Henry Miller

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Miller, Henry 1891–

Miller is a self-educated American novelist, essayist, and critic who has long been involved with searching for truth and freedom. Many of his best-known and most controversial works, such as Tropic of Cancer and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, are autobiographical; in them he describes his quest, which culminates in a rejection of modern civilization, but with an eventual realization about personal truth. Karl Shapiro says of him, "As a spiritual example he stands among the great men of our age." However, due perhaps to the frank sexuality and scatological language in his writings, and to his somewhat dissatisfied attitude about America, his reputation has only lately been changing from notorious to influential and well respected. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 4, 9, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)

Paul R. Jackson

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In Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer an Emersonian epigraph announces the romanticized autobiography that would become the staple of Miller's art. "These novels," Emerson asserts, "will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies—captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experiences, and how to record truth truly." Along with Whitman—"In Whitman the whole American scene comes to life, her past and her future, her birth and her death"—Emerson stands as a clear, if surprising, link to those traditions of American writing that produced the prophetic autobiographer that Miller became….

While Whitman has remained a perennial constant in Miller's literary enthusiasms, Emerson recurs only as a supportive figure in the Americanism that marks the volumes of a writing career that spans at least three decades and that binds the literary expatriate to the artistic roots of his own country. Yet Miller returns to Emerson often enough to suggest an attachment more significant than one would at first suppose. (p. 231)

Miller's indebtedness to general Romantic and Transcendental modes of thought emerges in his prophetic announcements, often with the cadences of a speaking voice reminiscent of that of Emerson himself…. Emerson's emphasis on intuitive understanding with its resultant reliance on childhood experience, dream, and vision is constantly echoed…. [The] ecstatic emerging of the emancipated individual with divine process is dependent, with the insistence of a contemporary Emerson, on self-reliance: "The world would only begin to get something of value from me the moment I stopped being a serious member of society and became—myself! The State, the nation, the united nations of the world, were nothing but one great aggregation of individuals who repeated the mistakes of their forefathers."… (pp. 232-33)

Throughout his career, Miller has been drawn to autobiographical writers of all sorts, and letters, diaries and confessions rank high in those books to which he has enthusiastically responded…. [But it was in] Emerson's Journals and essays [that] Miller found that the divided self of the visionary seer in his long journey of emancipation into life was his subject.

The completeness with which Miller has been willing to confront Emerson's simultaneous levels of selfhood is nowhere better underscored than in one direct borrowing from Emerson's Journals in Sexus . This long autobiographical romance records the trying years of the 1920's; it begins with the turmoil of Miller's first marriage to the Maude of the romances and his initial meeting with Mona, the fictionalized second wife, chronicles his escape from employment with the telegraph company, his early attempts to begin writing, and ends on the night of his second marriage. At the close a life stretches before him that is to be marked by the ambiguities of the trilogy's title. Through the process of personal crucifixion paradoxically will come...

(This entire section contains 1350 words.)

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the new life.

Sexus ends with two parallel fantasies, the first taking place in a burlesque theater on the night of Miller's marriage to Mona. Watching the show unfold and allowing his mind to play with elements of his own predicament, Miller begins to fantasize about the death of a young soapbox orator he names Osmanli. (pp. 234-35)

It seems likely that Osmanli is Miller's version of Emerson's Osman, the alter ego who appears throughout the Journals and in the essay on "Manners." The change in his name presumably suggests a "manly" version of the ideal man Emerson secretly defined over so many years, a more masculine projection than that of the author Miller found at once "daring" and the writer of "pabulum." A comparison of Osman and Osmanli makes clear the hopes Miller entertained for himself as a young man and substantiates the technique that is basic to his art—the simultaneous projection of himself as heroic paradigm and the honest admission of the personal failures that marked much of his early adulthood. (p. 237)

Certain elements of this portrait would surely appeal to Miller. In a book detailing its author's late arrival on the literary scene—Miller was in his early thirties during the period dramatized here—Osman's neglected youth and the obscurity of his early adulthood closely parallel Miller's account of his own early years…. Like Osman, he has been interested in the "rude self" and in "highway experience." In short, there is much in Emerson's portrait of Osman that corresponds to Miller's estimate of himself, at least with the "better side" he confessed to Anaïs Nin Emerson invoked. If he was a dog, he was also, in aspiration at least, many of the things Emerson hoped for himself.

