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I finally went there to see it: the house in Pacific Palisades, California, where Henry Miller spent the last 20 years of his life. Miller died on June 7, 1980; I believe he died in that house. It is a typical upper-middle-class American house (or at least it was when Miller lived there.) It is now for sale for almost 5 million dollars. When I walked around, there was no plaque, sign or other visible reference to Miller; there is a plaque on the front of the apartment he shared in the Paris suburb of Clichy, about which he wrote Quiet Days in Clichy.
Living in California, I've been meaning to see 444 Ocampo Drive for years, and I finally took the opportunity after a visit to the Getty Museum. The traffic was only moving in one direction: towards the ocean; and Pacific Palisades is on the ocean. When Henry wasn't too sick, he must have walked to the town beach south of Malibu, which is not far off, but the house does not overlook the Pacific like his Big Sur cottage did.
In 1960, a battered and exhausted Henry had finally left Big Sur, where he had held court, wrote, painted watercolors, raised two children with wife Lepska, and then survived more marriages. In Big Sur, he had lived high on a bluff over the Pacific, surrounded by friends and relishing the isolation which had brought about a reconciliation with his native country, the United States of America. He had once loved Brooklyn, where he grew up, but became an expatriate in Europe during the Great Depression, a decade after Hemingway, the Steins, and the other more famous expats had their heyday.
In Pacific Palisades Miller entertained many visitors, had an unconsummated marriage, painted, but wrote little. His novel, which I consider his best (but critics think otherwise), Tropic of Cancer (1936), was 34 years behind him when he left Big Sur. Twinka, daughter of California painter Wayne Thibaud, stayed with him at 444 Ocampo Drive and later wrote her Reflections. They say (and he said) that Miller was "always merry and bright," and I would like to believe that he was until the end.
Photo Credits: Photographs and Monoprint by Jonathan David Leavitt. Comics-style art by Jonathan David Leavitt.Permanent Link to This Entry | | | Technorati Tag: HenryMiller blog comments powered by Disqus Comments (View)
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