Tropic Of Cancer

ISBN: 0802101135
ISBN 13: 9780802101136
By: Henry Miller

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About this book

No punches are pulled in Henry Miller's most famous work. Still pretty rough going for even our jaded sensibilities, but Tropic of Cancer is an unforgettable novel of self-confession. Maybe the most honest book ever written, this autobiographical fiction about Miller's life as an expatriate American in Paris was deemed obscene & banned from publication in this country for years. When you read this, you see immediately how much modern writers owe Miller.

Reader's Thoughts

Jonathan

This may be the greatest book ever written. This opening passage proves it: "I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought I was an artist. I no longer think about it. I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God. This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse.... To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordian, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing."

August

Seems the contemporary catch phrase to label Miller by is "Misogynist." Whatever... he wrote from his perspective and never swayed from his own vantage point to impress anyone. He is a true artist. How else would he have attracted the love interest of such an intelligent, beautiful woman as Anaiis Nin? Tropic of Cancer, to me, borders on spiritual enlightenment by way of pure honesty. I also enjoyed reading Nin's diary showing her side of their mutual lust affair. She was as much of a lost soul as he was, as well as his intellectual equal. They both survived off other people for the most part: Anaiis was married to a wealthy man and slept with him and his contemporaries as well as Miller; Miller was married to whoever would take him in and feed him (some food, but most often intellectual conversation) and slept with his friend's friend's friends, as well as a plethora of prostitutes. The bottom line is that he and Anaiis both explored their depravities through the medium of writing, creating literary works of art in the process.

Jeremy

The book is perhaps summed up best by one of its characters:“…I’ll lay myself down on the operating table and I’ll expose my whole guts … every goddamned thing. Has anyone ever done that before?—What the hell are you smiling at? Does it sound naïf?”It exposes. It hadn’t been done before (well, not in the same way). It is comic. It is naïf.With Henry Miller’s bizarre and incongruous existence in his time and place, there’s a kind of sense of loss, that something was lost after him, that an opportunity slipped us by. He represents a fork in the road, and it’s a fork that was never really taken. Instead, he can be easily reduced to a series of issue based identity-political dot points. Easily, that is, by those that……live among the hard facts of life, reality, as it is called. It is the reality of a swamp and they are the frogs who have nothing better to do than to croak. The more they croak the more real life becomes. The same sort of people that can look at this book, even the first thirty pages or so, even if that’s all they read and threw the mouldy paperback down in disgust and reproach, and then croak on about ‘narcissism’, about ‘dead white men’, about ‘misogyny’ about all the stinking murky depths of the swamp that they’re paddling in. So, all the croaking aside, what is Miller’s project? He takes Walt Whitman by the end of his beard and drags him along behind him through the streets of 1930s Paris and all the humanity around him, the world of men and women, and goes the full length, he starts with drums and ends with dynamite, he makes the world more endurable in his own sight, he throttles all the birds in creation, he tries to look earnest and looks pathetic, he finds himself again naked as a savage, he makes pages explode, he disregards existent principles, he contradicts and paralyzes, he makes lists of experience, he lives a life rendered down to cunts and stomachs.This is not fifty shades of fucking grey. This is not a series of banal-titillations made to feel extreme and naughty while you keep warmly rolling in the swamp, wrapped up in a bunch of ideas that’ll keep you moist enough to pass inspection. There is no comfort here, unless it is the comfort of understanding that there is no comfort. Perhaps you have to be hungry and desperate to get to that point? You have to be that to make ‘the guinea pigs squeal’. To know where to put ‘the live wire of sex’, to know……that beneath the hard carapace of indifference there is concealed the ugly gash, the wound that never heals.Is Miller above all this crap? Looking down like a Titan? If he’s part Titan, he’s also part goat. He’s below it. He’s burrowing underneath like he’s a haemorrhaging mole. You’re not meant to love him. Or like him. Or respect him. He asks for nothing from you. He doesn’t ask for you to review his book, since the book is a failure, it's not even a book, because it has to be a failure or else it fails completely; and since reviewing it is just further croaking in the every-spreading swamp of reality. Looking up a picture to slot into the coding so that someone might Like it and say, hey, yeah, nice review man, I liked that book too, lots of fucking, gave me a boner; or no, I disagree, this only got printed coz it gave guys boners and this book was a waste of my precious time when I could be reading the latest Miles Franklin shortlist from onetofive or something exceedingly more contemporary andslashor relevant, or that currently has a film version out with [insert some cunt] in it. I mean there’s only one review that counts and, bango, you start writing the book out word-for-word in all its glorious lack-of-glory and all its primal failure that then bleeds into that time when you were living at the Villa Borghese, and maybe it wasn’t lice, and maybe it wasn’t cunt, or books or dreams you were asking from life, but there was shit happening that you might not want to put down on a piece of paper, since it would certainly be inappropriate and revealing even if you shook it really hard and laughed and covered it in irony since there’s actually nothing appropriate going on down there, under the carapace, where all you might need is to have a rosebush thrust under your nose.

