Allen Ginsberg’s letters has also been published, and in 2007, the University of Ohio (!) published the crucial 1953 Latin American notebook of Burroughs. Crickey! Who knows what else is out there …

While the Beat canon has been getting the royal treatment, with previously unseen mansucripts being published by major institutions and a whole critical industry riding herd on all that juicy stuff, since the publication of the execrable Moloch and Crazy Cock by Grove Press in the early nineties nothing new has hit the bookshelves to feed the unquenchable hunger of Millerites everywhere.

The un(der)published works of Henry Miller have only been released in tiny print runs by incredibly obscure publishers, resulting in ‘collectible’ pamphlets and chapbooks that will cost the earnest collector truly impressive sums. I discovered this recently while enjoying the fine Miller blog Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company, run by a chap out of Toronto. An incredibly obsessive site, the Miller fan will find endless links to Miller-related websites (such as the one that, for instance, conduct tours of Miller-related locales in Paris), research into the final resting place of June Miller (in Arizona) and the possible identity of Jean Kronski, and close studies of particular Miller texts. The Miller blogger seems to depend heavily on what he can find through internet search engines, but it’s quite astonishing what is out there – everything from an archive of photos of Miller from the forties posted by the University of California, to present-day streetscapes of ancient Miller haunts in Brooklyn and New York, courtesy of googlemaps (and the savvy of the blogger).

After spending far too much time reading the blog from beginning to end, I was inspired to assemble a tentative list of early works by Henry Miller that should be made available to the general reader, and not only to avid (and monied) collectors. This matter needs to be taken up with Miller’s heirs, or whoever now has control of his literary estate – clearly they seem to think more money is to be made by mining the ‘collector’s editions’ vein that Miller himself depended on for sustenance until the early sixties, when his greatest works, the two Tropics novels and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, broke the censorship barrier and became instant bestsellers in America.

Perusing the online bibliography of William Ashley makes perfectly clear the vast sucking bog of ephemera that this collector’s mania has created. Miller, with a plethora of underground, illegal publications both at home and abroad, hundred of publications in obscure ‘little magazines’, zillions of watercolours, ‘holograph’ this-and-thats, limited-edition facsimile editions of notebooks and paintings, gallery catalogues, and on and on, constitutes a kind of heaven for the collector – because there seems to be no limit to the numbers of things to be collected.

Apparently, the only important new Miller work available to the general public comes from the annual Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal, which in 2007 published the absurdist manifesto “The New Instinctivism,” cooked up by Miller and Alfred Perlès in 1931. Kudos to them! What follows is a list of early texts (predating the publication of Tropic of Cancer in 1934) that I think ought to be more widely published:

Critique of “The Unbidden Guest” by Carl Clausen, The Black Cat, May 1919.
Critiques of “When The Red Snow Falls”, The Black Cat, June 1919.
Critiques of “The Graven Image”, The Black Cat, June 1919.
Critique of “Proprietary And A Pullman”, The Black Cat, August 1919.
Critique of “A Philistine In Arcady”, The Black Cat, October 1919.

These critiques were the first published work by Miller, and would lend a fascinating window into the workings of the young author’s mind.

“Black and White.” Adapted from Clipped Wings manuscript, written March 1922. First published (under the byline Valentine Nieting) in The Crisis (official NAACP monthly) vol. 28, no. 1, May 1924.

The manuscript of Clipped Wings, Miller’s first novel, is lost. But this excerpt has not to my knowledge ever been re-published anywhere since. If the wretchedly bad Moloch and Crazy Cock were deemed worthy of mass publication, why not this fragment?

“Houston Street Burlesque.” The Menorah Journal, no date.

It remains unclear whether this piece was ever actually published or not. It might also be the text of one of Miller’s ‘mezzotints’ (see below). It would certainly be interesting to read his early impressions of a burlesque house – a topic he revisited many times in later works.

A whole series of ‘mezzotints’ (at least 35) were printed (all but one under the byline June E. Mansfield) between late 1924 – early 1925. The first eight were reprinted in The Mezzotints. Ann Arbor: Roger Jackson, 1993. The mezzotint titles include:
“Dawn Travellers.” The only ‘mezzotint’ printed under Miller’s name, late 1924.
“The Awakening.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Make Beer For Man.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Hamsun.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Bernard Shaw.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Cynara.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Bike Race.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“June The Peripatetic.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Papa Moskowitz.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Dance Hall.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“Nigger.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
[On Emil Jannings’ performance in the film The Last Laugh.] (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) ‘Mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925.
“A Bowery Phoenix.” (Published under the byline June E. Mansfield.) First published as a ‘mezzotint’ printed late 1924 – early 1925. Published in Pearson’s, February 1925.First draft published as a letter from Miller dated August 28, 1924 in Letters To Emil. Ed. George Wickes. New York: New Directions, 1989.

This is one of those cases where, tantalizingly, a number of these ephemera were reprinted in a limited facsimile edition, but none of these texts have ever found their way into the mass market, other than “A Bowery Phoenix.” I’ve always found his descriptions of places and people to count as some of the best Miller writing – I’m sure there’s some real gems here to be savoured.

“Words.” Written in 1925 on commission for Liberty magazine, unpublished.

I don’t know if this manuscript still exists, but if it does …

Title unknown. ‘Spicy’ story published in Snappy Stories, late 1925.

