Excerpts & Highlights

Lee Siegel

Cover page for QWERTYUIOP
(designed and created by the author)
Cover page for AZERTYUIOP
(designed and created by the author)
Original manuscript for QWERTYUIOP typed by the authorthe opening and the end page
Original manuscript for AZERTYUIOP typed by the authorthe opening and the end page
An AP photo from the wedding of Miller and Tokuda where the author appears in the background, and an excerpt from the annotations in the book:

An AP wire photo that appeared in the Los Angeles Times was taken on the occasion of the 1967 wedding of “Author Henry Miller, 75, and Hoki Tokuda, 28, a Japanese pianist and vocalist at the home of a friend in Beverly Hills,” my parents’ home, the home where Henry first met Hoki, and the home in the basement of which I found the copy of QWERTYUIOP.

I appear in the background of the photo in which a thoroughly enamored Henry is grinning with characteristic delight. After the photo was taken, Hoki set down the plate of her wedding cake and announced that she was leaving. She had a date to play mahjong. 

The original letter written to the author by Henry Miller,
and an excerpt from the annotations in the book:

Because Miller didn’t know how to drive, I would pick him up at his home in the Pacific Palisades to bring him to the house in Beverly Hills where my mother still lives, and then drive him back when the party wound down.

The first few times I drove him, I was too self-conscious and afraid of how he might respond if I were to be so bold as to tell him that reading Tropic of Cancer in 1960, when it was still banned in the U.S., had changed my life, had made we want to write something like that book that wasn’t a book, that verbal kick in the pants to God and Man, Love and Beauty. I wanted, but did not dare, to ask him to read QWERTYUIOP.

The original letter signed by Henry Miller,
and an excerpt from the annotations in the book:

In a typed letter Miller responded to my story and I was thrilled and flattered that he referred to it as a “book”: “Now that I am about to write you concerning your book I wonder if I really have anything worth while to say. To give criticism or pass judgment on anything or anybody is getting harder and harder for me every day. A good sign perhaps.”

He encouraged me: “Keep on writing, that’s what I’m trying to say. But write only what’s burning you up, what you have to write, and what nobody else can. It’s that simple to me.”

I must confess that I don’t really remember what wine I bought on my first day in Paris. But whatever it was, it should, if only for literary reasons, have been Saint-Amour.
Since smells so powerfully evoke memories, I had or­dered a carton of the proletarian Gitanes Maïs from an online tobacco vendor in hopes that the aroma of the smoke wafting from my ashtray as I typed would bring back vivid recollections of my semester in Paris over a half a century ago.
I had started smoking them there when I became aware that Albert Camus had never been photographed without one in his mouth. Sartre smoked them between pipes. So did Serge Gainsbourg (five packs a day). So did other writers including Jack Kerouac, Blaise Cendrars and, most significantly of all, Cendrars’ friend Henry Miller.
When I finally met Miller in California after my return from France he was smoking Pall Malls and later switched to Kents.
From one of those bouquinistes I had purchased La Revue Naturiste Internationale, the nudist magazine from which I cut the photograph of a naked typist for the collage that became the proposed cover for QWERTYUIOP.
Another bouquiniste was selling vintage risqué French postcards, one of a nude woman which I had to have because, it was plain to see, the typewriter on her desk was a Royal De Luxe.
The collage was made from the cover story of the March 1959 issue of the House of Secrets comic book published by DC National Comics. I don’t remember how or why I had a copy of it in Paris, but I was recently able to find and buy it on eBay.
In my innocent aspirations to become a writer, I identified with the hero of that story, wondering how I would cope with the reality of the women in my story if they emerged from my fantasies and came to life, naked and licentious.
I ordered it as a memento of my adolescent adventures in typing and love. I remember imagining that the woman on the cover of the book was Miss Hammond and, in flipping through the pages, I recalled imagining her late at night reading what I was reading from her book. That it aroused her was arousing to me:
Erika could no longer resist. Love had made her weak. She could not stop her hand from placing itself beneath Jake’s chiseled jaw line. That hand was obeying her heart not her brain. It pushed the chin of his...