Shannon

This one was hard to rate. It is a worthy read for so many reasons: the tales of Paris in the window of time woven into the lives of intellectual bohemians spun so marvelously in both crass and captivating language. However, sensitive souls beware. It was a contributing factor (one of many) to a crisis of faith in my early twenties. The honest depravity of the male characters and the author himself confirmed all my worst suspicions of males being utterly inhuman and by far a lesser sex.

Suzie

I don't know what was more embarassing - reading this book in public and wondering if anyone knew how vile it was, or seeing how many passages my mother had underlined in college. Naughty! (In her defense, she said she had no choice . . . )This was one of those titles I'd heard a handful of authors drop, and thought I needed to know why. I'm still not sure I completely understand the fascination (though I'll grant he HAS beefed up my quotes section), but at least I can say I've read Henry Miller, right? His Paris memoir kept reminding me of Herman Hesse's "Goldmund and Narcissus" and Jack Keroac's "Dharma Bums" - that tortured Bohemian lifestyle that artists subject themselves to for the sake of their craft, all in the name of life and art. It leaves a sort of empty, bitter feeling in the gut - not something I look for in a good piece of literature, but not without merit, either. I know, at least, that this is not the kind of artist I ever want to become - so disgusted with the world and its hypocrisy as to believe that truth and beauty can only be found in the darkest corners of the human experience - promiscuity, scatological discourse, vulgarity, masochism and misogyny. You're right, Mom. Henry Miller really was just a dirty old man. I had to learn that for myself, though.There were a few pearls of wisdom I gleaned from Mr. Miller - I think his better moments were the ramblings, rather than his actual experience (see quotes). I didn't agree with a lot of his nihilist diatribe, and I rather felt that he really didn't, either. Maybe it was the hunger speaking. I appreciate his honesty and (however subtle) admittance that he's just as unenlightened as the rest of us. 2 stars because I didn't hate it, but I can't say I liked it either. Which might be just what he was going for.

