Henry Miller Memorial Library

Big Sur, California
"The real leader has no need to lead - he is content to point the way."

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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And the 9th best HML moment of 2014 is….

With the end of the year fast approaching, the votes are still coming in for your favorite HML moment of 2014!

(You can vote here.)

kidsIn order to build the suspense as much as possible, we’ll start with the 9th place vote-getter, with 3 percent.

But before we do, as you may know, the Library is currently in a difficult financial situation, and any support you can provide would be greatly appreciated.  To make a tax-deductible donation — anything helps, truly — click here.

OK, now back to business.

I must say I’m slightly disappointed by this one’s showing, but with so many options to choose from, I guess something has to end up in 9th place (though there’s still time to change it!)

Let it’s set it up for you.

Volunteer-for-Life Peery came to us this summer from San Francisco, via Tennessee, and immediately won our hearts with her warmth, artistic brilliance, and joie de vie (that’s French for “biscuits and gravy.)

And Peery had an idea: to create an HML community mural. And create a community mural is exactly what she did.  Here are some pictures below.  It took about 2 days to create — a giant, swooping California condor coasting over…the coast — with the help of kids from the area as well as folks just passing through.

It ruled!

And Peery’s community mural, rightly or wrongly, clocked in at #9 in the “Ten Best Moments of 2014!”

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A nifty compendium of Miller allusions in rock music….

Ooh this is cool.

“Rock music is partly characterized by rebellion, so it’s no surprise that a literary rebel like Henry Miller makes an occasional appearance in that world (although not very often—why not?).

The following is a listing of Miller references in rock lyrics, titles, artwork, and interviews, by musicians who have been inspired by Miller.”

It includes references to the Beatles, Wilco, Dylan, and more!

For example: In 2004, the Wilco album A Ghost is Born contained a song called “Hummingbird.” Miller is alluded to in the title (for his essay collection, Stand Still Like The Hummingbird), and in the lyrics, which drop lines like “His goal in life was to be an echo,” and “Remember to remember me.”

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What’s your favorite HML moment from 2014? Vote now!

With the end of the year upon us, we were thinking back on cool things about the Library that are more subtle and inconspicuous. So…

What's your favorite HML moment of 2014?

View Results

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Henry’s Midnight Astrology-Driven Nepenthe Ping Pong Vision

Sitting or sleeping in a cold, drafty cabin in the wintery rain can do a number on your psyche. Because of this, it’s important to pick up some “winter hobby” of some sort.

Y’know, basket weaving or Soduku or perhaps…ping pong. These two winter-survival “must-dos” coalesce in entertaining fashion when Henry Miller knocked on Nepenthe’s doors late one night, long ago.

Take it away, Nepenthe Stories!!!

Many know of Henry Miller’s years in Big Sur, but few are aware that his first home on the coast was in the Log House, above Nepenthe. Novelist Lynda Sargent took in the penniless Henry Miller and gave him a place to set up his typewriter during the day and lay his head at night.

ping_smIt is rare to meet the person who has heard the story of novelist Lynda Sargent, who lived in the Log House after it was the Trails Club and before Lolly and Bill bought it and built Nepenthe, and who took in the penniless Henry Miller and gave him a place to set up his typewriter during the day and lay his head at night…

Miller and Sargent didn’t get along so well, but they say you could hear the sound of their two typewriters clacking away from the highway!
Miller eventually found his own place on Partington Ridge, but he came back frequently after Nepenthe was built. Bill Fassett liked to tell the story of Henry’s mid-night dreaming that brought him to his door late one winter night.

“Damn it, Fassett,” Henry raged. “My astrologer came to me in a dream and said I’d beat you at ping-pong tonight, and damned if I won’t!”

Daddy Bill said he trounced Henry with little fanfare, while Lolly sat quietly by and knitted. “Time to get yourself another astrologer,” she commented as Henry went back into the night.

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On Miller’s over-hyped “meanness, St. Paul, Jonathan Edwards, and the “Air-Conditioned Nightmare”

One of the great paradoxes (of which there are many) of Msr. Miller is his ability to juggle a hardened, astringent cynicism along with a kind of optimistic romanticism.

On one hand, there’s Miller, the ranting Brooklyn curmudgeon, haranguing about the shallowness and vapidity of modern life in books like “Tropic of Capricorn” and (see below) “The Air Conditioned Nightmare.”

The saint formerly known as Saul of Tarsus

The saint formerly known as Saul of Tarsus

Then there’s the quasi-Zen like flower-power Miller, evoking St. Paul-to-the-Corinthians and whispering platitudes like “The one thing we can never get enough of is love.”

What gives?

The answer, of course, is simple. Miller contains multitudes. And at the expense of falling back on Phd thesis-logic, his tortured inner dialectic perfectly mirrors that of his morally-tortured homeland.

