Henry Miller Memorial Library

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

Check out this sneak preview video about Dzieci’s gypsy ritual adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Check out this sneak preview video about Dzieci’s gypsy ritual adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They’ll be performing it this Fri. at the Henry Miller Library, at 7:30 pm, here in Big Sur!

“Dzieci has been steadily working on a Gypsy retelling of the Shakespearean classic. For this condensed version of Macbeth, the ensemble has learned all the lines, of every part, through a process of oral transmission, so as to create maximum improvisational possibilities.

In rehearsal, as well as production, we do not know who will be playing any given role at any given time. The show has the impression of being a ritual or ceremony. A very mysterious ceremony. Employing haunting folk songs and chants from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, along with the poetry of Shakespeares eternal verse, the company explores, and explodes, the very essence of theatre and storytelling.”

That’s this Friday, 7:30 pm. Tickets $15 in advance. More info here.

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An “insider’s” view of Big Sur Sound and Story featuring the Moth!

Last night was the fourth installment of Big Sur Sound and Story, our new and exciting outdoor listening series.

nyt-MagIf we seem to be talking about us, we hope you’ll forgive us. It’s taken on a life of it’s own as of late. A few weeks ago the New  York Times wrote a piece on it, and last week Magnus was on KQED, public radio for Northern California, talking about it. (Listen to it here). We also have barnd new and very welcome sponsor: Stitcher.com.

There is a buzz!

But what does a typical Sound and Story night look like “behind the scenes?”

Glad you asked.

Here we hope to shed some light – but not too much; don’t wanna ruin the mystique.

No discussion about Big Sound Sound and Story is complete without talking about two people. The first, of course, is Magnus Toren, the Library director and brains behind the series (and pretty much everything else we do. And since I assume he’s reading this, I’d also like to add that his new haircut is fantastic and that he does a great version of “Ziggy Stardust” at Fernwood karaoke.)

Then there’s Brendan Newnam.tumblr_loa3ac7QSQ1qf587yo1_1280

Brendan is a friend of the Library who also happens to co-host of the Dinner Party Download, who, not surprisingly, will be curating an evening of outdoor audio here on July 20th. (Info here.)

But Brendan is also expertly dialed in to the burgeoning and confluent world of storytelling, radio, and podcasts, etc. We looped him in in the embryonic stages of planning the series and he was instrumental in providing us with guidance, feedback, and most importantly, direction on what groups to contact to help curate installments.

He’s a dream come true, and if you’ve yet to check out Dinner Party Download, please do so here.

OK. So. We have our curators lined up. What comes next?

Well, provide them with the BSE – that’s the Big Sur Experience.(™)

unnamed-2Curators get to stay at “The Barn,” which is Magnus’s guest house that seems to be situated on the cliffs of heaven, way up on Partington Ridge. (The NYC and LA folks really lose their mind over this one.) They then roll up to the Library around 6 pm for a soundcheck and — here’s the best part — family dinner!

Last night we had a big ol’ salad (picture above — really, that’s the salad from last night) with kale and greens, a rice concoction with veggies, sardines, wine, and Esalen bread. The greens came from Magnus’s garden and the food was prepared by VFLs (Volunteers for Life) Abby and Anna Leigh.

BrianFinkelstein_profileAt 8 pm the doors open, we play some Alice Coltrane on the hi-fi, people set down their blankets, lay down, and at dusk the magic starts. Maybe some day if we ever buy an iPhone or get a reasonable internet connection we’ll actually videotape it. But that too could kill the mystique. Nothing like the written word – that’s our motto.

The highlight last night? Beyond the stories? That’d be when host Brian Finklestein (left) talked about the genesis of the “The Moth” itself. And it goes like this. Back in the day, the Moth’s founder – whose name escapes me – used to tell stories with his buddies on his porch in North Carolina. Over time moths would congregate around the porch light. And “The Moth.” was born.

Brian brought this to our attention when our own Big Sur moths were fluttering around his lamp!

Lastly, Sound and Story, we think, also represents a redefinition or transmutation of the art of storytelling (if we can be so bold.) After all, we tell stories in small groups, or – like the Moth – in clubs and such, or we listen to them in our cars. But rarely do we do so in such a natural and bucolic setting like the Library. Our ancestors did it back in the day, but somewhere along the way, things went awry (we blame the Industrial Revolution.)

Anyway, thanks for reading and check out our upcoming Sound and Story installments HERE!




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Nathanial Hawthorne, Henry Miller, and the “Unpardonable Sin” (and Red Dog)

Back in college, my English professor, at the end of class, said to us, “Your homework assignment is to think about what is the ‘unpardonable sin,’ the one sin that even God won’t forgive.”