Elisa

E io gli risi in faccia.Henry Miller rideva spesso in faccia alle persone. Questa frase spunta fuori tante volte durante la narrazione. Non potei trattenermi, scoppiai a ridergli in faccia. Ho passato il tempo a immaginare la sua risata. Meglio, il momento esatto in cui il tentativo di trattenerla si trasformava in un misero fallimento. Volevo avere in testa il suo viso esatto ai tempi del racconto, e così l'ho cercato: http://img2.bdbphotos.com/images/orig... . Uno così ha un viso perfetto per ridere in faccia alla gente.È pulito e bonaccione. Davanti a un viso così, placido come un piccione albino, uno si accoccola sulla sedia e vomita in un colpo solo mal di vivere e aspirazioni. Henry Miller ascoltava tutte le sparate egotistiche dei conoscenti, e loro lo prendevano in simpatia. Dovunque andasse, qualche amico lo rimediava. Lui, zitto zitto, sorrideva, si faceva due risate dentro e sperava in qualche franco di ricompensa. I parassiti sono sempre quelli che ne sanno di più sul conto degli uomini. Volta per volta, ride in faccia a tutto. Cosa è il mondo se non un'accozzaglia di ossa morte (doppiamente morte), scheletri in trepidazione per un miraggio paradisiaco, fogne e vuoto? Tutto puzza, ma ci convinciamo di vivere immersi nel profumo di rose. Cosa siamo noi, se non meteore che bruciano rapidamente, destinate a scomparire del tutto, lasciando solo un nome, e forse nemmeno quello? Eppure pare che la vita debba avere valore solo se si arriva allo scalino più alto della scala sociale. E cosa impedisce di pensare che il paradiso non esista, che non abbia alcun senso vivere disperando nella speranza, quando si può prendere atto che il cielo è vuoto e afferrare ciò che la vita offre di piacevole? Miller sospetta che nel centro della terra, Dio o il Diavolo lavorino di continuo in camicia di forza a macinare per quel paradiso che non è che un venire in sogno . Bella fregatura, sarebbe, aver vissuto nella castità e nel rigore. La felicità è molto più simile a un orgasmo che al paradiso. Chi può additare un uomo che passa la vita di bordello in caffè, vivendo alla giornata, tra lavori saltuari e serate passate a spassarsela, conscio del fatto che anche questa, come l'idea del paradiso, è una delusione a cui si ricorre per andare avanti? Il mondo di Miller è senza speranza, ma non disperato. Tanto siamo già morti. Perché non ridere, allora?Se la vita deve essere vissuta, l'arte non deve essere da meno. Non di frottole deve essere fatta, di storie inventate e progettate da un dio capace di rappresentare il mondo che vorrebbe, ma verità, nuda e cruda. Miller è talmente unito al suo libro da essere la macchina da scrivere. L'arte deve essere un escremento umano, il risultato di un'assimilazione della realtà, in tutte le sue componenti (anche quelle socialmente inaccettabili), e deve puzzare di vita vera, non evaporare come una scoreggia secca. Che senso ha creare mondi armoniosi, se nella realtà si dà più importanza a un cesto di verdure al mercato che a un mendicante cencioso? Che senso ha vivere di idee, se la realtà sembra ridere loro in faccia? L'estetica dell'idea produce vasi di fiori e i vasi di fiori si mettono alla finestra. Ma se non c'è né pioggia né sole, a che serve mettere i fiori fuori dalla finestra?Miller non si poneva problemi a parlare di erezioni e triangoli, belle fiche e puttane. Ma il suo narrare porta la luce sugli aspetti disperati del sesso: spesso è meccanico, privo di passione, è come un urlo dell'uomo che cerca di far coincidere le sue aspettative e la realtà. Sono uomini e donne disorientati, delusi dalle promesse che avevano fatto a loro stessi, vanno incontro ad atti sessuali interrotti, ballerini in una danza in cui l'orgasmo arriva sempre nel momento sbagliato o non arriva affatto. Si va in cerca della fica ricca, del proprio orientamento sessuale, delle vergini, delle giovani, per poi accorgersi che l'ideale di completo appagamento si sposta sempre più in là. Non era questo, non era questo. Come quando fuori piove e malediciamo il tempo perché è tetro e, quando il sole risplende, continuiamo a maledirlo perché stavolta splende troppo. L'uomo si annichilisce, schiacciato dalla fanfara del futuro che pare debba essere sempre migliore, ma solo a parole. Sì, sicuramente lo sarà. Invece, è solo una promessa americana (ma l'America non esiste, spiega Miller: è solo un nome che si dà a un'idea astratta). La miseria, poi, è sempre dietro l'angolo, anche se il sole a volte scalda l'aria di Parigi e la rende così bella. Anche se oramai sono passati ottant'anni dalla pubblicazione, e quindi dovremmo avere smesso di guardare solo al contenuto sessuale come alla vuota rappresentazione di un accoppiamento, c'è sempre qualcuno che sfodera l'indice dell'ammonimento. Ho letto un commento in cui una lettrice trasformava la pagina bianca in un pio confessionale da social network. Sentiva il bisogno di specificare che lei il libro lo aveva letto solo fino a pagina 18 (quindi nessuna aggravante), e che sua zia, che glielo aveva prestato, lo aveva letto tutto solo perché costretta al liceo (forse per un docente in cui lo stesso Henry Miller si era reincarnato, tanto per potersi sentire ancora una volta un plenipotenziario degli spiriti liberi, e insegnare agli alunni come si accoppiano gli elefanti). In sostanza, Miller era solo uno sporcaccione. Lui le avrebbe riso in faccia fragorosamente, senza nemmeno pensare di trattenersi un secondo. Forse più per il riferimento allo sporco, che per la pudicizia. Avrebbe detto di lei ciò che pensò riguardo alla signora Wren: Uscendo dal vinaio, sento scrosciare il pisciatoio. Tutto è lubrico ed effuso. Vorrei che la signora Wren ascoltasse.

