Henry Miller: A Life

Henry Miller: A Life

by Robert Ferguson
     
 

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“In this engrossing biography Ferguson measures the cheerful amoralist of Tropic of Cancer and The Rosy Crucifixion against the guilt-ridden, insecure male in revolt against his bourgeois Brooklyn family. . . . The Miller in these pages is neither the macho bully portrayed by feminists nor the adolescent sexual philosopher dismissed by the academic

Overview

“In this engrossing biography Ferguson measures the cheerful amoralist of Tropic of Cancer and The Rosy Crucifixion against the guilt-ridden, insecure male in revolt against his bourgeois Brooklyn family. . . . The Miller in these pages is neither the macho bully portrayed by feminists nor the adolescent sexual philosopher dismissed by the academic establishment, but a ‘unique…and necessary literary figure,’ a popular American sage….Richly rewarding.” —Publishers Weekly
The only biography Henry Miller ever wanted was the one he himself wrote in the brash, life-affirming fictions of The Tropic of Capricorn, The Tropic of Cancer, and The Rosy Crucifixion. But Robert Ferguson’s new biography tells a different tale; for where the novels are sexually explicit and brutally frank—woundingly so to those close to Miller—they are also the fantasies of a man escaping from his past, and from himself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this engrossing biography Ferguson measures the cheerful amoralist of Tropic of Cancer and The Rosy Crucifixion against the guilt-ridden, insecure male in revolt against his bourgeois Brooklyn family. As a struggling writer Henry Miller worked as a Western Union manager, then ran a speakeasy in Greenwich Village. In Paris he discovered psychoanalysis and Anais Nin, his muse, patron, astrological counselor and adulterous lover, ``shadow wife and shadow mother''; he hoped in vain she would divorce her husband. Rebelling against the materialism of the American way of life, the writer pursued ``a religion of instinct, subjectivity and willed simplicity,'' observes Ferguson, biographer of Knut Hamsun. The Miller in these pages is neither the macho bully portrayed by feminists nor the adolescent sexual philosopher dismissed by the academic establishment, but a ``unique . . . and necessary literary figure,'' a popular American sage. More ploddingly workmanlike and more admiring than Mary Dearborn's ``The Happiest Man Alive'' (reviewed above), this portrait is nevertheless richly rewarding. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
These biographies mark the 100th anniversary of Miller's birth. Both describe fully the events of his life, drawing on his autobiographical fiction, nonfiction, and letters, to tell the same basic story with slightly different emphases and interpretations. Dearborn discusses Miller's experiences in terms of his development as a writer. She provides thorough descriptions of how and when various works were written and their publishing history. In her version, Miller turned his life into literature. Ferguson, however, sees Miller's writing as the therapy he needed to come to terms with his life. He takes a psychoanalytical approach, often telling us what Miller felt and what his motives were in particular situations. He is unfortunately sometimes intrusively judgmental. Neither author provides in-depth literary criticism, and they make us aware that a serious critical evaluation of Miller's work is overdue. Dearborn's book is somewhat better written, and while the largest and most specialized collections may want both, hers is the more highly recommended. Both books previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/91.-- Judy Mimken, Cardinal Stritch Coll., Milwaukee
Booknews
An entertaining, well-researched biography of the controversial and influential author (1891-1980), disentangling the many versions (including those self-created in the autobiographical fiction) of his life. Includes 51 b&w photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393310191
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/28/1993
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.96(d)

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