on the decline in the reputation of Henry Miller

Henry-miller-1950-californiaJames Campbell at the Times Literary Supplement:

Writing to Richard Aldington in March 1957, Lawrence Durrell relayed the boast of his friend Henry Miller that, at the age of sixty-five, he could still dance for his grandchildren, “without straining anything. ‘Like a doe’ he says – always prone to self-admiration! . . . He’s a most endearing gentle and babyish character – not at all the cannibal he acts when he writes.” Durrell assured Aldington that he would enjoy meeting Miller. “Everyone has a picture of him as a sort of ghoul from his work; but a gentler, more honourable, considerate and devoted man it would be impossible to find.”

Miller’s most famous books – Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn – were banned in Britain and America at the time, remaining so until Grove Press risked prosecution by printing Tropic of Cancer in 1961, to be followed by a John Calder edition in the UK two years later. They were none the less widely read, being available legally in Paris, first in the original editions from the Obelisk Press, the creation of the Mancunian Jack Kahane, then from Obelisk’s post-war offshoot, Olympia Press (overseen by his son, Maurice Girodias), and were obtainable under the counter in English-speaking countries. Their fugitive status in the 1950s and 60s, together with that of other titles –The World of Sex, the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy (Sexus, Nexus andPlexus) – conspired to make Miller the hardiest of that alluring mid-century species, the sexual outlaw, perhaps the last of its kind in Western lands.

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