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on January 8, 2000
This book is a must-read for Henry Miller devotees who want to understand the genesis of this great writer. Written by his close friend Brassai a fascinating story is told about Miller's down and out days in Paris during the 1930's and how his vision of writing developed. It is replete with personal anecdotes about Miller's views of Paris, his hatred (ambivalent as it was) of his homeland and his relations with the women in his life. It more than anything shows Miller as the writer refusing to sell-out by having the essence of his writing edited away by the censorius literary status quo of his day.
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Henry Miller wrote works of astonishing verbal energy and wondrous gamy thematic bravado. A man of incorrigible faith in his talents, he devoted everything to the art of creating, writing and rendering the stuff of life into a pageantry of colors that break the spell of monotony to reveal the hidden treasures of sensual life. Brassai was a kinsman in artistic genius but much too reflective to become awed by Miller's instinctual and spontaneous energy. He did share a friendship with Henry Miller during the American's stay in Paris, years that were both the most lively and productive for Miller the novelist - which as Brassai would have it is indistinguishable from Henry Miller the man. Brassai gives us his memory of such days. Brassai is a photographer of canonical importance but he also proves to be a writer of distinct merit forgeing a verbal dossier of Miller's Paris years which make notable contributions to Miller scholarship, and what amounts to more importance, allows us to enjoy the books that much more. How could one write an autobiography of a man who fashioned a myth out of his savage and exhaustively exhilerating experiences as a starving artist in Paris? Brassai reports conversations, anecdotes and letters to define the character that lives in the books, and highlights those influences (Celine, Proust and DH Lawrence) that contributed to his writing texture. Inevitably June and Anais are part of the narrative, with an endearing description of Anais that is tender and soulful, whereas that of June remains enigmatic and rather vague. Brassai doesn't so much as try to set the record straight, as much as he is concerned with giving us his perceptive recollection of Miller's lifestyle. In so doing we unfailingly become intimated with a portrait of Miller as his contemporaries saw him, a view of the inner struggles and the famed bragadaccio on display: an admiring portrait but not a reverential one. The strength of the book lies in its depiction of a writer struggling to live on his dreams, living for and through them: the optimism, the joy, the heartache, and the fun that went into the making of the novels. It is a very very enjoyable book, with the chapter on June, and the chapter comparing Celine's vision with Miller's, being two contributions of significance for all those trying to appreciate the art more and to those fascinated by Miller's mythology enough to wish to understand the artist's creative indulgence better. Edited to perfection - it reads like a two hour conversation at a cafe which you know you'll never forget.
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on May 17, 2016
I didn't know a thing about Henry Miller when I found this book; in fact, I had him confused with that other Miller who married Marilyn Monroe! Rather, I bought this book because I love Brassaï and consider him one of the most inspired photographers of the 20th century. I had no idea he could write, too, so I couldn't resist. Of course, it didn't hurt that Miller's Paris years were 1930-1939—a rip-roaring decade just oozing with wild, creative souls who seemed to compete with each other in outrageous activities.

It made an interesting study that Brassaï was part of the biography. He was friends with Miller, and some of the letters quoted here were directed to Brassaï himself. So he wasn't exactly impartial. But my overall impression was that the author was trying to defend a person who was kind of indefensible. Miller spent his early years in Paris a freeloader who prided himself on getting someone to buy him dinner every night. He was vulgar and shameless, delighting in anything tasteless, offensive, and indecent. In justifying Miller's behavior, Brassaï kept contradicting himself. Apparently Miller had no problem in making up autobiographical memories up to suit his prose. According to the author: "Never once did I go to a bordello with Henry; and never did I use him as a model for any pornographic pictures...It was therefore from my photographs that he imagined we had gone to those 'slimy joints' together, not because we had actually done so." But Brassaï didn't seem to mind; apparently it was all right to make up things because it was in Miller's nature to fictionalize, to "drive home his point to the reader".

Brassaï gives us a fascinating view of many larger-than-life characters, all of whom seem to idolize, then ultimately break with Miller, whose philosophy doesn't hold up to the realities of daily life. The author of "Tropic of Cancer" had trouble getting published in America because his masterpiece was full of obscenities and objectionable language. He refused to alter a word. His friends thought he was brilliant but many thought he was wasting his talent.

