We admit: the Henry Miller Library is a somewhat confusing place.
Heck, we’re not even a library! (See below)
This is how we like it. As its namesake famously said, “Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.”
That said, extreme confusion can be a bad thing, especially if you’re spending hard-earned money to travel to Big Sur where—and this is coming from a place of love and understanding—it can be difficult to determine which way is north. (1)
Therefore, the goal of this document is two-fold: Answer the most frequently asked questions (FAQs), while simultaneously sprinkling in enough non-sequiturs and snarky semantic cul-de-sacs—to facilitate this, this document contains footnotes!—to keep the waters sufficiently muddied such that when you arrive, you still have plenty of questions.
Is the Henry Miller Library a library?
If you mean a lending library—like your neighborhood public library—then no, it is not. The books here are for sale.
Semantically speaking, this checks out (2). A library can be defined as “a collection of manuscripts, publications, and other materials for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference (3).
Is the Henry Miller Library the former home of the writer Henry Miller?
No. Henry’s best friend, Emil White lived here.
Henry lived five miles south on what’s called Partington Ridge.
Here he is on said ridge, in May of 1950 “with small child.”
It was taken by Mary Randlett and is taken from the University of Washington’s digital collection.
Henry Miller. Didn’t he marry Marilyn Monroe?
A common misconception.
You’re thinking of playwright Arthur Miller, who, as it turns out, was also born in Manhattan and was also a rather controversial fellow.
But no, to quote our good pal Dan Bern, “Marilyn Monroe didn’t marry Henry Miller.” (4)
Hey, is that Henry Miller’s bus out there? Or is it Ken Kesey’s?
Neither. It’s owned by some local “Burners.” (5) What’s more, Henry didn’t drive all that much (6) and Kesey’s bus (“Further”) is still up on his property in Oregon.
Where’s the beach with the purple sand?
Yeah, you’re thinking of Pfeiffer Beach. It’s about four miles north of us, but there’s a catch: There’s no sign on the highway!
So we took the liberty of drawing you a map (7). Check it:
I’m the kind of person who enjoyed homework. (Weird, I know.) Any books I should read before I come to Big Sur?
Yes!! Click here for our suggestions, which includes “Recipes for Living in Big Sur” by the Big Sur Historical Society.
Theo, alas, is meditatively slurping from the Great Gravy Stream in the Sky (8).
Is Theo replaceable?
No! Absolutely not!! Never!!! (Pauses…takes deep breath)
That said…if one were to argue that he was replaceable, a single cat could certainly never replace him. This is what we say when people point to our current cats, Jack (Kerouac) and Alice (in Wonderland).
For future reference: Jack is friendly and effusive one; his sister is pensive and moody (9).
Did all those bands I heard about play there actually play there?
Maybe. It depends on which bands you mean!
Uh….what’s the deal with this video? I don’t understand.
We’ll answer that with the following quote:
“What sustains the artist is the look of love in the eyes of the beholder. Not money, not the right connections, not exhibitions, not flattering reviews”.
– Henry Miller
Anything else I should know?
Yes, in fact, and it involves things like driving Highway 1, fire safety measures, public transit (10) and much more.
We encourage you to visit and to read the Big Sur Visitor Guide.
(1) Here’s an example. A customer says, “How far are we from Esalen?” We respond, “Twelve miles south.” They respond, “That way?” while pointing north. We say, no that way, and point south.
(2) Pun intended!
(3) Let’s say I lived on a 100-acre manor. I’d invite you over for dinner, pour you a glass of Bordeaux, and then I’d say, “Oh hey, wanna check out my library?” And we’d head over to my (personal) library, which, since I’m (for the sake of argument) somewhat affluent, in a Fitzgeraldian sense, is rather impressive, and it has those ladders on wheels so you can climb up several feet to check out books on the tippy-top shelves:
So the Henry Miller Library is kind of like that, semantically speaking.
(5) aka “Burning Men”(11)
(6) Henry’s “Air Conditioned Nightmare” documents his cross-country road trip with painter Abraham Rattner (below) in 1940. Miller wrote to Anaïs Nin that he let Rattner do most of the driving, despite the fact that he considered himself the superior driver (and unwittingly presaging Raymond Babbitt’s iconic catchphrase by a full 40 years).
(7) Map is not to scale, y’all!
(8) aka GGSITS
(9) Or is it the other way around?
(10) If you take mass transit to the Library or carpool (three or more per car — honors system!), you’re entitled to a 25% discount on book purchases!
(11) Kind of a meta-joke since purists would argue they’re properly called “Burners.”