Original Publication Date: 1956
Version: 1994 Publication
Format: Paperback, 154 pages
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Miller’s works (as am I), you’ll have a hard time discerning whether what you’re reading is his memoirs or if it’s fiction. Seemingly, this book was like a day in the life of Miller – a struggling American writer in Paris, honing
squandering his craft through booze and women. There’s very little plot to speak of. It was sex, booze, sex…and more sex. The most cringe-worthy being, sex with a minor. But this is the 1920’s Paris – where everything goes and you’d get a pat on the back for violating a minor simply because you’re a writer.
I started Tropic of Cancer many moons back but had to quit before I got to the ‘good parts’. Back then, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to dive in to his world – where a woman is only good for one thing, and one thing only: SEX. But I realized that sooner or later, a girl needs to pull up her bloomers and conquer the rest of the literary world. And what better way to venture out to the dark side but read Henry’s works?
I’ve had this image of old Paris in my head – beautiful, classy, grand and worthy of being aptly named, The City of Love. But then again, maybe I’m being naive; because Miller’s representation of Paris was far from it. In his words, I imagined Paris to be the cradle of the decline of morality as we know it; where the streets and cafés are inhabited by prostitutes. He managed to sullen the beauty of the city through his words. If I sound like a judgemental prude, then I apologize. I’m just calling it for what it is. But just remember, my opinion is not a fact. It’s neither right nor wrong. The way I see it, reading someone’s novel is like looking at an artist’s work: What’s beautiful to some may be nothing but ugly and meaningless bauble to others.
I was amazed by how little his opinions about women were. To Miller, we’re nothing but soft caches of flesh for which he could stick his you-know-what in (yes, I do realize that perhaps Henry Miller’s works are not appropriate for someone who can’t even say “penis” with a straight face, but I’m broadening my reading horizon here – bear with me). This man is also very generous with four letter words; those that would fill up a swear jar (*unt,*ock,*uck…you get the picture).
This bitty is not a review. I can’t pretend to sit here and critique a guy who’s known for his legendary
misogynistic writing. Admittedly, Miller’s ability to write so crassly was both the source of my admiration and disdain. He has little regard for emotions of others and yet he gets just the right air for what he’s trying to accomplish: Complete detachment from his characters.
A lot more could be said about Mr. Miller. Heck, love him or hate him, the man wrote the most realistic of fictions. What I can say, however is that, had he lived in our times, he’d probably get a lot of flack from feminists everywhere. But who’s to say he hasn’t been?