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Helping Henry Miller

ae philip-glassWhy Big Sur’s iconic memorial library needs local support. Several upcoming events promise to turn heads

Many of history’s most unique creative and political beasts have lived in Northern California. Certainly civil rights leader Harvey Milk sits near the top of the list. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who birthed the revered City Lights Bookstore, quickly comes to mind, too.

And then there’s Henry Miller, the revered American writer-painter, a man who so aptly moved beyond traditional novel writing and gave to the world a distinctly original mix of powerful prose (“Tropic of Cancer,” Tropic of Capricorn”).

It’s Miller, in fact, who’s commanding the spotlight this month in what promises to be a memorable benefit in The City to support (and save) Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library—Miller lived and found creative refuge in Big Sur for some time. The library hopes to raise $140,000 by fall to upgrade the water system and create a more sustainable enclave.

Fortunately, another creative titan is helping spearhead the cause: Philip Glass.

Considered one of today’s most revered classical music composers, Glass will grace the stage at the Warfield Theatre on June 25 with singer-songwriter-harpist Joanna Newsom and violinist Tim Fain. Expect a curious merging of fascinating talents.

The ever-busy Glass admits to having a full schedule this summer, but he says committing to the benefit was a no-brainer.

“The library is a very unconventional place,” Glass says. “The setting is gorgeous and Big Sur has a history of culture and innovation.

“I could have stayed home and not done it; you could always stay home and not do things,” he adds, “but there’s something inspiring about the environment, which allows people to find resources within themselves that they may not even have known about. I think that’s why artists go there.”

Glass has been involved in several events at the library over the years, participating in its popular film festivals and poetry extravaganzas (through his Days and Nights Festival) and beyond. The impetus for the current benefit, co-presented by folkYeah, continues an annual tradition that sprouted in 2004, when singer Patti Smith first performed at the library. Smith was so captivated by the experience, she soon spread the word to other musicians, such as Laurie Anderson, who, in turn, may have tipped Glass onto its unique fervor.

“The benefit concerts come from a love of the place, a love of the idea of performing music here,” notes the library’s executive director Magnus Toren.

Actually, there are a number of events taking place at the library all summer long that locals would appreciate. At 8 p.m. Saturday, June 23, there will be a book signing event for Richard Olsen’s new book, “Handmade Houses,” which examines a century of Earth-friendly home designs. Photographer Lucy Goodhart will be on hand. Later this month, on June 27, singer-songwriter Kath Bloom performs with Big Sur’s Levi Strom. Cave Country (from Los Angeles) and the Bay Area’s Range of Light Wilderness will also be in attendance. And take note of an ongoing series, the 2012 Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series, which screens in various portals.

As for the library’s backstory, it was Henry Miller’s friend Emil White who founded the library in the early ’80s. It houses a collection of Miller’s works and serves as a gallery that celebrates the icon’s literary, artistic and cultural legacy. 

For more information about A Benefit for Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library with Philip Glass and Joanna Newsom, with Tim Fain, visit  thewarfieldtheatre.com. Learn more about the ongoing events at the Henry Miller Library, and the Days and Nights Festival, or how to contribute to the cause, at www.henrymiller.org.

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