I have to admit that after reading this biography, I have absolutely no inclination to try any of Miller's books! However, Brassaï's writing style was entertaining and I enjoyed the biography, though the last few chapters lost direction and petered out. I got a glance at an exotic world I would love to visit, full of exciting and wild bohemians who could teach us a thing or two about having a good time.
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on April 18, 2011
Only an artist can truly evaluate another artist. The photographer Brassai gives a street-level account of the years that made Henry Miller the writer that he was. This is one of the better biographies written about Miller. The real essence of Miller is captured in the cover photograph and in the pages. Miller was charming, intelligent and at times could be heartless and cruel - all of this is demonstrated by Brassai in a factual account of ten years. The women in his life, wife June and Anais Nin were as much of a driving force in his craft as the poverty and streets of Paris. Great account of Miller's life - nasty warts and all - as any I have read about him.
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on August 21, 2012
Did you know that Tropic of Cancer wasn't "published" until Miller was over forty? And that it was highly edited and financed by Anaïs Nin? Miller's "publisher" was actually more like a distributor, because Anaïs had to pay for the novel to be printed. This news should make self-publishers feel proud. The book has a number of other interesting facts about Miller as well.

Katie
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VINE VOICEon August 9, 2012
This last weekend I went to the Florida Museum of Photography showing an exhibit of photographs of Henri Brassaï (1899-1984) who created iconic photographs and produced several literary works. I picked up this book in the gift shop mainly because it featured many of the photographs from the museum. The total bonus was finding a biography of Miller and Paris written by his BFF, the photographer Brassaï, and in many cases using Miller's own words in conversation with Brassaï.

Miller (1891-1980) gained his fame for his erotic literature and surrealism and apparently never had more than enough money to cover a drink and a smoke. He spent the decade covered in this biography (from age 39 to 48) writing, scrounging for money, drinking in the Paris backstreet watering holes and having the time of his life. His most famous works, Tropic of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939), he wrote for love, the travel memoirs and literary pieces for rent. He could be horrendous to his wife June while at the same time deeply despairing of their failed marriage. He could pour on the charm for Anais Nin and speak intelligently on a wide range of subjects. Brassaï portrays Miller unapologetically while the reader is treated to the inside life of this fascinating, elusive and self-absorbed person.

From the back of the book:
"His years in Paris were the making of Henry Miller. He arrived with no money, no fixed address, and no prospects. He left as the renowned if not notorious author of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Miller didn't just live in Paris--he devoured it. It was a world he shared with Brassaï, whose work, first collected in Paris by Night, established him as one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century and the most exquisite and perceptive chronicler of Parisian vice.

In Miller, Brassaï found his most compelling subject. Henry Miller: The Paris Years is an intimate account of a writer's self-discovery, seen through the unblinking eye of a master photographer. Brassaï delves into Miller's relationships with Anaïs Nin and Lawrence Durrell, as well as his hopelessly tangled though wildly inspiring marriage to June. He uncovers a side of the man scarcely known to the public, and through this careful portrait recreates a bright and swift-moving era. Most of all, Brassaï evokes their shared passion for the street life of the City of Light, captured in a dazzling moment of illumination. 16 black-and-white photographs"

From the jacket:
"Miller didn't just inhabit Paris, he devoured it. Not the Paris of the guidebooks, but the City of Light's lurid backways and backwaters, the dens of vice where he could slough off the pale cast of American puritanism and embrace the hedonistic facts of life. The Parisian life of Miller was a turbulent quest for new sensations and avenues, a roisterous, slumming exploration of the soul. This world Miller shared with Brassai, one of the greatest photographers of our century. Miller and Brassai's friendship was a recognition of kindred spirits, born of mutual admiration for each other's tireless, restless fascination with Paris and its inhabitants.

In Miller, Brassai found his most compelling subject. Using unpublished letters, recollected conversations, and references to Miller's work and featuring sixteen unforgettable examples of Brassai's photography--"Henry Miller: The Paris Years" is an intimate account of a writer's self-discovery, seen through the unblinking eye of a master photographer. Brassai delves into Miller's relationships with Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell, as well as his hopelessly tangled though wildly inspiring marriage to June. Brassai remembers Miller's favorite cafes and haunts, revives Miller's idols and anathemas, and evokes their shared passion for the street life of a Montparnasse and Montmartre captured, even during those depression years, in a dazzling moment of illumination"
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on July 15, 2015
Brassai’s book on Henry Miller will be of interest not only to those interested in Henry Miller and Anais Nin, but also in writing. It gives a first-hand account of Miller’s trials and tribulations in wanting to write, as well his struggles with finding himself as a writer and deciding what kind of writer he actually wanted to be. Brassai orders the book logically, exploring key elements and themes of Miller’s life in Paris, including the development of his writing voice, his friends and acquaintances, and of course his relationship with Anais Nin and June Mansfield. Unsurprisingly, it is Brassai’s chapters on Nin and Mansfield, how Henry came to meet them, his relationship with them and how it all came undone, that are not only the most interesting but also stand out as the best written parts of the book. Brassai casts a keen eye over the key protagonists, and his insights into what made Anais Nin tick, how she came to be involved with Henry Miller and their ultimate drifting apart, are incredibly astute; as a photographer, he who proves himself a more than capable writer, and an excellent appraiser of human nature. Brassai covers the passions and flaws of people he knew intimately, from Nin’s obsession with her diary, to a meeting of minds between two writers who were seeking not only to explore their creativity, but also themselves. Highly recommend as a companion piece to Nin’s “Henry and June”.
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on February 8, 2016
This book offers an unbiased male perspective, those that are familiar with the diaries of Anais Nin and works of H. Miller will find this to be a valuable addition to their collection. The observations made by Brassai are accurate despite being personal. Unlike other books, this one is written by someone that was not only there as an onlooker but a part of the story.
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VINE VOICEon August 9, 2012
Fascinating, first person, unvarnished story of Miller's life in Paris in the decade leading up to WW2

