Tropic Of Capricorn, Henry Miller.


Miller's anti-narrative of life in 1920s New York reads like a rude, careering, vent of frustrated ambitions and intelligence; a bad-mouthed On The Road that goes nowhere until after the narrative finishes. There are numerous things that will put a reader off this book: the plot-less, almost stream-of-conscious delivery that gallops along through the chaos of the author's life, the crudity of the language, particularly in reference to sex (this has to be the most uses of the C word in a classic novel I've encountered). Indeed, accusations of misogyny have troubled the book for years, and the casual (at least) attitude toward women and sex may shock some, but perhaps no more than fans of On The Road. Speaking of other books, the contrast of this life style to the more upper class lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald's characters, albeit in the same period and similar area, is considerable. This is a story of raw, rude, visceral, frustrating intelligence trapped in a mundane life of working drudgery. What marks Miller's Tropic books out are his philosophical underpinnings. Miller sees an emptiness pervading America, in every coast, city, street, apartment, room and mind. He loathed and feared the acceptance of consumerism before it became consumerism, rebelling against it in his daily existence, seeing a nation of automatons defined by their pointless consumption. Long before the counter-culture of the 1960s espoused such values, Miller was railing against this creeping emptiness and vowing to never fall to it. As such, he moved to Paris for some years, where the precursor to this novel (Tropic Of Cancer) was wrote and published, detailing his time there in much the same manner as Capricorn. Like On The Road, and Tropic Of Cancer, the writing left me breathless, a tumbling, reckless, thundering storm of intelligence, self demanding, questing and questioning. It is self aware to a painful, self loathing, degree: all too aware of his failings, his cravings, his deceptions and lusts. But at the same time, his expectations and belief in what people can be, what he can be, are the driving force of this restless book.

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