Friday, August 14, 2009

Wisdom of the Heart

Henry Miller often provokes many emotions in people. Depending on the book or books that they have read. I've always loved his collection of essays, "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird". So, I couldn't wait to finally get my hands on a copy of this book, "Wisdom of the Heart".

The first three essays in the book were quite good and got me hooked. Essentially they were about his philosophy that you must lose something of yourself to find something. To embrace the pain to find the pleasure. Right on track on his writing of my other favorite book from him.

Unfortunately after those brilliant essays, he turned back into that angry man who I met briefly in "Tropic of Cancer". That was a book I really couldn't get into. After a while the anger took over and it was hard to read the philosophy in what he was trying to say. All you felt was anger. So, needless to say I became quickly disenchanted with several of the essays after, "Reflections on Writing". I was hoping it wasn't the only 3 essays that I would like. So, with trepidation, I kept reading. 

He finally got back to the writing I've come to really like when I read, "Into the Future". He was back to speculating on artistic life by comparing DH Lawrence's concept of the Holy Ghost with those in history that personify it. It basically asks the question that do artists have to suffer for their art? Is it a necessity? Although Miller seems to have answered it to his satisfaction, I'm not sure he has done so to my satisfaction but I did enjoy his journey into the question.

In the end he explores Balzac and what he considers to be one of his pinnacle works. His essays just didn't have the same flair and philosophy I had come to expect from Miller. Still, he comes off with the philosophy that an artist must suffer for his work and then overcome that suffering to surpass even his own ego. I'm not sure I buy that, but it is an interesting philosophy.

In the end, I did not enjoy this essay book as I had with "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird" which is still one of my all time favorite books. His anger in "The Wisdom of the Heart" is very obvious and the book doesn't seem to string the essays in a cohesive way as my favorite book. I'm disappointed, but still have my favorite on my keeper shelf.

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