There are, however, at least two essential differences between Osman and Osmanli, and Miller's fantasy creature is not the simple alter ego that his Emersonian counterpart had been. While Emerson's Osman is a "poor and simple man," without any touch of the violent, Osmanli is a desperado of action—in fantasy he cuts off the dog's head, rapes the maid, and spends a life promoting anarchy. Moreover, he is disguised as a dandy, "a boulevardier, a flaneur, a Beau Brummel." Both changes suggest the real pressures to which Miller felt himself subject in the twenties and the intensity with which he had to respond. The autobiographical hero of Miller's romances is generally conceived as a comic but nonetheless serious man of forceful, especially sexual, action. While other men vacillate in their responses toward women, Miller can depict himself as assertive and bold. (pp. 238-39)

Yet such heroics are undercut by the dramatization of himself as henpecked husband and canine lover. Hesitant and reluctant, Miller emancipated himself slowly and with the utmost difficulty…. Osmanli, the forceful emancipator, is in fact a perfect projection of the ideal actor Miller, at the time, felt himself incapable of being. Himself a dog bound to an ambiguous mate in Mona, he could neither decapitate a dog nor rape a maid. (p. 239)

But Osmanli is not a simple character of wish fulfillment, any more than he is a one-dimensional alter ego. He dramatizes a strength that, no matter how attractive, Miller felt was fictitious in himself, and he is presented as a hollow man, a straw hero who has to come to terms with his own hidden self. Beneath his ostentatiousness, Osmanli is essentially the kind of empty, trapped human being Miller evidently felt himself to be in the twenties. Bound and visionless, Osmanli is merely the mockery of heroic strength. Like the watch and money that he discards as he runs down the street, his outer self is mere sham, and behind the glibness of the words he finds it so easy to manipulate is a personal vacuum that turns words into empty gesture. Until emancipation is complete, freedom remains a fiction, strength an illusion. For Miller the hollowness of his life as he looked forward to it is symbolized by a dying man learning at the last moment that dogs were still there to bark in spite of his own futile acts.

By borrowing Emerson's own creation, Miller followed the direction the earlier American had indicated. If novels were to give way to autobiography, the personal statement would have to express the complexity of what it is to be human at any given time. For Miller in the twenties, his humanity involved the combination of competing hopes of forceful action and acknowledged fears that actions without selfhood would result at best in comic emptiness. Emerson's Osman eventually flowers into a wise and famous man; Miller's Osmanli dies the product of a freak accident, a parallel to the domestic dog who can only win blue ribbons for a demanding mistress. For Miller, the autobiographical novel has been indeed the vehicle with which he has presented "the truth of emotions, reflection and understanding, truth digested and assimilated." Emerson's secret Osman suggested the possibilities for dramatizing the simultaneous levels of being Miller felt in his own divided self. (pp. 240-41)

Paul R. Jackson, "Henry Miller, Emerson, and the Divided Self," in American Literature (reprinted by permission of the Publisher; copyright 1971 by Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina), Vol. 43, No. 2, May, 1971, pp. 231-41.∗

George Stade

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1047

"Wear any uniform so long as it's not yours," advises Henry Miller, and the various uniforms of bum, stud, psychopomp, jeremiah, and saint he wears in his books never quite fit the forms and motions we see behind the garb and the gab. The protagonist of his books, name of Henry Miller, describes himself as being such-and-such, and this so-and-so varies from book to book, from passage to passage. But we do not see him as he sees himself. The figure we make out from passage to passage exposes only new lineaments of its eternal consistency. The "I" of his books does not know itself, and what it doesn't know remains pretty much the same. The shiftings of Proteus configure a Prometheus bound to his obsession but sure he is free.

So far, then, we have two Henry Millers, one a wardrobe of costumes, the other their inhabitant. A third Henry Miller is the designer of the costumes, the author holding onto the shirt-tails of his protagonist…. Sometimes the author and the protagonist seem pretty close. "I have moved the type-writer into the next room where I can see myself in the mirror as I write," says the protagonist of Tropic of Cancer. From all the squirms and craning, we gather that the image lacks definition, Dracula eluding his own gaze into the pier-glass. Similarly, the author never sees through his reflections and so has to keep rewriting his single book under numerous titles, always one step behind a protagonist who keeps running in place, but in the very best form. (p. 616)

To this day Henry Miller the author is naive in relation to his protagonist. We can get a more-or-less direct look at the author through his letters, his literary criticism, his social commentary, his philosophizing. He has less grace, poise, aplomb than his protagonist, but he is more solicitous of our admiration; he is not as wise, but more opinionated; not as pure, but also less complicated; less original, but more cranky; not as desperate, but more self-pitying; less terrible, more of a trial; not an unliberated liberator, but a chide.

