Henry Miller Memorial Library

Big Sur, California
"Chaos is the score upon which reality is written."

The perfect Christmas gift: Big Sur Storytelling Workshop (Feb 20-22) with acclaimed author Okey Ndibe!

Have you heard about the Big Sur STORYTELLING workshop? Have you told your friends?
okey-promoSpend a weekend in Big Sur (Feb 20-22, 2015) immersed in the art of storytelling with critically-acclaimed author, scholar, and professor Okey Ndibe!

That’s the same Okey Ndibe whose “Foreign Gods, Inc.” was selected by NPR as one of the great reads of 2014 and was also among the 15 Best Works of Fiction by Black Authors in 2014 according to theroot.com!!

Whether you’re a student of the craft or an aspiring storyteller yourself, it promises to be an illuminating weekend in one of the world’s most inspiring locations!

Participants can expect three days and two nights of lodging at the world-famous Big Sur Lodge, meals, a cocktail party, a film screening, and hands-on working groups to help unlock the story-teller within.

Click here!


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What are some “off the beaten path” Big Sur recommendations you’d give to friends?

fundraisingOMEGAComing in at #8 for your “favorite HML moment of 2014,” it’s “Receiving recommendations for books and places (some off the beaten path) in the Big Sur ‘hood, with 3%. (Vote here.)

We’d like to think that we here at the Library can point out some “outside the box” Big Sur-related activities to intrepid visitors (that said, Fernwood is REALLY cool. They now have Negra Modelo on tap.)

Nonetheless, what do you think? What are some “off the beaten path” Big Sur recommendations you’d give to friends? (But we understand if you don’t want to share them in a public setting.)

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We are legal!

Tropic of Cancer published 1934.
Legal to read since 1964.

The Henry Miller Memorial Library operating since 1981.
Legally operating since 2014!

Indeed The Library received its permit to operate December 10, 2014!

Please read on.

On November 15th, a “temporarily closed” sign was hung on the front gate of the Henry Miller Library.

For the next three and a half weeks, the Library went dark as we worked with Monterey County officials to secure the necessary permits to reopen. These efforts, happily, were successful.

The Library has since reopened and will remain open for the indefinite future.

This closure provided a stark look at a world without the Henry Miller Memorial Library, a world with one less ally to champion and preserve the unique “spirit” of Big Sur.

But what does that mean?

To us, preserving the spirit means celebrating the rich cultural, literary, and natural heritage of a place that hasn’t changed all that much since Highway 1 broke all the way through to the south in 1937.

The Henry Miller Memorial Library has been striving to do this for 33 (!) years with our exhibits, archives, community gatherings and by simply existing, allowing seekers from all over the world to wander through our redwood grove, grab a cup of tea, and relax on our deck without feeling pressure to purchase something or make room for the next customer.

These are experiences that (thankfully) can’t be commodified, quantified, or monetized for accountants or shareholders.

It’s also something that’s easy to take for granted. We shouldn’t.

The Henry Miller Memorial Library is attempting to bridge these two worlds by balancing the wild Big Sur spirit with the realities of operating a public space and the need to comply with important safety and regulatory mandates. (To read more about our progress and plans for 2015, go here).

In short, 2015 will see the Library transition from Emil White’s one-bedroom cabin to a fully compliant non-profit 501 (c) 3 public facility and community resource center. And when the dust settles, (and there’s a lot of ‘dust’ right now) we have no doubt that the Library and the Big Sur community will be the better off for it.

Your financial support is needed to make this happen. If you’ve yet to make a tax-deductible donation to help us in these efforts, ask yourself, “Is the Library worth preserving and improving upon for now and the future?”

If the answer is “Yes,” simply click on “Donate.”

And feel free to encourage your friends to join you in our effort to create a sustainable, vital, and vibrant future for the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

Thank you for your continued support throughout the years. We couldn’t have made it this far without you. Looking forward to seeing you in 2015.

Magnus, Mike and Sarah

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Read Norman Mailer’s 1976 letter To Henry! (Part 2 of 2) Now! Read it now!

As we hunker down for the approaching “storm of the millennium*” (view from our non-Big Sur window over there), it occurred to us: why not consider writing a letter to an old friend?

Photo on 12-11-14 at 9.22 AMI’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Which reminds us…on Monday we talked about Norman Mailer’s man-crush on Henry Miller, most notably realized in his book “Genius and Lust.”

Today we’d like to spare you the contextual PhD mumbo-jumbo and instead get right to the point.

