Henry Miller Memorial Library

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The Henry Miller Memorial Library is a nonprofit arts center, bookstore, and performance venue[where?], championing the late writer, artist, and Big Sur resident Henry Miller and other creative individuals living in or near Big Sur, California. Henry Miller's friend Emil White built the house that is now the library in the mid-1960s. After Miller died, in 1980, Emil decided to maintain his property as a memorial to his friend and as a gallery where local artists could show their work. In 1981 Emil White, with the help of the Big Sur Land Trust, created "The Henry Miller Memorial Library, Founded by Emil White."[1]

Emil spent the rest of his life as director of the new institution, which evolved into a local center for the arts. Emil died in 1989, and the Big Sur Land Trust continued to manage the library until October 1998, when the now-operating non-profit organization The Henry Miller Memorial Library Inc. was created to further the mission of the library.[2]


Scholarly resources[edit]

In 2000, the library acquired two major Miller collections, making the library the second most extensive repository of Miller books, manuscripts, letters and ephemera in the world, next only to UCLA.

The first, called the William Ashley Collection, is likely the world's most complete collection of English language Miller editions, including almost every published version of )—over 120 in total. The collection was accumulated and donated by Henry Miller Library board member William Ashley.

The second collection, the Emil Schnellock Archive, includes many of the Miller books, manuscripts, letters, and ephemera collected by Emil Schnellock, Miller's lifelong friend and mentor from Brooklyn. The collection includes a first draft of Tropic of Cancer and hundreds of letters to and from Miller. The Schnellock Archive was acquired from an anonymous seller.

According to Miller bibliographer Roger Jackson, either one of the collections makes the library "an important stop" for Miller researchers.[4]

Cultural significance[edit]

Patti Smith headlined a fundraiser for the library in 2004. "Helping out the Library is helping out the consciousness and legacy of Henry Miller. The place is symbolic of his mind and life and energy."[5]

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, founded in 2011, was started by CEO Julia Whitehead "after discovering the Henry Miller Library online" in 2008. "I wondered why there wasn’t a similar place to memorialize someone as extraordinary as Vonnegut," she said.[6]

In 2010 she told the Chicago Tribune that after confirming there was no such place honoring Vonnegut, "I called (his son) Mark Vonnegut and said I have a legitimate proposal to start a memorial to your father in Indianapolis and I would like to base it on the Henry Miller Memorial Library in California."[7]

A 2011 CNN Travel piece said:

But the library isn't a remnant of what Big Sur was; it's the beating cultural heart of Big Sur right now. Popular bands like Arcade Fire perform here. And on any given weekend, you'll find a performance or a fair of some sort. But its default role is to be an oasis: Free coffee and ping-pong for the curious. A lush lawn to nap on. Bikers, hippies and the polar-fleeced alike find reasons to linger here. After a day spent being humbled by the grandeur of Big Sur's natural bounty, checking in with fellow humans and the art they create can serve as a ballast.[8]

In 2012, Philip Glass, along with musician and actress Joanna Newsom and violinist Tim Fain, performed at the Warfield in San Francisco in a benefit for the Library. In an interview with SF Weekly, Glass described his relationship with the Library:

I have a long history with it. I drove a motorcycle down from New York and got all the way to the Henry Miller Library in 1965. A long time ago! The library wasn't there then, but I went to the area because of its history. And what Magnus [Toren, executive director] has done with the library, it's become a wonderful bookstore, and he has a performance place next to it in the redwood grove that's beautiful.

There's a spirit to the Henry Miller Library that is pre-hippie, pre-beatnik. You know, Henry Miller was writing in the '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s. He is one of our grandparents, he's part of our lineage, the same way that Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs are part of our lineage. These are the writers who tried to describe the world they really lived in and often were ignored in their lifetime and became very famous afterwards. But it's made the Henry Miller Library a destination place for people interested in American writing and history. Just to be within a few hundred yards of where he lived and worked for some people is a big deal. It's very inspiring, besides being an absolutely gorgeous place.[9]

In 2015, the library received a Community Stories Grant from Cal Humanities for its Big Sur Stories program.[10]

In 2016, the library, in tandem with ((folkYEAH!)) Presents, curated a benefit performance for homeowners affected by the Soberanes Fire. Performers included Sharon Van Etten, Mike Nesmith, Al Jardine (of the Beach Boys), Johnny Rivers, plus Meg Baird and Tara Jane O'Neil, and raised $40,000.[11]

