Henry Miller: Years of Trial & Triumph, 1962-1964: the Correspondence of Henry Miller and Elmer Gertz

Henry Miller: Years of Trial & Triumph, 1962-1964: the Correspondence of Henry Miller and Elmer Gertz

Henry Miller: Years of Trial & Triumph, 1962-1964: the Correspondence of Henry Miller and Elmer Gertz

Henry Miller: Years of Trial & Triumph, 1962-1964: the Correspondence of Henry Miller and Elmer Gertz


The Miller-Gertz correspondence, in addition to the documentation it provides on the famous struggle to free Tropic of Cancer of obscenity charges, is important for numerous reasons, among them being that Henry Miller wrote intimately to Elmer Gertz on a wide range of topics, including his thoughts about the book which won him public recognition in his own country- at long last.

Still a controversial figure in the 1960s, but with an impressive following, especially abroad where his works were published freely in many languages, Henry Miller had been denied publication of his major works in his own country until 1961, when Grove Press published Tropic of Cancer, precipitating a long, costly, and often bitter battle against the continuing censorship of his autobiographical novels.

The attorney chosen by Grove Press to represent the publisher in Illinois was Elmer Gertz, himself a literary critic and historian by avocation, who began intensive preparation by reading everything by and about Miller he could put his hands on, which led indirectly to the letter from Miller that opened their correspondence.

Throughout the long, taxing months of this historic battle for freedom of expression, the bonds linking Cancer's author and his attorney multiplied and strengthened. They tested themselves and the world, their subjects ranging from the arts to business and family matters; from social problems to films and Hollywood personalities; from courtroom pyrotechnics to ping-pong. An almost day-by-day record of Miller's activities emerges as he speaks of his writing and painting, his social life, his personal concerns, his travels, his contacts with publishers and theatrical producers. Moreover, the unguarded thoughts expressed through all of the correspondence produced astonishing self-revelations, which makes this volume especially valuable.


Henry Miller became a septuagenarian on December 26, 1961, just eight days before his correspondence with Elmer Gertz began, but neither age nor intermittent health problems had slowed his pace or dampened his ebullience. His 163 letters, postcards, and telegrams to Gertz between January 1962 and July 1964 reveal him as still hyperactive: writing, painting, travelling -- experimenting with artistic mediums new to him -- contracting for works in progress, for film and theatrical rights, for the republication of his books throughout the world -- attending to family matters -- even falling in love; and all of this in a period of crescendoing public pressure, when he found himself suddenly and for the first time widely celebrated, and just as widely castigated, in his native land.

It was of course Tropic of Cancer that catapulted Miller into the limelight, the book that had started him on the road to international acclaim when it was published in 1934 by Obelisk Press of Paris in an English-language paperbound edition. and it was one of the sixty or more obscenity cases that sprang up nation-wide, after Grove Press issued the first American edition of Cancer in June, 1961, in defiance of a twenty-seven-year Customs ban, that brought Miller and the Chicago attorney Elmer Gertz together. This set of circumstances alone, leading as it did to a record of what was transpiring at each stage of several Cancer cases and the involvement of Miller and Gertz in them, justifies publication of their correspondence. in addition, nearly all of Miller's previously published letters are from earlier periods, and the biographical sketches of him that extend to the 1960s barely touch on his pursuits in those years. Moreover, because the exchanges between . . .

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