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Really enjoyed this book. I have given it five stars overall mostly because this book fills a significant gap in the literature and I don't know of any other like it. Most bios of Miller concentrate heavily on his early life in Brooklyn and Manhattan and the first phase of his career in Paris, when he wrote the three sensational books that made him famous. Understandable enough, but the bulk of his work was composed outside Paris, mostly in Big Sur, from about 1940 to about 1960, and I would argue that these later works are at least equally important, and perhaps even more important, than the earlier works. This biography finally gives this second phase its due. It also tells, in brief, the story of how the Tropics ended up getting published by Grove Press and the trials and tribulations that brought into Miller's life, replacing his previous problem of not-enough-money-ever with the opposite problem of too-much-money-at-once. Miller's final years in Pacific Palisades are summed up in a single chapter, which is also appropriate, since Miller effectively retired from writing in his late 60s, pursued watercolor painting almost exclusively to his death, and led a fairly settled life compared to the previous years.
I gave story four stars because the writing is very slightly repetitive, giving the same information several times as if the chapters were written to be read as stand-alone articles. This might be ideal when consumed over a long period of time, but as it happened I listened to over half this book in one sitting on a sick day, so the repetition of information stood out for me.
As to performance... well. Jonathan Yen is basically a good narrator and is pleasant to listen to. However, I have to deduct one star for his terrible pronunciation of French and German names. When correct or half-correct, it seems accidental, as if he's had zero real exposure to those languages and just made it up on first sight and stuck with his first notion. There is really no excuse for this -- in this day and age he could have called up advice on every term on YouTube, in the studio itself, before proceeding with the narration. What makes it even 'better' is that he sets off these badly-pronounced words and names with a pause and a sense of moment. It was bearable mostly because his pronunciation is so far off the mark that it was actually hilarious. I mean, who manages to mispronounce 'Proust'? And if you're going to narrate a book about Henry Miller, the least you can do, the *very least*, is ensure that you are pronouncing the name 'Anais' correctly. (Here's a hint: it DOESN'T end with a 'z'!) Passages about particular authors, especially the ones on Rimbaud and Cendrars, repeated those names so many times that I was in absolute stitches listening to his portentous mispronunciation over and over again. Certain European cities come up a few times later on and, for example, it took me a little while to realize he was talking about *Laussane* after its first mention.
That said, it really is a good reading despite that particular bit of silliness and if you can have a sense of humor about it, I do recommend this book overall on all counts.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A pleasant surprise, to enjoy the rebellious and insightful spiritual searchings and life path of Henry Miller after having visited the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, this was especially enjoyable.