New Review of Henry Miller: The Last Days

Here is a new, abridged version of a review by Resources for American Literary Study:

Henry Miller, the Last Days: A Memoir
By Barbara Kraft. San Antonio: Sky Blue P, 2016. 203 pp. $15.

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller (1891-1980) both shared part of their private lives with Barbara Kraft, giving her the unimaginable opportunity of being alongside two of the more memorable writers of the twentieth century during their final years. Kraft became an important source of support and enjoyment for the ailing writers. Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, A Memoir (2011) is Kraft’s account of her time with Nin, and this current memoir details the events surrounding her friendship with Miller. Drawing from her diary recording that period, Kraft provides an intimate view into Miller’s ups and downs with his failing health. We are presented with a Miller very much alive and connected—albeit growing more disinterested—with the world around him, vivacious in his love for Brenda Venus, continuing his endless correspondence, and publishing short works. Miller’s home life, however, was increasingly troubled, and Kraft elucidates biographical details of Miller’s household that have been overlooked by his many biographers.

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Following the international fame Miller attained in the early 1960s due to his pornography trial and resulting American and British publication of his Tropic novels, he became a sought-after outsider. With this (mostly) unwanted attention, the aging writer tended to avoid many of his devoted fans. In reaction to this sometimes-aggressive public attention, Miller may have subconsciously tried to regain some privacy by keeping separate the various sections of his life. Kraft recalls that Miller had a revolving collection of sixteen different “chefs” visiting his house, of whom Kraft was one—these were people whom Miller had asked to cook him dinner a few times a month—yet, over the course of nearly three years, Kraft never met any of the others. Because of Miller’s tendency to pigeonhole his friends into various parts of his life, it is understandable that Kraft’s memoir is very much centered on Miller’s kitchen, a place where she spent many evenings conversing with Miller, sometimes bringing special visitors with whom Kraft thought Miller might find an affinity.

From a biographical perspective, Kraft’s Henry Miller, The Last Days is an important addition to the memoirs and reflections on Miller’s Pacific Palisades time.

By the beginning of 1980, the inevitable final decline in Miller’s health became apparent to Kraft. Death came slowly, and Kraft recalls the waiting for the moment when his life would end. During these last months, Miller was still mostly cognizant of his surroundings, but his body increasingly failed him. He refused to let Venus see him in such a condition and turned down an opportunity presented by Kraft to meet Eugene Ionesco, one of his favorite playwrights. As his body failed, Miller’s mind also drifted, sometimes back to his days in France, and he soon required Pickerill’s assistance with all of his daily functions. Kraft moves quickly through these months, as Miller’s ability to interact with guests decreased and she had to devote more attention to her own personal life.

The memoir ends with Miller’s death, and by ending there, it appears that Kraft had no personal involvement with Miller’s posthumous family affairs. Why it took Kraft twenty-three years to set down a detailed reflection on her friendship with Miller seems irrelevant; for those interested in Miller, Kraft recollects the events as if they had just recently unfolded, writing in the first person. Ultimately, the expanded details of the book-length memoir provide a final glimpse of Miller from a perspective that no other biographer will be able to portray.

WAYNE E. ARNOLD, The University of Kitakyushu, Japan, for Resources for American Literary Study

To order a print copy of Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.

Anais Nin Podcast 26: Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1947-1955

In this episode, Paul Herron, editor of Sky Blue Press, discusses the editing process of the new Anaïs Nin diary, Trapeze, which has just been officially released.

As the title of the diary suggests, this is the story of how Nin was able to pull off what was—and still is—the seemingly impossible feat of maintaining two men, two homes, two lives on opposite sides of the continent without either man knowing about the other. The idea that Nin’s husband, Hugh Guiler, know about Nin’s lover, Rupert Pole, is debunked. With the help of loyal friends, including Guiler’s maid, and countless fabrications, explanations, fictional employers and assignments, she was able to spend about half the year, on and off, with each man and live within two completely opposing worlds. New York was the center of art world and internationalism, high-energy, and Nin moved in vast social circles, living what she called a “big life” with Guiler. In California, she was with Pole, a forest ranger, in a cabin at the foot of the mountains in Sierra Madre, a sleepy town disconnected from the rest of the world, in the middle of nature, and the pace was almost impossibly slow. Each man had his attributes that Nin found irresistible, and yet each man’s negative traits drove Nin mad, even to the point where she found herself not going TO each man, but FLEEING from each. And yet, it was a lifestyle she maintained for the rest of her life, and a story that is only now exposed to the public in full, in Nin’s own words.

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Rupert Pole, 1950s

Herron also discusses the back-stories of Trapeze, including the fact that Nin was increasingly excluded from the American literary world, and her work was chastised by friend and foe alike to the point where she was ready to give up on her writing career altogether.

Also discussed is one of the major supporting characters in Nin’s life at the time—James (Jim) Leo Herilhy, who would later achieve fame with his novels, including Midnight Cowboy. Herlihy not only supported Nin’s writing at the very time when no one else did, he also know Guiler and Pole well enough to give Nin objective and honest feedback on her relationships with them in his eloquent correspondence to her, which is quoted in this podcast.

