The Air-Conditioned Nightmare

ISBN: 0811201066
ISBN 13: 9780811201063
By: Henry Miller

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About this book

In 1939, after ten years as an expatriate, Henry Miller returned to the United States with a keen desire to see what his native land was really like—to get to the roots of the American nature and experience. He set out on a journey that was to last three years, visiting many sections of the country and making friends of all descriptions. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is the result of that odyssey.

Reader's Thoughts

Procyon Lotor

Qualche eccessivo giudizio negativo � noto figlio della francesizzazione di HM. Comunque questa � l'America che non visitate, che non vedete che � maggioritaria e che spiega come mai chi si ferma a New York poi non capisce un amato cavolo di cosa fanno gli USA. Troppo lirico per essere un reportage, troppo fotografico per essere un romanzo, � un bel libro che in cambio di qualche informazione sull'anima del Signor Henry Miller ce ne dice molte di pi� sulla Signora America. La sua scarsa diffusione � certamente un complotto degli inviati che giammai vogliono divulgare una delle loro fonti sociologiche e antropologiche primarie. Ma ci sono io. Ricordatevelo bene, cari lettori. Siete sempre i primi a sapere le cose: di prima mano, garantite al cento per cento e in via molto, ma molto confidenziale... :-D

Marc Horton

Finally got around to this dyspeptic travelogue, in which Miller returns from Paris, travels around the late 1930's-early 1940's U.S. of A., and, apparently, throws up a little bit in his mouth daily from Mobile to Manhattan. What you imagine to be the quintessential Henry Miller voice is here--sort of like Tropic of Cancer without all the sex--and chock full of classic Miller bon mots: "The American park is a circumscribed vacuum filled with cataleptic nincompoops." Still, it had to have been worth it, no? Well,..: "When I think of what I would have seen in Europe, Asia or Africa, in the space of ten thousand miles, I feel as though I had been cheated." Worth picking up for the adventurous reader convinced that there was a time when American wasn't a cultural wasteland devoid of art, and tragically severed from nature.

Skip

First of all, Henry Miller's mastery of the English language ifar exceeds most anyone you are likely to read. He is in that elite class of great writers. Secondly, when you read any of his books, letters, essays and whatnot, you feel is is right there in the room, cafe, or on the street with you, so conversational is he. In this book AIR CONDITIONED NIGHTMARE, he writes about a year on the road in the US, he was contracted to write about by his agent. What he found was a lot of sterile robotic buildings and people. As he said, it was a waste of a year in his life. It is an eye opening book about a land where imagination is difficult to find, sense of adventure minuscule, where the people are essentially lemmings, glomming along, while at the same time filled with a sense of arrogance because they get the sense of themselves not by intelligence, and insight, but by the fact that their country is big, robust, has a powerful military and is financially strong, which in the end has little or no meaning where the human condition, and their interaction with others, their land, is concerned. He found a country with no sense of culture, a country defining itself by how much money a person makes, which disgusted him. After having read this book, and having been back and forth in the US, the book rang so true I have not traveled it since. It is just a bunch of sameness from one end to the other. Naturally, some places are worse than others.

Toney

summary: henry miller is a old man, he has aspergers, the park bench is too uncomfortable, they wont let him feed bread to the ducks at the park, theres too many negros at the park, theres too many dog at the park. hendry miller discovers yoga. henry miller eats, prays, loves.i hate american as much as the next guy but id rather read america-hate from a real authentic french cool guy (baudrillard much??) than a wannabe french bitter expat guy, even if tropic of cancer was good, sorry henry milner. didnt even finish this book, i got like 90 pages in and accidentally tore it in twain out of boredom, RIP

Michael

I hadn't read Henry Miller since 2001 and forgot how brilliant his prose is in the service of indignation. That said, Miller's rage at American consumerism, corporatism, materialism, and all-around ignorance -- a feeling with which I duly agree -- once in a while, but far too often, sails past insightfulness and lands in the realm of self-righteousness, leading one to suspect that underneath his bohemian persona lies a secret aristocrat. This from the last chapter of The Air-Conditioned Nightmare:"In Mississippi, near the banks of the great river itself, I came upon the ruins of Windsor. Nothing now remains of this great house but the high, vine-covered Grecian columns. There are so many elegant and mysterious ruins throughout the South, so much death and desolation, so much ghostliness. And always in the fairest spots, as if the invader aiming at the vital centers struck also at the pride and hope of his victim. One is inevitably induced to reflect on what might have been had this promising land been spared the ravages of war, for in our Southern States that culture known as the 'slave culture' had exhibited only its first blossoms. We know what the slave cultures of India, Egypt, Rome and Greece bequeathed the world. We are grateful for the legacy; we do not spurn the gift because it was born of injustice. Rare is the man who, looking upon the treasures of antiquity, thinks at what an iniquitous price they were fashioned. Who has the courage, confronted with these miracles of the past, to exclaim: 'Better these things had never been than that one single human being had been deprived of his rightful freedom.'"In other words, the end justifies the means. (And isn't history dialectical? Cannot one look upon such marvels and think of not only their beauty but also at what price they were fashioned?)(Also, I wasn't much interested in the chapters about Miller's artist friends. Seemed to belong to another book. I was expecting something big about America, and The Air-Conditioned Nightmare seemed to frequently run from that artistic task.)