It is the protagonist we are interested in, rather than the author—the "I," the character written into the books, not the writer, not the costumes the other two write about. Let us call him Henry. Here, in a passage from Tropic of Capricorn …, is Henry's moment of conception:

… in my dream life I frequently changed places with my sister, accepting the tortures inflicted upon her and nourishing them with my supersensitive brain. It was in these dreams, always accompanied by the sound of glass breaking, of shrieks, curses, groans and sobs, that I gathered an unformulated knowledge of the ancient mysteries, of the rites of initiation, of the transmigration of souls and so on…. I seemed to have absolute liberty and the authority of a god, and yet by some capricious turn of events the end would be that I'd be lying on the sacrificial block and one of my charming uterine relatives would be bending over me with a gleaming knife to cut out my heart…. I go completely off my nut and there is no more pain, no more terror, even though they are piercing me everywhere with knives. Suddenly I am absolutely calm and the body which is lying on the block, which they are still gouging with glee and ecstasy, feels nothing because I, the owner of it, have escaped. I have become a tower of stone which leans over the scene and watches with scientific interest. I have only to succumb to the law of gravity and I will fall on them and obliterate them. But I will not succumb to the law of gravity because I am too fascinated by the horror of it all. I am so fascinated, in fact, that I grow more and more windows. And as the light penetrates the stone interior of my being I can feel that my roots, which are in the earth, are alive and that I shall one day be able to remove myself at will from this trance in which I am fixed.

That day is still to come. He never removes himself from his fix. He continually rehearses its stations, which never occurred, except in a dream, as mankind rehearses Freud's myth of the Primal Horde, which also never occurred. In a dream of a scene from real life he soaks up punishment he deserves only by virtue of his uterine connections with other people…. (pp. 617-18)

The god tries to love the victim, for Henry is a narcissist (not a man who loves himself, rather one who works at it)—"My whole aim in life is to get nearer to God, that is, to get nearer to myself"—but neither the love of God nor of the Cosmological I is a substitute for the love of a mother. (pp. 618-19)

Henry's God … is the Imperial Self (the phrase is Quentin Anderson's) of Emerson and Whitman brought up to date. The relation is one of identity, which is the negation of relation. Between two things that are identical there are no dialectics. Therefore although Henry's prose is serial, it does not progress. It encounters nothing that might bounce it off the path of its return…. Henry's style never trips on itself; his balance is perfect because beyond the reach of gravity; he is as light on his feet as an acrobat in outer space. (p. 621)

A man with an Imperial Self is one who wants to generalize his void. His project is to destroy. His notion is that peace lies in an equalization of the pressures within and without him. His favorite sound is silence. (pp. 621-22)

"I put down everything which came into my mind, whether it made sense or not," says Henry, but his aim is a Walpurgisnacht. His way is not the way to rout habitual usage with new meaning, saturate words with consciousness, permeate them with mind, construct a world of words that is a reproach to the other one. Each word has to be emptied and refilled separately. The work goes slowly. (p. 624)

George Stade, "Mailer and Miller," in Partisan Review (copyright © 1977 by Partisan Review, Inc.), Vol. XLIV, No, 4, 1977, pp. 616-24.∗

Lawrence J. Shifreen

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1530

Miller begins his study [in his series of short fictions Mezzotints] by creating a clichéd image of society as a limiting environment which forces individuals into a patterned existence based on work and sleep. This concept affords no new insights into human nature but is a typical device used in the 1920's by writers who wished to study the "types" of people who inhabit New York. The routine Miller depicts of rising early to go to work and returning home to sleep, shows that he views man as a machine with no power or control over life and the world. (pp. 11-12)

The "Mezzotint," "Dawn Travellers," depicts the Williamsberg, Brooklyn world that Miller knows best…. These "Dawn Travellers" appear to be little more than drones, as Miller borrows Dostoevsky's metaphor of the "ant hill."… (p. 12)

[The] sick reality that characterizes a society of one dimensional people whose lives are monotones and who live in a dead world beneath the earth's surface forms the basis for Miller's term "cancer," an incurable disease that eats away at and destroys our society. The metaphor for this death is the subway, a machine that carries one from the land of the living and deposits one in the grave. This idea obviously haunted Miller's imagination; for, during this same era, his short story "Glittering Pie" uses this same image of death, as a train literally carries men and women to their end. Demise is the harsh reality that one faces again and again at dawn when one becomes a "Dawn Traveller" and perceives one's lot….

