‘On The Ovarian Trolley’ With Henry Miller At Big Sur

Henry Miller Library

On The Ovarian Trolley

I woke up one morning in the mid 1970’s and found myself living in an old abandoned ranger’s shack high up in the Shasta Trinity National Forest. I was alone. The closest village was more than an hour away. I was approaching my thirty-third birthday. And I realized that I had no job, no money, no skills, no future, nothing. At the top of that mountain I came face to face with the screaming shambles that my life had become.

In what can only be described as some kind of blind reflexive gesture, perhaps akin to that of the frightened creature who frantically begins to gnaw at the useless leg in the steel trap, I pulled out a notebook and began to sketch the meager contours of my life. Not that I had any idea how to make sense out of what I was writing. I simply had to try to articulate the existential howl that had me by the throat.

That sounds rather melodramatic this day and age. Anxiety, Despair, Angst, Nothingness, Freedom, Authenticity, the Self – such existential concerns have been relegated to the status of mere categories, philosophical concepts/intellectual abstractions devoid of the authority of the lived experience. But the extremity of my felt-predicament was to me, back then, anything but a worn-out cliché.

I mention this because it was just at this time that someone put into my hands a copy of Tropic of Capricorn. Until that moment, I confess, I had never even heard of Henry Miller. But from the very first sentence it was obvious that I was in the presence of a kindred spirit. As he himself says of his discovery of Dostoevsky, the clock literally stopped dead in its tracks. Nothing could ever be quite the same again. I read and I reread and I copied out page after page of quotes that seemed to speak to no one else but me.

Why? What was it that so immediately attracted me to Henry Miller? I suppose it was the mutual conviction that…

Painful to read, yes.  That’s often the case with one’s early prose, when a writer is still struggling to find his voice.  But imagine my surprise when I found these very words, bloated as they may be, stashed away in the Memorial Library of one of America’s greatest writers!

That’s because back in 1994 they were actually published in a book of tributes to Henry Miller.

So, while driving up the Pacific Coast Highway a day or so ago I couldn’t resist the urge to stop in and see Henry Miller’s Memorial Library at Big Sur.  Don’t let the high-falutin’ name fool you.  It’s a shack, wonderfully kitsch, the kind of place, the sign on the gate says, “where nothing happens.”

Henry Miller Library, Big Sur

You walk in and there’s no one there.

Henry Miller LibrarySo I made myself at home.

Henry Miller LibraryHenry Miller LibraryHenry Miller LibraryFittingly, perhaps, my words were nowhere to be found at a glance.  But back in the musty archives was a fat tome (677 pages) edited by Craig Peter Standish, Henry Miller: A Book of Tributes, 1931-1994.  Inside, p.428-437, is my essay, “On The Ovarian Trolley.”

henry miller book of tributes

Perhaps more incredible is the company I am privileged to keep in this book.  My meager words are shamelessly perched right alongside those penned by such notables as – to name just a few – John Lennon, Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Anais Nin, and William Carlos Williams.

Way cool, huh!  I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this to anyone else before.

As long as I am bragging I may as well cite one more book in the Henry Miller Library where my name can be found.  The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller, by Mary Dearborn.

henry miller booksWhy, pray tell, would I be in Mary Dearborn’s 1991 centennial biography of Miller?  Mary’s a Ph.D from Columbia University and 23 years ago when she was writing her book we corresponded a few times.  I sent her my Master’s Thesis on Miller.  (Which, I forgot to mention, is also on file, the Thesis is, in the archives of the Henry Miller Library.)  She was kind enough to include my name in the credits in the back pages of “The Happiest Man Alive.”

I say ‘kind enough’ but truth be known, she sandwiched me in (alphabetically) right smack between Allen Ginsburg & Erica Jong.

😦 😦 😦  OUCH!  🙂 🙂 🙂


“The Happiest Man Alive.” New Letters Review of Books Spring, 1992: 7.

Book review of The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller, published [as “Banking on Henry”] in “New Letters Review of Books.” [April, 1992; 1 page]

“On the Ovarian Trolley.” Henry Miller: A Book of Tributes, 1931 1994. Orlando: Standish Books, 1994, 428-437.

Article published in Henry Miller: A Book of Tributes, 1931 1994, along with companion pieces by John Lennon, Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Anais Nin, William Carlos Williams. [November, 1994; 10 pages]

“The Gospel According to Henry Miller.” MORE! 1944-1996 (The Companion Volume to HENRY MILLER: A BOOK OF TRIBUTES, 1931-1994). Orlando: Standish Books, 1997, 51.

Letter to Craig Peter Standish published in the “Quotes from the Mail Bag” section of MORE! 1944 1996 (The Companion Volume to HENRY MILLER: A BOOK OF TRIBUTES, 1931 1994). [May, 1997; 1 page]

“The Feel of Tits That Stand Up By Themselves.” MORE! 1944-1996 (The Companion Volume to HENRY MILLER: A BOOK OF TRIBUTES, 1931-1994). Orlando: Standish Books, 1997, 629-630.

Lyrical essay [originally titled “That Sweet Little Stink”] paying tribute to Henry Miller, published [along with companion pieces by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Kenneth Rexroth, Georges Simenon & Steve Allen] in the “Critical Responses” section of MORE! 1944 1996 (The Companion Volume to HENRY MILLER: A BOOK OF TRIBUTES, 1931 1994). [May, 1997; 2 pages]

Craig Peter Standish watercolorUntitled watercolor by Craig Peter Standish.  Gift to oopsjohn, 1997.

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