Tropic of Cancer

ISBN: 0802131786
ISBN 13: 9780802131782
By: Henry Miller

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About this book

Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller’s famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s.Tropic of Cancer is now considered, as Norman Mailer said, one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century.

Reader's Thoughts


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.


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.


When I read this for the first time I thought the world was opening up and eating people. I wanted to get drunk and go on a hooker spree, to move to Paris and generally debauch for the rest of my 20's....Then I realized I kind of wanted to do all this anyways but with Miller's aid I could and even better I could disguise the whole thing as "literary." I struggled through Capricorn, through The Books in My Life, through a number of Miller's personal letters and musings. I even made a pilgrimage to Big Sur. Then I picked up Richard Brautigan or "Cannary Row" or something and I realized I could skip Paris. I could skip Europe entirely. I could just drink wine on a bench in my back yard, throw on an old Bill Broonzy CD and stare at the sun. I could even meet a nice girl and keep her around for a while. No need for crabs or lice or bed bugs at all. No sir, just soft northern california sunlight and grassy knolls. That was it. The dirty big city Miller hangovers were gone.....Still, for a few months there, Miller was really really doing it for me. At the time it was true life changing stuff.5 stars.

Sondra Wolferman

The artist and writer's fascination with the city of Paris is nothing new. It has been covered by literary greats from James Baldwin to Ernest Hemingway to James Joyce. But Henry Miller does it with such finesse he puts all the others to shame. There is barely any plot and the cast of characters consists almost exclusively of whores, misfits, lowlifes and degenerates, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this novel for its sparkling prose and its flagrant trashing of conventional morality. Nonetheless I must point out some contradictions. Among other things,Tropic of Cancer is supposed to be a 'celebration of sex'. However I couldn't help but notice virtually every female with whom the narrator had sexual contact in the city of Paris was a prostitute, or, in the author's own words, a whore. This is not sex, it is commerce. As much as the client might try to delude himself into thinking he is engaged in a mutual exchange of pleasure, sex with a prostitute is still a business transaction. Which sort of contradicts the narrator's notion that he has somehow 'escaped' the crass commercialism of New York City by fleeing to the bohemian lifestyle in Paris. Not that there's anything wrong with paying for sex, but let's call a spade a spade. Tropic of Cancer is also a celebration of the city of Paris, and Miller's descriptive details are so riveting the reader is instantly transported to the cafes, the bars, and the seedy rooming houses of the low-rent Parisian neighborhood where his narrator wanders alone and penniless mooching meals off his fellow expatriates. But the narrator's obsession with urinals, spitoons, bidets, overflowing toilets and the like does get tiresome after a while. Only one chapter in the book (with the exception of the narrator's foray with his friends to the port city of Le Havre)is set outside of Paris,in the northern region of Dijon, which Miller describes with a hatred in direct proportion to his love of Paris. Oddly enough, the Dijon chapter was one of my favorites, which goes to show that Miller's brilliance is not limited to Paris and sex.Tropic of Cancer has been described as a novel, a memoir, an autobiography, and even an essay. Given the power of the writing I would even venture to call it a very long prose-poem dedicated to the city of Paris and loose women everywhere. It is a testament to the power of Henry Miller's writing that none of the weaknesses mentioned above made me dislike the book or it's author and I look forward to reading more of Miller's works in the future.


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.


Si è detto molto, troppo di questo romanzo di Miller. C'è chi leggendolo si è scandalizzato, chi come me lo ha adorato, amato. Ho adorato lo stile di Miller, il modo in cui racconta il suo vissuto, la sua storia, le avventure con i suoi amici, il suo flusso di coscienza sugli scrittori che ama e che detesta. Siamo a Parigi e il fatto stesso che sia ambientato in questa città, che amo alla follia, aggiunge più di un punto a suo favore. Dimenticate per un attimo la Parigi che avete imparato a conoscere e amare, la Parigi delle "Blinding lights" come cantano gli U2. La Parigi descritta da Miller è una Parigi sull'orlo dello sfacelo, della disperazione, contorniata da prostitute e barboni agli angoli delle strade con personaggi al limite che tentano di sopravvivere e di arrivare a fine giornata.Un romanzo arido, duro, forte, una piccola perla che vi invito a leggere.


Hank's a horny dude from nowhere Brooklyn who loves lowlifes and reads Proust.Hank's wife leaves him for a woman and he quits the country to go run around Paris as a freewheeling urchin.Hank writes dementedly eloquent insights as to the state of his Being.Hank writes a shocking, pornographic classic that is banned on arrival.Hank lives to see vindication.Go, Hank, go!


'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.'Well, that is probably the only thing he got right.

Taylor K.

I knew this would be raunchy, but what I didn't expect was how funny it would be. Maybe I've watched too many male-centric sex comedies, but that's how the "obscene" parts of this book played out to me. (Stop reading here if you are easily offended when it comes to sex.) There's a scene where he has sex with a woman in a bathroom and comes on her dress and she gets ticked off at him, another where he's watching a friend have sex and he keeps tickling the guy's ass, there's a gay sailor character, etc. There were parts where he lost me, though, for example, this moment where he's staring at a woman's vagina and is thinking about how it's like a tunnel or a black hole or something and goes on this weird abstract train of thought. I don't know if I'd personally call it a masterpiece, but it surprised me, in a good way.


