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  • Writer's pictureJohn Thompson

Henry Miller Comes to Big Sur

Until the Nazis invaded, Henry Miller was living an idyllic life in Greece. Returning to America, he saw himself as a refugee, arriving on the Monterey Peninsula to visit an artist friend who had a studio above Cannery Row.


After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Carmel Mayor Keith Evans resigned and joined the Army. He and his friend Ernie Bixler, the Carmel Post Master, had just completed building a cabin on Partington Ridge, one of the first homes in that scenic area of Big Sur. When Miller heard that the Evans cabin would be vacant, he contacted the ex-mayor and his wife, Virginia, offering to rent it for ten dollars a month.


During the next year, Miller was disappointed that his publishers in Occupied France could no longer send him royalty checks earned by his novels. He admitted to Keith and Virginia that he had no money for rent. The Carmel couple allowed Miller to live there throughout the war, rent free - or for an occasional dollar or two. Out of gratitude for their help, Miller practically dedicated his book about Big Sur to Evans.


In the introduction to "Big Sur, or The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch," Evens is mentioned, as are many of Keith's Big Sur friends. The book is a thoroughly entertaining account of the colorful characters Miller befriended during his years living in the Evens' Big Sur cabin, which is depicted in this accompanying cartoon of Miller's topless model being affectionately grabbed by a somewhat intoxicated Emil White. Miller's irate wife, clutching her howling daughter, is entangled in domestic tasks while a neighbor rolls on the ground howling with laughter at her frustration. Today 90-year-old Keith Evens lives above the Carmel Mission with his wife Virginia and their adoring pet dog. He is a living repository of Carmel lore, full of memories of friends like Miller and Ansel Adams.


Click HERE to be taken directly to the Henry Miller Memorial Library web site.

We wish to thank John Thompson for his contribution and it is reprinted as submitted without editorial comment or change.

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