Heavy stuff.

So, like a good college kid, I went back to my dorm, played video games, listened to Oasis’s “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory,” and pounded six Red Dogs.

In college we called him Natty Haw'
In college we called him Natty Haw’

The next class I got my answer and it came from an unlikely source: my main man Nathaniel Hawthorne!

But before I tell you what, precisely, the “unpardonable sin” is — we need you to keep reading, after all – some context is first in order. Here’s an excerpt from “Hawthorne and the Unpardonable Sin” by Sheila Dwight:

The Christian concept of the “unpardonable sin” stems from a warning the New Testament given by the apostles Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that those who sin against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven either in this world or the next.

Theologians throughout the ages had their own various interpretations on the meaning of the unpardonable sin, but it was not until the advent of the Puritans with their emphasis upon the Scriptures that ordinary individuals began to concern themselves about the great transgression.

[However] the laity, along with the theologians, were not quite sure just what the sin entailed. It was interpreted variously as pride, rejection of the Word of God, despair of salvation, etc. Hawthorne, always fascinated by the problematical nature of evil, was deeply intrigued by the concept of such a thing as an unpardonable sin…

Ultimately, most critics feel that Hawthorne believed the unpardonable sin to be a “separation of the intellect from the heart,” also phrased as the “deliberate destruction of the Spirit of God in Man.”

More practically, the unpardonable sin is “. . . divorcing one’s head from one’s heart and oneself from humanity.” That’s what my professor, in essence taught me, and the latter piece — detaching one’s self from humanity, leaving behind your fellow man — is what we’d like to briefly look at today, particularly within the context of Miller’s life and work.Unknown-Henry-Miller-9781611458992

Detaching one’s self from humanity isn’t a novel (pun intended) idea. It’s “no man is an island” re-worded. And the concept is littered across both Eastern and Western thought. But what happens when someone — a seeker, an artist, a painter, a writer — does precisely that to find a higher truth? What happens when they turn their back on humanity — and we’ve all had the urge — to instead focus on self-purification, self-examination, and self-searching, etc?

Is that an unpardonable sin??

Or to look at it the other way, what if everyone chose that path? Who’d drive the city buses? Who’d harvest the wheat? Who’d mass-produce Red Dog?

34100675097When framed through that lens, the tendency to detach one’s self from humanity does come across as self-centered, narcissistic, and, while perhaps not unpardonable, socially disruptive.

This struggle — the juxtaposition between intense self-examination versus engagement with the wider world — is evident throughout Miller’s work and it jumps off the pages in Arthur Hoyle’s riveting book, The Unknown Henry Miller: A Seeker in Big Sur, which I was recently reading and while examines Miller’s Big Sur years.

In it we see the tension between Miller’s misanthropy versus his unbridled exuberance. Miller the crank vs. Miller the effusive romantic. Miller, the man holed up on Partington Ridge in Big Sur, removed from the world, walking two miles a day to the post office, typing away in relative solitude versus Miller European, cosmopolitan, jazz-loving omnivore.

Not going to Hell: Miller in Big Sur
Not going to Hell: Miller in Big Sur

Fortunately, Hawthorne give us some wriggle room. “Leaving behind your fellow man,” after all, is a relative concept. Miller, high up on his ridge in Big Sur, was nonetheless devouring letters and communicating with fans and friends around the world. He hung out and talked deep into the night with his neighbors. He raised a family.

Now let’s turn 20 miles south down Highway One to the New Camaldoli Hermitage, populated by devout monks, who, on the other hand, are even more isolated, holed up, geographically removed, and completely detached from humanity and their fellow man.

Ultimately, we can step back and, armed with this analysis and relative interpretation of Hawthorne’s theory, we can make a highly theological-informed argument that, for all his transgressions, Hawthrone’s Puritan God forgives Miller.

It’s the monks, on the other hand, who are the ones who need to worry.

What a concept!

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Check out Arthur Hoyle’s recent piece on Miller on the Huffington Post, entitled “Henry Miller’s Men: the Twelve Apostles!”

Henry’s err, “complex” relationship with women is well-documented. But what about the men his life?

For a riveting answer, check out Arthur Hoyle’s recent piece on Miller on the Huffington Post, entitled “Henry Miller’s Men: the Twelve Apostles.”MillerLibrary-2421

We’re naturally impartial towards Emil White, the founder of the Henry Miller Memorial Library (pictured below) and, ironically enough, the man we frequently reference as Saint Peter — the “rock” upon which the church (that is the Library) was built!

Click the link!!