Michael

Tropic of Cancer is probably best known for being about sex, a book that was banned for over thirty years. An autobiographical novel of a struggling writer living in Paris in a community of bohemians. A fictionalised account of Miller’s life living underground, with prostitutes, painters and other writers.This is an odd novel, not necessarily good but a literary landmark. Without Henry Miller we may never have books like Lolita, Naked Lunch, A Sport and a Pastime and even Tampa. On the plus side, we may never have Fifty Shades of Grey. This novel pushed the boundaries of literature in the 1930’s and found itself being banned, which developed a cult following that helped influence the future of literature. I tend to think, much like Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover, if it wasn’t for the banning of the book, this novel wouldn’t be a classic; it would have just faded away into obscurity.There are some advantages to reading this book, there are the autobiographical elements but then Miller focuses on his friends and colleagues. Almost off topic, like he is commentating on what is happening in their lives. Then it gets a little more complex because there is a stream of consciousness reflecting on the occasional epiphany. The whole narrative gets really confusing with its non-linear approach, the tangents and reflections. It makes the whole book hard to read and in the end not really enjoyable.I can’t help but compare this novel to The Dud Avocado, the sexual adventures in Paris is similar but Tropic of Cancer wasn’t as interesting and a female lead makes for a less sex obsessed narrative and tends to focus on life abroad as well. I can’t help thinking just how narcissistic Henry Miller must have been with all those autobiographical novels of his life; do people still do that? Or is this just a thing of the past, pushing the boundaries.I have to give Henry Miller one thing; he doesn’t hold back, he will expose the good, the bad and the disturbing parts of his life. If I ever wrote a book like this (which I have no interest in doing anyway) I would be more inclined to hold back, to paint myself in a more favourable light; Miller doesn’t do that at all. There isn’t much I can say about this book, it’s about sex and that is about it. The stream of consciousness part was interesting but I still find that difficult to read. I would probably tell people to skip this and read The Dud Avocado or something similar but for the book snobs (like myself) if you do read this book I hope you get something out of it apart from the historical significance of a book like Tropic of Cancer.This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...

Ben

A marvelous pretention of a travel memoir from an American in Paris. More a song than a book: a love ballad to a city. In parts it reads like the surreal confessions of a sex addict. In other parts it is nothing less than a mock-serious philosophical treatis. Tropic of Cancer is almost always as fun to read as it must have been to write. I say almost because at the outset, I kept wondering how much of his self-preening I'd let Miller get away with before I lost all interest; he can at times be highly idealistic and self-indulgent (I mean really really self-indulgent), but then I began to indulge myself in all his blarney... skimming in short to make the passages a jumble of images and impressions. Nevertheless several passages of this book I will continually return to inorder to mark the essential expressions of existential transformation, which are really the hallmark of Miller's style.

Zorena

It' such as shame that this book has such wonderful prose and then seems to drop the C bomb about a hundred times just for the sake being able to do it. It became so tiresome I had to struggle to finish this and I just couldn't seem to be able to get past that enough to be able to enjoy the book.I think it will be awhile before I attempt any of his other books.

Alex

Here a cunt, there a cunt, everywhere a cunt cunt"Art consists in going the full length. If you start with the drums you have to end with dynamite."But if you begin with masturbation, you don't necessarily end with sex. There are books you have to read at a certain age. There are others that are ageless, and those books are better. This should be read when you're young and stupid. Are you young and stupid now? Fantastic; read this and hate me. Are you older? Then read something else. maybe something for old people, like Henry James.

Michael

Tropic of Cancer is held in high regard by Authors that I respect. In particular, George Orwell (whose essay, “Inside the Whale”) has high praise for Miller's bravery, directness and honesty.Miller's foul language has lost the power to impress; modern readers will not feel the level of shock and awe experienced by previous generations. The book has so much critical adulation that I have spent a few weeks ruminating before expressing my own view.I don't like it....Oh, don't mistake me, I “get” it, I also understand that highbrow intellectual theory is bandied about in praise of the “style”. It leaves me cold.This is an excrescence of a book, but like finding a turd dotted with precious gems, if you can overcome your dislike you will be rewarded by a few flashes of brilliance.I have met parasitic characters like Tropic's “hero”; amoral, abusive, selfish, pretentious, hedonistic users beneath contempt, occasionally given to drunken introspection and momentary genius. If you run across a real life “Miller” in your travels give him a wide berth, he's just not worth it.

