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Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,903 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Whence Henry Miller's title for this, one of his most appealing books; first published in 1957, it tells the story of Miller's life on the Big Sur, a section of California coast where he lived for fifteen years.

Big Sur is the portrait of a place one of the most colorful in the U.S. and of the extraordinary people Miller knew there: writers (and writers who didn't write), m
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 17th 1957 by New Directions (first published 1957)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  2,903 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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Glenn Russell

Back in my 30s, I read and reread Henry Miller's Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. The insights tumble forth as Henry reflects on his rustic life along the California coast and what it means to be human. Of course, for Henry, one key to our very human life revolves around art - and that's art as in things like writing and painting and music.

Here's one quote that popped out:

"Men are not suffering from the lack of good literature, good art, good theater, good music, but from that which
After Greece, Miller's years in the wilderness of Big Sur.
Henry Miller's story has been a pendant, and an "application" of several ideas sketched out before the war in "The Colossus of Maroussi".
Settled rudimentarily in 1940, on his return From Greece, on the wild coast of Big Sur in California, a narrow strip of barren and magnificent land lodged between cliffs and mountains, clearly away from "civilization", he leads a life there. Simple, austere, often challenging, all exceptional in certain
Lynne King
Just an excellent and happy feel book about Henry Miller's life in the US, his philosophical views on life, writing, visitors galore (many with presents), family and friends, etc.

I have most of his books but I definitely prefer this and also "The Colossus of Maroussi". With these two books one is able to enter into the soul of the man. Very enticing indeed...

This book has been added to my "favourites" book-case at home to join all the books of his friends Lawrence Durrell and Anais Nin.
Jun 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: henry-miller
It was good to get to know Henry Miller from the other side: as a caring friend, unhappy husband, loving father, lacking time and proper conditions to create artist, nature lover. A person who doesn't stop to dream, to grow, to believe in life and man's ability to overcome everything by himself no matter what...

At dawn its majesty is almost painful to behold. That same prehistoric look. The look of always. Nature smiling at herself in the mirror of eternity.
Surely every one realizes, at some p
Susanna-Cole King
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, literature
Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch is delicious! At a paragraph in, my veins were already tingling, at a page in, it was a masterpiece. And I’ve already, albeit inwardly, elected him my beloved godfather of literature and magnificent storytelling, his words warm with a sense of home, of comforting familiarity, and all the same, doling out wallops of wisdom and revolutionary thoughts.
May 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Henry Miller is not easy to read. If you intend to grok the jumbled thoughts and messages in Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, you need to find some sun, quiet, and solitude - and prepare to re-read whole pages if your attention lapses.

This book is fundamentally similar to Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Both are stream-of-consciousness narratives with the air of a self-eulogy by the author. Both make use of very graphic, descriptive language (although Hemingway uses his rare adjective
Nick Craske
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Henry, in his pyjamas and beneath the canopy of the firmament or graced below the Californian solar rays, writes this memoir of his past, and unfolding life in Big Sur, with a generosity of spirit, soul and a vitality for living. This book seems shamanistic and cosmic to this earthly ex-London-city-dweller.

Having recently experienced the sensations and revelations of leaving the city, to live here in the Peak District hills(as I write this in bed supping a hot coffee I can take in the panorama
Henry Miller, long after Paris, contemplating life, conjuring wisdom, but still asking the big questions. A worthwhile read for Miller fans and one of my favorites.
Christian Layow
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was fabulous. It's not your usual memoir reading. It rambles and diverges and surfs the content of his life in that Henry Miller kind of way. It took him awhile to perfect his style starting with the Tropic of Cancer. At least for me. With all its free association prose and occasional wild sexual language, the Tropic of Cancer can be tough to follow. But by the time he wrote Big Sur he'd made writing seem rather effortless. His thoughts and his pen seem to be one and the same. It' ...more
Майя Ставитская
The world spread out at his feet, and glory opened affectionate arms, which did not mean solving all financial problems, but it was enough for a house in California Big Sur, where he could settle in solitude, so that in the bosom of nature to reflect on the vanity of existence and all that - in general, it was enough.

