Friday, January 16, 2009

Big Sur Laureate

Henry Miller helped make Big Sur famous in the 1940s and '50s, turning out novels that challenged literary norms, plus thousands of watercolor paintings. Miller was well established before he found Big Sur in 1942, largely because of his Tropic of Cancer, which sold millions of copies even though it was banned 30 years for its graphic content. Miller wrote it in 1934 while living in Paris. He was 51 when he explored California's artist colonies, including Carmel, and decided to settle on the remote Partington Ridge in Big Sur. He explained later in Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch: "It is my belief that the immature artist seldom thrives in idyllic surroundings. If an art colony is established here it will go the way of all the others. Artists never thrive in colonies. Ants do." Ironically perhaps given the nature of some of his writing, Miller was so inspired by Big Sur that he invoked divinity to describe it: "This is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked out on from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the Earth as the Creator intended it to look."

(Photo: Partington Ridge in Bug Sur courtesy of ekai)

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