The Happiest Man Alive Essay - Critical Essays

Mary Dearborn

The Happiest Man Alive

Ever since the publication of TROPIC OF CANCER in Paris in 1934, Henry Miller has been an almost mythic figure in American letters, his work often unavailable and reviled while the legend of his life—five wives, wild antics, outrageous ideas—fascinated an international audience. Now, in Miller’s centennial year, Mary Dearborn’s information-laden biography has joined other books, articles, and the controversial film HENRY AND JUNE, probing the legend and attempting to organize and interpret the facts of Miller’s extraordinary career.

Because Miller used his own life experiences in a very inventive fashion in his “autobiographical romances” or “auto-novels,” every serious commentator and critic approaching Miller’s work has had to determine how Miller arranged, re-created, and embellished the circumstances of his existence. Dearborn has done a very admirable job of organizing the information which her ambitious and extensive research has revealed, taking particular advantage of recent collections of letters by Miller and his friends. Struggling against the faulty memory and self-interest of many of Miller’s acquaintances, she has presented a reasonably thorough and generally fair-minded narration, using Miller’s notes for some of his semifictional books as a check against other people’s recollections. Her psychoanalytic interpretations of the formation of Miller’s mind in his youth are plausible if a bit speculative, and her...

(The entire section is 487 words.)