Henry Miller on Bread
- Gary Soup Jul 28, 2006 04:37 PM
I've been a Henry Miller fan since the time I had to go to the Rare Books Room in the bowels of the Cornell University libaray to read "Troic of Cancer" but had forgotten what a chowish individual he was until something jingled my bell and I recalled his classic essay on American bread. Fortunately, the whole thing is on-line, and it deserves to be cast into the wind for the benefit of our literature-deprived youth:
Tropic of Cancer was in rare books?
I was on a Henry Miller kick 5 years ago. Reading this essay he sounds very childish (although I'm not disputing that he's a literary genius, those two attributes often(?) coincide). There are plenty of cultures that don't eat bread, Americans just happened to eat something they called "bread" but which bore little resemblance to its inspiration :). Does the current availability of better bread indicate a less toxic world view? I didn't read the whole article, but it seems to be just another anti-American piece. Very tired from today's perspective. With all the good reasons we have to be embarrassed of our country's actions it does no good to feel guilty about sliced bread.
How fitting, with the themes explored in his books, that he is now a religious man. A real American stereotype.
Tropic of Cancer was not published in the US until 1961 because of obscenity statues. It was still in a legal gray area until a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1966 (the "redeeming social value" requirement).
The essay on bread, BTW, was written in 1947.
Thank you for sharing this, Gary.
Henry Miller would have a hard time posting on chowhound, I think. I mean, how does he work polygamy and polyandry into an essay about BREAD? :)
Here's the best line of the piece:
"Even a piece of bread by Man Ray would prove unpalatable, particularly if he just happened to be reading his favorite author, the Marquis de Sade."
I wonder how he'd feel about bread machines?
HM was an unusual blend of world intellectual in America today, however he was greatly influenced by burlesque theatre of the turn of the century (last century) and his apetite was as huge as Gargantua's. Once you get serious about eating, you can laugh --- and laughter is refreshing.
In Tropic of Capricorn rye bread and butter sprinkled with sugar was given to the youthful Miller and a 9th ward friend by an aunt, without
either doing anything to desirve the delicious treat, just to have. This was contrary to the German-American ethic of working for rewards. This impressed Miller and was part of his pleasure indulgence rebellion. I would guess the same has entered the life of hounds, internally and interpersonally.
I'd give the location of the passage, but like Kenbote I've no copy in this cave.