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"A realm forever beyond reach":
This article appears on Electronic Book Review (22 January 2008). To read the Introduction, click here.
Paper Empire: William Gaddis and the World System
eds. Joseph Tabbi and Rone Shavers
(University of Alabama Press: Spring 2007)
"Preface" to The Astonished Man by Blaise Cendrars
pp-iv (London: Peter Owen, 2004).
Published in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Volume XXIV, No. 1 (Spring 2004), pp. 58-93. Visit dalkeyarchive.com/catalog/show_review/73
"That Crude Mixture": How Theater Gives Shape to Plexus
Published in Nexus: The International Henry
The bulk of criticism devoted to the literary aspects of Henry Miller's fiction usually deals with familiar, and broad, topics: realism, surrealism, imagery, sexual content, and the depiction of characters. Additionally, scholars usually concentrate on Miller's early novels, expressing relatively little interest in his last fictional work, The Rosy Crucifixion, an unfinished trilogy. Miller criticism has ground to make up. This paper attempts to move scholarship forward by rereading one book of the trilogy and showing its previously undiscovered, yet very definite, structure. A careful examination of Plexus, the second book, and Sexus, the first book, reveals the organizing device Miller uses to contain the disparate material in Plexus.
I argue that the form of Plexus is a combination of vaudeville and burlesque. Evidence is plentiful within the text for such an interpretation: the deliberate set pieces, the numerous references to acting, and the narrator's professed fascination with the stage. Significantly, Plexus' form is foreshadowed in the carefully written second last chapter of Sexus.
Plexus, then, is not, as many critics charge, shapeless or uninteresting. Instead, it is a mixture of media, a literary variety show with the narrator in the role of compère. Far from writing in a sloppy manner, or lazily reconstituting memories of his youth, Miller artistically works out a structure that best showcases the variety of performances -- fables, adventures, comic skits, melodrama -- which is his primary material. Until now, Plexus' debt to the theater has been overlooked.
Image courtesy of publisher, copyright owner
Carrollian Nonsense Prose
Published in Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal,
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