The following, courtesy of the Huffington Post, is an excerpt from Selected Letters of Norman Mailer. In this particular letter, Mailer writes Henry, discussing everything from the embryonic “Genius and Lust” to the temperaments of Hemingway and James to the art of criticism.

Mailer’s man-crush is in full-effect. (“I wince when I think of my writing having to be laid down next to yours.” Get a room!!!)1aa-book-mailer-art-gc1vdj5v-11207-mailerbk-ar


* by “millennium” we mean “last five years.”

To Henry Miller
142 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, NY
April 13, 1976

Dear Henry Miller (although you are one of the few people I want to call Mister),

Naturally I enjoyed getting your letter, and read your criticisms of what I had to say most carefully, and certainly enjoyed your praise—I hope you are as good a critic as you say I am—and just want to tell you that I hope you’ll enjoy the book.

I don’t remember if I told you when I visited back last November in Pacific Palisades, but it’s being called Cosmic Demon, and it has about 500 pages of your writing with a large emphasis on The Rosy Crucifixion, and about 100 pages of critical writing by me, from which the Los Angeles Times took its excerpt. I had no intimation in advance that they were going to print it there, and so I was a little upset when I saw it just because they took out certain key paragraphs.

That may have been one reason why some of the stuff was a little hard to follow. I had a couple of sustained metaphors, virtually paragraphs, which got into some obscene notions that I thought were fun. For instance, the way various authors would react if they walked into a room, took off their hat, and there was a pile of crap on their head.

Henry James naturally was wiped out. Hemingway suffered more than he was willing to admit. Stendhal, I said, wouldn’t have been bothered much, and you would have danced at the possibilities this opened. A lot of the excerpt they printed depended on that image and would have made more sense without the deletion.

Also a couple of other cuts did no good to the general notion. Anyway, the main thing for me is that you liked it. I’ve always had a secret vanity about myself as a critic. In fact, when I get down on myself as a novelist I sometimes suspect ruefully that my last career may prove unhappily to be as a critic, but I have to admit that I never came across anyone as hard to write about as yourself.

The mercury in your talent, which gives so much pleasure on reading you, is difficult as hell for the critical mind. Just about the time one thinks one’s got something to say about you, you turn the page and realize you’re aware of the same thing the critic spotted; moreover, doing more with it than the critic can do. It was fascinating. I never felt as tentative in writing about anyone.

Nonetheless I don’t think the result will be too unhappy, and it is my hope that a lot of people who think they read you years ago will begin to realize what they’re missing.

Anyway, I can pay you the simplest compliment of all: I wince when I think of my writing having to be laid down next to yours. People will be able to make the obvious comparison. They’re not only going to realize the old boy is great; they’re going to come face to face with the fact that the middle-aged fellow isn’t so terrific.

Please forgive me for tying the letter, my handwriting is next to illegible.

Best to you and yours,

Norman Mailer

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Coming in at #8 for the “Favorite HML Moment of 2014″ it’s…..

Coming in at #8 for the “Favorite HML Moment of 2014″ with 3% of the vote is “The Library’s co-production of the ‘Old Man and the Mountain Lion’ movie.” (Vote for your favorite here!)

1800346_554785531322409_5178894470983994330_nIndeed, “The Old Man and the Mountain Lion” is a short film inspired by the untamed, sometimes volatile spirit of Big Sur, California.

Nature can symbolize freedom, which can inspire art. In this case, it was a symbiotic relationship. In the film, after an old man loses his beloved house cat to a mountain lion, he sets off into the brutal and arresting Big Sur wilderness to seek his revenge.

Written and directed by Big Sur filmmaker Michael Harrington and beautifully shot all around Big Sur, the film was included in this past summer’s Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series (as well as the Carmel Film Festival.)

Buy it from us here!

Check out the movie’s Facebook page here!  And their site here!


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On Mailer, Miller, “Genius and Lust” and the Dead Kennedys’ “Macho Insecurity” (Part 1 of 2)

Last month saw the publication of The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer.

mailerMailer, of course, was a huge Miller fan. His “Genius and Lust” is a panoramic and laudatory (he called him a “genius”!) survey of Miller’s work. (Spoiler alert: half of the book is straight text from Miller’s books like “Cancer,” “Capricorn,” and “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.”)

The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, which includes a mere fraction of Mailer’s total correspondence (716 letters out of almost 50,000!) includes a 1976 letter to Miller that discusses everything from the temperaments of Hemingway and James to the art of criticism.

We’ll re-publish this letter in its full entire tomorrow (or maybe Wednesday)? but we want to first contextualize where Mailer’s coming from.  Why?  Because it’s fun — and free.