The library has also been featured in various international news outlets including the Irish Independent,[12] Le Soir (France),[13] Liberacion (France),[14] NL Cafe (Hungary),[15] Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany),[16] and Il Manifesto (Italy).[17]


The library hosts events throughout the year, including music, lectures, book signings, and community events. Past and ongoing programs include:

  • The Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series. Now in its 11th year, the series' Jury includes Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Kirsten Dunst.[18]
  • Big Sur Stories, an online archive of stories and reflections as told by members of the Big Sur community.[19]
  • Big Sur Fashion Show, featuring local artists and designers.[20]
  • Big Sur Writing Workshops for picture books, early reader, middle grade and YA fiction, produced annually in partnership with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
  • Ping Pong Free Press, which publishes works of poetry and fiction.
  • Big Sur Brooklyn Bridge (2013), a week-long celebration of Henry Miller based at the City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.[21][22]
  • Aller Retour Paris, a weeklong symposium (May 4–12, 2014) based at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, celebrating the city's role in shaping Henry Miller as a writer.
  • Big Sur Sound and Story (2014), an outdoor audio listening series curated by purveyors of fiction and documentary audio.[23]
  • Under the Persimmon Tree (2015), a weekly series that include listening to audio from library archives as well as conducting interviews with community members and visitors.[24]
  • Nowhere is Our Real Home (2016), a speaker series exploring the effects of development and tourism on rural communities.[25]

Previous musical performers include Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Arcade Fire, Henry Rollins, Fleet Foxes, Flaming Lips, and Yo La Tengo.


  1. ^ "Emil White, a Painter And Writer, Dies at 88". New York Times. July 27, 1989. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  2. ^ Abraham, Kera (February 7, 2012). "Henry Miller Library Comes of Age". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  3. ^ "Arts Council for Monterey County". August 1, 2017.
  4. ^ "Magnus Toren Keeps Henry Miller's Memory and Spirit Alive in Big Sur". Monterey County Weekly. March 2, 2000. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  5. ^ Master, Ryan (August 19, 2004). "Patti Smith Brings the Dirty Magic for a Benefit". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  6. ^ "From CEO & Founder Julia Whitehead - Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library". Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  7. ^ Crowder, Courtney (November 12, 2010). "Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Opens". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  8. ^ Brendan, Newnam (July 1, 2011). "Big Sur and the Greatest Bench in America". CNN. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  9. ^ Roth, Chloe (June 22, 2012). "Q&A: Philip Glass on Collaboration, Minimalism, and His Henry Miller Library Benefit Show with Joanna Newsom". SF Weekly. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  10. ^ "Big Sur Oral History Project DIRECTOR INTERVIEW - Cal Humanities". calhum.org. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  11. ^ Anderson, Mark. "PHOTOS: Soberanes Fire Benefit Concert raised $40,000". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  12. ^ "Red Hot reformation - Independent.ie". Independent.ie. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  13. ^ "California Dreamin' (5) : Les interdits de Carmel et le condor passa | frontstage/". blog.lesoir.be (in French). Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  14. ^ "Big sur et certain". Libération.fr (in French). Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  15. ^ "Csodás könyvesboltok, ahol szívesen körülnéznénk – fotók - NLCafé - NLCafe.hu" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  16. ^ Francisco, Beate Wild, San. "Kalifornien-Kolumne: Meine zehn Lieblingsplätze". sueddeutsche.de (in German). ISSN 0174-4917. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  17. ^ "il manifesto". ilmanifesto.it (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  18. ^ Scutari, Mike (June 26, 2012). "Big Sur Goes Small—Short Films, That Is!". Cinesource. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  19. ^ Thornton, Stuart (October 29, 2015). "Big Sur Stories Launch Party Lets a Legendary Place Tell Its Tales". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  20. ^ Coury, Nic (January 28, 2016). "After a Year Off, the Big Sur Fashion Show Returns". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  21. ^ "Big Sur Brooklyn Bridge". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  22. ^ Kozinn, Allan. "A Week to Celebrate Henry Miller's Brooklyn Connections". ArtsBeat. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  23. ^ Masters, Ryan. "Big Sur Sound and Story nestles world-class storytelling beneath the stars". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  24. ^ Ryce, Walter (July 11, 2015). "Jerry Cimino Carries a Torch for the Beat Generation to Henry Miller Library". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  25. ^ "Kenneth Brower at the Henry Miller Library". Monterey County Weekly. June 5, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2017.

Coordinates: 36°13′15″N 121°45′13″W / 36.22084°N 121.75373°W / 36.22084; -121.75373