Notice from an Old Visitor

Henry Miller Notice to Visitors from Big Sur

I never wanted to be a mere sycophant. I rebelled against it so much that I bought your “Notice to Visitors” when I visited your memorial library and it still hangs in my very own library. I hang it to remind me of where you ended up, after all the books, after all the rants, after all the filth and beauty you spat onto the world. You ended up not wanting to be bothered by the outside world.

You died before I could really actually meet you, since you left the world my junior year of high school, but no worries, I had years of sexual repression ahead of me still and I still hadn’t even read you. It was the years of my sexual confusion, but it was a sexual confusion born of a sexually repressed polygamous religion. My sexual confusion stemmed from a land of lack with a future promised land of abundance. What was the truth? I was doing my best and it was getting me nowhere.

When I found you, I read and you spoke of a time of general sexual confusion as you took a flat in the “Land of Fuck.” Who does that? I was stuck in the “Land of Don’t Fuck.”

Fuck was dark. Fuck was guilt. Fuck was forbidden. Fuck was fantasy. No impersonal personal cunts came downstairs to visit my cock. Fuck. I say it, because I didn’t have it. I was left with the fake fuck of fingers flinging feelings up my spine, followed by guilt and the dark. No love, no light, no joy. Fuck.

The glory of God I was told was intelligence or in other words, light and truth. God is Love and what better way to show you love the world than with the thing a guy loves the most? Fuck the world and bring it light. This is the message I first took from you, Henry. More fucking light.

Tropic of Capricorn or Tropic of Cancer became my sacred texts. I’ve read them throughout my adult life and they became my scripture. I come back to them even today and they have the ring of the most sacred of texts:

Tropic of Capricorn 1st Edition

Capricorn 1:16–18

16. Who could change the hearts of men?

17. Now and then a friend was converted: it was something to make me puke.

18. I had no more need of God than He had of me, and if there were one, I often said to myself, I would meet Him calmly and spit in His face.

Tropic of Cancer 1st Edition

Cancer 1: 1–9

  1. I have no money, no resources, no hopes.
  2. I am the happiest man alive.
  3. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist.
  4. I no longer think about it, I AM.
  5. Everything that was literature has fallen from me.
  6. There are no more books to be written, thank God.
  7. This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character.
  8. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word.
  9. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty . . . what you will.

My holy scripture — the Tropics of Fuck. You mirrored the sacred texts of my youth — “there must needs be opposition in all things” and you wrote, “In everything I quickly saw the opposite, the contradiction, and between the real and the unreal the irony, the paradox.” I was living a paradox of testosterone, primal desire, religious fervor, compassion, and lust. Not only was everything contradictory, it was a mix of pain and pleasure, joy and sadness. My disposition played to the negative, your songs were songs of joy bubbling out from the degradation and poverty of Paris. Maybe that is the opposition you are talking about in the gobs of spit you hurled at me and God. Depravity leads to joy. Compliance leads to sorrow. Paradox.

As I write you, I’m thinking about how much you’ve fed my paradoxical split and reconciled it simultaneously. If I was wandering the streets of Paris and hanging out in brothels, I don’t know if my world would be any different. I’ve tried to penetrate the facade of righteousness that surrounds me in the Orwellian paradox I live in. Righteousness is Evil. Evil is Righteousness. Give us more fucking light and more fucking. I’ve read you waiting for my lover as she and another woman explored their own light. I’ve had money, resources, and hope and been unhappy and happy. How the fuck do you resolve the paradoxes?

Fucking itself is a paradox. Too much concern for the object of desire and you lose the desire, because sexual desire contains its own selfish component requiring a ruthlessness to operate in its full thrusting power. In and out. Coming and going. We are fucked into the world and enter on your “ovarian trolley” into the chaos. But chaos is superior to nothingness.

I’m sorry, but I’m finding myself angry at you, Henry. Maybe because you are gone. Maybe because I can’t let myself interact with the world on the world’s most basic level. I am coddled in comfort and technology and I don’t know how to do what you did in a world where I am always at 72 fucking degrees in my house and car.

There is no tropic in Utah. Utah is a paradox of snow and heat. I am a paradox of lust and satiation, belief and nonbelief, grief and joy, hard and soft, ruthless and compassionate, safe and terrified, belly full and starving, sick and healthy. I am. You were. Someday I too will be past tense, past feeling, past fucks and fucking. Until that time, Henry, I try to listen to your voice and your promise. I read the last lines of your “Notice to Visitors.” You co-opt Jesus’s words, which may be appropriate, since I see you a bit as my personal savior. I can think of nothing better to do or say or live by in our land of Fuck and Fucked-up: “Light, more light!”


(I hope I didn’t disturb you.)


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