What’s more, as this astute post by Nicholas Vajifdar in Bookslut argues within the context of its review of “Air-Conditioned Nightmare,” Miller’s fiery condemnations of the US, collated during his cross-country trip in the 1930s, lacked a meanness and ugliness that you’d see in, say, the crazed rantings of his holier-than-thou predecessors (e.g. Jonathan Edwards and the like.*)

Take it away, Nicholas:

For all his negative energy, one of Miller’s most admirable qualities is his total lack of meanness. Meanness, I mean, as distinct from enmity and prejudice. His negativity partakes not at all of the miserable bickering, the rat-like grasping and spitting, on display in every internet comment section in the world.

His hate is serene; it doesn’t hide, flinch, shriek, throw chicken bones. When, after his Dante-esque journey through the Hell of the Industrial North and the Purgatory of Steaming Dixie, he slurs down into his bizarro promised land of coastal California, I felt that his generous sensibility had at last been physically repaid.

(Read the whole thing!)


Those who knew Miller personally would agree. For all his “fronting,” at the end of the day, his faux meanness flowed from an inner wellspring of generosity, appreciation, and loyalty. (Never mind the fact that much of his excoriations of pre-war America were not only accurate, but eerily prescient.)

* Perhaps this is where Miller, the long-running target of the US’s established puritan theocracy, has, ironically enough, something in common with the Bible-thumping agitators who antagonized him through most of his life: a distinctly American moralizing streak. The difference? Edwards’ moralizing is rooted in the stone-age inanity of the Old Testament; Miller’s is rooted in a more forgiving and humanistic Europeanism. Pass the baguette!







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Guardian names “Tropic of Cancer” 59th best novel ever…..

tropicofcancerOn the heels of this past weekend’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Tropic of Cancer’s legalization, let’s revisit that influential just one more time, shall we?

There have been a gazillion novels written and the UK’s Guardian took the time whittle the list down to 100. And in their list of the 100 Best Novels ever, Msr. Miller clocks in at number 59.

Money quote: “Miller’s delight in rubbing the reader’s face in filth was intoxicating and influential. His “fuck everything” would inspire Kerouac, Genet, Burroughs, Mailer and Ginsberg, among others. Not bad for a man who had once written: “Why does nobody want what I write?”

Read it all here!

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Henry Miller Library and Ping Pong descent on LA THIS WEEKEND!

Attention LA and lovers of free speech, poetry, art, and music dwelling within a radius covering Santa Barbara down to Riverside!

The Henry Miller Library and its literary journal Ping Pong is bringing our omnivorous appetite for all things art 341 south miles (via I-5 South the 101) for a we’d like to call “Speech is Not Free! 50th Anniversary: Tropic of Cancer Obscenity Trial”!!!
It’s kicking off TOMORROW! Here’s what’s in store:

Friday, November 7 @ 7 – 10PM: Ping Pong kicks things off with readings from its latest installment plus writers who will read or display a piece of banned work that effected them in a transformative way. At Coagula Curatorial Gallery, 974 Chung King Rd. in LA. FREE.

Saturday, November 8 @ 3 – 5PM: HML Director Magnus Torén, talks about “Cancer,” its influence on the censorship laws in the US, and where we are today in regards to the silencing of voices. At Coagula Curatorial Gallery, 974 Chung King Rd., in LA. FREE.

Sunday, November 9 @ 3pm – 5pm: Benefit Concert for the HMMLat McCabes Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, featuring Paz Lenchantin (Pixies & Entrance Band), Kevin Morby, Jonathan Wilson, Emmett Kelley (Cairo Gang), Deradoorian, Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes), Pearl Charles & Lauren Barth, plus more TBA.

Read more here and do tell all your friends south of Morro Bay!!!


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Exclusive interview w/ Magnus re: upcoming Nov 7-9 LA event celebrating the Tropic of Cancer anniversary trial!


Henry Miller is responsible for — to quote scholar James Decker — “the free speech that we now take for granted in literature.” It began fifty years ago when Miller’s novel ”Tropic of Cancer” was deemed not obscene by the U.S. Supreme Court fifty years ago this year.

And so the Library and its literary magazine Ping-Pong  — who’s also celebrating the release of its newest installment — will be throwing a party to commemorate this achievement!  (Drum roll…….)

Ping Pong and the Henry Miller Library present “Speech is Not Free! 50th Anniversary of the Tropic of Cancer Obscenity Trial”, Nov 7-9 at the Coagula Curatorial Gallery (947 Chung King Rd.) in Los Angeles!!

Click here for an interview with Library Director Magnus Toren as he talks about this most excellent weekend and what he, in particular, has in store!

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