The Sexus of Henry Miller
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(3 minute read + a Sexus excerpt)
This is the first book in a trilogy, entitled, The Rosy Crucifixion. The others are Plexus and Nexus.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) is synonymous with sex, or sexual literature, or as some refer to it, pornographic literature. Many more people have heard of him than have read him, but whether you’ve read him or just heard about his books or never heard of him, you owe it to your own sexual curiosity and appetite to have a serving or two of Miller. Sexus is a smorgasbord.
This book is Miller the provocateur at his best – or worst, depending on your literary bent. His writing, as usual, is arrogant, self-absorbed with absurd streams-of-conscience, at times page-turning boredom, but oh so stimulating. Miller doesn’t give a shit what we think about his writing or his story, and if we look beyond what some consider outrageously primal sex, we can see a writing force to be reckoned with, a life of that reveals the dominant place sex plays in most people’s lives – in fantasy or reality.
Miller is a conundrum, a conflict, a contradiction, and a convoluted, erotic, pornographic, writing success (a sexcess). And Sexus, if nothing else, is Miller’s full-Monty. As he said, it is “freighted with sex.” It’s good and it’s not so good, depending on what you want, and what you expect from Miller. If you expect a “freight” load of sex, you got it. If you always want sex embedded in romance, best to turn the page (more than six hundred) to the next sex, touch with a modicum romance. Miller is a romantic but always sees it in the context of the natural power of the body over the mind. The sex scenes are both good and bad, lurching from raw misogyny to breaths of romanticism, albeit, less of the latter, but always struggling within his unconditional surrender to women. There is much raw honesty and not much moral constraint.
Here’s one reader/reviewer’s reaction:
I closed my copy of Miller’s The Rosy Crucifixion, restored my tray table to its upright position, and avoided eye contact with the gaunt elderly woman in the aisle seat as I squeezed past her legs. I locked the door of the tiny bathroom and leaned against the dispenser of toilet seat covers. I slipped my hand inside my jeans. My eyes shot open as the tremors began, and I saw, in the milky glass above the sink, that I had become Miller’s description of the woman at the moment of climax: “a wild, tortured look as if her face were under a mirror pounded by a hammer.” Once the sensation returned me to myself, I met my still-widened eyes and understood with discomfiting clarity the delight Henry took in forcing this bestial transformation upon his sex partners. – from a review by writer, Hannah Tennant-Moore
Hannah Tennant-Moore’s “confession” highlights the contradiction Miller creates for many women. His writing personifies the contradiction between mind and body as his main character, a biographical version of himself, is driven by the body, by biological feelings, with little regard for thought, or for what anyone thinks. Despite his ability to craft rhythmic sentence after sentence into poetic prose, he over and over charges off into the animal brutality of sexual encounters, leaving readers – particularly women – hung up somewhere between their Darwinian needs and their culturally shaped mental restraints. Many women read Miller through socially sterilized lens and are aghast, until his unvarnished writing reaches their fantasy of endless orgasms, then they become what Miller calls, women “in heat.”
He seems to not only understand a man’s misogynistic behavior and need for raw pleasure, but also a woman’s innate desire and inbred acceptance of this male trait. For her own pleasure. This shapes Miller’s character and powers a stream of writing that, in its day, overturned social morality, upend literary convention and changed censorship laws – for the better. That’s one helluva feat for a love-starved writer.
As Gore Vidal said, “It is difficult not to admire a writer who has so resolutely gone about his own business in his own way without the slightest concession to any fashion.” Miller was part of the sexual revolution long before it became a public revolution.