Phil

This book defines what it means to live a totally free existence, a life wallowing in art and free of the constraints of time and money. Miller's amazing writing style and incredible vision make this one of the great books of the last century. The backdrop of this book is a civilization teetering, about to collapse. The squalid street life of 1920's Paris flows through this book with amazing force. Miller lives a parasitic existence whose only purpose is to write and read and eat and screw. His mind freely wanders and dares to go where it will because Miller's character-narrator has nothing to lose. I tried to achieve this level of freedom at one point in my life and this book was an inspiration to succeed. Miller's savage and dynamic prose stands in stark contrast to the whiney and irrelevant Lost Generation writers such as F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway who are sliding back into a well-deserved obscurity. This book will live as a pean to intellectual freedom and contempt for a pre-cast existence. Read it now.

John Doe

George Orwell wrote an essay about this book called, “Inside the Whale.” The title alludes to the Jonah story in the bible. In that story Jonah rejected his responsibility, ran, and was swallowed by a whale. He finally accepted his responsibility and returned to the world. In contrast, Orwell’s Miller doesn’t want to leave the whale. God’s punishment ironically is Miller’s safe and comfortable oasis. Miller can attempt to triumph over god in this way because he has chosen an ironic stance towards his life. God’s punishment is only a punishment for a serious person. A serious person makes the world’s values and causes his values, his causes. Such a person feels happy and safe in the world, has plans, wants to buy a condo in the suburbs, etc. The unserious person, on the other hand, is alienated by the world’s values and from its causes. Slavery, wars, poverty, racism, the rate race—inside a whale at the bottom of the ocean with a ton of blubber insulating you on every side is not such a bad way to ride out a nuclear winter. Clearly, Miller is not a Jonah. Jonah is a criminal guilty of a specific crime. For Miller, the world is guilty and the best a person can hope for is not to be an accomplice, etc. Orwell is really smart and his insight is really helpful. But, he makes it clear that he is not a Miller fan. I, on the other hand, am a fan.

