For the John Cusack Reading Challenge
The blurb from goodreads: 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.”
WHAT it’s ABOUT: Well…
If you are completely new to this, I shall tell you that this book is somewhat autobiographical of Henry’s struggling writer days in France, mostly Paris. If you have ideals and dreams to be a writer in Paris, you might want to experience this book. It does include descriptions of the city plus a myriad of thoughts on a variety of topics; a lot of musings about being poor and wanting to be a writer and how depraved the world is. Set in the Thirties, one might not expect all the sexual adventures that Mr. Miller shares but then one – or is it only me? – is often reminded that just because a book is set in “OLDER TIMES” does not mean people were always good, chaste and respectable. Not that I would use those descriptions to describe any era, but I do admit that I view the past, the “good ol’ days” as being more wholesome and less crazy. This book should change your mind – I admit to being shocked. (yep, still clinging to my naïveté.)
Sir Alexander Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice of England said,
“I think the test of obscenity is this: whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.”
- the Hicklin Rule (1868)
If you DO know what this book is about and think you are not sure you would ever want to read it, I suggest the audio. I wonder if I would have finished this if I had only read the print. On the other hand, I am glad I have the eBook to refer to now. And if you care not to read blunt descriptions of the sexual act(s), perhaps this is not a book for you.
“And there are of course, many people who are genuinely repelled by the simplest and most natural stirring of sexual feeling. But these people are perverts who have fallen into hatred of their fellow man: thwarted, disappointed, unfulfilled people, of whom, alas, our civilization contains so many.”
- D. H. Lawrence
What’s GOOD: Henry Miller did have a talent for creating mood and atmosphere with words.
“The night hung close, dagger-pointed, drunk as a maniac. There it was, the infinitude of emptiness. Over the chapel, like a bishop’s miter, hung the constellation, every night, during the winter months. It hung there low over the chapel. Low and bright, a handful of dagger points, a dazzle of pure emptiness. The old fellow followed me to the turn of the drive. The door closed silently. As I bade him good night I caught that desperate, hopeless smile again, like a meteoric flash over the rim of a lost world.”
I might also be tempted to say that sometimes it felt like bad performance art. But sometimes, it was amazingly achingly hauntingly beautiful.
I am now more interested in reading about Anaïs Nin:
“If there is here revealed a capacity to shock, to startle the lifeless ones from their profound slumber, let us congratulate ourselves; for the tragedy of our world is precisely that nothing any longer is capable of rousing it from its lethargy. No more violent dreams, no refreshment, no awakening. In the anaesthesia produces by self-knowledge, life is passing, art is passing, slipping from us: we are drifting with time and our fight is with shadows. We need a blood transfusion.”
FINAL Thoughts: Not for the faint of heart. For those who are inquisitive of the controversial classics that many say are MUST-READS. For adventuresome souls who want to read all about “Writers in Paris”.
RATING: Three slices of pie and a shot of Pernod.