My Love Affair with Henry

Okay, so you may or may not have noticed that yesterday’s post was an attempt at writing that is more “literary” than I customarily undertake. It was also a rather blatant salute to one of my favorite authors – Henry Miller.

A couple of things induced yesterday’s little writing exercise. First off, this past weekend, I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. (It was amazing by the way. Both inspiring and informative. So many interesting people with stories to tell and a whole slew of editors, agents and publishers to get great guidance and assistance from. I met my hero, Alan Rinzler, who edited several Hunter S. Thompson books and published Rolling Stone magazine, among a mountain of other accolades. Somehow I managed to untie my tongue long enough to tell him I was a big fan of his blog for writers. I recommend it highly to aspiring writers like me out there looking for guidance and ideas.) But I digress.

At the end of the conference we had the opportunity to join a group of conference attendees and organizers for an evening of literary delights. First an incredible, authentic Chinese dinner at the Lechee Gardens restaurant on Powell near Broadway (literary? maybe not, but certainly a delight). After which we visited City Lights Book Store, the original home of work by Beat writers like Allan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouak. City Lights opened in San Francisco’s North Beach in 1953, by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It is iconic.

The second inspiration for yesterday’s blog occurred when we toddled down the street to the Beat Museum where they were celebrating the life and work of Henry Miller. Coincidence? I think not. We were treated to readings and anecdotes by Magnus Toren of the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur…whom as chance would have it, I happened to already be acquainted with.

My love affair with Henry Miller began in 2002, when driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my way to Mexico, I stopped in at the Henry Miller Library, meeting Magnus and, more importantly became more intimately acquainted with Mr. Miller. I’d read excerpts of Miller over the years, but had never read one his books in its entirety (yes, I’m looking down at the ground rather ashamedly, but bear in mind I’m Canadian). I fell in love with his Notice to Visitors and decided I had best familiarize myself with at least one of his books – Big Sur and the Oranges of Heironymus Bosch seemed the natural choice.

Once I arrived at my destination in Mexico, I began. I read Miller on the beach, in my trailer, sitting on the hill above the village, and drinking coffee in El Caballero, a local restaurant. This book with such a long and ungainly title resonated with me much like his Notice to Visitors had. I felt like he was right there, talking to me, sharing his tales of living in Big Sur. And what timely subject matter! His Big Sur was my Cabo Pulmo – we were both isolated, broke, with time to spare and good friends, surrounded by a cast of characters almost unbelievable in their eccentricities. I was a convert.

Miller broke the literary rules of his day. He wrote about a huge range of subjects from everyday things like bread, to philosophical issues and sexual liberation. It took some 12 years between when he began to write and the publication of his first novel. From this little factoid, I must say I took great heart to know that even a great author like Henry Miller needed time to develop his craft.

A copy of the anthology Henry Miller On Writing wriggled its way into my hands at the Beat Museum and begged to be taken home. Always the push over, I gave in easily. Together we’re bound for Mexico tomorrow, along with copious conference notes and a barrow full of inspiration.


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