Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen

Obsession and Awe

Nothing is so inspiring to one who is trying to write as to come upon a thinker, a thinker who is also a poet, a thinker who looks for the soul which animates things.

The first reading went deep. Since then I have read and re-read, copied and re-copied the passages which obsess me.

—Henry Miller, Plexus

What follows is long passage from Max and the White Phagocytes that has not ceased obsessing me.

Walking along the Rue St. Jacques the whole thing gets confused in my mind. The Rue St. Jacques is just one long picturesque shit-house. In every wormy little shack a radio. It’s hallucinating to hear these crooning American voices coming out of the dark holes on either side of me. It’s like a combination of five-and-ten-cent store and Middle Ages. A war veteran is wheeling himself along in a wheel chair, his crutches at his side. Behind him a big limousine waiting for a clearance in order to go full speed ahead. From the radios, all hitched up to the same station, comes that sickening American air— “I believe in miracles!” Miracles! Miracles! Jesus, even Christ Almighty couldn’t perform a miracle here! Eat, drink, this is my body broken for thee! In the windows of the religious shops are inexpensive crosses to commemorate the event. A poor Jew nailed to a cross so that we might have life everlasting. And haven’t we got it though. . . cement and balloon tires and radios and loud-speakers and whores with wooden legs and commodities in such abundance that there’s no work for the starving. . . I’m afraid that I should be alone too much! On the sixth floor, when he enters his room, the sweat begins to roll down his face- as if he had a mask on! Nothing could make me cry, not even if you stuck a dagger in me- but now I cry for nothing! I cry and cry and can’t stop myself. Do you think, Miller, I am going mad? Is he going mad? Jesus, Max, all I can tell you is that the whole world’s going mad. You’re mad, I’m mad, everybody’s mad. The whole world’s busting with pus and sorrow. Have you wound your watch up? Yes, I know you still carry one-I saw it sticking out of your vest pocket. No matter how bad it gets you want to know what time it is. I’ll tell you, Max, what time it is-to the split second. It’s just five minutes before the end. When it comes midnight on the dot that will be the end. Then you can go down into the street and throw your clothes away. Everybody will pop into the street new-born. That’s why they were putting up the awning this evening. They were getting ready for the miracle. And the young woman leaning out of the window, you remember? She was dreaming of the dawn, of how lovely she would look when she would come down amidst the throng and they would see her in the flesh.


Nothing has happened.

—Henry Miller

→ More Henry Miller and his Good Books!


·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·