About solitude, mainly, a figure of speech, because life with children and a wife, thirty years younger than himself, did not initially assume it, and the frenzied popularity that
Kent Winward
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I first purchased this book at the Henry Miller library in the 1990s. I finally finished reading it and I realized that this version of Henry Miller, the 45 year old living in Big Sur with his wife and child, is a different version of the 1930's Paris Miller, but still Henry Miller. This is the strength of the book for me, because for all the censorship and controversy around Miller's Tropic books, he always had a certain world outlook that remains fairly consistent throughout his writing. His p ...more
Jacqueline Burns-Walters
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some of the finest writing I've ever had the pleasure to read.
Love Henry Miller.
Chris Woollet
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books. This was my introduction to Henry Miller and so far my favorite. By this point in his life he had figured life out so to speak. He understood what is important and how to live a peaceful enjoyable life. A stark contrast from his early yearly of ramble rousing. Perhaps it took just that in his early life along with the misery of city life to bring him to this understanding and appreciation for the "good life" in Big Sur. And when reading this book, I kept finding myself ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I hadn't read any Miller before this, but this was a solid introduction to his writing and philosophy. Miller captures all the beauty of California/Big Sur culture (dedicated to ideals of individuality, self-determination, nonconformity, non-materialism, etc... a pure form of the "Beat" ethos, if you will), while making a case for art in one's life. The story, filled with invective against modern American culture, is still entertaining (the characters that live in Big Sur!), and always with an e ...more
Leile Brittan
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Henry, you old rascal, you finally figured out the whole deal. If this is what it's like to get old, I'm not scared at all. Helluva nice little collection here. Always merry and bright!

You've helped me figure it out, time and time again. Right now I'm in my thirties so I'm kinda on that "Tropic" and "Rosy Crucifixion" mode. But the "Big Sur" stage is something I now look forward to, should I be lucky enough to make my way there. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In my best moments I'm
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kay by: it made itself available to me
A favorite. I think it may have been the time of year- being trapped in a coffee shop, being called a barista- one who spent all of her tips on the used books- shelved three feet from the tip jar itself- but once again, a favorite.
There is this part- Miller's wife leaves him and takes the children- he is lost. In reading those lines- I first considered my fathers heart. It was the first time it seemed to me a possibility that he might be lonely.
This was big- obviously. And so was big sur- only
James The reading worm  McKean
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is 0 sex in this
Wray F
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you want to get to know the real Henry Miller, this is probably your book. Lacking the shocks of his TROPICS and ROSY CRUCIFICTION series, this is the fifty-something author at home taking it easy and pondering the world around him. Unlike the also autobiographical COLOSSUS OF MAROUSSI, where Miller acts like an American tourist who's never left the states and spends the novel gushing about everything Greek, here he stays put and takes in visitors, answers his correspondance, paints his water ...more
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book, about Henry Miller's life at Big Sur, is a mixed bag. Some of the character sketches are very good, and some are not at all. When Miller wrote about his benefactor Jean Wharton, for instance, I nearly put down the book because of how barf-y and supplicating it was. Miller is always good for a few poignant thoughts though, and consistently does a great job when raking someone over the coals.

Here was one passage I underlined:

"The most difficult thing to adjust to, apparently, is peace a
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves passion over form.
I love Henry Miller. Not a disciplined writer, but the gusto with which he approached life is transfered onto the page and is always invigorating. This is possibly the most spiritual of his books. It his him reflecting and being as still as he could be, rather than throwing himself at situations and people. But even when he's still, he is still with the same passion as when he is in motion. Tropic of Capricorn is my favorite book of him in motion (young), this is my favorite book of him being st ...more
Arthur Hoyle
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A tribute and love letter to the remote coastal outpost where Miller settled after his return from Europe. He found there a landscape and community that retained for him the promise of America that he felt had been unfulfilled in much of the country. In addition to portraits of his Big Sur neighbors and descriptions of the area's natural wonders, the book contains an often hilarious account of a disastrous visit from Miller's Swiss born astrologer Conrad Moricand that was also published separate ...more
Spencer Scott
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I wrote a sort of review that will be easier to link to than to paste here. The full review can be found here: http://www.passionanduncertainty.com/...

