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Stand Still Like the Hummingbird

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,143 ratings  ·  59 reviews
One of Henry Miller's most luminous statements of his personal philosophy of life, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, provides a symbolic title for this collection of stories and essays. Many of them have appeared only in foreign magazines while others were printed in small limited editions which have gone out of print.

Miller's genius for comedy is at its best in "Money an
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Paperback, 196 pages
Published June 17th 1962 by New Directions (first published 1959)
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Nick Kirincic
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The closest thing to a Bible I've ever owned, my copy is dog-eared, stained and well traveled. Miller's genius lies in his philosophies, not in his prose - he's an ideas man, and here his ideas are perhaps at their most focused. It is this text that I turn to when I need to be reminded that life is to be enjoyed, even when it does not happen on my terms. ...more
Greg D.
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, H. Miller rookies & vets
Top three books of all time. I can't get enough of this book. I've lent it out so many times and I just keep buying it. Just writing this makes me want to pick it up. ...more
Jay Wilkins
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Better than what I expected. A lot of these essays are just the ramblings of another beatnik who just can't live unless the rest of the world knows how much of a brooding nonconformist he is. But there are a few really good essays in here that make it worth reading, particularly the title essay. ...more
Jim
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, literature
Is Henry Miller famous? Or is he just infamous? Or is he both?

I have just finished reading a book of his essays, reviews, and prefaces entitled Stand Still Like the Hummingbird (1962) and find myself alternately idolizing and deploring the man’s work. Of course, he is probably most famous for his novels featuring S-E-X, especially The Tropic of Cancer (1934). And yet, he can write like a Bodhisattva, as in the essays “The Hour of Man” and “The Immorality of Morality.”

In the latter essay, he wrot
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Frances
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I deeply adored this book. It's the kind of book that I think when I re-read it, I'll discover new things to love. I want to recommend this book to about 5 completely different people. I want to talk about it. I want to book club it. I want to take it camping and re-read the parts about Walden. I want to find an economist and laugh with them over the essay about money, and how it got that way.

With the presidential race, and Brexit it also felt oddly timely. Every generation feels at sea and vag
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Henry Martin
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having read several of Miller's books in the past, this collection of essays marked, for me, a growth point in Miller's creative genius. He is more mature, more aware of life and its vulnerability, more philosophical.
If you like Miller (really like him), you will enjoy this book. If you don't like much past the two Tropics, you will probably have a hard time with this book.

For the record, the two Tropics are my least favorite books of his.
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Eric Cartier
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book clobbered me when I first read it at age 23, and rereading it at age 36, its most powerful passages, probing questions, and lucid insights still resonated deeply. I've read more of Miller's work since then, however, and I know how his inspired stretches coax one through the more interminable bits, which often comprise too much of it. Then and now, "Money and How It Gets That Way" is grating and unfunny, at least 20 pages too long. On the other hand, "Children of the Earth", "Open Sesam ...more
Milovan Dekic
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Henry Miller was much more than a writer; he was an artist and a philosopher. The book is a collection of essays from which majority contains Miller’s vision or philosophy of life. It is known that he was under the influence of Tao; so if you are are close to Zen, these essays could broaden your views. If you are not familar with the Eastern teachings, read the book to learn about those.

The book is filled with hundreds, if not much more, of Miller striking thoughts. He insists that life itself
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Bob
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of essays, most not autobiographical as his other books were.
The piece "First Love" is personal though, and is the most charming item in this volume.
The remainder of the stories are discourses on money, religion, etc and some can be long-winded and tedious. But he also had that tendency at times in his more personal volumes. Still, this is a necessary read for Miller fans, if only to flesh out his opinions on the big issues.
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Sam
Feb 19, 2008 rated it liked it
"these highly readable pieces" do represent the vitality and variety of Miller's interests, yes, though as well do they represent his occasional vitriol and meanness of spirit ("To the American woman the male, whether husband, son, or lover, is a creature to be bullied, exploited or traduced"). Several of the more remarked-on pieces here do fall under that charge, including "Money and How it Gets That Way," an unsuccessful attempt at both sardonic humor and sociology in the form of a whisk throu ...more
Ben Saff
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a collection of some of Henry Miller's best writing, covering topics in philosophy, art, literature, and the state of the world, post-WWII.

I'm happy to say I've got some new authors to check out as a result of reading this collection. But most striking parts to me were when Miller went deep. After 70 years in the world, Miller has plenty to say. He seems to be heavily influenced by Zen: every moment is miraculous, there's nothing to condemn, nothing to remonstrate, and there is equally
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Arick
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
A wonderful collection of cultural critiques, metaphysical quandaries, and words of wisdom from a truly great writer. Miller's independence in thought and prose radiates through the stories, supplying a definite amount of poise and a good kick in the pants for any reader. Most of the writings are quite short and digestible, allowing one to skip around from piece to piece easily. While the collection was quite good, I would not recommend this volume of Miller to a reader just beginning to peruse ...more
Evie
Apr 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
I picked up Miller after having read Nin and discovering that they had a rather passionate literary and romantic relationship. From his writing, I imagine Miller with a swagger, with a smart-ass personality. Again, this is another book I packed with me from the States, and it's still sitting on my shelf. Maybe I feel guilty that I wasn't able to get into it. Will try again soon. ...more
Greta
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love reading what Henry Miller thinks about things. His view is so open, his opinion so logical, and his prose so erudite and direct. He was a very deep person who obviously thought a lot about everything.
Sophie Barloc
Apr 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings with this book. I guess it can be explained by the fact that these essays we're written in different moments of Miller's life. Some are simple, enlightened, genius. A pleasure to read. Others not so much. Derailing into arrogance: ”the writers of short stories, as a rule, do not go about their work joyously”. It really surprises me that this line is written by the same person who says ”The mind can only toy with what food or substance is presented to it; it can never know i ...more
Craig Masten
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I recently made the mistake of again buying a book that intrigued me, and finding out I had read it before, but then deciding to read again. In this case it’s Henry Miller’s Stand Still Like The Humminhbird. Miller is a best known for his ribald scatalogical novels, but has written a number of wonderful non-fiction books about his travels and his philosophy of life. This is one them, a series of short essays he wrote over the course of his lifetime. Something of a hodgepodge, often times both te ...more
Julie Chahboune
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If I had a time machine, I would travel back to meet Henry Miller specifically. Miller’s musings on a life well lived incorporate two of my favorite philosophies, stoicism and existentialism. If you ever find yourself at a point where you feel overwhelmed by the rat race and the demands of modern life, STOP...and read this book. Miller is adept at getting his reader to step back, take a larger view, get humble, and reassess how one is spending one’s time. Combined with the wisdom of Henry David ...more
Geoff Balme
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
While several of the essays are quite enjoyable and further fascinating insight into the elder mind, many of the pieces feel like padding and are probably only of serious interest to the Miller completist.

