NPJ Book Review: My Life and Times by Henry Miller

My Life and Times by Henry Miller, (1971).  Having read the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer at a younger age, along with Erica Jong on Henry Miller, The Devil at Large, I thought I had pretty good insight into this remarkable and brilliant author’s mind. I purchased this book at a small bookshop on a side street in Ann Arbor a few decades ago and it sat on the shelf for too long and unappreciated.

Miller has away of jolting the human conscience even, vanity aside, and especially during this age ,which may prove to be the final act of democracy, the continuing rise of resistance and anarchy or will the peoples suffer from oppression/depression. Miller knows depression & war, humility and humor and maintains an orderly office and desk, but finds within, “a raging chaos.”

In response to why he wrote the book when so much has already been said in his earlier biographical works, ”I am not sure I can give a convincing answer to the question, except to say that through conversation, or what the French call entretiens, one often approaches a subject or theme from a different angle. Stripped of literary pretensions or flourishes, the facts and events of one’s life emerge more starkly and thus, to many readers, more intelligibly and comprehensibly.”

In another notation for the person of thought and or emotion: “To the person who thinks with his head, life is a comedy. To those who think with their feelings, or work through their feelings, life is a tragedy.”

Miller reveals his bemusement of societal norms as in one example, he plays Ping Pong across from a naked woman; “no matter how important or glamorous my opponent may be I never let him or her distract me.”

 The author discusses his paintings and the creative process, how one stroke of the brush leads to another and correspondingly how one thought leads to another.

Miller’s writings are provocative, raw, symbolic, insightful, humorous, opinionated and passionate – an individual with a profound understanding for the ambiguity surrounding the nature of sexuality, politics, censorship and the word and the images words create.

This tabletop visual autobiography serves up samples of his humor and seriousness in writing, while simultaneously offering a glimpse into the inner workings of the author’s efficacious mind. The images and photos are visualized words. From this writer’s perspective the work is a gem.