“Forty years ago it was not possible to write candidly about sexual matters. The door was shut. The the hinges were sprung by D. H. Lawrence, and Miller helped kick it in. Now other doors need opening.” Gore Vidal 
Sexus is a biographical expose, Miller shamelessly exposing his deepest, twisted thoughts in a life time of self-revelation. Crude, rude, superb, brilliant, poignant, hilarious and shocking, it is the culmination of his extensive oeuvre, leaving an indelible legacy and a “mixed” reputation. Vidal said he should have “a permanent place of honor” and Mary V. Dearborn, author of The Happiest Man Alive A Biography of Henry Miller [1991) said, “he gave voice to certain male attitudes that reflect the deep sexual neuroses of 20th-century American culture.” Both are valid.
If you’re interested in a better understanding of how we humans have handled, and not handled, sex in literature, Henry Miller is must-reading.
And in furthering Vidal’s 1965 goal of, “Now other doors need opening,” we at Love & Sexcess continue to provide you with a wide scope of eclectic reading in all things on love, sex and success.
“No man ever puts down what he intended to say… words… are but crude hieroglyphs chiseled in pain and sorrow to commemorate an event which is untransmissible.”– Henry Miller, Sexus
No one surpassed Miller in submersing mind, body and soul into the writing of “words … chiseled in pain and sorrow” – and pleasure – to tell human stories.
“What holds the world together, as I have learned from bitter experience, is sexual intercourse.” – Henry Miller
You can buy the book at Love & Sexcess Bookstore (25% off).
A Sexus excerpt to whet your appetite [8 minute read]
I went again to the dance hall and found a message waiting for me. The sight of her handwriting made me tremble. It was brief and to the point. She would meet me at Times Square, in front of the drugstore, at midnight the following day. I was to please stop writing her to her home.
I had a little less than three dollars in my pocket when we met. The greeting she gave me was cordial and brisk. No mention of my visit to the house or the letters or the gifts. Where would I like to go, she asked after a few words. I hadn’t the slightest idea what to suggest. That she was standing there in the flesh, speaking to me, looking at me, was an event which I had not yet fully grasped. “Let’s go to Jimmy Kelly’s place,” she said, coming to my rescue. She took me by the arm and walked me to the curb where a cab was waiting for us. I sank back into the seat, overwhelmed by her mere presence. I made no attempt to kiss her or even to hold her hand. She had come—that was the paramount thing. That was everything.
We remained until the early hours of the morning, eating, drinking, dancing. We talked freely and understandingly. I knew no more about her, about her real life, than I knew before, not because of any secrecy on her part but rather because the moment was too full and neither past nor future seemed important.
When the bill came I almost dropped dead.
In order to stall for time I ordered more drinks. When I confessed to her that I had only a couple of dollars on me she suggested that I give them a check, assuring me that since she was with me there would be no question about its acceptance. I had to explain that I owned no checkbook, that I possessed nothing but my salary. In short, I made a full clearance.
While confessing this sad state of affairs to her an idea had germinated in my crop. I excused myself and went to the telephone booth. I called the main office of the telegraph company and begged the night manager, who was a friend of mine, to send a messenger to me immediately with a fifty-dollar bill. It was a lot of money for him to borrow from the till, and he knew I wasn’t any too reliable, but I gave him a harrowing story, promising faithfully to return it before the day was out.
The messenger turned out to be another good friend of mine, old man Creighton, an ex-minister of the gospel. He seemed indeed surprised to find me in such a place at that hour. As I was signing the sheet he asked me in a low voice if I was sure I would have enough with the fifty. “I can lend you something out of my own pocket,” he added. “It would be a pleasure to be of assistance to you.”
“How much can you spare?” I asked, thinking of the task ahead of me in the morning.
“I can give you another twenty-five,” he said readily.