Run time: 18 minutes

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

This podcast is sponsored by Trapeze, which can be ordered as follows:

To order the hardcover edition at a discounted price, click here.

To order a Kindle app edition, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s new diary is ready to order

Nearly four years after the release of the last Nin diary, Mirages, Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955 is ready to order in hardback format from Amazon.com.

Trapeze is Nin’s record of the early years of her double life (a husband in New York and a young lover in California) and how she was able to maintain this lifestyle in spite of perilous consequences if she ever let either man know about the other. She was metaphorically swinging on a bicoastal trapeze with no net below. The lengths to which she had to go, as well as the psychological and physical strain, are told in excruciating detail—and when one reads her tale, it is hard to believe that she pulled off  this feat for the rest of her life.

To order Trapeze: click here.

Barbara Kraft reads from Henry Miller: The Last Days

Barbara Kraft, author of a new memoir on Henry Miller, recently gave a reading at a Santa Monica library, which was video recorded and is now ready to be viewed.

Kraft not only speaks of her close relationship with the literary titan during his final two years, but also reminisces about her friendship with Anais Nin during the years just before her death–a relationship that was independent of that with Miller. Kraft’s gift to Miller and Nin fans are her two beautifully written memoirs:

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Each book is the perfect companion for the other.

To watch the video, click here. (Run time: 49 minutes)

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Podcast 16: Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller with Barbara Kraft

In 1974, Barbara Kraft sent Anaïs Nin, who was offering to mentor writers, a submission that was accepted. Just after Kraft met the famous diarist, Nin discovered she had cancer and began a two-year descent into pain and suffering, but Kraft and Nin forged a deep friendship that helped Nin transcend the illness. Nin’s relentless spirit in the face of death is the subject of Kraft’s first memoir, Anaïs Nin: The Last Days (2011, Sky Blue Press).

FrontCoverEbookSoon after Nin died in early 1977, Kraft attended a talk by Henry Miller and was so impressed that she wrote “An Open Letter to Henry Miller,” which was broadcast on a local NPR station. When Miller heard a recording of the “Letter,” he immediately sought Kraft out, and he eventually asked her to be one of sixteen rotating cooks who would not only cook dinner for him, but engage in conversation. She accepted, and soon she was conversing with the Tropic of Cancer writer on a regular basis about life, art, religion, sex, philosophy and, of course, writing. Kraft became more than a cook, though—she also was Miller’s confidante and, in the end, the one responsible for making sure he didn’t die alone in the chaotic house in Pacific Palisades, all of which is included in her latest book Henry Miller: The Last Days (2016, Sky Blue Press).

Listen as Kraft reflects upon these two intimate, but very different, friendships and how she captures the essence of both Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller.

Run time: 29 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

For more on Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

For more on Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, click here.

Henry Miller: The Last Days

Barbara Kraft’s new memoir, Henry Miller: The Last Days is available in print now and will be published in digital format May 20, 2016.

FrontCoverEbookKraft met Henry Miller in 1977, only months after her friend—and Miller’s former lover—Anaïs Nin died. Kraft was so impressed by Miller that she reread virtually all of his work and broadcast an “open letter” to Miller on an NPR station. When Miller heard a recording of the show, he invited Kraft to become one of his sixteen rotating cooks.

(Click here to hear Kraft and Miller discussing the arrangement.)

Kraft returned on a regular basis to the Miller household and struck up an intimate friendship with the famous author, recording daily events and conversations in her diary. The operations of the household were anything but normal—they were largely carried out by various individual who came and went, and the person in charge of them was a serious drug addict. It was largely due to Kraft’s intervention that Miller didn’t die of malnutrition and, in the end, didn’t die alone.

To see details of Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

To see details of Anais Nin: The Last Days, click here.

A Café in Space: Barbara Kraft remembers Henry Miller

In her contribution to Volume 13 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Barbara Kraft shares the beginning of her forthcoming memoir Henry Miller: The Last Days, which will be published soon by Sky Blue Press.

Henry Miller

After delivering An Open Letter to Henry Miller on public radio in 1977, Miller invited Kraft to cook dinner for him, and she eventually became a regular at the Miller household.

Here, Kraft describes her first meeting with Miller:

“A half hour had passed when I heard a slow shuffling noise in the kitchen and then the famous voice. Leaning on his walker, it was a labored crossing and there he was. Dressed in pajamas and a blue terrycloth robe, fluffy white bedroom slippers and white socks on his feet, Miller continued to charm. Frail, fragile, deaf in one ear, blind in one eye, lame on one side but not broken. Age could not touch him; his spirit was indefatigable and still quite miraculous. The eternal clown, the gentle jester.”

Read the entire excerpt in volume 13, along with an excerpt from Anaïs Nin’s forthcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin and Benjamin Franklin V’s introduction to the book, essays by Nin scholars from around the world, testimonies by women writers influenced by Nin, short fiction, poetry, photographs and visual art.

To order Volume 13 of A Café in Space, which is available in print and as an ebook, click here.