The living death the workers experience horrifies Miller, who feels obligated to raise man above his meager lot in life. He accomplishes this transformation by calling him "the Great Beast," "Him," and "He." In each case, man's name is raised in capital letters and praised by the bard who sees man elevated above the role of beast of burden. Miller feels compelled to help men because they are his fellow beings, men who have suffered, like Miller, to attain an "American dream" of success. By "success," Miller does not mean the conventionally accepted better paying job; social prosperity appalls him. What he deems "success" is man's belief in and his attempt to reach his dream. (p. 13)

Besides hope, a second device that Miller uses to escape death's horror is humor. For when he entitles his following "Mezzotint," "If You're Dying, Choose a Mausoleum," he uses this undertaker's advertisement to mock the money making behind American success, a system which he believes finds its basis in undermining one man so that another can monetarily prosper. (pp. 13-14)

The need to find a better way of life comes with the realization that most men and women are takers. These entrepreneurs exploit others for their own personal gain. Such self-oriented beings are metaphorically depicted by Miller in his image of "Circe," the title of another "Mezzotint."… [The] everyday world of the subway [depicted in "Circle"] lacks the development of the images of the sewers and urinals found in Tropic of Cancer, and shows that the Miller who created the Mezzotints could not depict his environment as well as he would nine years later in Tropic…. Neither Tropic nor Mezzotints is a book of dreams. Each recounts the experiences that make up Henry Miller's "reality." For when he talks about the life in the streets of New York and Paris, he cannot couch the spit and urine in artistic images of love and beauty that are totally inapplicable to his life. It is for this reason that Circe cannot be described as having a Greek, Roman, or celestial nose. She must possess a real one and below it a mouth that is "gaping" and "red," for she is clearly a carnivorous animal, a meat-eater who is "carnal" and "lust[ing]" because her lips are "parched" and "seared" as they drain men of their blood and passions, leaving them empty shells.

The metaphor of the "vamp" who forces one to experience a living death is transformed into that of the whore when Miller's "Dance Hall" "Mezzotint" depicts the world as a place where one pays his nickel to have one's fun and lose one's virtue…. The puppets and machines that he creates by describing their mechanical and sexual movements are beings who "fuse" together, not as lovers, but as lusting animals who pay their nickels, dance, have sex, and then worry about an absurd sense of virtue totally unrelated to real life. These same beings, who are resurrected in the Tropics, make their first appearance in Mezzotints when Miller mocks their false morality by questioning our social standards…. (pp. 14-15)

This self-centered philosophy of survival leads to the creation of limited people. To Miller, life means much more than just endurance. He sees a more complete person as one who can integrate dreams and realities. This multi-faceted existence becomes the focus of the "Mezzotint," "The Awakening," a fiction about a man who hungers for a dream lover yet feels compelled to give her up for his wife and a life based on the struggling and fighting that Miller feels compose marital happiness—a many dimensional existence that carries him beyond the simplistic realm of dreams…. [A] basic realization that one's ideals are not equal to one's dreams provides Miller's protagonist with the first step in his movement towards self-awareness. The next step entails the growth of the individual to the point where he finds himself able to cope with the split between his dreams and actuality…. The cyclonic nature of this fiction seems most apparent when one realizes that the protagonist begins at home and ends up in the same place despite his journey. Yet he has left the confined world of the closely knit family for an adventure that Miller's married protagonist later experiences in Capricorn and The Rosy Crucifixion. Through the actual event of leaving home, he perceives a new path in his life, a road that affords him both peace and misery. By using the word "contrast" in this "Mezzotint," Miller suggests that a dual reality exists, a world that one must experience through getting beyond the escapes of home and sleep, and beyond the protective world of one's wife and child.

