Henry Miller: obscene other of the law

Herian, Rob (2015). Henry Miller: obscene other of the law. In: Decker, James and Männiste, Indrek eds. Henry Miller: New Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 95–108.

URL: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/henry-miller-97816289...


Ban Henry Miller!

Do it, as this might be the only way to save what is truly great about this writer. Take his books from the shelves. Put them out of the reach and the delectation of the public. Take them from the musty, dusty shelves of the bookshop. Hide Miller's books from the lustful, hungry roving eyes and the all-consuming gaze. Wrap Miller's Tropics and his triadic Rosy Crucifixion in deep circumspection. Disguise and mask if you like in the improvised jacket of the bootlegged edition, just make sure those books slip from the conscious imaginings of the many. Conceal, disavow, reject, deny, overlook, but above all let the mainstream and all those that jump on the fashion wagon once more return to a state of blissful ignorance where Miller is concerned.

But it's too late ...

In bringing Miller forth from the shadows, in allowing him to cross that boundary from the dark, fetid reaches of perversion and obscenity to the (en)lightened halls of normality, have we, the judging reader subjects, lost much of the promise Miller as a writer and an artist held?

In short, do Miller's books now fall squarely into what Slavoj Žižek has provocatively called the realm of "decaffeinated belief?" A realm at once dedicated to overt and politically correct tolerance toward people and things, but equally do not hurt anyone and thus do not fully engage or commit at any level. Miller's proto-punk aesthetic, his "gob of spit in the face of Art" could surely never be accused of not committing (CAN, 2). Certainly, "a kick in the pants to God," is seemingly less of a provocation today (CAN, 2). Indeed, for the legions who now consider themselves anywhere on the spectrum of (militant) atheism that "kick" is simply sport.

Are we therefore able to extrapolate anything from Miller's work to counter and render problematic this cultural sway in which, "you can enjoy everything, BUT deprived of its substance which makes it dangerous"? Moreover, what responsibility or role does law have apropos the (re)caffeine-nation of Miller (to reverse and transform Žižek's idea into an admittedly awkward linguistic construct)?

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