I certainly needed to let this book stew, brew, ferment for a while.
It’s murky, hard to digest, shattered, yet powerful and beautiful.
I kept thinking what was the purpose of it all, the cunts and the hunger and the coldness, the entire-human-excrement-family of words he used everywhere and glorious tributes to artists interspaced with coarse disapprovals. Not exactly a stream of consciousness yet random enough; implicating feeling has eaten thinking proper and whole yet underneath the surface reflecting all the time. Maybe the author was aware of it all, aware of the confusion and the irony, the hypocrisy and the perverseness. That’s why the world was shitted out. That’s why no morality was relevant.
My irony is that, I can’t kick the question "what’s the purpose" out of my head when I look at art.
Is the s-o-a-p-s-tone analysis we learn in English class poisonous? It asks you to always search for THE purpose but life is purposeless and the best art (arguably) tries to reflect that purposelessness. And after all that analytical training (conditioning), you look at purposelessness and go like what the fuck is this - there’s no purpose!!! But that’s the beauty of it. Of course, an English teacher can still say the purpose is to "reflect life accurately", but then you can't help but ask what is that accurate reflection? The accurate reflection is a confusion, a scramble, a nothingness. And then you collapse because nobody taught you how to deal with NOTHING. They always teach you how to deal with SOMETHING. With calculus, historical events, political models, even your paintbrush and all, always deal with something. How do you deal with NOTHING?
Henry Miller takes the English language (and then some French he just can’t resist adopting), stretches it out like chewing gum and compresses it and slaps it onto your face. Or shove it up your ass, for that matter. There shouldn’t be any brains involved. Just the sticky, funny chewing gum and the absurd euphoria. The euphoria of ENNUI. Not just the meaning of ennui, the grand meaning that spreads its wings and overshadows the entire species (maybe not the universe but at least our little species), but also just the taste of the word ENNUI on the tip of your tongue. The euphoria of that taste, the syllables - it has to be the french word, the english counterpart is just somewhat insufficient. You feel it. You taste it. Use your tongue to go about the world - boys, use your tongue, not your finger or your brains.
Maybe the reader’s pleasure comes from the release of their own vile bile psyches via the author's vile bile words, or maybe from a deep resonance with the intense light or darkness of the distorted scenes, or maybe even from a sign of relief "Oh at least I live better than this messed up great artist who couldn’t get a square meal 99% of the time". All in all the book just feels good. Maliciously, vengefully, lecherously good.
I thought I would remain loyal to Hemingway and his cleanness, but Miller is a darling. In terms of writing they both dwarf Orwell. Orwell lectures too much. He talks of an imaginary realm but he intends to pin you down to hard reality, to stick your mind to your sober life and government and ideologies and thinking processes. It’s a cool, composed dialectic process. But Miller is art, something that absorbs you and intoxicates you and carries you along in its own flow. You become a thing that FLOWS.
Miller changed my life; he made me realize I wasn’t the Orwell type of person. I hate it when things get overly political. I admire and respect Orwell people; I’m just not one of them. They are devoted to institutions and I hate anything that remotely sounds like machinery; they are drawn to order and solutions and I want chaos and annihilation. They want to present themselves to others; I want to escape myself.
Reality is toothpaste, minty, artificial, horribly sanitizing, blanc blanche, routine, sticky, makes you sick after a while. Makes you wanna vomit if you have too much of it. But then you get used to it and shove it in your mouth every morning.
The ennui, on the other hand, is the sandy quietness of the record player, of the typewriter, of the soft breathing of a lover. (Not a sex partner, a fucking lover.)
When you are hungry you don’t think much, so it’s ok to live from one meal to the next. That is a dreadful state of existence. When you are full you think a lot about how to keep yourself full. That is a dreadful state of existence also. Physical comfort necessarily corrupts, but the more painful question is — does the magnitude of your metaphysical potential justify your contempt of physical comfort? Did Miller write about his hungry experience of a concert on an empty stomach or was he only able to put it into words when he had eaten? It seems ok for a person with no money to proclaim how important money is, but not remotely ok for a person with money.
And here I am, a little talent and a fat purse. Please do not censor me.