Henry Miller, The Paris Years, the book

8 Jul

I picked this book up because it was written by Brassaï, not because it was written about Henry Miller. My husband and I were in La Jolla, CA, and stumbled into D.G. Wills Books. We loved this bookstore, and certain members of our family returned multiple times to buy a lot more books. All of our vacation money was spent in this store! That’s how much we enjoyed it.


This book is a nice introduction to the person that was Henry Miller. I love reading about Paris in the early 20th century, and learning about where Henry Miller lived and hung out. He hung out cafés, if you can imagine that. There are chapters in this book titled, “Paris in 1930”, “Exile in Dijon”, “Truth and Storytelling”, and “The Delicious Rogue”. I enjoyed the “Truth and Storytelling” chapter as Brassaï dives into Miller’s storytelling technique of including real incidents that happened to him, and then embellishing them greatly. He gives examples of conversations he shared with Miller, and of how they showed up, distorted, in “Tropic of Cancer”. Brassaï mentions Miller’s tendency to employ this same technique in everyday letter writing to friends, or in telling stories orally, or in other words, making-up shit all the time.

Brassaï talks about how Miller’s “cavalier treatment of the truth” troubles him and others, but he doesn’t dismiss Miller or judge him harshly over this character attribute, which I appreciate. In the following chapter, titled, “Autobiography is the Purest Romance”, Brassaï goes on to dissect this tendency in Miller stating such things as, “But while Miller makes a virtue of necessity, professing that reality is only a pretext for giving life to his obsessions and his hallucinations, and an excuse to make ample use of his storytelling gifts, he doesn’t dwell on it. Sometimes he could even admit that his overactive imagination was a flaw, preventing him  from seeing things as they really were, rather than purely as a reflection of his mind. So quickly does his art take over and cloud his vision of facts and events that when he looks at his notes later on, he no longer remembers what was really said and felt, and what was imagined. He could not control the moment; once his imagination seized the reigns, his mind raced in to the might-be, the could-be, the fantastic, the baroque, the unreal. It is, I believe, a common trait among great storytellers.” Okay…. we all know THAT friend. You’re not really sure if you can depend on him, but he’s a Great Artist, or a Great Writer, or whatever, and he’s immensely talented and entertaining, and that’s makes him worth you’re time. Just don’t loan him money or fall in love with him, right?

I am now going to attempt reading some Miller, as I have never done so. I also love the cover of this book very much, and if I manage my blog post of “Favorite Book Covers” this will be included. The picture was, of course, taken by Brassaï.


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