The reality that one finds by leaving the family's womb does not have to be the base, nightmarish world of "Dawn Travellers" or that of "Dance Hall" people. Instead, one can and should use one's experience to get beyond the depressing and grotesque aspects of life by rising out of the gutters and finding a world between heaven and earth, a state where base reality has been interwoven with the dream of an ideal existence, as in the final "Mezzotint," a "Bowery Phoenix." The combined image of man's baseness intertwined with his hopes leads Miller to present a dual being who appears as a gargoyle when seen in the earth's muck and mire, yet who becomes beautiful when he rises above his station…. By describing beings tied to the earth as "squat," "little," "monsters," "ugly," "misshapen," "bowlegged," and "devils," Miller shows that the men of our world who go nowhere and aspire toward nothing are grotesque beings whose minds are distorted because they fail to perceive change through growth. These monsters watch the world go by them instead of thinking and expanding their consciousness. To move forward, one must turn within and must realize one's physical and psychological short comings. Once aware of himself, man must aspire to rise above the world of limitation and must experience a new, "bronze" self. By hammering out a new being with a more positive and more realistic conception of himself, like Miller's protagonist in a "Bowery Phoenix," and like his later depictions of Thoreau and Whitman, Miller demonstrates his belief that man can and must move to a state of consciousness that displaces his basic acceptance of fear and limitation.

In this world combining such extremes as the bowery and the phoenix, Miller reaches a Whitmanesque realization that men are both saints and sinners. It is this knowledge that man has all possibilities which allows Miller's protagonist finally to accept his lot and flow with what he calls "life's river" in Tropic of Cancer, to enter and become one with both ancient and modern Greece in The Colossus of Maroussi, and to live the life of a pioneer united with the land, mountains, and sea in Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Thus we see that although Mezzotints is an immature work, the images and metaphors it contains form the basis for Miller's literary ideas. His realization that life involves a process of growth that begins with self-awareness and leads to respecting others and finally moves to one's use of one's knowledge of people and one's world to change one's environment through expanding one's own consciousness, first takes shape in the sketches that compose Mezzotints, a collection of seven broadsides that form the basis for all of Henry Miller's major writings. (pp. 16-17)

Lawrence J. Shifreen, "Henry Miller's 'Mezzotints': The Undiscovered Roots of 'Tropic of Cancer'," in Studies in Short Fiction (copyright 1979 by Newberry College), Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter, 1979, pp. 11-17.

Paul R. Jackson

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1271

In the opening pages of Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller announces the extravagant anti-art that will be his theme. Beyond the lice and the cancer of time, beyond hope and convention, Beauty and Art, the auto-hero offers his book as libel and insult, the studied rejection of accepted literary values: "I am going to sing for you," he promises, "a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse." With fractured echoes of Whitman's celebration of the self, the passage insists on its own bellowing song…. If singing here is a last modern echo of Homeric invocation, music more generally becomes an insistant metaphor both for Miller's own discordant lyricism and for the collapsing world that Tropic of Cancer exposes.

Miller has his own inverted muse, the character named Tania, expatriate herself and wife of an American playwright. Fecund but conventional, Tania becomes at once both inspiration and the focal point of the chaos that Miller, singing only tunes of dying splendor, invokes as the hallucinated topic of the book…. Registering the death of time and the dissolution of the world itself, Miller announces the ultimate metamorphosis Tania inspires: "I am thinking that when the great silence descends upon all and everywhere music will at last triumph. When into the womb of time everything is again withdrawn chaos will be restored and chaos is the score upon which reality is written. You, Tania, are my chaos. It is why I sing."… Miller's song, then, will be a carefully adopted cacophony, the literary equivalent, off-key and triumphant, of the very chaos a conventional world generates.

Convention has its own music, though, and Miller's strident lyricism works constantly against the harmonies that predictability creates. Thematically, music is used throughout Tropic of Cancer as a sign of the flagging vitality Miller everywhere rejects. He will sing off key precisely because the rest of the world sings on key with the tunes that security composes and safety plays. As a sign of spiritual exhaustion, music pervades the book; people sing what is unreal, orchestras play what only soothes, down-and-outers turn to guitar and accordion, while stuffed-shirts of all varieties pompously and erroneously identify in the music of convention a false sense of life's possibilities. For Miller the music of habitual order is a pale tune indeed. (pp. 40-1)

[The accordion is represented as the] popular instrument of a commonplace world. Along with the guitar, it signals the humdrum and usual. Although Miller had linked the two at the beginning of the book as instruments irrelevant to his song, one is not surprised to find them assuming suggestive importance later. (p. 42)

Paris, alternating despair with ecstasy, either sings "a demented song" …, or—on pleasant days at least—is "like a piece of music for the pianoforte."… The flux of Parisian life is as aural as it is visual, its discordant music sounding the themes of the modern metropolis.

