“Human beings make strange fauna and flora. From a distance, they seem negligible; up close their apt to appear ugly and malicious.”
Discovering Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is one of my fondest memories. I had recently arrived in Paris and, in preparation for a month of traveling, I ventured into the immensely famous Shakespeare & Co. English bookstore. One of Hemingway’s favorite haunts, the cozy boutique holds literally thousands of great works of literature.
Thanks to the popular Seinfeild episode, “The Library”, I’d been enlightened to the book’s perverse reputation. I purchased Miller’s first of The Obelisk Trilogy(followed by Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring) and began my journey into Europe and the mind of Henry Miller.
Set in the expatriate raided streets of 30’s Paris, Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is a delightful blend of sexuality, philosophy, stream-of-conciousness, and dark comedy. The struggling writer’s penniless introspection reacts against the growing wave conformity that was to overtake the world in the following years. Unlike Hemingway’s masculine poetry, Miller’s frank prose reveals much more than just the Parisian underbelly.
So how does it hold up to modern standards? Tropic of Cancer was a novel I simply refused to put down. I remember ending the journey with my nose in Miller’s writing. I went on to read his Greek odyssey Colossus of Maroussi and the first of his Rosy Cruxifiction trilogy, Sexus(followed by Nexus and Plexus). I highly recommend both works.
A book(and writer for that matter) I would champion over Bukowski any day, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is a somewhat challenging, but ultimately worth it read.