I took it and thanked him warmly. I paid the bill, gave the waiter a generous tip, shook hands with the manager, the assistant manager, the bouncer, the hat check girl, the doorman, and with a begger who had his mitt out. We got into a cab and, as it wheeled around, Mara impulsively climbed over me and straddled me. We went into a blind fuck, with the cab lurching and careening, our teeth knocking, tongue bitten, and the juice pouring from her like hot soup. As we passed an open plaza on the other side of the river, just at daybreak, I caught the astonished glance of a cop as we sped by. “It’s dawn, Mara,” I said, trying gently to disengage myself. “Wait, wait,” she begged, panting and clutching at me furiously, and with that she went into a prolonged orgasm in which I thought she would rub my cock off. Finally she slid off and slumped back into her corner, her dress still up over her knees. I leaned over to embrace her again and as I did so I ran my hand up her wet cunt. She clung to me like a leech, wiggling her slippery ass around in a frenzy of abandon. I felt the hot juice trickling through my fingers. I had all four fingers up her crotch, stirring up the liquid moss which was tingling with electrical spasms. She had two or three orgasms and then sank back exhausted, smiling up at me weakly like a trapped doe.
After a time she got out her mirror and began powdering her face. Suddenly I observed a startled expression on her face, followed by a quick turn of the head. In another moment she was kneeling on the seat, staring out of the back window. “Someone’s following us,” she said. “Don’t look!” I was too weak and happy to give a damn. “Just a bit of hysteria,” I thought to myself, saying nothing but observing her attentively as she gave rapid, jerky orders to the driver to go this way and that, faster and faster. “Please, please!” she begged him, as though it were life and death. “Lady,” I heard him say, as if from far off, from some other dream vehicle, “I can’t give her any more . . . I’ve got a wife and kid . . . I’m sorry.”
I took her hand and pressed it gently. She made an abortive gesture, as if to say—”You don’t know . . . you don’t know . . . this is terrible.” It was not the moment to ask her questions. Suddenly I had the realization that we were in danger. Suddenly I put two and two together, in my own crazy fashion. I reflected quickly . . . nobody is following us . . . that’s all coke and laudanum . . . but somebody’s after her, that’s definite . . . she’s committed a crime, a serious one, and maybe more than one . . . nothing she says adds up . . . I’m in a web of lies . . . I’m in love with a monster, the most gorgeous monster imaginable . . . I should quit her now, immediately, without a word of explanation . . . otherwise I’m doomed . . . she’s fathomless, impenetrable . . . I might have known that the one woman in the world whom I can’t live without is marked with mystery . . . get out at once . . . jump . . . save yourself!
I felt her hand on my leg, rousing me stealthily. Her face was relaxed, her eyes wide open, full, shining with innocence. . . . “They’ve gone,” she said. “It’s all right now.”
Nothing is right, I thought to myself. We’re only beginning. Mara, Mara, where are you leading me? Its fateful, it’s ominous, but I belong to you body and soul, and you will take me where you will, deliver me to my keeper, bruised, crushed, broken. For us there is no final understanding. I feel the ground slipping from under me. . . .
My thoughts she was never able to penetrate, neither then nor later. She probed deeper than thought: she read blindly, as if endowed with antennae. She knew that I was meant to destroy, that I would destroy her too in the end. She knew that whatever game she might pretend to play with me she had met her match. We were pulling up to the house. She drew close to me and, as though she had a switch inside her which she controlled at will, she turned on me the full incandescent radiance of her love. The driver had stopped the car. She told him to pull up the street a little farther and wait. We were facing one another, hands clasped, knees touching. A fire ran through our veins. We remained thus for several minutes, as in some ancient ceremony, the silence broken only by the purr of the motor.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” she said, leaning forward impulsively for a last embrace. And then in my ear she murmured—”I’m falling in love with the strangest man on earth. You frighten me, you’re so gentle. Hold me tight. . . believe in me always . . . I feel almost as if I were with a god.”
Embracing her, trembling with the warmth of her passion, my mind jumped clear of the embrace, electrified by the tiny seed she had planted in me. Something that had been chained down, something that had struggled abortively to assert itself ever since I was a child and had brought my ego into the street for a glance around, now broke loose and went skyrocketing into the blue. Some phenomenal new being was sprouting with alarming rapidity from the top of my head, from the double crown which was mine from birth.
