THE DEVIL AT LARGE by Erica Jong

THE DEVIL AT LARGE

Erica Jong on Henry Miller

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Jong (Any Woman's Blues, 1989, etc.) recalls her friendship with Henry Miller (1891-1980), and writes a critical biography of him and an annotated bibliography of his works. Also included are letters between Miller and Jong and companion pieces they wrote for The New York Times's Op-Ed page, praising each other's spirit. Spirit is the keynote here, with Miller's life force billowing up in quotations from his works and flattening Jong's commentary. Jong is at pains to avoid academicism: ``Since I long ago gave up the Ph.D. program for the life of a professional author, I approach Miller with a writer's rather than a scholar's point of view.'' Too often, though, it's the hand of the academy that speaks: ``Henry was so enthralled by women that he sought to demystify their mysterious parts through the violent verbal magic of his books. The violence is rooted in a sense of self-abnegation and humiliation before them. He is, as the Freudians would say, counterphobic.'' Jong makes many good points, though, showing that, midway through his life, Miller had already written everything of his that would last. Surveying university courses, she finds Miller missing, although she ranks him as America's greatest force of nature since Whitman. And Miller is remembered, Jong thinks, for all the wrong reasons, while his best work (the ``luminous'' and ``transcendental'' The Colossus of Maroussi and certain essays) goes begging for readers. Jong's defense of Miller against charges of anti-Semitism comes off better than her cotton balls against feminists, whom she praises while attacking them, using dated rhetoric (``Millett makes a brilliant case for Henry Miller's autobiographical protagonist as a textbook study of patriarchal attitudes, but she fails to go farther, to explore the source of those attitudes, namely the male terror and envy of female power''). Backfire brains markswoman, but not fatally.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-394-58498-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993




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