Moloch: Or, This Gentile World

Overview

In this, his first extant novel, Henry Miller made his earliest full-fledged attempt at autobiographical fiction, a literary form he was later to perfect in Paris. Uncovered along with Crazy Cock in 1988 by Miller biographer Mary V. Dearborn, Moloch is based on Miller's years at Western Union and his first marriage. Set in the rapidly changing New York City of the early 1920s, the novel has as its hero the rough-and-tumble Dion Moloch, a man filled with anger and despair. Stuck in a demeaning job and an ...
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Moloch: Or, This Gentile World

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Overview

In this, his first extant novel, Henry Miller made his earliest full-fledged attempt at autobiographical fiction, a literary form he was later to perfect in Paris. Uncovered along with Crazy Cock in 1988 by Miller biographer Mary V. Dearborn, Moloch is based on Miller's years at Western Union and his first marriage. Set in the rapidly changing New York City of the early 1920s, the novel has as its hero the rough-and-tumble Dion Moloch, a man filled with anger and despair. Stuck in a demeaning job and an acrimonious homelife, Moloch escapes to the streets, only to be assaulted by a land that he despises - the transforming Brooklyn and its ever-increasing ethnic sights, sounds, and smells. Moloch strikes out at everything that he hates, battling against a world that threatens to overwhelm and then destroy him. Brutal and shocking, sometimes awkward and rambling, Moloch displays Miller's first steps toward the motif that he was to make his hallmark: the scathingly direct hero striving for an unflinchingly honest view of himself in a world created out of the writer's life.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dion Moloch, the hero of Miller's first extant, heretofore unpublished novel (written in 1927 and long thought to be the work of his wife June), is an anti-Semitic boor and vain intellectual snob who defends his wife-beating and crudely mocks a friend's death. A stand-in for the aspiring novelist himself, Moloch, who works for a New York telegraph company (modeled on Western Union, where Miller himself once worked) embodies the author's twisted Nietzschean image of himself as ``an iconoclast who destroyed from a sheer superabundance of health and strength.'' As Miller biographer Dearborn notes in her introduction, Moloch's dominant theme is its protagonist's poisonous, obsessive hatred of Jews, which makes long stretches of this work offensive. Peppered with repellent slurs against women, gays, blacks and other ethnic groups, the novel nevertheless provides tantalizing flashes of Miller's mature, quasi-surreal, apocalyptic style and offers flavorful glimpses of 1920s Manhattan, Brooklyn's mean streets and Jazz Age Harlem. Moloch's relationship with his wife, Blanche (modeled on Miller's first wife), is one long, bitter quarrel, in which the two simmer with mutual resentment. The chief interest in this half-baked, awkwardly written self-portrait lies in watching Miller feel his way into the autobiographical adventure narrative, a mode he would bring to fruition in Tropic of Capricorn. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Like Crazy Cock ( LJ 9/15/91), Moloch , Miller's earliest novel, lay lost for most of its author's life. It draws on an even earlier series of sketches, ``Clipped Wings,'' and in its turn provided grist for Tropic of Capricorn ( LJ 9/1/62). Miller's wife, June, passed the novel off as her own--with Miller's connivance--in a scheme to milk a rich ``friend'' who fancied himself a patron of the arts. The novelist's Bowery setting allows Miller to caricature a parade of down-and-outers--an approach he would later raise to an art. But as Miller biographer Mary V. Dearborn ( ``The Happiest Man Alive'': A Biography of Henry Miller , LJ 4/15/91) declares in her introduction, Moloch ``leaves much to be desired.'' Miller's style here is literary in the worst sense, and his anti-Semitism is pronounced. For fans only.-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802133724
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Miller, Henry
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.77 (d)

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