Skipping about is called for and while religious trappings and seeming belief in the paranormal may only be humorous or metaphorical I enjoy the colors it gives his efforts. Sometimes reading the works of a few generations ago can feel a bit like exploring a lost civilization. Miller inspires
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Bruce Graham
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
The kernel of Miller's view on life. Essays on writers, money, spirituality or whatever Miller deems worthy- some stupendous, some tedious. It's short and mostly worth the time invested. If passion is your thing, maybe Henry is your guy. ...more
Brann
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorites; great Miller collection.
PhattandyPDX
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Henry Miller on Thoreau: “He lost nothing by not mingling with the crowd, by not devouring the newspapers, by not enjoying the radio or the movies, by not having an automobile, a refrigerator, or a vacuum cleaner. He actually enriched himself in a way far beyond the ability of the man of today who is glided with these dubious comforts inconveniences.”
Jacob
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really like Henry Miller's writing - and I really like Henry Miller's view on life. Not the view that is there in the dark hours or that people think they see in his banned stories - but in the exhilaration he feels for action. So, I should have really loved this book, right? But it was real life and not the life he imagined...and not very exhilarating.

The best lines come from the introduction...while they're great, this fact isn't a great sign.
When you find you can go neither backward nor fo
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Reading
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
Was disappointed by this collection despite a few of the essays being fantastic I ended up skipping more than I read. The longest essay, concerning money, was exceptionally dated and inaccurate and too many of the others repeated Mr Miller's basic philosophy - live for oneself. I suspect that my watching Henry & June did not help my mood.

I was also frustrated by the lack of dating for most of the essays.
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Stephen
May 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007-reads
2007 wrote: This collection is inspiring. Miller is an amazing author and in this collection one can see how he might have come to be that way. Here we see what Miller read on his own time and whom he revered. Thoreau, Whitman, Patchen- many of my favorites are talked of and studied by miller in this volume. "Kenneth Patchen: Man of Anger and Light" is the only real literary criticism i have ever seen on the man. "Walt Whitman" is the most personal I have seen. "Children of the Earth" is intelli ...more
Dana Jerman
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
I simply am not interested in all of this book. Just most of it. There are some fantastic lines:
..every moment; every sin already carries grace within it.
The greatest revolutions known to man had their inception in moments of silence.
Creator and creation are one and indivisible.
Man is in revolt against himself. How can he overthrow himself?
Man has his being not in a vacuum of historical facts, but in a realm of magic and mystery. Only in the myth does he have courage to acknowledge the glory of
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Brendan
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Re-read, 02/2011: Miller is at his best, in my opinion, when he puts his loquaciousness to use in describing his passions. These essays collected here cover a broad swath of those passions. Still one of my favorites.


Reading Henry Miller is, to me, one of life's truly great pleasures. The joy Miller got out of living, and out of relating his life through his writing, is a palpable thing, easily consumed as I read. The essays collected here are one of the most direct distillations of that joy. On
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Kyle
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Miller fans only
Don't get me wrong, I love Miller's novels, but this collection of essays simply doesn't carry any of their charm or extravagance. The problem lies in the lack of cohesion, the essays are very self-contained but the winding road this book leads you down just doesn't bring you to any truly worthwhile destination. For Miller fans, there is definitely some worthwhile stuff here (like his chapter on Money and various political sections) but it's wedged between banal veneration of very popular (and s ...more
Algernon
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
A highly enjoyable selection of essays, book reviews, forewords, satire, and Henry Miller just writing. It is not nearly as preoccupied with sex as his novels, and allows us to see different sides of him, including some very powerful statements about humanism, art, society, and other problems. His appreciation of Thoreau is wonderful, although it follows his brief essay about Whitman in which he uses the same distinctive quotation from D.H. Lawrence, which makes for a jarring repetition. Minor q ...more
Paul
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book contains a number of Henry Miller's short writings and essays; they are some of his most accessible and affecting works, and this book was a gateway for me to his larger volumes. It makes me want to drink whiskey and punch the moon out of the sky, and laugh as the tidal waves sweep away all evidence of the constructs of man and his society.
On a side note, there's a handful of lines from these essays that have been paraphrased (and nearly lifted verbatim) by Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.
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Stephan
Sep 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
A collection of essays, articles and stories by Henry Miller. Unfortunately, most of these works were reviews of obscure people or other works - or oppositely, praise for all-too-well-known figures like Thoreau or Ianesco. Most of the articles on topics like money, morals or (as most of them) himself come off outdated, preachy and plain curmudgeonly. Miller is far more eloquent and angrily existential in his books.
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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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