Bear with us.

The Edinburgh writers' conference

Mailer & Miller at the Edinburgh writers’ conference of 1962.

We stumbled across this 1977 New York Times review of “Genius and Lust” by Frederick Crews, where the author references Harold Bloom’s “The Anxiety of Influence.”

Writers, Bloom argues, are an insecure lot. Many crib from their predecessors and are terrified of being called out. And so authors like Mailer, who long cowered in Hemingway’s enormous shadow, tend to overcompensate.

After all, Hemingway is the quintessential macho Alpha male-writer, and Mailer, ever the aspiring macho Alpha make-writer, seemed to always be trying to out-macho-Alpha-male-writer Papa himself.

This edgy, insecure Mailer can be found in his aptly- and depressingly-titled book “Advertisements for Myself.”

And it makes sense, right? It always seems like super-macho dudes that seem compelled to rub their macho-ness in your face inevitably and secretly harbor some severe self-doubt issues.

The Dead Kennedys had a song about it, in fact:

Luckily for Mailer, he found release, catharsis, etc., at least according to Crews, by casting his lot with Henry.

Key to this development is a paradign-shifting twist surround the state of mid-20th century American literature that Miller must have surely relished. The twist is this: the passage of time wasn’t particularly kind to Hemingway’s “clipped, bittersweet” style; simultaneously, as the 50s turned into the messy index60s, modern fiction instead turned “loose, expansive, fantastic — in short, Milleresque.”

How convenient.

In what is perhaps the most striking excerpt in “Genius and Lust,” Mailer proclaims why he switched allegiance, abandoning his hero Hemingway for the guy from Brooklyn:

“The eye of every dream Hemingway ever had must have looked down the long vista of his future suicide—so he had a legitimate fear of chaos.

He never wrote about the river—he contented himself, better, he created a quintessentially American aesthetic by writing about the camp he set up each night by the side of the river—that was the night we made camp at the foot of the cliffs just after the place where the rapids were bad.

Miller is the other half of literature. He is without fear of his end, a literary athlete at ease in earth, air or water.

I am the river, he is always ready to say, I am the rapids and the placids, I’m the froth and the scum and twigs—what a roar as I go over the falls. Who gives a fart. Let others camp where they may. I am the river…”

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Message from Magus Toren re: the Henry Miller Library’s (temporary) closure

Dear Friends,

On November 15th a “temporarily closed” sign was hung on the front gate of the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

As you read this, the Library remains temporarily closed. We are currently working with the county to secure the necessary permits and hope to reopen in time for the holidays.

Due to to this closure, coupled with the capital improvements that await us in 2015, the Library remains in a challenging financial position.Donate-button-web

The Library needs your financial support now more than ever.

Whether it’s $500 or $5, your donation matters.

2015′s improvements and related costs include ADA-compliant parking and bathroom renovations, traffic studies, health and planning department permits, a litany of architectural, engineering, and legal fees, and more.

Click here for a synopsis on our progress thus far and the plans for 2015. We’ll also keep you apprised of developments as they unfold.

If you’ve yet to donate, take a few minutes to consider what makes the Library so special.

Think about the first time you walked down the path into the redwood grove. Reflect on the experiences, whether it was an amazing performance or a quiet afternoon on the deck. And ask yourself, “Is the Library worth preserving and improving upon for now and the future?”

If your answer is in the affirmative, consider making a one-time or recurring tax-deductible donation here.

At this time of us applying for a permit to operate/exist it would be very helpful if you also send an e-mail to our planner at the Monterey County expressing your support of the Henry Miller Library – the more support we have the better. Send an e-mail

Thank you for your continued support throughout the years. We couldn’t have made it this far without you.

Looking forward to seeing you in 2015.

Magnus Toren

Executive Director
Henry Miller Memorial Library


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Great Caesar’s Ghost!!! A brand-new soft lime-green HML shirt with our iconic “stamp”!!

Wow!! It’s the perfect holiday gift! A brand-new soft lime-green HML shirt with our iconic “stamp” courtesy of Seaside’s Silk Screen Express!

IMG_6493Order it on our online store via Paypal Express Checkout – you don’t need a Paypal account or to create a profile with us — just a credit card! (Or call us at 831-667-2574)

Women’s cap sleeves (see Abi to the left) here: http://store.henrymiller.org/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=66&products_id=310

Men’s v-necks (see Jesse’s torso, below) here: http://store.henrymiller.org/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=66&products_id=309

We know: we can’t believe it either!!

jesee_green copy

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