Academic journal article Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal

"One Sits in the Middle of a River Called Nostalgia': The Henry Miller Research Collections at Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Academic journal article Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal

"One Sits in the Middle of a River Called Nostalgia': The Henry Miller Research Collections at Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Article excerpt

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) in Morris Library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is home to a renowned collection of research resources related to 20th century American and British literature. With a strong focus on writers of the inter-war period and the American expatriate literary community, the correspondence and other personal papers comprise significant collections of primary source research materials documenting the lives and work of among others, Kay Boyle, Caresse Crosby and the Black Sun Press, Lawrence Durrell, Richard Aldington, Robert Graves, Lionel Britton, D.H. Lawrence, and arguably the most controversial and inimitable literary figure and cultural icon to emerge from the period, Henry Miller.

Rather than a large single body of records, such as the 72 linear foot collection of Henry Miller papers at UCLA, the Miller research resources at the SCRC consist of numerous smaller individual collections of records created or compiled by Miller's family and friends, publishers, assistants, and other writers. The collections are as broad in scope and rich in content as the life they document and provide numerous and varied perspectives on Miller's life and work.

The records date from the 1930s through the 1970s, with the bulk of the material originating from Miller's last four decades, the 1940s through the 1970s. His correspondence with family, friends, admirers, other writers, publishers, assistants, and confidants is especially varied and comprises a large portion of the collections. A frequent and longtime correspondent, attorney Elmer Gertz, summarizes that aspect of Miller's writing: "There is a characteristic shared by all his letters, regardless of the recipient. He writes with the utmost integrity; not always wisely, but invariably truthfully." (1) Considering that the epistolary form has been considered his most natural means of expression and the strong autobiographical nature of much of his work, Miller's correspondence provides the most direct evidence of his activities and thought, the critical interplay of

life and work, and is the vital center of the SCRC resources. While significant portions of his correspondence now exist in published form--most notably that with Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell--much of the Miller material held by the SCRC remains in unpublished form. The collections also include holograph and typescript manuscripts, artwork, photographs, audio recordings, promotional materials, ephemera, and other types of records and personal papers.

In place of a formal and comprehensive catalog of all the Miller materials in the Special Collections Research Center, this article is more in the nature of a bibliographic essay, selecting, summarizing, highlighting, and placing in context the more substantive and revealing materials, creating a composite of primary sources for research into the life, work, and times of Henry Miller.

The Henry Miller Collection is a small and varied compilation of materials from the 1960s and 1970s comprised primarily of typescript and holograph manuscripts of articles and other short pieces, including "The Firecracker Versus the Bomb," "Harold Ross of Blue Earth," prefaces to Book of Nudes and Conversations with Picasso, among other titles. One short untitled holograph manuscript begins: "Almost stepped on [a] peanut strolling Nevsky Prospekt. Suddenly looked unusual--no, unique. It was alive like myself. Why should I have ever thought it beneath notice?" (2) Also included in the collection are Plexus notes and related material, and correspondence with French publisher Georges Belmont, 1971-1973.

Miller, already well past fifty, was delighted with fatherhood and his daughter Valentine, born in 1945, and son Tony, born in 1948, with third wife Janina Lepska. Separated from them after the breakup of the marriage in 1951 and his failed effort as a single father, the approximately 100 letters written by Miller between 1952 and 1964 from Big Sur, Europe, and Pacific Palisades in the Valentine Miller Collection evidence his desire and efforts to maintain a close relationship with his children. …

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