Andrea Riley

I read this book in a road lit and film class, everyone called it propaganda except me...i fought for this book all semester...this is so refreshing and current...although he is a little long winded--but he is Henry Miller--I am sure he doesn't care

F.J. Nanic

I am just amazed how many Americans have not even heard about this book...but then again, many didn't hear about Depleted Uranium Weapons either.

Alex

Like I did last summer, Henry Miller traveled across the country beginning in 1939. Unlike me, he fucking hated it. This is not why I didn't like his book - some of the best travel writing is born of hatred and disgust. It was the structure and the tone of the hatred that really irked me.First, the tone. Much of this book consists of the whiny laments of a starving artist against The Man. Maybe this was groundbreaking in 1945 when the book was published. But in 2013 it just sounded kind of, well, whiny. It was along the lines of: artists are the only authentic people and commercialism is ruining everything and one day the people will rise up and dispose of the tyrants and live in artistic harmony, amen. At the same time, Miller openly describes his frustrating efforts to try and secure a book deal prior to his trip. I guess he wants to have his cake, as well as eat it his cake, or however the saying goes. His generalizations were also obnoxious: all Southern people are distinguished and unique, all Northern people are soul-sucking urban dwellers, all Native Americans are at one with nature and should re-claim America, etc. There were few shades of gray in his depictions of the people of this country. Second, the structure. The best parts of the book were when Miller took us on his journey, as a typical travelogue does. But most of the book is not like that. It is comprised of essays, and the worst are the ones entirely removed from the narrative of the trip that seem to function as filler, and that filler is mostly of the whiny starving artist kind. There were a few wonderful moments - the description of his time in a small town in the Southwest, the troubles with his car - but these were few and far between.

Samantha

I never considered myself a patriot, until I read this book and felt so fiercely insulted by every trivial insult he flung at all things american. I was fleeing Charleston at the time, and driving through the Smokey Mountains--which were incredible. His arguments seemed extremely petulant ("the parks in america aren't as good as the parks in europe. The stores in america aren't as good as the stores in Europe," etc, etc, etc), and I knew he had no idea what he was talking about when he stopped to make an exception for Charleston, saying it was the only place in America worth going to. I beg to differ.

Josh

It's a shame that Miller didn't make it to the millennium (though he died at 88 years of age; 1891-1980), although I would imagine he lived long enough to see how right his bleak vision of our self-destructive world come to fruition - for lack of a better word. No man ever will be ahead of his time quite like Miller was, and despite his being ridiculed at the time for his vulgar outlook on the world, he has since become a legend in his own right. I can't begin to convey how enamored I am by his works, especially 'The Air-Conditioned Nightmare'... Everyone knows him of course for his Obelisk Trilogy (Tropic of Cancer/Capricorn and Black Spring), but I firmly believe he is at the top of his game in this book. It's a memoir of everything that's wrong with humanity... It's so majestically written I can't even conjure up the words to explain it. I can't recommend a better read for a realist. Do yourself a favor and read Miller; especially this volume of immaculate confusion and wayward perfection.

Michael

Henry Miller's lush prose is gorgeous, but he seems to get distracted about a third of the way through.Regardless, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is a great motivation to leave the US, if only I could afford...

