Sex with Henry Miller
An important part of my early education into the inner world of adulthood was the discovery of Henry Miller. His works provided fuel for my starving brain. My teenage years were malnourished on a gruel type diet of CSEs, poor job prospects and no money, and the low expectations of society to achieve anything of lasting value. Escape seemed my only option. Before I was able to travel, a flight of the mind was the only exit. Henry Miller was among a bunch of writers who acted as a catalyst to my adventures of spirit, giving me the wings to fly.
To an adolescent looking out from the schoolyard into the adult world I would soon be forced to occupy, his appeal was immediate. Miller was part of a clutch of underground writers whose work had been banned in the UK up until the 1960s. It was only the 1960 trial of the DH Lawrence novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover that was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, and brought home a verdict of ‘not guilty’ that opened the floodgates for similar controversial works to be published under the banner of ‘public good.’ Scotland Yard was still contemplating banning Miller’s first novel Tropic of Cancer (1934) that, until the 1960s, had only been available in the UK through smuggled copies, until literary heavyweights, such as T.S Eliot, announced their intention to publically defend the book, and, as consequence, the police backed down as guardians of public morality.
Tropic of Cancer was the first of many books I read by him. Its title was from Henry Miller’s assertion that ‘cancer’ symbolises the disease of civilisation, creating a need to start all over again from scratch. Miller stated,
I start tomorrow on the Paris book: First person, uncensored, formless — fuck everything.
As with many of his books, it is semi-biographical, seamlessly weaving threads of fiction and autobiography within a narrative full of sexually explicit encounters amidst rambling themes of homelessness, squalor, loneliness and despair over the separation from his wife. It is set in France, mainly Paris, from the late 1920s to the early 1930s chronicling his life as a struggling writer. In essence, it is an existential meditation on the human condition.