A book loaded with wisdom, introspection, hypocrisy, and vivid, personal anecdotes. Henry Miller comes through as an outstandingly honest human with a warm heart, a deep intelligence, and a searching soul. What I take away from this book is that Miller strives for peace and arguably achieves it by being unashamedly honest with himself and with the
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was the first book of Henry Miller's that I have read (kind of the only one so far), and it made me really appreciate him as a person and as an artist. It is basically written in journal format during the time in his life when he was living in Big Sur (I believe around the time of WWII). Often times I don't care for people's diaristic writing, but Miller is an exception, as is Anais Nin. Reading Henry and June was what finally got me to read anything at all by Henry Miller. ...more
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it

“I came to join the cult of sex and anarchy,” he said, quietly and evenly, as if he were talking about toast and coffee. I told him there was no such colony.” And that's pretty much the only mention about sex in the entire book. So if you're expecting 404 pages of Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Quiet Days in Clichy “sex and anarchy” from Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, you're going to be just as disappointed as Ralph – the starry eyed young man with dreams of becoming a writ
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Yes, Big Sur is the feel-good cousin of The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. I haven't read the latter as of yet, only paged through it once or twice vibing on the hate. While TACN is the tart travelogue Miller angrily dashed off after his forced repatriation to the United States, BS, by contrast, is the joyous, years-later homage to the place he ended up.

The book is stitched together from various recollections and false starts and nuggets of previously published work, and were it not for Hank's infam
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite books, full of wisdom of place and people and art. And if you've ever experienced the dramatic beauty of Big Sur-unlike any place on earth that I know of-you'll find this captures some of the mystery of the place.

Two warnings, though: near the beginning, there is a boring section where he seems to endlessly talk about his daily chores: a snooze, skim it and get to the good stuff. Second , the last third of the book is a character study of a friend who turns out to be a pedophi
Allison Floyd
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
For the most part, I skimmed this book, the way you might drop in and out of the rambling soliloquy of a long-winded individual who's sufficiently compelling to hold your interest in parts, but sometimes you just need to come up for air. The exception is the third section, Paradise Lost, which I read more or less in its entirety, since it cast the riveting spell of a train wreck. But then, I'm a sucker for dazzling undertows and Moricand sure fits the bill. Really, this is the section that made ...more
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people going to Big Sur, Henry Miller fans
So-so, though I'm not much of a Henry Miller fan. There's some generous and pleasant accounts of the land and people of Big Sur (some great pull quotes for tourist brochures). But the better part of this book is given over to Miller's philosophical musings, which are here meandering, muddled and silly. And boring. ...more
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-books
I could not get into this book. Miller just comes across as a womanizing, pompus ass. I was supposed to read this in a class about writing that looks at writers perspectives on writing. Miller was a poor example in my opinion. He seemed more concerned with name dropping and telling personal tales that fueled his own ego and than actually delivering a good piece of advice or story.
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Re-read, 02/2021: Just as good the second time around.

There are few writers on the planet who can communicate the absolute joy of being alive better than Henry Miller. The disjointed fragments in this book do that well, grounding Miller's joy in the tranquil surroundings of Big Sur. This book is just as fantastic as his major works.
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Henry Miller sought to reestablish the freedom to live without the conventional restraints of civilization. His books are potpourris of sexual description, quasi-philosophical speculation, reflection on literature and society, surrealistic imaginings, and autobiographical incident.

After living in Paris in the 1930s, he returned to the United States and settled in Big Sur, California. Miller's fir

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“If we are always arriving and departing, it is also
true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination
is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”
“Whoever uses the spirit that is in him creatively is an artist.
To make living itself an art, that is the goal.”
More quotes…