Ian Paganus

GoodReads Memorial Plot Summary (Pages 1 - 30) (Warning: Contains Spoilers) (Sponsor: Grove Press)We are living (view spoiler)[in Montparnasse (hide spoiler)]/(view spoiler)[at the Villa Borghese (hide spoiler)]/(view spoiler)[in Rue Bonaparte (hide spoiler)].We walk down streets where (view spoiler)[Zola (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Balzac (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Dante/ (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Strindberg (hide spoiler)] lived.The cancer of (view spoiler)[the weather (hide spoiler)]/(view spoiler)[time (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[poverty (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[anarchy (hide spoiler)] is eating us away.The atmosphere is saturated with (view spoiler)[decay/ (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[disaster (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[frustration (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[futility (hide spoiler)].(view spoiler)[Boris (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Moldorf (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Borowski (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Sylvester (hide spoiler)] discovers his room is plagued by (view spoiler)[lice (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[cockroaches (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[dungbeatles (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[dragonflies/ (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[bedbugs (hide spoiler)]. He asks me to (view spoiler)[scratch (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[shave (hide spoiler)] his armpits.This (view spoiler)[journal (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[novel (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[collection of fragmentary notes (hide spoiler)] is a prolonged (view spoiler)[insult to (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[kick in the pants of (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[God (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Art (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Man (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Destiny (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Time (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Love/ (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Beauty (hide spoiler)].You, (view spoiler)[Tania (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Irene (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Mona (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Llona (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Elsa (hide spoiler)] are my (view spoiler)[chaos (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[fever (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[fire (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[passion (hide spoiler)].I am (view spoiler)[qunt-struck/ (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[a handful (hide spoiler)].I know how to (view spoiler)[inflame (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[fill (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[iron out every wrinkle in (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[shoot hot bolts into (hide spoiler)] your (view spoiler)[qunt (hide spoiler)] with my (view spoiler)[dick (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[putz (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[erection (hide spoiler)].The Pornographic ImaginationHenry Miller wrote "Tropic of Cancer" between 1930 and 1934. It was published in France in 1934, though it wasn't published in the United States until 27 years later in 1961.The importation of the French edition was immediately banned. Only when it was published locally did the Supreme Court determine (in 1964, before the 60’s had truly begun to swing) that the work was not obscene.The Right Sexual ProportionsThe definition of obscenity requires a work to have an undue emphasis on or exploitation of sex.The word "undue" implies that there is an appropriate level of emphasis or exploitation."Tropic of Cancer" is littered with words that, in order not to offend, I will paraphrase as "cocque", "qunt" and "fucque". Let’s assume that life is 80% tedium (e.g., work) and 20% sex. Should there be a criminal law that says that 20% sex is OK, but 80% will send you to jail?Is it wrong that "Tropic of Cancer" might be much closer to the life of the imagination?I think any subject matter should be fair game in fiction written by adults for adults.However, regardless, I think "Tropic of Cancer" deserves its place as one of the master works of the twentieth century.The Truth Told Truly"Tropic of Cancer" recounts the narrator’s first two years in Paris after leaving New York in 1930.Nothing is to be gained by denying that the novel is autobiographical.It contains the following epigraph from Ralph Waldo Emerson:"These novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies – captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences and how to record truth truly."It’s implicit that Henry Miller’s quest was to tell the truth about his own life "truly".There is no attempt to self-censor or to beautify. Everything is revealed. A Fucquing CatalogueThe male characters in "Tropic of Cancer" are largely American expatriates, would be writers or artists, living in Paris, not necessarily gainfully employed, close to destitute, hungry for food and life experience, but with plenty of time on their hands.Understandably, they spend a lot of their time whoring and fucquing.It’s arguable that the amount of fucquing in the novel reflects what males would hope to do in similar circumstances. (In my younger days, we called it “college life”.)From a feminist point of view, the female characters are not presented in the same manner.None of them is portrayed as financially or emotionally independent. Most of them are the whores who are pursued by the males. Some transform from sex objects to love objects, but only in the short-term. The closest we get is Macha, an ostensible Russian Princess, who avoids sex by claiming to have the clap.To be fair to Miller, he isn’t the only one doing the fucquing. The chapters are essentially vignettes of the males, complete with the females who surround them.While research has identified Miller’s real life inspiration, there is still a possibility that Miller explores some of the options available to him, through these characters.Miller’s character still expects his wife Mona (June) to join him from New York. While he indulges in his fair share of whoring, he doesn’t form any close attachments, apart from those to the whore Germaine (who treats him “nobly”) and Tania, who is married to Sylvester (based on the real life characters Bertha Schrank