Caresse Crosby - Writing Pornography

Writing Pornography

In Paris during 1933, Caresse had met Henry Miller. When he returned to the U.S. in 1940, he confessed to Caresse his lack of success in getting his work published. Miller's autobiographical book Tropic of Cancer was banned in the U.S. as pornographic, and he could get no other work published. She invited him to take a room in her spacious New York apartment on East 54th Street where she infrequently lived, which he accepted, though she did not provide him with money.

Desperate for cash, Miller fell to churning out pornography on commission for an Oklahoma oil baron at a dollar per page, but after two 100-page stories that brought him US$200, he could do no more. Now he wanted to tour the United States by car and write about it. He got a US$750 advance, and persuaded the oil man's agent to advance him another $200. He was preparing to leave on the trip but still had not provided the work promised. He thought then of Caresse Crosby. She was already pitching in ideas and pieces of writing to Anaïs Nin's New York City smut club for fun, not money. In her journal, Nin wrote, "Harvey Breit, Robert Duncan, George Barker, Caresse Crosby, all of us concentrating our skills in a tour de force, supplying the old man with such an abundance of perverse felicities, that now he begged for more." Caresse was facile and clever, wrote easily and quickly, with little effort.

Caresse accepted Henry's proposal. She wrote at the top the title given her by Henry Miller, Opus Pistorum (later republished as Henry's work as Under the Roofs of Paris), and started right in. Henry left for his car tour of America. Caresse churned out 200 pages and the collector’s agent asked for more. Caresse's smut was just what the oil man wanted, according to his New York agent. No literary aspirations, just plain sex. In her journal, Nin wrote, "'Less poetry,' said the voice over the telephone. 'Be specific.'" In Caresse the agent had found the basic pornographic Henry Miller.

Caresse spent some of her time while her husband, Bert Young, fell into a drunken stupor every night churning out another 200 pages of pornography. In her diary, Anaïs Nin observed that everyone who wrote pornography with her wrote out of a self that was opposite to her or his identity, but identical with his desire. Polly or Caresse grew up amid the social constraints imposed by her upper-class family in New York. She had a doomed and troublesome romanticism with Harry Crosby. She participated in a decade or more of intellectual lovers in Paris during the 1920s.

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