Begun in the Thirties (upon the urgings of Miller's Paris publisher, who thought a work of criticism might cement the serious-artist reputation of "pornographer" Miller) and worked on fitfully thereafter until finally abandoned, this paean to D. H. Lawrence is a passionate mess—a surge of homage to the one modern artist whom the young Miller saw as being an "Apostle of Day" as opposed to such "slaves of Night" as Proust and Joyce (and their art-above-life esthetic). Thanks to Lawrence, a new underground artist "among the Chthonian forces, in the unconscious strata of life" will emerge—and Miller despises the "rounded view" of Lawrence that would criticize his failures; for uncritical HM, even failed Lawrence is good. Moreover, Miller's whole argument is heavily swagged with dated intellectual fashion (mostly Spenglerian), and—for all his energy—he'll impress no one as a profound thinker. But certain stresses are interesting here, less for what they say about Lawrence than for what they give us of Miller. For instance, there's the place of women in "the crisis of consciousness"—a central concern for both Lawrence and Miller. (When HM refers to Mabel Dodge Luhan it is always as "that woman," thus re-raising the whole can of worms that Kate Millett first opened re Miller's misogyny.) And when Miller isn't chuffing over "the sacral quality of life itself. . . the true effort of man to restore the pure symbols which are vitiated through culture," he occasionally gets in a piquancy: "In Swift and Rabelais. . . one smells the 'dithyrambic chorus'; it is that note of sublime comedy which gives us the illusion of the demonic." Little, then, for serious students of Lawrence (whose worst or most cracked books—Aaron's Rod, Fantasia of the Unconscious—HM truly loves). But adventurous readers will find engaging kernels here: the fuel pellets that keep the Miller engine anxiously going, afraid to stop, piling page upon page to convince someone or other—probably himself.
Read full book review >