Why Henry Miller is Relevant–His Writerly Advice

Love or hate him, Henry Miller has good advice about the craft of writing.  Misogynist, pornographer, or faux-Zen Buddhist, Miller pronounces authentic passion for the arts and the life of the mind.  He encourages writers to be imaginative and true to their own voice, their own way of relating to and envisioning the world.  There are very few decent American prose writers today–very few who are willing to take risks and challenge readers or middle-class bourgeois values–no one willing to subvert the bland and blasse norms of the mainstream publishing world. No one wants to defend aesthetic standards of taste–elegant style, life, and energy.  As Miller says:

Who writes the great books? It isn’t we who sign our names. What is an artist? He’s a man who has antennae, who knows how to hook up to the currents which are in the atmosphere, in the cosmos; he merely has the facility for hooking on, as it were. Who is original? Everything that we are doing, everything that we think, exists already, and we are only intermediaries, that’s all, who make use of what is in the air. Why do ideas, why do great scientific discoveries often occur in different parts of the world at the same time? The same is true of the elements that go to make up a poem or a great novel or any work of art. They are already in the air, they have not been given voice, that’s all. They need the man,the interpreter, to bring them forth. Well, and it’s true too, of course, that some men are ahead of their time. But today, I don’t think it’s the artist who is so much ahead of his time as the man of science. The artist is lagging behind, his imagination is not keeping pace with the men of science.

See Miller’s interview in the Paris Review…


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