chapter  2
33 Pages

Brooklyn Dawn

Before Henry Miller exploded on to the Parisian literary scene with his exuberant, sprawling narratives of spiral form, he periodically marked his textual and historical lives with suicidal proclivities, mock or otherwise. In the above offhand comments in a letter to his friend Emil Schnellock-written before Miller commenced Tropic of Cancer-Miller, while probably jesting, betrays the deep anguish that he felt regarding both his deteriorating relationship with his second wife, June, and his hitherto failure as an artist. Indeed, Miller later told George Wickes that “in America I was in danger of going mad, or committing suicide. I felt completely isolated” (1994d: 54). Miller desperately wanted both to come to terms with June and to publish a novel, but he lacked the methods by which to achieve either end. Eventually, through months of separation-and an affair with Anaïs Nin-Miller girded himself against what he perceived as June’s outlandish and cruel behavior, and, after he abandoned third-person narration because of two herculean efforts at writing a book, consequently discovered spiral form and the textual I. In these two obviously flawed efforts, Moloch; or, This Gentile World and Crazy Cock, not published until over a decade after Miller’s death, Miller reveals-regardless of his objections that he could “find nothing of myself in them”—his “apprenticeship to signs” and provides a glimpse into how the aesthetic of spiral form came into existence (1972: 12).