This last weekend I went to the Florida Museum of Photography showing an exhibit of photographs of Henri Brassaï (1899-1984) who created iconic photographs and produced several literary works. I picked up this book in the gift shop mainly because it featured many of the photographs from the museum. The total bonus was finding a biography of Miller and Paris written by his BFF, the photographer Brassaï, and in many cases using Miller's own words in conversation with Brassaï.

Miller (1891-1980) gained his fame for his erotic literature and surrealism and apparently never had more than enough money to cover a drink and a smoke. He spent the decade covered in this biography (from age 39 to 48) writing, scrounging for money, drinking in the Paris backstreet watering holes and having the time of his life. His most famous works, Tropic of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939), he wrote for love, the travel memoirs and literary pieces for rent. He could be horrendous to his wife June while at the same time deeply despairing of their failed marriage. He could pour on the charm for Anais Nin and speak intelligently on a wide range of subjects. Brassaï portrays Miller unapologetically while the reader is treated to the inside life of this fascinating, elusive and self-absorbed person.

From the back of the book:
"His years in Paris were the making of Henry Miller. He arrived with no money, no fixed address, and no prospects. He left as the renowned if not notorious author of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Miller didn't just live in Paris--he devoured it. It was a world he shared with Brassaï, whose work, first collected in Paris by Night, established him as one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century and the most exquisite and perceptive chronicler of Parisian vice.

In Miller, Brassaï found his most compelling subject. Henry Miller: The Paris Years is an intimate account of a writer's self-discovery, seen through the unblinking eye of a master photographer. Brassaï delves into Miller's relationships with Anaïs Nin and Lawrence Durrell, as well as his hopelessly tangled though wildly inspiring marriage to June. He uncovers a side of the man scarcely known to the public, and through this careful portrait recreates a bright and swift-moving era. Most of all, Brassaï evokes their shared passion for the street life of the City of Light, captured in a dazzling moment of illumination. 16 black-and-white photographs"

From the jacket:
"Miller didn't just inhabit Paris, he devoured it. Not the Paris of the guidebooks, but the City of Light's lurid backways and backwaters, the dens of vice where he could slough off the pale cast of American puritanism and embrace the hedonistic facts of life. The Parisian life of Miller was a turbulent quest for new sensations and avenues, a roisterous, slumming exploration of the soul. This world Miller shared with Brassai, one of the greatest photographers of our century. Miller and Brassai's friendship was a recognition of kindred spirits, born of mutual admiration for each other's tireless, restless fascination with Paris and its inhabitants.

In Miller, Brassai found his most compelling subject. Using unpublished letters, recollected conversations, and references to Miller's work and featuring sixteen unforgettable examples of Brassai's photography--"Henry Miller: The Paris Years" is an intimate account of a writer's self-discovery, seen through the unblinking eye of a master photographer. Brassai delves into Miller's relationships with Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell, as well as his hopelessly tangled though wildly inspiring marriage to June. Brassai remembers Miller's favorite cafes and haunts, revives Miller's idols and anathemas, and evokes their shared passion for the street life of a Montparnasse and Montmartre captured, even during those depression years, in a dazzling moment of illumination"
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on May 8, 2008
Through this amazing memior, the reader gets a rare insight into the true nature of the mysterious Henry Miller. While most of his books are autobiographical, it's hard to separate fact from fiction. Henry Miller is a much more interesting and complex person than he portrays himself in his books. I highly recommend this book to any fans of Henry Miller as well as anyone who wants to better understand the infamous author of Tropic of Cancer.
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