Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
What can be said about Henry Miller? He had talent. The words slid over his acid tongue, dripped from his pen, and spouted effortlessly from his worn old typewriter. And he was honest. Well, if you believe perception is reality…. he was honest. He viewed life from the dismal darkness of the gutter. His reality was only the vulgar, the sordid, and the negative side of life.
And he didn’t pretend to be writing a great book in Tropic of Cancer. He admits, “my idea has been to get off the gold standard of literature… to present a resurrection of the emotions, to depict the conduct of a human being in the stratosphere of ideas… in the grip of delirium” (pg. 243) And perhaps he described it best when he wrote “This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character… this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of the Art, a kick in the pants of God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing… while you croak… I will dance over your dirty corpse.” (Pg. 2)
What a shame! In one fell-swoop he managed to tip the scale of literature from the stratosphere of pure gold to the cloying, degrading, putrid, filthy depths of the sewer. Henry Miller had mental diarrhea and this dreck stinks to high heaven!
The book contains no plot, no emotion, no romance, and actually… not even erotica. It is no more erotic than a little boy thinking he is cute talking about “poo-poo” and “farts”. Henry Miller tries to be clever like the “shock jock” Howard Stern by throwing around as many filthy words as he can… banal descriptions of his daily exploits of cold hearted bestial fornication with prostitutes, bouts of sexual diseases, and depressing visuals of life in Paris in the 1930’s as a homeless, financially destitute expatriate just waiting for an occasional check from his second wife to cover his self indulgent contemptuous behavior, as he brags about being free, white, and broke – living off anyone who will foot the bills – while he writes this book. He laughs at an acquaintance’s tragic death and nonchalantly shrugs off his room-mates brief affair with a 15 year old virgin stating, “Everywhere I go people are making a mess of their lives… the atmosphere is saturated with disaster, frustration, futility. The effect upon me is exhilarating. Instead of being discouraged, or depressed, I enjoy it. I am crying for more and more disasters, for bigger calamities, for grander failures.” (pg. 12)
This book is celebrated as a great novel? If it were purely fiction it could be categorized along with Lolita – the story of a mentally deranged dirty sex fiend – but knowing this smutty wretched story is semi-autobiographical makes it uncultured and ignorant. I can only assume that besides having zero respect for anyone or anything on this lovely earth (including his five wives and himself, and anything that represented the respectable establishment), Henry Miller would agree that having Tropic of Cancer listed on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels is a colossal joke.
Rated 1 Star