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The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller
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The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  227 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The book begins with a question: Why Henry Miller? "Miller remains among the most misunderstood of writers - seen either as a pornographer or a guru, a sexual enslaver or a sexual liberator, a prophet or a pervert. All the questions his life and oeuvre raise about the role of the writer in society, the impact of books on sexual politics, the impact of sexual politics on bo ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 18th 2001 by Vintage UK (first published 1993)
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Most of what Erica Jong, author of the controversial '70s novel Fear of Flying, is saying in The Devil at Large can be summed up as follows: "If we have trouble categorizing Miller's 'novels' and consequently underrate them, it is because we judge them according to some unspoken notion of 'the well-wrought novel.' And Miller's novels seem not wrought at all. In fact, they are rants -- undisciplined and wild. But they are full of wisdom, and they have that 'eternal and irrepressible freshness' Ez ...more
This is going to be short. Thanks to Erica Jong, I went out and bought a second hand copy of Henry Miller's The Wisdom of the Heart, and I plan on spending the rest of my day reading it. After that, I may dust off The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and give them a second go-around, as well.

So, without going into detail, let me just say, The Devil at Large is the first piece of non-fiction I've read in years, but Jong's 1993 gonzo-biography of the larger than life, (pornographer? mystic?) Henry
I've always loved the Henry Miller and when I discovered that a woman I consider to be pretty goddamn fierce took on the man often (mis-)labeled "misogynist" I had to read it.

From the jacket:

"Biography, memoir, critical study, The Devil At Large captures the exuberance, audacity and energy that defined Miller's life and art...Jong has taken advantage of her intimacy with her subject to impart a deeper understanding of a life that's been mythologized, dramatized, and cannibalized." --Fodder (The
Joshua Buhs
I'm not sure what I think of this book.

I don't usually like biography as a genre: the author is under too much pressure to include everything, simply because it happened. The span of a life is not always the most interesting story. Jong avoids that problem here. She offers an abbreviated biography of Henry Miller, based on published material and her own interactions with him. The brevity serves her well, and she is able to distill Miller's essence nicely. As is the wont in current scholarship--a
Olivier Goetgeluck
"Most people are not free. Freedom, in fact, frightens them. They follow patterns set for them by their parents, enforced by society, by their fears of 'they say' and 'what will they think?' and a constant inner dialogue that weighs duty against desire and pronounces duty the winner."

"First we must see the problem inside ourselves; then we must see it in society; then we must fight to change it."

"Honesty is the beginning of all transformation."

"In 5 minutes some men have lived out the span of an
Not so long ago I read about this book on the net and was thinking I should read it, only to discover that I referred to it in some detail in a monograph I wrote in the mid-nineties. Oh, so I'd read it; probably, I imagine, even owned a copy; wrote about it...and yet it would seem to be a most forgettable book.

I have this idea I keep giving Jong's books too many stars.
I read this in the 90s when everyone was screaming about sexual harassment and sexual politics in general. This was a welcome relief from all that and enlightening too. The unlikely correspondence between these writers is refreshing as you see that it's the inner qualities that connect people, not the biological ones.
Apr 29, 2007 Finbar rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Miller fans
For all those out there that think Miller is just a mysoginst playboy, here is one of 2nd wave feminism's strongest voices presenting a new perspective. I really enjoyed this perspective on HM and his life.
Arthur Hoyle
A feminist defends Miller against the charge of misogyny. An antidote to Kate Millet's Sexual Politics, which attacked Miller.
Layne Mosler
An honest, fair, insightful look at one of the most misconstrued writers in the US from the perspective of a strong, self-aware woman. The book falters when she tries to push her own agenda and is at its best when Jong takes a stab at the root causes of Henry Miller's odd relationships with women.
Books like Henry Miller’s scandalous Tropic of Cancer made it possible for Erica Jong to publish her racy Fear of Flying in 1973. Here Jong explores the life of a literary giant who, like her, was vilified for the candid sexuality in his work.
Olivia Olson
Love the treatment of Henry Miller's writing and persona, but Jong's dismal prophesies about the new world of writers and readers is rather embarrassing and certainly presumptuous. She writes that the current generation of writers is tepid and afraid to write the truth, holding up her (and Miller's, but mostly her) generation as a sterling example of a dying breed of honest writers and accepting readers, overlooking the fact that Miller's works were largely banned and therefore unavailable to re ...more
Mark Nixon
Henry Miller and Erica Jong both have affected me deeply, and I was very happy to read this book and understand why. They saw in each other's writing what I saw.
This is a one-of-a-kind kind of book on the writer Henry Miller - it is part biography over Miller, part literature analysis of the role he has played, but also what has happened after him, and part a description of Jong's own relationship with him (as friends, admirers and writing colleagues). What comes out is a picture of a complicated man, that you can both love and hate (even at the same time), and it all adds up to quite an interesting read. You don't have to love Miller's books to read th ...more
Steven Spector
Erica Jong meets Henry Miller. No, it's not a horror film. On the contrary it's a wonderful book of sharing and discovery by two people from very different literary worlds. To be read before any Henry Miller biography!
Enjoyed the discussion of Miller's work and the ways it can relate to another writer's view, but Jong writes too much about herself here--in the vein of vain, not enough about Miller as about Jong.
Apr 22, 2009 Julia added it
I've finally realized that Erica Jong is a narcissist. The book was supposed to be about Henry Miller, but it ended up being about Erica Jong.
Jan 29, 2009 Grant&Mimi marked it as to-read
Erica on Henry, this ought to be very good, curious what she has to say about Anais!!!
Jim Wayland
I feel about Erica Jong pretty much the same way Erica Jong feels about Henry Miller.
Bruce Morse
A thoughtful and passionate discussion of the battle of the sexes.
Nayanika Bhatia
This book unlocked a whole new world for me.
David Schilling
Wonderful book and a fun and easy read.
Interesting, informative, and insightful. I walked away satisfied on many levels. Read it more like a reference book than a story.
David Brown
Review forthcoming
Lidia marked it as to-read
Dec 07, 2014
Heather C.
Heather C. marked it as to-read
Dec 04, 2014
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Erica Jong—novelist, poet, and essayist—has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 21 books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, and the New Yor ...more
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