Jesús Santana

Henry Miller es uno de tantos escritores malditos norteamericanos, todo adicto a la literatura ha pasado o lo tendrá que hacer por referencia en algún momento por novelas como “Trópico de Cáncer” y “Trópico de Capricornio” junto con su trilogía “Sexus”, “Plexus” y “Nexus” aprovecho sumar y recomendar a estos clásicos literarios la obra “Días tranquilos en Clichy” un libro corto y probablemente no tan conocido pero si admirado y respetado por todos nosotros los Milleradictos. Todos estos son libros esenciales en una biblioteca que desee tener una pequeña muestra de lo más importante de la literatura norteamericana. Hablar de Henry Miller es hablar de rebeldía, de provocación, de rabia, de golpear las teclas con furia y sexo dando como resultado una influencia literaria en casi todo lo que se escribió en gran parte del mundo desde la década de los ’50 hasta la actualidad.Conocía de la existencia de este libro por el boca en boca de lectores y libreros amigos de toda la vida pero jamás había podido dar con este texto, aparentemente hay una edición argentina pero no estoy muy seguro de que editorial la haya publicado ni en que año, asumo que probablemente sea por mediados de 1960. Fue a finales del año pasado cuando supe de la existencia de esta edición española a cargo de Navona Editorial y decidí leerla de inmediato para al fin saciar la curiosidad de esta pesadilla de la que muchos me han hablado tantas maravillas.En “Una pesadilla con aire acondicionado” Henry Miller regresa de París y quiere reencontrarse de nuevo con su Norteamérica, ver si queda aun algún rasgo o sentimiento de cariño hacia Estados Unidos luego de su partida a Europa sin dinero y regresando de igual manera al lugar que el mismo llamaba “la ratonera”. Miller retorna con ganas de destruir la forma de vida y las bases de casi toda la sociedad norteamericana con sus escritos, un regreso lleno de odio y critica social en el que durante este libro nada queda en pie, para él pareciera que hay que derrumbar todo sin caer en el anarquismo para comenzar desde cero, y es así que Henry Miller invita a un amigo a viajar junto a el de costa a costa por todo el país y de esta manera dejar por escrito lo que ve en el llamado american dream.Una narrativa que en algunos momentos puede resultar algo surrealista, filosófica y bastante descriptiva a medida que profundizan mas y mas este viaje que deja por escrito todo lo que le perturba de esta sociedad norteamericana, es así como Miller con su ojo critico y filosófico comienza un viaje por un país que se estaba formando y una sociedad que para él comenzaba a marchar por un camino equivocado. Este viaje resulta una decepción absoluta con todo el entorno y las vivencias que tiene junto a su compañero. Los momentos mas intensos son sus pensamientos sobre lo que es el crimen para las sociedades, no duda en ponerse del lado de los criminales aunque en su opinión cada uno de nosotros somos criminales que de una u otra manera cometemos delitos legales con casi todo lo que hacemos normalmente cada día. Me llama mucho la atención el interés que despierta la Masonería en Henry Miller ya que se dedica a explicarla y hablar sobre ella con mucha profundidad y agrado, habla sobre el futuro de las Logias y de la humanidad. Finalmente me he divertido mucho con el momento junto a Edgar Varese, dos genios juntos en un libro y en vida llega a ser lo mejor de la novela.En resumen, “Una pesadilla con aire acondicionado” no es para mi la mejor obra de Henry Miller, creo que uno puede sobrevivir tranquilamente sin leerla, quizás me llenaron de muchas expectativas todos los amigos que me la recomendaron, no es una obra al nivel de los trópicos o su clásica trilogía ni tampoco busca serlo, Miller está muy claro en ello. La recomiendo para los que deseen pasar un rato entretenido leyendo a un maldito de la literatura que ataca con furia al establishment.Es de agradecer la maravillosa traducción a cargo del poeta José Luis Piquero quien se especializa en traducciones de Joseph Conrad, Saki, Arthur Miller, Francis Scott Fitzgerald y Tennessee Williams entre tantos otros, su traducción se hace para uno como latinoamericano muy agradable para leer sin encontrarse con algunas palabras que en otras traducciones a veces pueden chocar un poco e interrumpen la lectura. Es la primera vez que tengo la oportunidad de disfrutar una de sus traducciones y estoy seguro que no será la única.

Tom Lichtenberg

Reading the prologue to this book by Henry Miller astonishes me. Written 70 years ago, it could have been written today. Some excerpts:It is a world suited for monomaniacs obsessed with the idea of progress - but a false progress, a progress which stinks. It is a world cluttered with useless objects which men and women, in order to be exploited and degraded, are taught to regard as useful ... Whatever does not lend itself to being bought or sold ... is debarredWe are accustomed to think of ourselves as an emancipated people; we say that we are democratic, liberty-loving, free of prejudices and hatred. This is the melting pot, the seat of a great human experiment. Beautiful words, full of noble, idealistic sentiment. Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world beside the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment?

Islam

الهجاء الأكثر راديكالية لأمريكا

Nevada McPherson

Frustrated and depressed during the BP/Gulf Oil spill of 2010, I looked for something to read that might either a) take my mind off of it or b) help me to make some kind of sense of what was happening. I picked up this book and it had an oddly therapeutic effect. Not because it's a happy book, it's really quite angry and harshly critical of so much that Miller saw in America when he returned from Europe--which I guess is part of what prompted him to go in the first place, but his critiques of mid-century America serve to show that we in the twenty-first century aren't the first to be angry and frustrated with the things that are happening that we feel we have no control over. In fact, such things have been going on for a long time, and appear to be getting worse, but there are also good people out there, and the will to keep trying. Miller's descriptions of his friends and favorite places that feed his soul provide a counterpoint to the negatives that he details, so that you can walk away from this book with a sense of hope, however world-weary it may be.

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