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Click the link for an exclusive mp3 teaser of what THE MOTH has in store for you, tomorrow (Sunday) July 6th

Click the link HERE for an exclusive mp3 teaser of what THE MOTH has in store for you, tomorrow (Sunday) July 6th, when they’ll curate a night of amazing stories, played through our stereo system, under the starts as part of our Big Sur Sound and Story series!

The evening will be hosted by The Moth’s Brian Finklestein!the-moth

Doors at 8. Admission is free (donations accepted.) Bring a layer, a pillow, and a blankie!

We’re located at 48603 Highway 1, in the heart of Big Sur, 1/4 mile south of Nepenthe.  Questions? Call us! 831-667-2574.

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Today (Sat) at the Library – 3 pm: Mickey Muennig: Dreams and Realizations for a Living Architecture book release and signing!

MickeyPromoPlease join Mickey in celebrating the publication of this, the first monograph of his work, at the Henry Miller Library, on Saturday, July 5th, at 3 pm. Admission is free.

This gorgeous book features the work and essays of Mickey. As many of you know, Mickey is a world-renowned proponent of organic architecture. He designed the Post Ranch Inn, reconstructed the Esalen baths, and designed numerous homes and other spaces here in Big Sur. This is a historic day for us, so again, please join us!

FB event here. Samples of Mickey’s work below!


Muennig greenhouse

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Tonight! (Thurs) – Week four of the @ Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series!

Tonight! (Thurs) – Week four of the @ Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series!

bsisfsslogo2smTonight’s selections include:

* Moments – UK
* Tundra Cowboy – Canada/Sweden
* Short is Better – France
* Godka Cirka – Somalia/Spain
* Animals I Killed Last Summer – Sweden
* Fear of Flying – Ireland

Doors at 8 pm. We start screening at dark. Dress warm! We have coffee, tea, and the best popcorn in the world (courtesy of Ruby.)

Admission is free; donations are appreciated. We’re 1/4 mile south of Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur; 25 miles south of Carmel, on Hwy 1.

Questions? Call us 831-667-2574.

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Download an mp3 of Magnus’s chat with Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum, talking about our Big Sur Sound and Story audio listening series!

Download an mp3 of Magnus’s chat with Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum, talking about our Big Sur Sound and Story audio listening series! Click the link!

Here’s the set up:

photo by Terry Way

photo by Terry Way

Imagine you’re lying on the ground in the middle of a redwood forest at night, bundled up in your blankets and looking up at the stars. Then you hear a voice floating in the darkness — someone is telling a story, one of many you’ll hear that night. The Henry Miller Memorial Library at Big Sur features radio stories every Sunday as part of its “Big Sur Sound and Story” weekly series, where radio producers like the Kitchen Sisters play some of their favorite pieces in the hushed darkness of Mother Nature’s “auditorium.”

Host: Michael Krasny


  • Bob Carlson, host and producer for UnFictional, a radio show featuring the work of independent producers that airs on KCRW in Los Angeles
  • Brendan Francis Newnam, co-host of the Dinner Party Download, a pop culture radio show produced by American Public Media
  • Magnus Toren, executive director of The Henry Miller Memorial Library
  • Nikki Silva, radio producer with The Kitchen Sisters, curators of the inaugural night of the Big Sur series and co-producers of “The Making Of…” series with KQED
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Magnus to appear on KQED in San Francisco on July 1st (tomorrow) at 10 am to discuss Big Sur Sound and Story

That’s right – Magnus is heading to the big city tomorrow, July 1st, for an installment of FORUM with Michael Krasny to talk about Big Sur Sound & Story, from 10-11 am Pacific time on KQED, Public Radio 88.5 in San Francisco and 89.3 in Sacramento!!

nyt-MagBSS&S is our new outdoor audio listening series, held every Sunday at the Library this summer. We bring together the best producers of audio in the world who hand-select stories which we listen to under the redwoods steps from the Pacific Ocean. (New York Times even wrote about it!)

The interview will also include past curators like Bob Carlson of Unfictional and the Kitchen Sisters who’ll personally testify to the fact that Sound and Story one of the most unique experiences imaginable!

So mark your calendars and tune in to KQED tomorrow, July 1st, at 10 am Pacific! Listen at kqed.org!

And check our the full 2014 Sound and Story schedule here.

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Magnus will be in the studio on July 1 with Michael Krasny for an installment of FORUM to talk about our new outdoor audio listening series Big Sur Sound and Story.

BSS&S-PromoNews just in: Magnus will be in the studio on July 1 with Michael Krasny for an installment of FORUM to talk about our new outdoor audio listening series Big Sur Sound and Story.

The interview will start at 11 am and past curators like Bob Carlson of Unfictional and the Kitchen Sisters will also call in to testify to the fact that Sound and Story is the coolest thing ever!

Mark your datebook/iphones!

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