Miller (“I have nothing to do with the hippies and the beatniks”) on a night in Sept, 1967: bummed, sheepish, modest, pessimistic, total party-killer

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Miller is known for his bravado and his contagious optimism, which is why I like him. He rarely slinked into those Doestoyevsky-shaped holes of existential angst – the depressed artist, is, after all, a common trope – and instead embraced life with a spry vivaciousness.

But not always.

That's Range of Light Wilderness

Take this article from the Guardian, which re-published a piece from 1967 about an art gallery for Miller in Paris. Throughout the evening, Miller seemed, well, a bit off and defensive. Moping around and surly. Strangest yet, he didn’t really feel like talking.

Here’s some of the Q&A at the time:

Q: What was your influence on American writers?’
A: “I wasn’t liked. It’s a bad influence, perhaps.”

Q: Perhaps you’re a monstre sacré.

A: “Perhaps I’m a monstre sacré.”

Q: Do you think so?
A:”I don’t think anything.”

Q:It’s been suggested that without you there would be no flower children.
A: I don’t know what I’m responsible for. I have nothing to do with the hippies and the beatniks. [Ed - he's write about that]They came about, but I don’t know how or why… I don’t see any connection between my life and the hippies. I’m not concerned with what other people do.

I espouse no ideology or group. I oppose the whole structure of society. And it will end before the century is out, though I don’t know what form this end will take. It may be war. Our society’s not viable. Aren’t we in the midst of chaos? Did you ever see the world in worse condition than today?*

Q: A last question, Mr Miller: what are you hoping for?
A: “Nothing.”

Jeeze someone get this guy a cocktail!

* That quote in particular is both inaccurate – society didn’t end at the end of the century – and myopically histrionic. “Did you ever see the world in worse condition than today?” he asks in 1967. Heellllllloo! World War I? The Plague? World War II? Someone get this guy a cocktail.

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  • Paul Herron

    It seems Henry could always find the phoniness in his interviewers, and when he did, he became insupportable, as the French would put it. Perhaps he did so here; there’s no way to know without the proper context, but obviously he’s at his grumpy best.

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