Henry Miller Memorial Library

Big Sur, California
Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves.

Meet Jeff Norman, Big Sur’s de facto historian, naturalist, and educator!!

Perhaps no one has done more to create awareness around Big Sur’s physical majesty and the need to preserve it than Jeff Norman.

Norman was Big Sur’s de facto historian, naturalist, and educator. He wrote a quintessential Big Sur book, “Images of America: Big Sur,” which is one of the Library’s biggest sellers.

Jeff passed away in 2007, but his legacy lives on.


The Jeff Norman Bookshelf will honor the late naturalist and historian by compiling publications documenting the natural and cultural history of the Big Sur coast.

To many, Norman was the embodiment of Big Sur, having dedicating his life to protecting the wilderness and documenting its history in books like “Big Sur Observed” and “Images of America: Big Sur.” The Monterey County Weekly called his legacy “prodigious,” but as of now, it remains undocumented.

Establishing a “one-stop” location for such educational materials was a goal of Jeff’s prior to his death in 2007 at the age of 56, and the Library hopes to honor his legacy by bring his vision to fruition.

The bookshelf, which will be located inside the Library’s main building, will be constantly upgraded as new books and research papers are published.

In fact, the Library applied for a Monterey Arts Council grant to help pay for this endeavor, and guess what? We got it!

We’ll start work on the bookshelf in the new year.

In the meantime, check out this piece on Norman in the Monterey County Weekly. Some money quotes:

“As a historian, Norman knew that for some individuals their obituary column was the only place where their life story was told. Norman’s story will know no such fate – he has made such a lasting impression on the Big Sur community that the area’s residents will be recounting Norman’s story for generations to come.


They will speak of his unorthodox attitude and his passion to truly understand and relate the importance of Big Sur to others.”

“The feature Norman likely will be most remembered for was his sheer excitement at learning and imparting knowledge about Big Sur to others. Friend Kathy MacKenzie remembers Norman telling her that some of the best times of his life occurred while driving along the Coast Ridge Road with Bill Post, a member of one of Big Sur’s most prominent homesteading families.

There, with views of kelp scabbing the massive Pacific and the white bloom of yuccas exploding like lit matches along the land, Post would regale Norman with tales about Big Sur’s hardscrabble early settlers. “Jeff would just soak up the stories,” MacKenzie says.”

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More amazing examples of Big Sur Writing Workshop participants who attended past workshops and then secured publishing deals!

Check it out – more amazing examples of Big Sur Writing Workshop participants who attended past workshops and then secured publishing deals!

foundBetter yet, the deals below come to us from only ONE faculty member, Eric Elfman! Do the math!!:

* Stacey Lee came to Big Sur in Dec. 2007 — she signed with another agency, and recently sold a manuscript to Putnam’s & Sons, Under a Painted Sky that is being released in 2015.

* Marilyn Hilton came to Big Sur in Dec. 2007 – she sold Found Things to Simon & Schuster, and it was published in 2014.

* P.J. Hoover (right) came to Big Sur in March 2008 – she may have signed with Laura Rennert – she published two books in 2014: Solstice and Tut, both with Tor

* Tracy Clark came to Big Sur in Dec. 2008 – she sold Scintillate which was published by Entangled Teen  2014 and the sequel, Deviate, is coming out in 2015.SONY DSC

* Lisa Desrochers came to Big Sur in March 2009 – she sold Personal Demons to Tor and it came out in 2010, and since then she’s gone on to publish several more books with Tor and HarperCollins.

Will you be next?

Register for next workshop, March 6-8, 2015 at the world-famous Big Sur Lodge in the heart of Big Sur here (or call 831-667-2574)!  And tell your friends!!!

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New update from Magnus re: the Library’s temporarily closure (we’re back open!), a NEW raffle prize, and what’s coming up next!

logoDear Friend,

From November 15th to December 13th, the Henry Miller Memorial Library was closed.

Happily, Monterey County granted us our operating permit, and I am pleased to report that the Library will remain open for the indefinite future!

But boy, was it a strange month.

People kept asking me “Is the Library closed forever?”

Mike reported that on separate occasions tourists peered their heads over the fence and said, “Can we please come in? We came from Boston/Chicago/England,” etc.

And countless of visitors parked their cars, read the “temporarily closed” sign, and went on their way.

The closure provided a stark look at a world without the Henry Miller Memorial Library. It was depressing. Donate-button-web

So what now?

Well, we’ve have made major improvements in recent years to address concerns around water and septic issues.

Next year we’ll tackle major issues like securing a coastal development permit, an easement to provide access to water system facilities, and constructing ADA access ramps, parking spaces, and a new water treatment system. For more information on our 2015 fundraising goals click here.

So if you’ve yet to make a donation, I’d humbly ask for your support to carry us into 2015 and beyond.

Thank you to all who have made a donation in 2014 already!

And since we too are in the holiday spirit, we’d like to sweeten the deal: all donors will be eligible for a raffle. The winning prize? A private candlelit dinner at the Library with you and up to 4 of your closest friends.

Click here to donate.
We probably don’t need to tell you this, but it’s worth repeating. The Library is more than just a book store in the woods.

It’s a world-wide and ever-growing community comprised of people like you, people who appreciate the power of the arts, the majesty of Big Sur, and of course, the legacy of one Henry Valentine Miller.

You are the Library, and we can’t do what we do without your support.

Thank you!

Magnus, Sarah, Mike and the Board of the Henry Miller Memorial Library

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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?

Spend 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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Library to re-open tomorrow, Dec. 13th at 11 am!

Good news! The Library has received its operating permit from the county, so we will be BACK OPEN FOR BUSINESS tomorrow, Saturday, December 13th, at 11 am!

See you then!


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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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