After an hour or two’s rest I got to the office, which was already jammed with applicants. The telephones were ringing as usual. It seemed more than ever senseless to be passing my life away in the attempt to fill up a permanent leak. The officials of the cosmococcic telegraph world had lost faith in me and I had lost faith in the whole fantastic world which they were uniting with wires, cables, pulleys, buzzers and Christ only knows what. The only interest I displayed was in the pay check—and the much talked of bonus which was due any day. I had one other interest, a secret, diabolical one, and that was to work off a grudge which I had against Spivak, the efficiency expert whom they had brought in from another city expressly to spy on me. As soon as Spivak appeared on the scene, no matter in what remote, outlying office, I was tipped off. I used to lie awake nights thinking it out like a safe-cracker—how I would trip him up and bring about his dismissal. I made a vow that I would hang on to the job until I had knifed him. It gave me pleasure to send him phony messages under false names in order to give him a bum steer, covering him with ridicule and causing endless confusion. I even had people write him letters threatening his life. I would get Curley, my chief stooge, to telephone him from time to time, saying that his house was on fire or that his wife had been taken to the hospital—anything that would upset him and start him off on a fool’s errand. I had a gift for this underhanded sort of warfare. It was a talent that had been developed since the tailoring days. Whenever my father said to me—”Better cross his name off the books, he’ll never pay up!” I interpreted it very much as would a young Indian brave if the old chief had handed him a prisoner and said—”Bad pale face, give him the works!” (I had a thousand different ways of annoying a man without running foul of the law. Some men, whom I disliked on principle, I continued to plague long after they had paid their petty debts. One man, whom I especially detested, died of an apoplectic fit upon receiving one of my anonymous insulting letters which was smeared with cat shit, bird shit, dog shit and one or two other varieties, including the well-known human variety.) Spivak consequently was just my meat. I concentrated all my cosmococcic attention on the sole plan of annihilating him. When we met I was polite, deferential, apparently eager to co-operate with him in every way. Never lost my temper with him, though every word he uttered made my blood boil. I did everything possible to bolster his pride, inflate his ego, so that when the moment came to puncture the bag the noise would be heard far and wide.
Towards noon Mara telephoned. The conversation must have lasted a quarter of an hour. I thought she’d never hang up. She said she had been rereading my letters; some of them she had read aloud to her aunt, or rather parts of them. (Her aunt had said that I must be a poet. She was disturbed about the money I had borrowed. Would I be able to pay it back all right or should she try and borrow some? It was strange that I should be poor—I behaved like a rich man. But she was glad I was poor. Next time we would take a trolley ride somewhere. She didn’t care about night clubs; she preferred a walk in the country or a stroll along the beach. The book was wonderful—she had only begun it this morning. Why didn’t I try to write? She was sure I could write a great book. She had ideas for a book which she would tell me about when we met again. If I liked, she would introduce me to some writers she knew—they would be only too glad to help me. . . .
She rambled on like that interminably. I was thrilled and worried at the same time. I had rather she put it down on paper. But she seldom wrote letters, so she said. Why I couldn’t understand. Her fluency was marvelous. She would say things at random, intricate, flamelike, or slide off into a parenthetical limbo peppered with fireworks—admirable linguistic feats which a practiced writer might struggle for hours to achieve. And yet her letters—I remember the shock I received when I opened the first one—were almost childlike.
Her words, however, produced an unexpected effect. Instead of rushing out of the house immediately after dinner that evening, as I usually did, I lay on the couch in the dark and fell into a deep reverie. “Why don’t you try to write?” That was the phrase which had stuck in my crop all day, which repeated itself insistently, even as I was saying thank you to my friend MacGregor for the ten-spot which I had wrung from him after the most humiliating wheedling and cajoling.
“To make absolute, unconditional surrender to the woman one loves is to break every bond save the desire not to lose her, which is the most terrible bond of all” – Henry Miller, Sexus
You can buy the book at Love & Sexcess Bookstore (25% off).
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