Riding Home With Henry
Henry Miller's work buzzes with so much energy that, despite his having died so long ago, his words continue to resonate down the ages. I first discovered Miller through 'The Tropic of Capricorn' at the age of fifteen and found that it was almost exactly what my fifteen year old self needed. Here was a writer who dealt with the world as if it was a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be uncovered and, through his words, he forced me to see it that way too.
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
The word develop always struck me when Miller wrote this. He did not gain an interest in life or chance upon it, he worked on it and refined his ability to become enthused by life. The idea of the world throbbing with ideas is a very Miller - esque way of putting things too. It is as if the world overflows with excitement and hidden joys and all someone needs to do is capture them as they come.
This is what Miller manages to do so well in so much of his writing. He particularly manages to talk about the beautiful souls which he finds abounding in the world around him. In 'Tropic of Capricorn' he manages to talk about the beauty of the women who surround him amid the rich splendours of New York, and even when he talks about starving and just wishing for a piece of bread to tide him over he fills everything with a certain romanticism.
There's nobody who can't learn something from Miller and the way that he views the world. I have often tried to emulate his approach to living and have rarely really come close.
In 'The Collosus of Maroussi', which I once found in a used bookshop as it had my name already written on the inside cover, Miller really shows how to live life fully and well. He talks in the book about how he manages to live like a King even though really he has no money to call his own. He finds friends and travels from Athens to Delphi while the clouds of war form on the horizon. It is, to many people, the greatest of Miller's books. Miller himself tended to think so. Although it is not actually directly about Miller, and is a fictionalised account of his journey, his manner and his voice shines out of every page no matter how he tries to hide it.
One thing which is so impressive about Miller is the way that he travels across the world and carves out his own special niche in it. In 'Big Sur and The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch' he talks about how, once he returned to America after escaping to Paris, he made himself a home in the countryside where he could speak to the friends he had made in Paris and take his time replying to the letters sent by fans.
This sense is something that I wanted to emulate when I would pick up Miller's books and read them, young and alone, on riverbanks in The Netherlands one Summer. I would pick up whatever I could find of his in the nearest library then take my bike, often clutching the new book in one hand and guiding the bike along with the other. I had no time and I was impatient to be told about how bright the life I lead could be. Miller showed me that and so, when I would ride home with him, I would try to celebrate his life, and my own life, and all life.