More personally, Sylvester and Tania, given to fads, pomposity, and dullness, rent a new piano, a concert grand. Positioning himself on a balcony to better announce his distance from their values, Miller sees the piano as proclaiming the end of his affair with Tania. The latter is playing "the adagio," and the music "says very distinctly: no more words of love."… With the violent rhetorical aggressiveness that marks his response to women throughout Tropic of Cancer, Miller looks down from the balcony: "The keys are black and white, then black, then white, then white and black. And you want to know if you can play something for me. Yes, play something with those big thumbs of yours. Play the adagio since that's the only goddamned thing you know. Play it, and then cut off your big thumbs."… (pp. 43-4)

[The] most extended thematic treatment of music as sign of this collapsed world is reserved for the concert hall. Appropriately, Miller has found a ticket for the concert in a lavabo, and the scene dramatizes the collision between the representative of the world of the sewers and the dead automatons, over-dressed, self-satisfied, cataleptic, the emblems of a rich world, bored but secure. While Miller immediately feels out of place, his insecurities are converted to rhetorical strength as he realizes that the concert is only a self-inflected form of torture for those who attend. Both Miller and the audience withdraw from the reality of the music. While the robots of the audience try to avoid thinking at all costs—for that way madness lies—they nevertheless recollect shop windows where an attractive scarf or hat stirs vital juices more profoundly than the music. Miller, on the other hand, becomes more intensely alive as he loses all sense of time and place, the pores of his body becoming windows through which glimpses of a felt world pass. (p. 44)

The harmony of a conventional world … consistently strikes Miller as a sterile expression of waning life and calls into being his own most grotesque and outraged gestures. Confronted by the music of ideas or music as sentimental evocation of female ties that bind, Miller violently, enthusiastically, rejects the harmonies he hears…. What exists as reality beneath the broken structures of form and meaning is finally the flux of life itself, the absurd flow of human passion, the sewer, the river, the discreet shards of buried emotional life. To these bits of life Miller directs his own song and dance. (p. 48)

Searching for the fragments of resuscitated life, Miller invites the reader to one final dance: "It may be that we are doomed, that there is no hope for us, any of us, but if that is so then let us set up a last agonizing, bloodcurdling howl, a screech of defiance, a war whoop! Away with lamentation! Away with elegies and dirges!… Let us living ones dance about the rim of the crater, a last expiring dance. But a dance!"… (p. 49)

Tropic of Cancer is precisely that last, expiring dance. Often criticized for his lack of dramatic skill, Miller is at his strongest in the sheer lyricism of the book. His ability to evoke both paralysis and life exists beyond his solipsism and the book's unevenness…. That lyricism informs not only … passages of acceptance—and the end of the book is an elegiac acceptance of the flow of time, of Paris and its past—but also the violently charged moments of rejection. Imagistic and concrete, the language at its best is the off-key cacophony, the score of chaos announced in his early invocation of Tania.

In Black Spring Miller continues to make much of the music theme. In "Third or Fourth Day of Spring" he identifies with Beethoven as he affirms creation and destruction…. [As] he says later, "Either you start with pure melody or you start with listerine." In Tropic of Cancer, Miller affirms a life, finally, without people. Acceptance at the end depends on a joy found outside the boundaries of Paris itself with the author insulated against those whose lifeless order had crippled earlier. Miller alone finds peace; the human world around him remains unchanged. That, too, had been anticipated: "I had moments of ecstasy, and I sang with burning sparks. I sang of the Equator, her red feathered legs and the islands dropping out of sight. But nobody heard."… Alone or not, Miller has sung his song, his own aroused lyrical voice clashing with the harmonies of convention. (pp. 49-50)

Paul R. Jackson, "Caterwauling and Harmony: Music in 'Tropic of Cancer'," in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction (copyright © by James Dean Young 1979), Vol. XX, No. 3, 1979, pp. 40-50.


Miller, Henry (Vol. 1)


Miller, Henry (Vol. 2)