DEAR, DEAR BRENDA: The Love Letters of Henry Miller to Brenda Venus by Brenda & Henry Miller Venus

DEAR, DEAR BRENDA: The Love Letters of Henry Miller to Brenda Venus

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From 1976 until his death in 1980, Miller--ailing, nearly 90, and living in Hollywood--exchanged letters with an aspiring actress bearing the improbable name of Brenda Venus. Although a tinsel-town aura pervades this selection from their correspondence, this raunchy, exuberant, occasionally moving volume does provide an oddly appropriate coda to the life of that ardent, talented opportunist. The letters disclose that, despite extremely advanced age and poor health, Miller maintained a varied social life: his acquaintances included such surprises as Lorenzo Music (""Carlton, your doorman"" on Rhoda) and astrologer Sidney Omarr. Brenda and Henry exchanged notes as often as four times daily; his range from the self-mockingly amorous (awaiting their first meeting, he writes: ""What erogenous zones I have left are quivering in anticipation"") to the fussily avuncular (he corrects her spelling and criticizes her penmanship). Miller offers much pithy advice on Brenda's romantic and business dilemmas: ""Too bad there [are] no portraits of you by Bonnard, Renoir, Dubuffet, Braque, or Picasso. Only sit for the Masters! Only sleep with the Masters! Eat and drink with the nobodies or the somebodies, but no more.""The book's frequently scatological content will not surprise readers familiar with Miller's fiction, or even with his reputation. As for Brenda herself, she seems a good sort. Though her own remarks are far triter than those of the Master whose last days she enlivened, she is habitually generous, writing that to her Miller always seemed more like a man in his 50s than like one approaching 90. (On the other hand, would anyone under 90 think to flatter a girl in her 20s by comparing her to Eleanora Duse?) By turns nagging, courtly, effusive, and uproariously horny, Miller's letters to Brenda disclose a mind that was, to the end, admirably clear and undaunted. As this epistolary courtship shows, he never gave up on Possibility. And while Ms. Venus may well be something of an opportunist (think of the talk show exposure and this book's $50,000 publicity budget), it seems equally certain that she was indeed something of a Muse--or necessary Angel--to Miller in his last five years. Taking Venus as his final compliant accomplice, Henry Miller was able to sustain until the end his uniquely tragicomic, perverse, gallant, goatish vision. Good for Brenda!

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1985
Publisher: Morrow