After twenty years of reading Miller, he still manages to surprise me. The multi-faced man Miller was comes through in this work perhaps clearer than in others. There are Miller's novels, there are Miller's essays, Millers correspondence, his studies, a little gem that does not fit with the rest - Smile at the foot of a ladder, and then there is Aller Retour New York.
A letter to Alfred Perles - this is Aller Retour New York. One of many letters to AP. Yet, this short book is so much more. It is a window to Miller's essence. Sure, Miller always rambled, always took multiple directions at once, always celebrated and condoned at once. But here, in a private letter, the reader is offered an unpolished glimpse into a private life. His life work is most certainly a window into his private life, but it is an edited, thought-out window. A private letter is a different window, a window without the fancy dressing, without optical distortion.
Miller's blind (or perhaps overly romanticized) love for all things French clearly shines through the muck here. His dislike for everything American is passionate. His desire to separate himself from the crowd is clear, as much as is his admiration for the lunatic - actually, this a reoccurring theme in Miller's writing. He admires lunatics, perhaps even envies them. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that the only person of whom he has something nice to say is a lunatic, a Dutch lunatic.
Most importantly, for the avid Miller reader, this letter is full of genuine emotions. A short glimpse into a period marking his return to France after a brief stay in America.