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."


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.


The Tropic of Cancer, Wikipedia says, "also referred to as the Northern tropic, is the circle of latitude on the Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith. This event occurs once per year, at the time of the June solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun to its maximum extent."The sun at its zenith, that is, in its full splendour, “tropic” being the word of reference here.On the other hand, Henry Miller emphasizes the second word when he explains the title of his novel as follows: "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 phrase becomes thus slightly oxymoronic and can be read as a metaphor of Paris. Indeed, the City is the main character of this extraordinary book: Paris, shining like the sun at its zenith when it promises the grandeur to the young artist who enters it, but revealing itself as an incurable disease while the same artist actually begins to live in it. Published in 1934 in Paris (where else?), the novel triggered a huge scandal because of its language and nonconformist approach to some taboo themes for that time, especially related to sex. Prohibited in USA and UK for many years (three decades!) because of the same old confusion between ethics and aesthetics that seems to lead to many interpretations of art works even nowadays, considered immoral and obscene, it is fortunate it did not become a book only to read about instead of a book to enjoy reading. Especially when, as Samuel Beckett once said, it is one of the greatest modernist writings in the universal literature. And in a truly modernist way the novel begins, by considering Literature dead and its writer a forgotten, otiose God ("Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God."), to replace them with a spitting artist who scoffs at the old values without the ambition to create new ones ("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…"). A book without a narrative line, following the stream of consciousness of the narrator, who records his time in Paris with his bohemian friends, in order to capture - what? The condition of the Artist, always looking for something very "trivial", like food, shelter or sex? The contrast between living and creating? The mirage of the City? All of them and more, in order to stress the idea that life creeps into the creation, that there is nothing you have to remove from Art as non-artistic or prohibitive, not even the crap, the clap, the cunt, the syphilis, the whores and so on. In a book destined to be "absolutely original, absolutely perfect," whose theme is the Artist and his Creation, there isn’t anything that cannot be told or have to be avoided. The Narrator himself is merely a man who struggles and makes many mistakes as a human being, who steals from a prostitute and deceives his friends, but he is also the Artist that observes the world and gives us a fair image of it. It is not a coherent image in the beginning, but a puzzle whose pieces are thrown negligently towards the reader:- Fulgurant visions of some characters, masterfully evoked in a few words, like Van Norden, suggestively characterized as "cunt-struck"; or Moldorf compared with a "vase without a rubber plant" (note this: not a plant, a rubber one!); or Fanny, who laughs like a fat worm (how the heck do worms laugh? – like Fanny, of course!); or Claude that "had a soul and a conscience; she had refinement, too, which is bad – in a whore"; or Kepi who "has absolutely no ambition except to get a fuck every night"; or count Waldemar von Schwisseneinzug who has dandruff eyes (imagine this, if you can!).- Ironic notes about food or the lack of it - there is a whole page where almost every word is a synonym or reminder of food (lunch, belly, eat, meal, chicken, plate, vegetable, etc.) to end with the upside-down image of the City as a huge organism eaten by disease.- Description, in a tone that later will be equalled only by Bukowski, of the menial jobs the narrator has to get in order to survive: as a proof-reader, when the narrator realizes, ironically, that "It requires more concentration to detect a missing comma than to epitomize Nietzsche's philosophy. You can be brilliant sometimes, when you're drunk, but brilliance is out of place in the proofreading department. Dates, fractions, semicolons – these are the things that count"; as a fake journalist - pseudonymous writing in newspapers; as an English teacher, when he tries to spice the students’ classes with the subject of the coupling of the elephants.- Tragi-comic scenes: Carl tries to seduce a rich old woman but he cannot stomach to have sex with her; the proof-reader Peckover is gravely hurt in an accident but he can only think about the loss of his false teeth; the narrator steals the hundred francs he had paid a Norwegian whore for services rendered; and the icing on the cake (yours to guess the scene behind the quote if you didn’t read the book): "Imagine these bloody no-accounts going home from the concert with blood on their dickies!"Above all this there is the intriguing love-hate relationship between the narrator and the City, since Paris is viewed like a huge organism that traps, enchants, promises and deceives: a stage, an obstetrical instrument used for artificial birth, a place where everyone lives and no one dies; a heart palpitating after being removed from a warm body; an illusion of being at home; a paradise in the spring, a place for varieties of sexual provender; something that "grows inside you like a cancer"; a mad slaughterhouse, the navel of the world, more eternal than Rome or Nineveh; a whore that " from a distance (…) seems ravishing, you can't wait until you have her in your arms. And five minutes later you feel empty, disgusted with yourself. " Because "one can live without friends, as one can live without love, or even without money, that supposed sine qua non. One can live in Paris – I discovered that! – on just grief and anguish."Of course, in such a desecrated world the Artist’s epiphanies are Miller-style: "When I look down into this fucked-out cunt 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."


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.

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"]>


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.

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