I Do Not Appear in Anything Henry Miller Wrote…
But, “Little” Bruce and Jacqueline Springer do, and not in a “Dirty” book.

by Joseph Warren, Editor
copyright 2023


Regarding Bruce’s sister, Jacqueline, carried along by Miller as the three returned from a visit to the Albuquerque Zoo..
Her little arms! The feel of them melted my heart completely. Of course, she wasn’t as tired as she pretended to be.
Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare

I think it was Ford Madox Ford who initially got Miller on the road to success when he passed off a manuscript of Tropic of Cancer to his publisher in Paris and said, “This is a dirty book. You should publish it.” He did, and thus was born a genre of literature that would include Bill Burroughs and other creators of literary smut of every imaginable variation that would eventually encompass a fairly substantial collection that I consider still worth reading; the practice of sex remaining unchanged the past one-hundred years or so (maybe more?). In an old film interview I recall Henry Miller saying, “We f**ked just as much back then. We just didn’t talk about it.” (Of course, the genre extends back thousands of years: We’ve always been fascinated by the subject given there’s so little else to do in this mortal form that generates as immediate a sense of gratification.)

But who was Bruce Springer? Other than being the reason for this article, here’s an excerpt from his obituary appearing on Legacy.com:

Bruce Michael Springer died peacefully at home on September 20, 2022, surrounded by his family. He was born in Albuquerque New Mexico on October 6, 1935, to Lowell and Lona Springer.

Among other siblings, Bruce had a sister, Jacqueline. She, too, is remembered by Henry Miller in
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare during his stay in New Mexico – Albuquerque. Brother and Sister, Mom and Dad enter at page 195 in my copy (New Directions, 1945/1970) and remain characters central to the storyline through page 203. His trip through New Mexico, on his way to California via Louisiana and other locations, took place sometime in the early War years. (Rarely did Miller use a date as a reference or marker, but Miller says Bruce was six and Jacqueline was four, so let’s call it 1941 given Bruce’s date of birth.)

In all accounts I’ve found on the Internet of Bruce Springer’s life, nowhere is it mentioned that one of America’s greatest writers devoted about 2.6% of a book to this otherwise not-well-publicized, albeit certainly respected and noted life as evidenced by the rest of the obituary, appended to the end of this article.

Maybe as Bruce and Jacqueline matured they reminisced about their meeting with Henry Miller. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe none of the four knew either who he was at the time of his visit or after, although Miller didn’t hide his still-fairly-obscure American identity, more often passing himself off as a
Travel writer, which in some ways he was. Admittedly, at the time Henry Miller was not a household name: not a Steinbeck or Hemingway, or even a Saroyan, as an example. But within a few years that changed.

From Springer’s obituary, “…he went away to college at Oregon State in Corvallis… (Springer became) a lifelong teacher of Math, Science and Computer Technology. He held a bachelor's degree in science and Secondary Education and a master's degree in mathematics and science.” But apparently he had little to no interest in reading American Literature. As an aside, Miller’s
Tropic of Cancer was ragingly popular in Europe at the time, but could not be sold in the United States until much later when I was in about the 7th grade.

Why do I know this? Because a group of
colleagues (AKA other perverts in the 7th grade) obtained a copy through someone’s older brother and it began to make the rounds in our select group of hyper-sexual literati whose interests in all things carnal was stiffly held. All of the pages of importance were handily marked by sweaty fingerprints and other indiscernible stains.

In truth, I didn’t find it that remarkable, and thought of
Tortilla Flat as a bit more lusty. Of course, graphically it was hard to beat National Geographic (not a pun) for critically important and highly illustrative photographic images.

Perhaps the after-the-fact discussion went something like this at a family gathering in the 1960s:

A Very Short Play About How Henry Miller Spent a Good Deal of Creative Effort Capturing The lives of Jacqueline and Bruce Springer

I read something today about a new book that’s supposed to be very filthy. It’s by someone named, Henry Miller. Wasn’t that the name of the man who stayed with us for a few days in New Mexico when Mom and Dad ran the little motel in Albuquerque?

