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This review is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

MY USUAL MORNING HIKE Henry Miller, Sextet: Six Essays (John Calder) £7.95

The distinction of a writer is no guarantee of the distinctiveness of his thought, particularly when that writer is a novelist turned in old age to the production of those usually pessimistic effusions which the blurb makers call 'philosophy'. Too often the grand old men of literature turn out to be the gloomy old minnows of sub-Spenglerian reflection. So the heart sinks when one reads on the back of this predictably titled volume that Henry Miller, one of the 'few giant peaks . . . seen emerging through the clouds', the man 'who broke down the walls of hypocrisy, and told his readers what goes on in the erotic imagination is not necessarily shameful or unusual, nor different in kind from thinking about the great questions of human existence . . . has become largely an essayist and philosopher'.

Nor are premonitions of stock old master wisdom utterly groundless. There is a formula or recipe suited to the times and Miller doles out the mixture generously with no more than the average personal variation. A disenchanted enchantment with life, spiced with fashionable gnosticism-'It is hard . . . for me to imagine a world more absurd, more unreal than the one we are living in'-a distrust of ideology and the self-appointed redeemers of mankind, a fear of technology and business 'the heraldic emblem of the modern world', and a nostalgia for the wholeness of being evoked by the Greek word 'Cosmos', are all present in abundance. It ...


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