Henry Miller Memorial Library

Big Sur, California
"Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood."

The October HML Email Digest is out! Here’s what you’re missing (for only $2 a month!)

For $1 dollar you can buy lip gloss. OR for only $2 a MONTH — that’s about 7 cents a day – you can sign up for the Henry Miller Library Monthly E-Mail Digest!

Click here!!!

ciboYou’ll get the satisfaction in knowing that you recurring payment goes to a good cause – namely, our sleepy 501 © 3 nonprofit arts center BUT THERE’S MORE!

Indeed, as a Digest member you’ll get “insider access,” exclusive photos, cool content, video, and more. Why, just take a look at what Digest members are getting in the month of October.

All that for less than the price of, like, a push pin, rubber band, or other small office supply! Click the link and sign up today – you can always bail!

1. Flashback: The Harvard Crimson Reports “Tropic of Cancer” is banned in Massachusetts on Nov. 14, 1961!

Here come da judges: The Supreme Court, 1964

Here come da judges: The Supreme Court, 1964

2. Henry Miller and the SLAPS Test.

3. 30% Discount for Ping Pong for Digest Members!

4. Unsung Hero in Miller’s Life #34: Elmer Gertz

5. Lion(ish) in Winter: Miller the Elder Statesman in Pacific Palisades.

6. 30% Discount on the Cibo Matto Poster for Digest Members!

7. Sven – A Big Sur Odyssey (the one where he gets a job)

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Unsung Hero in Miller’s Life #34: Elmer Gertz (aka the man who convinced the Supreme Court to lift the ban on “Cancer”)

Elmer Gertz, in many ways, is one of the reasons the Library exists. He along with Emil, naturally, Anais Nin, Larry Durrell, and Bar- ney Rosset–these are the people in Miller’s orbit that helped bring him to the attention of the rest of the world.

$(KGrHqF,!osE-vo82U15BP6(3cIbzQ~~_35Gertz defended Tropic of Cancer and Miller’s publisher, Grove Press, against obscenity charges. I mean, this is the guy that, in 1964 convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the ban on the book! Everyone who values artistic expression – or takes it for granted nowadays – owes an enormous deal to Elmer.

After the court case, he and Miller became close friends – which often happened whenever anyone got to know Miller.

Anyway, it was just another day – this is in 1996, mind you – and all of a sudden, in walks Gertz with his wife, Maime. I was floored. Elmer was a big deal to me – I understood that without him, I’d still be waiting tables or driving a truck or something.

He’s thrilled that I recognize him, and, after a while of bouncing off the walls with stories from his past friendship with Henry, it occurred to me to take him up to Miller’s old house on Partington Ridge.

At the time, his house was still owned by Miller’s kids, so I called his daughter Valentine to ask if it would be OK to bring Elmer up to the house. She immediately said yes. I closed the Library early, and we drove down the coast and up the winding road to Miller’s house. miller

To see the elation and wonder on Elmer’s face — being up there, seeing part of what Miller had so passionately talked with him about, being present in the place that he had read about for years – it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Though Elmer was Miller’s lawyer he was at the end of the day completely enraptured by Miller the writer and the person. Standing there in Miller’s home, he had tears in his eyes. It may sound corny, but for him, it was like a Graceland experience, you know?

Elmer Gertz was 90 years old at the time. It was his first visit to Big Sur. He passed away four years later.

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Let’s get legal: Henry Miller and the SLAPS Test

To paraphrase Olivia-Newton John, let’s get legal..ical.  Specifically, let’s talk about Henry Miller and the SLAPS Test.

The SLAPS tests sounds like something I encountered at a frat party in college, but in reality, its something that’d be very familiar to lawyers and their ilk.

And while we don’t to get too academic on you, it really is fascinating to grasp the impact of the “legalization” of “Cancer,” as the ruling has impacts pretty much every other book every written since then.

Here come da judges: The Supreme Court, 1964

Here come da judges: The Supreme Court, 1964

The test, also known as the “Miller Test” or the Three Prong Obscenity Test (TPOT), is the United States Supreme Court’s test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

Basically, the court said a book can be banned only if it passes all three of the following criteria:

1) the dominant theme must be prurient (e.g. having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.)

2) the book must offend contemporary community standards;

3) the book must be “utterly without redeeming social importance,” by virtue of having no “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific” merit.

You can read more about the court’s thinking here, but we know how this one turned out.  Yay!

(That said, if you click that link you’ll see that with the Internet, the Miller Test is becoming harder to apply as the definition of “community standards” becomes more fungible. See? “Cancer” is still with us – the gift that keeps on giving.)

What was particularly cool, by the way, was Miller’s aw-shucks defense of the book: “If it was not good, it was true; if it was not artistic, it was sincere; if it was in bad taste, it was on the side of life.”

Two more things.  One, I Google Image Searched “SLAPS Test” and this came up.

Lastly, can someone tell us why it was called the SLAPS test?

SLAP’S all folks!

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Flashback: The Harvard Crimson Reports “Tropic of Cancer” is banned in Massachusetts on Nov. 14, 1961!

It’s funny now to think that “Cancer” was banned, but back then, of course, it was no joke.

tropicofcancerWe’d also like to think that Massachusetts would be a relatively liberal place back in the day, especially compared to the Deep South, right?

Au contraire mon frere!!

Massachusetts, after all, was the cradle of Puritanism; one of their best innovations was the witch hunt, as evidenced in another Miller’s (trippy!) “The Crucible.”

And so we dug up a nifty little nugget on the internet — the actual article from the Harvard Crimson, dated November 14, 1961, explaining how the state’s Superior Court banned “Cancer.”