and Joseph Schrank).TaniaDespite her marital status, Tania is closest to replacing Mona in Miller’s heart and is the true inspiration for the account in the novel:"It is to you, Tania, that I am singing. I wish that I could sing better, more melodiously, but then perhaps you would never have consented to listen to me. You have heard the others sing and they have left you cold. They sang too beautifully, or not beautifully enough."Tania’s appeal seems to be that she accepts him as he is. In return, Miller must accept her for what she is, married, but available.Miller’s financial circumstances hardly diminish his sexual braggadocio (for he is an artist):"O Tania, where now is that warm qunt of yours, those fat, heavy garters, those soft, bulging thighs? There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your qunt, Tania, big with seed. I will send you home to your Sylvester with an ache in your belly and your womb turned inside out. Your Sylvester! Yes, he knows how to build a fire, but I know how to inflame a qunt. I shoot hot bolts into you, Tania, I make your ovaries incandescent...I am fucquing you, Tania, so that you’ll stay fucqued."Henry knows or asserts that he is better for Tania than her husband, because of his sexual prowess and his superior writing skills. Well, it’s his story after all and he’s sticking to it.Miller asks us to judge him by his performance, and his novel, his story-telling, is just as much a part of his performance as his fucquing ability.This is the most sexually explicit and declamatory that Miller gets in relation to his own affairs. If you can handle this passage, you will have no problem with the rest of the novel.This Dry, Fucqued Out, Lucked Out World in Which We’re LivingMiller was writing at a time when the First World War had just occurred and the Second World War was fast approaching.Miller was not a particularly political person, in the sense of party political or ideological commitment to Left or Right. In 1936, he would tell George Orwell that to go to Spain at the time of the Spanish Civil War, would be "the act of an idiot".However, Miller believed that there were problems affecting the roots of civilization.The West was in decline. It was gazing into an abyss. In Miller’s words, it was "fucqued out".Initially, he realises this while whoring:"When I look down into this fucqued-out qunt of a whore, I feel the whole world beneath me, a world tottering and crumbling, a world used up and polished like a leper’s skull..."The world is pooped out: there isn't a dry fart left. Who that has a desperate, hungry eye can have the slightest regard for these existent governments, laws, codes, principles, ideals, ideas, totems, and taboos? "If anyone knew what it meant to read the riddle of that thing which today is called a "crack" or a "hole," if anyone had the least feeling of mystery about the phenomena which are labeled "obscene," this world would crack asunder. "It is the obscene horror, the dry, fucked-out aspect of things which makes this crazy civilization look like a crater."The Topic of CancerMiller describes the eschatological in terms of the scatological and then in terms of cancer:"No matter where you go, no matter what you touch, there is cancer and syphilis. It is written in the sky; it flames and dances, like an evil portent. It has eaten into our souls and we are nothing but a dead thing like the moon."The world around me is dissolving, leaving here and there spots of time. The world is a cancer eating itself away…"[It] grows inside you like a cancer, and grows and grows until you are eaten away by it."Miller even explained the name of the novel in these terms:"It was because to me cancer symbolizes the disease of civilization, the endpoint of the wrong path, the necessity to change course radically, to start completely over from scratch."The Estrangement of the MachineAt the heart of Miller’s diagnosis are industrialization and the machine.At a personal level, his machine was his typewriter, with which he had a harmonious relationship:"I am a writing machine. The last screw has been added. The thing flows. Between me and the machine there is no estrangement. I am the machine…"In contrast, he refers to a "world which is peculiar to the big cities, the world of men and women whose last drop of juice has been squeezed out by the machine – the martyrs of modern progress…a mass of bones and collar buttons…"Industrialisation relies on the division of labour and conformity.Citing Walt Whitman, he asserts:"The future belongs to the machine, to the robots."We have been deprived of our humanity by mechanization.Paradoxically, Miller associates the word "human" with this new de-humanised human being:"Once I thought that to be human was the highest aim a man could have, but I see now that it was meant to destroy me. Today I am proud to say that I am inhuman, that I belong not to men and governments, that I have nothing to do with creeds and principles. I have nothing to do with the creaking machinery of humanity.""I Am Inhuman!"Something new is required, what Miller calls "inhuman".Miller doesn’t recognise any obligation to define himself or his vision in traditional liberal, humanist terms.Again, he embraces imagery that recalls "Hamlet" and William Blake:"I belong to the earth! ... I am inhuman! "I say it with a mad, hallucinated grin, and I will keep on saying it though it rain crocodiles. Behind my words are all those grinning, leering, skulking skulls, some dead and grinning a long time, some grinning as if they had lockjaw, some grinning with the grimace of a grin, the foretaste and aftermath of what is always going on. "Clearer than all I see my own grinning skull, see the skeleton dancing in the wind, serpents issuing from the rotted tongue and the bloated pages of ecstasy slimed with excrement. "And I join my slime, my excrement, my madness; my ecstasy to the great circuit which flows through the subterranean vaults of the flesh. "All this unbidden, unwanted, drunken vomit will flow on endlessly through the minds of those to come in the inexhaustible vessel that contains the history of the race."Miller is content to join (Blakean) ecstasy with shit and slime and vomit and madness.Creative Spirits and Mothers of the RaceMiller believes that civilization has become a "crater", a "great yawning gulf of nothingness":"The dry, fucqued-out crater is obscene. More obscene than anything is inertia. More blasphemous than the bloodiest oath is paralysis."Nothingness must be confronted by something vital, dynamic and exuberant. This is the role of sex and of creativity, but it is also the role of womanhood in Miller’s vision.The problem of, and the response to, nothingness is carried between the legs of "the creative spirits and mothers of the race," the latter being the "tenderest parts" of womanhood."The Inhuman Ones"The "inhuman ones" are "artists who, goaded by unknown impulses, take the lifeless mass of humanity and by the fever and ferment with which they imbue it turn this soggy dough into bread and the bread into wine and the wine into song."It is the role of artists to transcend life and lifelessness by:"…ransacking the universe, turning everything upside down, their feet always moving in blood and tears, their hands always empty, always clutching and grasping for the beyond, for the god out of reach: slaying everything within reach in order to quiet the monster that gnaws at their vitals...""The Womb of Time"The other response to nothingness is womanhood.Miller has a complicated relationship with womanhood, which needs to be approached with some skepticism, because that was the response of his contemporaries.Womanhood for Miller represents the womb, the origin of life and a comfort zone and a source of sustenance during gestation (as in George Orwell’s essay, the experience of being "inside the whale").Womanhood represents a contrast to the order of industrialization and mechanization. It represents chaos:"When into the womb of time everything is again withdrawn, chaos will be restored and chaos is the score upon which reality is written. "You, Tania, are my chaos. It is why I sing. "It is not even I, it is the world dying, shedding the skin of time. I am still alive, kicking in your womb, a reality to write upon."Miller’s Boner FidesObviously, the womb or uterus is a discrete part of a female’s genitalia from which males derive pleasure.Miller seeks to exalt or deify a woman’s vagina or qunt, by virtue of its association with the metaphorical significance of the womb.This is the foundation upon which Miller builds an entire sexual and worldly philosophy.The question is: is this philosophy sincere or authentic, or is he simply dressing up his sexual appetite into something that is ostensibly more profound?Lust for LifeFor Miller, sex is the measure of the man, right down, in his case at least (or at most), to his length in inches.However, his sexual exuberance is symbolic, in turn, of his lust or zest for life.This zest necessarily takes him, a male, into the arms and womb of womanhood.What Miller seeks from the relationship between male and female is joy, "the ecstasy of myriad blazing suns":"Today I awoke from a sound sleep with curses of joy on my lips…Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy."Feel FlowsMiller incorporates this vitality into a theory about the flow of life from birth to death, from womb to tomb: "I love everything that flows…rivers, sewers, lava, semen, blood, bile, words, sentences. I love the amniotic fluid when it spills out of the bag..."I love the urine that pours out scalding and the clap that runs endlessly; I love the words of hysterics and the sentences that flow on like dysentery and mirror all the sick images of the soul; I love the great rivers like the Amazon and the Orinoco…"I love everything that flows, even the menstrual flow that carries away the seed unfecund."Again, Miller’s vision incorporates both positive and negative, semen and menstrual blood, fecund and unfecund.In language that adverts to Proust, Miller continues:"I love everything that flows, everything that has time in it and becoming, that brings us back to the beginning where there is never end: the violence of the prophets, the obscenity that is ecstasy, the wisdom of the fanatic, the priest with his rubber litany, the foul words of the whore, the spittle that floats away in the gutter, the milk of the breast and the bitter honey that pours from the womb, all that is fluid, melting, dissolute and dissolvent, all the pus and dirt that in flowing is purified, that loses its sense of origin, that makes the great circuit toward death and dissolution. "The great incestuous wish is to flow on, one with time, to merge the great image of the beyond with the here and now."The positive and the negative are the yin and the yang, two sides of the same coin, parts of a cyclical continuum from birth to death to rebirth in some lesser or higher form. Miller felt unable to write literature like Proust, as if it had ceased to be relevant to the time, as if Proust was a force that needed an equal and opposite reaction:"I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive..."I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me…"This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty…what you will."The Body ElectricPerhaps the greatest literary influence on Miller was Walt Whitman.In many ways, Miller is a personification of Whitman’s worldview, which cannot be found in Europe:"Europe is saturated with art and her soil is full of dead bones and her museums are bursting with plundered treasures, but what Europe has never had is a free, healthy spirit, what you might call a MAN… Goethe is an end of something, Whitman is a beginning."What appeals to Miller about Whitman was his emphasis on the body, sex and vitality:"Ideas have to be wedded to action; if there is no sex, no vitality in them, there is no action. Ideas cannot exist alone in the vacuum of the mind. Ideas are related to living..."Equally, Miller’s life and work must be authentic and true:"I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing…"To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing. It is to you, Tania, that I am singing." Anais Nin Anais Nin said that "Tropic of Cancer" was "a wild extravagance, a mad gaiety, a verve, a gusto, at times almost a delirium. A continual oscillation between extremes…it is blood and flesh which are given us. "Drink, food, laughter, desire, passion, curiosity, the simple realities which nourish the roots of our highest and vaguest creations."It is to her enormous credit that, not only did she provide this preface for Miller’s work, but that she borrowed a substantial amount of money to fund its publishing costs.For much of the time that Miller was writing the novel, she also had a passionate sexual relationship with him. There is even some suspicion that aspects of their relationship are reflected in the character of Tania, even though there is evidence of the primary inspiration for that character.Regardless of whether she features in the novel, we must be grateful to Nin that "Tropic of Cancer", a work of unrivalled sexual exuberance and exaltation, survives today in a world that is often unimaginative, uninspired, mundane and tedious.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Sketchbook

Henry Miller performs a cunning stunt. There is no odious P.C. here, which one must deplore. This faux-memoir isnt "sexy," but it is a vomit of hilarity. I long for the Baz Luhrmann musical version. Meantime, plunge in, whacckkk it, and then slurp a gonarrhea cocktail. Btw, don't eat the ham sandwich in the bidet.

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