Miller? Miller? No, I don’t think so.

The End

I love old books! Well-written books from a time past. Books with names written in ink, or mentioned in the text. Or written on the inside cover, or on the frontispiece, or on a spare piece of notepaper pinched between pages; books with margin notes from prior readers: and I love to find out who they were – those who made their possession of the book so personal. One such case was a copy of Goethe’s
Faust inscribed, “Weston Roseberry.” Maybe three or four years ago I picked up this copy of Faust and when I noted the name, found out who he was. It is not a happy story: Weston died very young. It was tragic and heart rending. It was worthy of writing about. You may read it here. Use search text for Weston; it’s worth the effort.

I may only say that had I of been mentioned in anything written by Henry Miller, or his ilk, it would be tattooed on my chest. Every conversation would begin with either, “You know, when Henry Miller wrote about me…” Or, “I recall what Henry Miller said about me in his book…” Too late.

I did have a conversation with an old literary agent in England a short time ago,
my age, regarding the manuscript I’ve been flogging, Holmes and Watson: Goodnight, My Love. He was keen to point out that he had met Miller years before and said, “Remind me to tell you what Henry Miller said about my wife and me.”

See? Who wouldn’t bring this into a conversation? Fact is, what Miller had to say to him was a lot less interesting than Miller’s focus on Springer and Sister, but a mention is a mention and worth repeating. As an example, I remember what Hemingway yelled at me when I accidentally cut his fishing line with a speedboat I was driving, “Hey! Asshole…” I don’t talk about that much.

The Air-Conditioned Nightmare stands alone as a brilliant, smooth-reading narrative engaging easily with an assortment of characters throughout America. It’s a fun, and still very-entertaining look into Miller’s life on the road in his beat-up old Buick. He even mentions Kingman, Arizona, where I sit at this very moment. Imagine that!


As promised, here’s the rest of Bruce’s obituary. If you know any of the people listed as relatives, let them know about this very kind and immersive component in one of Miller’s epics (we are not Facebook people):

“The oldest of 5 children Jacqueline, Pat, Pam and Charles. When he was a teenager his family bought a farm in Oregon, where he would meet his future bride. There he milked cows, ran the tractor and worked on the farm, until he went away to college at Oregon State in Corvallis Oregon. He married his childhood sweetheart, Twila Ann Gillis 64 years ago "the best and most fortunate decision of his life". They had 4 children, Cyndi, Scott, Mike and Bridget.

“11 grandchildren, Aron, Alyssa, Emmy, Corey, Kylie, Amy, Luke Jackson, Brodie, Kury, and Ryan. And 7 great-grandchildren, Mason, Presley, Kaiden, Rylee, Sunny, Eliana, Georgia and Van. Bruce was a lifelong teacher of Math, Science and Computer Technology. He held a bachelor's degree in science and Secondary Education and a master's degree in mathematics and science. He coached wrestling basketball, baseball, football and track.

“He and his wife Twila shared their love of life and adventure. They lived and taught in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Tanzania, Panama, Ponape, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and China. Twila has a degree in Elementary Education. Her teaching career began later after their 4 children were older. Bruce loved being active. He surfed, rode motorcycles, went on multiple Safaris, Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, ran Hash through the jungle in Indonesia, and Sailed. (In this context, “Hash” must mean something other than what I smoked, given Bruce’s rather conservative appearance in the
Legacy obituary. On the other hand, Ken Kesey lived in that neighborhood, so who knows? - ed.)

“He and Twila bought the Farm in 1971 (this is not a metaphor: they actually bought a farm. -ed.), finding their home in Port Angeles between the mountains and the sea. He raised a variety of livestock, planted a huge garden, pruned 30 fruit trees, raised bees, and made famous apple cider. He was active in Toastmasters, Barbershop and the Mac group. During the summer Bruce worked as a National Park ranger and a US Customs Officer…”