Kenton Crowther’s 3100-word essay, Henry Miller: Ahead of the Game has just become available in digital form. In it, Crowther shines a little light on Miller as a writer and as a man, exploring his life, sensibilities, and ongoing relevance.
It’s not an in-depth look at Miller, but certainly an entertaining and thoughtful one.
First, Crowther takes a look at Miller’s vibe, and affinities with his spiritual forebear, Walt Whitman.
Miller’s influence on the Beat writers, especially through his Tropic of Capricorn is noted. “Like them, he celebrated the individual and detested the production line culture of the machine age.” Crowther states that “Miller always preached that you should go your own gait, whatever happens.”
Miller’s loose writing method and his cultivation of “a brutal, savage style with decadent, sordid subject matter” are briefly discussed. Despite Miller’s criticism of the United States, he was a patriot, especially fascinated by its grittier realities. Similarly, in Paris, where he was an expatriate, he admired the people for the “deep, passionate life of the blood” which Paris’ they embraced. His work was influenced by his experiences in America and abroad alike.
There’s also a little about his so-called “disciple,” Kathryn Winslow, who tirelessly promoted Miller’s work (although he was uneasy about this), and may have had kind of a thing for him. (She also wrote Henry Miller: Full of Life.)
Crowther also discusses Miller’s usually impecunious state, and how borrowing, and the support of others (including Anais Nin) was important throughout most of his life. However, it went the other way too, as Miller was generous with others who asked for his assistance.
If you’re looking for a Miller biography, well, this isn’t going to be it. But if you’d like to hear a longtime reader’s considered, free-ranging thoughts on Miller – an “improvident person of immense charm” – “Henry Miller: Ahead of the Game” might just be for you. Whether you’re a well-acquainted with the man’s work, or a Miller virgin, it may just inspire you to pick up the nearest Miller book and start reading.