It is to Henry Miller that I turn in my confusion: Henry Miller, who made an art form out of despair. I haven’t read him in years. Well, let me qualify that. I recently re-read “Reflections on Writing”, which is one of my favorite essays. Four or five years ago I re-read “Tropic of Cancer” and “Sexus”. But when I first discovered Henry Miller, back in the early 70s, I dove in. I read everything by him I could find. I started with “Tropic of Cancer”, if I remember correctly, and then went on to “Tropic of Capricorn”, “Black Spring”, “Sexus”, “Plexus”, “Nexus”, “The Colossus of Maroussi”, “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch”, and so on. I couldn’t get enough of Miller. He set me free as a writer as no other writer ever had. I filled notebook after notebook with Miller-esque prose, as I’m sure many a young writer has.
But I digress. What brought on this reminiscence is the fact that I got discouraged by the lack of interest in my new blog. Of course it is logical that it takes time to become known, to develop an audience. But still I couldn’t help but look at the stats every day and get glum because I didn’t surge into sudden popularity.
Then I remembered what Henry Miller once wrote. I can’t recall where it’s found, but he said that he fully expected that most people wouldn’t understand his intentions as an artist, and that he would be satisfied if he had only a few readers, or even one, who would fully appreciate what he was getting at. This realization liberated him from having to pander to those who would never grasp the crux of it anyway, and would demand he turn this way or that to satisfy what they thought he should write, rather than what he had to write.
In the last few days one person has been checking out my blog. Just one. I thought it must have been my oldest son, until I asked him and he denied it. Now I think I don’t want to know. It might be that one true reader; who knows? It might be another of my sons, or a more distant relative – but who says they can’t be true readers as well? I had been contemplating cutting back on the number of posts. After all, why write if nobody is listening? But someone is listening. And some days there are several hits. And more will come.
It is for you, lone reader, that I compose this today.
As the voice says in “Field of Dreams”: “If you build it they will come.”
One other thought, this time from none other than Mark Twain. In one of his lesser-known works, “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”, he writes about those unknowns who were as brilliant as any of the celebrities on Earth: “That’s the heavenly justice of it – they warn’t rewarded according to their deserts on earth, but here they get their rightful rank. That tailor Billings, from Tennessee, wrote poetry that Homer and Shakespeare couldn’t begin to come up to; but nobody would print it, nobody read it but his neighbors, an ignorant lot, and they laughed at it.” The story goes on that they mocked him to his death, but then when he arrived in heaven he was surprised that he had made it there at all, much less that a fuss was made over him. When I read that for the first time it made such an impression on me that I never forgot it, and I wondered how many amazing writers and poets there were all over the world, working away at menial jobs, their rejected masterpieces moldering away on shelves or in drawers. Thank God for the Internet. By posting this I have a potential audience of millions. But it will not have been in vain if I have but a few true readers.
Or even one.