A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 13

As editor of this journal for the past 13 years, I can personally say that this is one of the most satisfying issues we’ve ever produced, with an excerpt from the forthcoming diary Trapeze, a memoir from one of Anaïs Nin’s lovers, powerful testimonies from women writers affected by Nin’s life and work, critical articles about Nin and those who affected her own work by talented scholars, an introduction to Trapeze by Benjamin Franklin V, poetry, short fiction, photographs and visual art.

CafeVol13-CoverLarge-1Anaïs Nin recounts her first weeks with Rupert Pole in 1947, Lanny Baldwin counters Nin’s account of her relationship with him in the only known memoir by one of the characters in her diary, Barbara Kraft offers an excerpt from her new memoir Henry Miller: The Last DaysJessica Gilbey explores the little-known relationship between Nin and her mother while Jean Owen tackles the father-daughter entanglement, Erin Dunbar discusses the affect Djuna Barnes had on her work, and Lana Fox delivers a moving account of how Nin came along at the right time as Lana was transitioning from a tragic beginning to a triumphant present.

Other contributors include Diana Raab, Marina Ferrer, Ellie Kissel, Chrissi Sepe, Danica Davidson, Colette Standish, David Wilde, Marc Widershien and Kennedy Gammage.

You can order A Café in Space, Vol. 13 in both print and digital issues by clicking here.

And stay tuned for the next Anaïs Nin Podcast, which will be dropped Feb. 21, 2016.

Anaïs Nin Podcast 12: He Said, She Said

Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947 documents a long period of “erotic madness” when Anaïs Nin, in order to find someone who could relieve her of her stifling marriage to Hugh (Hugo) Guiler, went from one failed love affair to the next. Her paramours included youngsters, artists, homosexuals, and one in particular, with whom Nin claimed to never have consummated the affair, C.L. (Lanny) Baldwin, a businessman who wrote poetry on the side. There is an entire section of Mirages devoted to him, entitled “L’homme Fatal,” meaning the sort of man with whom Nin would fall in love, knowing that it would lead to utter disaster. In Diary 4, which did not chronicle any sort of intimate details of Nin’s love life, Nin nonetheless describes her efforts to convert Baldwin to her way of living—in other words, the artist’s life, or bohemianism, if you will. When he resisted, citing the responsibilities of career, wife and children, she became enraged and turned on him. Mirages goes deeper and reveals that, according to Nin, Baldwin was attracted to Nin and her lifestyle, but did not have the courage to make love to her or to give up the bourgeois life.

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Anais Nin at Gemor Press

Fast-forward forty years. Among Gunther Stuhlmann’s archives was a manuscript by Lanny Baldwin called “A Movement in Mauve: A Memoir,” which tells his side of the story. Stuhlmann never published the document, and it lay in a folder for another twenty-five years before its discovery after Stuhlmann’s death in 2002. The memoir is remarkable because it is one of the only documents in which one of Nin’s “boyfriends” actually describes in detail his affair with her. It is also remarkable because it counters much of what Nin said in both Diary 4 and Mirages.

The memoir will be published in its entirety in volume 13 of  A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, available Feb. 21, 2016.

To listen to excerpts from both the diary and the memoir, listen to our podcast:

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

Run time: 15 minutes.

Volume 4 of ANAIS: An International Journal released on Kindle

When Volume 4 of Gunther Stuhlmann’s ANAIS: An International Journal appeared in February 1986, Anaïs Nin’s husband, Hugh (Hugo) Guiler, aka Ian Hugo, had recently died suddenly in his New York apartment. Long the “silent” partner of Nin, the “East Coast” husband and banker-turned-artist whose experimental films are still revered today, Guiler is the main focus of this issue, with a remembrance by Nin’s brother Joaquin, excerpts from interviews and studies, his own thoughts on the arts of engraving and making movies as well as recollections of growing up in Puerto Rico and Scotland under extreme conditions, which influenced his life and art.

"Ian Hugo" from a photomontage by Val Telberg

“Ian Hugo” from a photomontage by Val Telberg

Also included in this issue is critical correspondence between Anais Nin and Henry Miller at the dawn of their relationship, most of which is focused on their respective writing efforts. These letters make it clear how much one influenced the other’s work, from Miller’s unadulterated criticism of Nin’s use of the English language to Nin’s efforts to keep Miller focused on the essentials in light of his tendency to go off on tangents and to exhaust every thought running through his over-active mind. We are given tangible examples of how Miller’s commentary on Nin’s fiction actually found its way into the finished products.

There is a study on Otto Rank by Nin scholar Sharon Spencer, whose hypothesis that Nin and Rank were lovers was spot on, and a look at Nin’s friend Caresse Crosby and her famed house, Hampton Manor, which attracted the likes of Nin, Miller, and Salvador Dali, among many other artists in the early 1940s.

To preview and/or order volume 4 of ANAIS: An International Journal, click here.

To preview and/or order ANAIS volume 3, click here.

For volume 2, click here.

For volume 1, click here.

To view other new Nin-related publications, click here.

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