While living with June, Miller tried his hand at writing ‘spicy’ stories for cheap pulp magazines; before he set to simply plagiarizing earlier imprints, he wrote at least one that found publication. Has anyone ever researched this? Is there a copy of the publication extant? It would be interesting to see this earliest example of Miller’s erotic writing.

“Dreiser’s Style.” Excerpt of a longer article, published as a letter to the editor, New Republic no. 46, April 1926.

This could be as dull as any of Miller’s exigeses on various authors in his esteem; I’d still like to read it!

“Cinema Vanves.” First written in 1930, unpublished.

When Miller found himself in Paris, he wrote prolifically, generally with the aim of garnering some sort of newspaper publication. While “Cinema Vanves” was never published and might have been lost, the following all found publication in various magazines and newspapers, and are available in numerous publicly-held collections.

“Jazzazza.” USA, Philadelphia, Summer 1930.

What the hell is this? Does anyone even know? Is it the same article (dated 1931) mentioned in Henry Miller, A Life?

“The Cirque Medrano.” First published in The Paris edition of The New York Herald Tribune, 1930. Reprinted – Sunday edition of The Chicago Tribune, spring 1931.
“The Six Day Bike Race.” First published in The Paris edition of The New York Herald Tribune, 1930. Reprinted – Sunday edition of The Chicago Tribune, spring 1931.

To read these articles would be to see Paris with the fresh eye that Miller brought to the city. Below, similar pieces written by Miller (or at least, co-written by Miller with Perlès) were published under Perlès’ byline. One of them appeared in Perlès’ 1956 memoir, My Friend, Henry Miller; the rest have never seen the light of day since.

“Paris in Ut Mineur.” First published under the byline Alfred Perlès in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, March 9, 1931. Newspaper clipping of this item seen in Miller’s Paris Notebooks. Byline states Alfred Perlès, yet Miller’s holograph notation indicates this was a contribution he wrote. See Perlès’ Scrapbook, The Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas.
“Goblins Tapestries.” First published under the byline Alfred Perlès in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, 1931. Newspaper clipping of this item seen in Miller’s Paris Notebooks. Byline states Alfred Perlès, yet Miller’s holograph notation indicates this was a contribution he wrote. See Perlès’ Scrapbook, The Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas.
“Prismatoidal Scenery.” First published under the byline Alfred Perlès in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, 1931. Newspaper clipping of this item seen in Miller’s Paris Notebooks. Byline states Alfred Perlès, yet Miller’s holograph notation indicates this was a contribution he wrote. See Perlès’ Scrapbook, The Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas.
“Promenade Without Spats.” First published under the byline Alfred Perlès in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, 1931. Newspaper clipping of this item seen in Miller’s Paris Notebooks. Byline states Alfred Perlès, yet Miller’s holograph notation indicates this was a contribution he wrote. See Perlès’ Scrapbook, The Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas.
“Mummies and Other Things.” First published under the byline Alfred Perlès in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, 1931. Newspaper clipping of this item seen in Miller’s Paris Notebooks. Byline states Alfred Perlès, yet Miller’s holograph notation indicates this was a contribution he wrote. See Perlès’ Scrapbook, The Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas.
“Rue Lourmel in Fog.” First published under the byline Alfred Perlès in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, 1931. Published in Perlès, Alfred, My Friend Henry Miller: An Intimate Biography. New York: John Day, 1956.

Miller seems to have had a real knack for getting his work published under other people’s bylines – whether under his grandfather’s name (Valentine Nieting), under June’s name, Perlès, or Wambly Bald’s.

“La Vie de Bohème.” First published (under the byline Wambly Bald) in The Chicago Tribune, Paris edition, October 14, 1931.

Here’s a few more strays that might be worth reading:

“Bezeque, Inc.” Written circa late 1932 – early 1933, unpublished.
“The All-Intelligent Explosive Rocket.” Written in 1933, unpublished. The Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas.
From Tropic of Cancer, (excerpts from the novel, including previously unpublished texts). Illustrated by Gene King. Ann Arbor: Roger Jackson, July 1,1999.

That last entry is a tantalizing gem – the original manuscript of Tropic of Cancer was about 1000 pages; in 1999 Roger Jackson published a limited edition featuring some previously unpublished excerpts. This is along lines similar to the recent publication of the ‘scroll’ version of Kerouac’s On The Road. How sad that Miller’s marginalia remains so elusive to the general reading public.

Even after the publication of Tropic of Cancer, there was plenty of interest that hasn’t since found a mass republication. These pieces include those found in The Booster (republished once – as a collector’s set, of course! – in 1968), and a manuscript of impressions of Athens, probably written 1939, to be found in the collection of Lawrence Durrell (see A Private Correspondence). This last might be the same as the The Jupiter Book, an unpublished letter written in a printer’s dummy, sent to Lawrence Durrell, 1939. In the Durrell collection (again, see A Private Correspondence). Or how about the original 1940 versions of The World of Sex and Quiet Days in Clichy?

Finally, there was to have been a second book of Nexus, the last book of Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, that would have recounted his European vacation with June. Miller did in fact start writing this book, and some version of that manuscript has found publication in French as Nexus 2. Paris: Éditions Autrement, 2004. So far, there’s been no sign of an English version.

The possibilities are almost endless. There is as much ‘lost’ or ‘unknown’ or ‘unpublished’ material in the Miller oeuvre as in any of the various Beat authors’ archives, that begs to be flogged to a public starved for some sanity, soul and content in their literature. Throw wide the gates, O Literary Executors!!

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