Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total, rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and the lower world: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.” ( Reflections on Writing, p. 19)
“He says he was born in the heart of London, of Russian parents, but that is a myth he has invented to conceal his truly fabulous origin….Inside him there is an unholy abracadabra fermenting. Strange equations form, queer, plant like growths, fungus, toadstools, marshmallow, poison ivy, the mandrake, the eucalyptus, all forming inside him in the hollow of the entrails in a sort of wild linoleum pattern which the burin will trace when he comes out of his trance.” ( Benno, The Wild Man from Borneo, p. 13 & 16)
“Brassai has that rare gift which so many artists despise — normal vision. He has no need to distort or deform, no need to lie or to preach…. The fragment, the defect, the commonplace — he detects in them what there is of novelty or perfection.” ( The Eye of Paris, 173)
Henry Miller was curious. In the stories and essays collected in The Wisdom of the Heart, you get a sense of just how wide ranging his curiosity was. Here are some of the titles: Creative Death, The Cosmological Eye, The Alchoholic Veteran with the Washboard Cranium, Balzac and His Double, The Enormous Womb.
In studying the craft of writing, Henry Miller is important to read, because he’s a wonderful writer, but also because his concerns, his passions and above all his curiosity exemplify how art and life are interconnected. He took his art seriously but art comes out of living. To perfect one’s art involves reading writers and studying how they do what they do. But from Miller’s writing, I marvel at his imaginative prose, but I also learn how good writing is not just about technique or even about words. What I take from Henry Miller, in addition to his writing, is the way he lived — curious, passionate engaged in ideas but also with people around him. He cultivated a curiosity about life. This open hearted curiosity and passionately playful exploration of life is what I believe made his writing so rich and lively. Perhaps one way to improve one’s writing, is not to write longer hours or study more books, but like Henry Miller to cultivate curiosity about the real lives of others around you in addition to the fictional lives within you