We must say, in retrospect, we give Judge Goldberg points for doing his homework — eerily so, in fact. Here’s a quote from the article:

“‘Of the 313 pages of the book, there are sex episodes on 35 pages, some of which are described on two or more pages, and all of which are described “with precise detail and four-letter words,” he said. ‘The author’s descriptive powers one truly impressive, and he rises to great literary heights when he describes Paris. And suddenly he descends into the filthy gutter.’”

[Ed: as opposed to the "sparklingly clean gutter?"]

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Henry Miller and Grove Press, Mr. Ephraim London, had tried to show that the book was not obscene by bringing in literary critics, such as Mark Schorer, Harry Moore, and Harry T. Levin, who had praised Tropic of Cancer’s literary merit.

The verdict?

“I have carefully and painstakingly read the book from cover to cover,” Judge Goldberg concluded. “Applying the law applicable to the book. I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that the book is obscene, indecent, and impure.”


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Are you familiar with the “unofficial” Henry Miller Memorial Library anthem, “Marilyn,” by Dan Bern?

Are you familiar with the “unofficial” Henry Miller Memorial Library anthem, “Marilyn,” by Dan Bern? If not, check it out below.

We venture to guess it’s probably familiar to many of you who’ve seen Magnus perform it.

In fact, legend has it, a young Dan Bern came by the Library, like, 19 years ago, and left a tape with Magnus which contained this very song. Magnus was smitten, reached out to Dan, and thus began a long and fruitful relationship (Dan’s played here many times.)

But enough of my yammering! Enjoy!

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Announcing the publication of the newest edition of PING PONG – the Henry Miller Library’s journal of the arts!

The Henry Miller Memorial Library is pleased to announce the 2014 publication of Ping-Pong, a journal of the arts. Get yours here!

PingPong_cover2014a-2The editors endeavor to keep the literary journal relevant to our global art and literary scene by publishing a vibrant group of poets, writers, painters, and photographers with a bent toward cultural dialogue.

This issue coincides with the 50th anniversary of the 1964 overturning by the Supreme Court of an earlier ruling which found the Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller to be obscene, thus allowing for the seemingly free speech some of us enjoy today.

Ping-Pong is an annual publication. In this issue of Ping-Pong we serve up a number of banned Russian writers: Anna Akhmatova, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Daniil Kharms, Alexander Blok, as well as contemporary Russian poet, Ilya Kaminsky. Also featured in this issue is an interview with Alice Notley.

Our Folio project returns with contemporary poets responding to an Alexander Blok poem. This issue also has the 2014 Ping-Pong poetry competition winner Mark Lamoureux’s poem, “Summer Henge, Winter Henge,” as well as 2013 winner Lina Vitkauska, who returns to our pages with a meditation on Jodorowsky’s Fando y Lis.tropicofcancer

The Ping-Pong release party: “Speech is not Free,” will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the obscenity trial by featuring writers and artists reading from banned books and also reading original works.

The party will take place at the Coagula Curatorial Gallery on November 7th from 7:00-10:00 pm, 974 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, California.  Facebook event page HERE.

Music. Wine and cheese reception.  Readings will begin at 7:30 pm.

The event is by donation and open to the public. Also featured will be a Henry Miller exhibit curated by the Henry Miller Memorial Library’s executive director, Magnus Toren.


Book information:

Ping-Pong Literary Journal,

Henry Miller Memorial Library

48603 Highway 1

Big Sur, CA, October 2014

ISSN 1083-0944

Paperback, 211 pages, $15.00


Book order link HERE.

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Sunday! We’ll be auctioning off ten – count’em, ten – incredibly gorgeous slabs that were milled from a fallen redwood tree here in 2012.

forsite10-16Meet Slab #16. It likes romantic comedies, “honesty,” and long walks on the beach. Slab #16 can be yours this Sunday at the first-ever Big Sur Redwood Auction at the Henry Miller Memorial Library!

We’ll be auctioning off ten – count’em, ten – incredibly gorgeous slabs that were milled from a fallen redwood tree here in 2012.

This is the most beautiful old-growth redwood in the world.

That’s Sunday, Oct. 5th at the Henry Miller Library, 48603 Highway 1, in Big Sur, at 1 pm.

Even if you’re not in the market for a slab, come for the fun of it – Heller Estates and Big Sur Bakery will also be on hand, providing refreshements and appetizers!

Questions? Call us 831-667-2574

For more info and to see the ten slabs, click here: http://bigsurredwood.wordpress.com/slabs/


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Important news re: Sunday’s historic Big Sur Redwood auction at the Henry Miller Library!

This Sunday is our big Big Sur Redwood Auction – we’ll be auctioning off ten slabs milled from the tree that fell at the Library in December, 2012!

Even if you don’t plan on bidding on a slab, come for the historic nature of the event — and the party, as Heller Estate and the Big Sur Bakery will be on hand to add to the festivities!!

That’s this Sunday, Oct. 5th, at 1 pm, here at the Henry Miller Library. Bidding starts at 4 pm.

Check out the available slabs here.

FAQs here!

Questions?  Call us! 831-667-2574!


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Reason #2 to attend Thursday’s annual HML benefit: Wilco’s Nels Cline is performing!

Reason #2 to attend Thursday’s annual HML benefit: Wilco’s Nels Cline is performing!  He’s one of the greatest living guitarists in the world. Don’t believe us?  Check this out:

Thurs. Oct. 2nd at the Henry Miller Library: Cibo Matto, Nels Cline, poetry from Eleni Sikelianos, live painting & auction via visual artist Aaron Adamski, miso soup from Miso Horny (!) – and MORE for only $35 BUCKS.

And proceeds benefit the Library!  What’s not to love?  Click here for tickets or call us at 831-667-2574!

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