Henry Miller and Sherwood Anderson

 

Henry Miller was a fervent admirer of Sherwood Anderson. The two writers met two or three times, briefly — according to Miller, “in the last year of his [Anderson’s] life.”

In a Paris Review interview, Miller said:

Of all the American writers that I have met, Sherwood Anderson stands out as the one I liked most. Dos Passos was a warm, wonderful chap, but Sherwood Anderson — well, I had been in love with his work, his style, his language, from the beginning. And I liked him as a man — although we were completely at loggerheads about most things, especially America. He loved America, he knew it intimately, he loved the people and everything about America. I was the contrary. But I loved to hear what he had to say about America.

“Henry Miller, The Art of Fiction,” interview by George Wickes, The Paris Review No. 28, Summer-Fall 1962

 http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4597/the-art-of-fiction-no-28-henry-miller

 

******************************************************

 

In his impressionistic travelogue The Colossus of Maroussi, there is a passage by Miller about Anderson:

After the succulent repast at the taverna in Piraeus, … we moved back to the big square in Athens. It was midnight or a little after and the square was still crowded with people. Kastimbalis seemed to divine the spot where his friends were seated. We were introduced to his bosom comrades, George Seferaides and Captain Antoniou of the good ship “Acropolis.” They were soon plying me with questions about America and American writers. Like most educated Europeans they knew more about American literature than I ever will. Antoniou had been to America several times, had walked about the streets of New York, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and other ports. The thought of him walking about the streets of our big cities in bewilderment led me to broach the name of Sherwood Anderson whom I always think of as the one American writer of our time who has walked the streets of our American cites as a genuine poet. Since they scarcely knew his name, and since the conversation was already veering towards more familiar ground, namely Edgar Allen Poe, a subject I am weary of listening to, I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of selling them Sherwood Anderson. I began a monologue myself for a change – about writers who walk the streets in America and are not recognized until they are ready for the grave. I was so enthusiastic about the subject that I actually identified myself with Sherwood Anderson. He would probably have been astounded had he heard of the exploits I was crediting him with. I’ve always had a particular weakness for the author of “Many Marriages.” In my worst days in America he was the man who comforted me, by his writings. It was only the other day that I met him for the first time. I found no discrepancy between the man and the writer. I saw in him the born storyteller, the man who can make even the egg triumphant.

   As I say, I went on talking about Sherwood Anderson like a blue streak. It was to Capitan Antoniou that I chiefly addressed myself. I remember the look he gave me when I had finished, the look which said: “Sold. Wrap them up, I’ll take the whole set.” Many times since I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of rereading Sherwood Anderson through Antoniou’s eyes. Antoniou is constantly sailing from one island to another, writing his poems as he walks about strange cities at night. Once, a few months later, I met him for a few minutes one evening in the strange port of Herakleion in Crete. He was still thinking about Sherwood Anderson, though his talk was of cargoes and weather reports and water supplies. Once out to sea I could picture him going up to his cabin and, taking a little book from the rack, burying himself in the mysterious life of a nameless Ohio town. The night always made me a little envious of him, envious of his peace and solitude at sea. I envied him the islands he was stopping off at and the lonely walks through silent villages whose names mean nothing to us. To be a pilot was the first ambition I had ever voiced. I liked the idea of being alone in the little house above the deck, steering the ship over its perilous course. To be aware of the weather, to be in it, battling with it, meant everything to me. In Antoniou’s countenance there were always traces of the weather. And in Sherwood Anderson’s writing there are always traces of the weather. I like men who have the weather in their blood. ….

 — Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi (New York: New Directions, 2010), pp. 31-32

 

— Roger W. Smith

      July 2016

 

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Sherwood Anderson scholar Claire Bruyère for pointing out this passage to me.

 

 

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. He hosts separate websites devoted to the authors Theodore Dreiser and Pitirim A. Sorokin and to classical music as well as family history/genealogy.
This entry was posted in Henry Miller, literature, Sherwood Anderson and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s