Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen


Henry Miller


The Rosy Crucifixion, Book One

21 August 2007


Henry Miller and his principle of pleasure walk hand in hand. Hence, Henry and sex go together like mozzarella and tomatoes, like figs and prosciutto, like salt and olive oil, like cock and cunt. Henry’s is not a cold-blooded erection out for any wet and warm stable. He is a man of calm and patience and he takes whatever comes his way.

In Sexus Henry only thinks sex when he is having it, but it is his constant aura of sex that brings fortuitous situations his way. Sex is in him and imprinted on his deepest layer. But remember, sex is synonymous for pleasure and the hunger for the divine enjoyment of all things. Pleasure draws us out of our measly existence and places us within the folds of that which is greater.

Food doesn’t satisfy hunger nor drink thirst. Food, sexual or otherwise is only satisfying to the appetites. Hunger is something else. Nobody can satisfy hunger. Hunger is the soul’s barometer. Ecstasy is the norm. Serenity is the freedom from weather conditions-the permanent climate of the stratosphere.

Sexus is the first of The Rosy Crucifixion series. The Rosy Crucifixion being the one book Henry Miller ever intended to write; the one book meant to chronicle his life and marriage to the phantasmic June Mansfield aka Mara aka Mona. Sexus is about the transition from one wife to the next, from the prudish piano teacher Maude to Mona, the dance hall extraordinaire. Though what the reader sees of Maude is not so prude at all. I dare say that through Maude, Henry gives us the most sexy sex, the most desperate, the most graphic. Mona, whose persona is Maude’s antithesis, is a body writhing with electricity. Maude is earthy with emotions easier to understand. Maude sticks where Mona seems to break up in the ephemeral air.

The question of Mona’s actuality looms large in anything ever written about her. Between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller a portrait has been created with sections of color missing, with bits of color morphing. Mona or June is the writer’s dream. She is the great elusive. Her impact on Henry cannot be denied, she helped to bring about the man and the writer we know today. “It isn’t a woman you need-it is an instrument to liberate yourself.” Henry nods in agreement.

He seems to have seen the whole failure of the relationship coming, for it was built on the wobbly ground of Mona’s imagined self. Mona is anything she wants herself to be, from her family and their origins, her profession, her dreams; she is beauty weaving a rapidly changing story, even her body transforms several times through the length of the book. Who is June Mansfield?

The complete terrain of Sexus takes place between the meeting of Mona in a dance hall and their marriage in Hoboken, NY, to follow with a reception in Henry’s favorite burlesque. The peaks jutting between beginning and end are as jagged and varied as Henry, the writer, can make them out to be. There is the always constant knowledge of, ‘To Write,’ hovering around each summit. Henry, the man, floats along these pristine mountain lakes but can never glimpse the bottom. He stirs his body. He attempts to shake off his lecherous friends, but to no avail. Anything he managed to write at that time was lodged securely in his head. A subway ride which carries him through the future to the past, dinners that spawn Henry in all his glory, conversations that go on for pages. He was living on an edge, waiting to be pushed over.

If you stop still and look at things. . . I say look, not think, not criticize. . . the world looks absolutely crazy to you. And it is crazy, by God! It’s just as crazy when things are normal and peaceful as in times of war or revolution. The evils are insane evils. The pancreases are insane pancreases. Because we are all driven like dogs. We’re running away. From what?

He talks as if he has written his great novel, his friends refer to him as a writer even though he has not dropped down one meaningful word. He thinks of his adolescence, when he walked around with books in his head and Nietzsche under his arm. To know one will write, to know one can write and that there is this burning energy which only art can release is one thing, but to put words to paper is another. Henry needed Mona to push him over the edge.

The world will only begin to get something of value from me the moment I stopped being a serious member of society and became—myself.

The other terrain of Sexus is as the name implies: sex. Before venturing out into such rugged landscape, I would like to ask why Henry has ever been accused of writing in the obscene? To separate Henry’s sex from other aspects of his work is a crime. Just as it is a crime to separate the man from the writer. Henry Miller wrote spiritual pornography which aims its jabs at the body and its senses, opening them simultaneously with the mind.

None-the-less, Henry Miller was a man obsessed with sex, that I can’t deny. These videos (Bathroom monologue one and two and three) are an especially good portrait of Henry as a sexual collector in his later life. Sex, for Henry, was the greatest expressions of pleasure that he had been given, that we have been given; food coming closely behind. Sex is the indulgence of the body, the body relinquished for pleasure.

The sex that pivots the book is that which Henry indulges in with Maude. Maude the prude, as he has us to believe. After their last romp before the close of the book, he leaves her as serene as a ghost. What has passed before was a grand scene of fucking, a threesome of Maude’s own design. Juices flowing from every orifice and at the end, which isn’t the end, Henry exclaims, “Jesus Christ I’m exhausted. I’m fucked out.” This scene is more sexy then anything any star-spangled media puppet could gyrate before my face. It’s the power of words and my own imagination that leave me begging for more. It is the careful unveiling of what I thought to be hidden. This is the sex of Henry Miller; it screams at us until we rise from our stupor. He wants us all to hunger. To realize our own sensations. To be aware. He wants it so bad that he will fuck any woman out there in any way he can until we are all awake. Henry is fucking for us.

I feel sometimes as though I am going to burst. I really don’t give a damn about the misery of the world. I take it for granted. What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside of me. I want to open everybody up. I’m like an imbecile with a can opener in his hand, wondering where to begin—to open up the earth.

Iin putting Sexus down it was as natural a movement to pick Plexus up. Opening to the first page, the first sentence jumped out at me like a razor-eyed bug: In her tight-fitting Persian dress, with turban to match, she looked ravishing. A line too sexy to resist. And so I will read The Rosy Crucifixion in succession.



Commentary for Sexus


1 On Sunday 07 November 2010 Pat Hickerson wrote:

My in-laws were Ruth and Harold Hickerson, named Rebecca Valentine and Arthur Raymond by Henry Miller, Harold’s boyhood friend from Brooklyn. Ruth last had contact with Henry in the late ’50s while Henry was in Big Sur. She somehow got in touch with him and a visit was arranged, later cancelled by Henry because his mother in law was dying of cancer. Ruth was somewhat embarrassed to be known as a friend of Henry’s because of his reputation as a pornographer and her presence in Sexus, though he doesn’t write about her as a sex object. She said he kept a file of “dirty words”. His description of both my in-laws is quite beautiful, especially of Harold (Arthur) as a pieno teacher of children. And I love the scene between Ruth (Rebecca) and Henry in the kitchen of the apartment they shared as she prepares a chicken dinner. She was a great cook but June was no equal to Ruth as an intellectual. Ruth considered June to be a complete phony. Ruth was also a very beautiful woman; her father was not a rabbi, as Henry states, but a gifted cabinetmaker. Her family had escaped from the Ukraine in the early 1900s because of the pogroms.

2 On Sunday 07 November 2010 Amber wrote:

Pat, I can recall the scene in the kitchen between Rebecca/Ruth and Henry, without flipping to it. It is beautiful and his descriptions of Rebecca were infused with the upmost respect, even her beauty, which was never “dirtied” in typical Henry Miller fashion. He seemed to write about her as if she was someone above him. Though I can understand the trepidations of being associated with a book such as Sexus. Thanks for sharing this generous comment!

3 On Saturday 11 June 2011 Dennis wrote:

I read ‘‘Plexus’‘ (I don’t think it was ‘‘Sexus’‘.) many years ago. I loved the choir scene where he moves in behind one of the girls and penetrates her whilst they are performing.


Submit a Comment


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