Miller's groundbreaking first novel, banned in Britain for almost thirty years, now reinvigorated in a new Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition.A penniless and as yet unpublished writer, Henry Miller arrived in Paris in 1930. Leaving behind a disintegrating marriage and an unhappy career in America, he threw himself into the low-life of bohemian Paris with unwavering gusto. A fictional account of Miller's adventures amongst the prostitutes and pimps, the penniless painters and writers of Montparnasse, Tropic of Cancer is an extravagant and rhapsodic hymn to a world of unrivalled eroticism and freedom.Tropic of Cancer's 1934 publication in France was hailed by Samuel Beckett as 'a momentous event in the history of modern writing'. The novel was subsequently banned in the UK and the USA and not released for publication for a further thirty years.Amazon.com Review
No punches are pulled in Henry Miller's most famouswork. Still pretty rough going for even our jaded sensibilities, butTropic of Cancer is an unforgettable novel ofself-confession. Maybe the most honest book ever written, thisautobiographical fiction about Miller's life as an expatriate Americanin Paris was deemed obscene and banned from publication in thiscountry for years. When you read this, you see immediately how muchmodern writers owe Miller. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (183)
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller is a book that is best read when you are young...say of the 20-something set.And while it is true that there are a number of books that fall into this range (Look Homeward, Angel among others), Miller's Tropic books (both Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn) do hold a certain value where a return read through years is warranted.Like all good literature, and Tropic of Cancer is certainly that, there are aspects of the book that ring more true depending on how far in years you are along when you return to it.
If Tropic of Cancer has any downside it might be Miller's take on women in general.Still, it is a worthy read and like so many other books (Ulysses (Gabler Edition), Lolita (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) (Vintage International (Pb)) , etc), it is a book that changed the course of fiction.However, if you are of the ilk to want a novel with structure then you may steer clear of the Tropics as neither book (Cancer or Capricorn) follow any real plotline.But if you want to read a book stripped bare of literary tricks and told in a bold, truthful style then this novel is for you.
Seedy but genius at times
What to say about reading Henry Miller's work? They are like stumbling, drunk, through a dark, seedy alley when suddenly the prose turns into some of the most elegant and energetic copy you've seen-- then, like the drunkard having a brief lucid moment this flash of genius passes leaving you waiting for the next great passage.
This is an earlier and longer work than Quiet days in Clichy (1934 versus 1956) even though both novels cover some of the same events. To me, his prose was much more developed in his later work.
This book was a little rough around the edges but definitely still worth the read.
Tropic of Cancer
If you enjoy writing full of amazing visuals, brash words, and honest diction don't leave this book out.It was left out of american publication for quite some time because it was tide up in obscenity trials, but if you've dabbled in books that search to understand sexual behaviors you shouldn't be surprised.There is a lot of stream-of-consciousness, so if that sort of plot-less writing bothers you steer clear, but it mainly depicts a man struggling to be a writer.Referenced in many other books and noted to be one of the greatest works of literature it's hard to pass by even if it's not your style.
A blood transfusion!
Tropic of Cancer is Miller`s first book and remains his greatest book. Miller wanted to be a writer, but he could not find any publisher. When he was 37 years old, he was sent to Paris to start living in artist's life. Here his anger was reached the limit and he exploded. I have never read such deep expression of one's true feelings and emotions. While this book became international best seller, it had been burned for 30 years in his own country.
If you are not satisfied your life and if you thirst for life, you must read this book. The last 20 pages are purely masterpiece.
Nin and Kerouac without talent, ethos or logos
I understand and respect the influence Miller had on later writers particularly Kerouac and Nin, but Miller's style and his willingness to bore readers with tales of himself are not of themselves good or even interesting. Miller's impact on later writers may be likened to the impact of WWI on WWII. The influence is a fact but it does not follow that it is necessarily a good thing.
Kerouac's writing worked because he was exceptionally bright, had a good command of the English language, was a perceptive and sensitive observer of the human condition and was concerned with things other than himself and his bodily functions. Miler is far less talented, significantly less aware of the world around him, a poor observer of others, obsessed about his own physical needs and completely unconcerned with others. Thus while reading Kerouac can be a delight, reading Miller is a bore. Miller's alleged literary skill is rarely on display in his works and largely absent from this book. He is simply inept at writing dialogue and any attempt to put Miller in the same class as writers such as Hemingway is a bad joke. Miller's writing was not formed by exceptional talent but by shortcuts needed as a result of his inadequacies as a writer. You will find the occasional good turn of phrase but you will more often find poorly conceived attempts such as the following:
"That was enough for me. I turned at once to Marcelle and began to flatter the ass off her. we stood at the corner of the bar, pretending to dance, and mauled each other voraciously. Jimmie gave me a big horse-wink and nodded his head approvingly. She was a lascivious bitch, this Marcelle and pleasant at the same time."
This is good writing? No, it is not. If Miller were alive today he would likely be writing Penthouse letters, with the same or less skill as others. If you took excerpts of Miler's writing and submitted them as your own for criticism they would be rightly blasted, yet when Miller's authorship is attributed to them they become gems? No, they do not. Literary snobbery is as responsible for Miller's reputation as anything else. He became popular in the literary world because he tried some new things (to cover his poor writing skills), because of his sexual meanderings, and because he was banned. Had he never been banned, he likely would have descended to his correct role in the literary world.
Miller possessed an impoverished vocabulary of dirty words. The B word, C word and F word are used incessantly, repetitively and rarely to good purpose. His knowledge of sex was amateurish, his writing about sex was juvenile. He was not a sexual man, just a horny man. If you want good erotic writing from someone who was a sexual person, read Nin. Miller's much noted sexual passages are uninteresting, superficial and quite simply boring. Yes, I understand he blazed a trail and without Miller we might not have had the far superior writings of Nin, but it is nonetheless no reason to read Miller, unless you are an academic who is studying literary history. If not, read Nin. Read Kerouac.
Was Tropic of Cancer important in the literary world? Yes. Was it good? No. For some reason literary critics seem incapable of distinguishing between these two concepts.
I and many others also do not care for Miller's writing in large because we have no interest in or respect for him as a man, and his writing is, if nothing else, about himself. I cannot imagine going to dinner with him. His world revolved around himself to the exclusion of any concern about others. His politics were immature, poorly formed and almost childish, much as were his attitudes toward women.
Miler did at least exhibit some honesty and show some self awareness when he wrote "Life, said Emerson, consists in what a man is thinking all day. If that be so, then my life is nothing but a big intestine."
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