Forgetting is the essence of writing, says Henry Miller. “Inner turmoil” must be present in good writing, and the inner life of the writer a seething chaos. Moments of past and present come to the surface and are gone again. He lives a life of lies, clowning, and time travel, all to get closer to the one thing he craves: the truth.

Miller is often alive in the past, forgetting the present moment. He dreams during the cab ride as the block of ice he is delivering melts beside him. A writer must have a necromantic conception of time, able to inhabit and bring life to any and every moment, however long past and buried, and sometimes to the exclusion of the present moment, where he is only ever a strange visitor.

Miller would often play the clown, for example when making up a story for an audience. Miller the clown has absolute faith in his own luck, so that there is no true or false, no right or wrong thing to do or say, he can just construct the tale as it pleases him and it is sure to come out alright, whether it delights, puzzles, or horrifies his listeners. However it comes out: the clown accepts the consequences of his own words and actions, however poorly and incautiously he has brought them into being.

And sometimes the recollection comes to him so vividly that he must write immediately. And once it’s all down, he throws the paper out the window. The story is told. These words, now lying on the pavement, happened to be true, or as true as he was able to make them. But another story, real or fantastic, will come along soon enough, and perhaps he will have someone to tell it to next time …

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