Tropic of Cancer [NOOK Book]

Overview


Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller’s famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer,...
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Tropic of Cancer

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Overview


Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller’s famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s. Tropic of Cancer is now considered, as Norman Mailer said, “one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century.”
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Miller's once controversial story that ended up altering United States censorship laws tells of a young writer and his pals in Paris during the Great Depression. Part memoir, part fictional tale, Miller's prose is a complex mix that demands the reader's utmost attention. Campbell Scott reads with a gentle, steady voice that captures the more personal side of Miller's writing. Scott is in conversation with himself, posing questions and offering up answers apparently on a whim. His reading is incredibly rich and layered, filled with emotions and ideologies. The result is a stunning, intimate listen that will lure listeners in with its straightforward approach and keep them rapt with its raw honesty. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
William H. Gass
"There is an eager vitality and exhuberance to the writing which is exhilerating; a rush of spirit into the world as though all the sparkling wines had been uncorked at once; we watchfully har th elanguage skip, whoop and wheel across Miller's pages."

--The New York Times Book Review

Saturday Review
"One of the most remarkable, most truly original authors of this or any age."
From the Publisher
“There is an eager vitality and exuberance to the writing which is exhilarating; a rush of spirit into the world as though all the sparkling wines have been uncorked at once; we watchfully hear the language skip, whoop and wheel across Miller’s page.” —William H. Gass, The New York Times Book Review

“Here is a book which, if such a thing were possible, might restore our appetite for the fundamental realities.” —Anais Nin

“American literature today begins and ends with the meaning of what Miller has done.” –Lawrence Durrell

“One of the most remarkable, most truly original authors of this or any age.” –Saturday Review

“Undeniably salacious but nevertheless serious and important literature, Miller’s novel with its ribald sexuality still provokes (and makes feminist hairs stand on end.)” —Victoria A. Brownworth, The Baltimore Sun

The Barnes & Noble Review

It is still something of a shock to realize that it was only a few decades ago that a publisher could face prosecution for print runs of books by D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller. Contrary to the blue-state view, it was in places like Boston, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia that DAs and local law enforcement lined up to throw the book at anyone who dared to cross the "obscenity" line. Yet in case after case, and with tremendous financial and civic courage, Grove Press pushed the cops and the courts to win freedom for writers to write what they wanted to write and for publishers to publish what readers were able to read. The gap between now and then makes it all the more difficult to appreciate just what Barney Rosset did in his time with Grove, the publishing house he purchased for $3,000 in 1951, when he was a restive 29-year-old trying to figure out what to do with his life. With Rosset's death last week at age 89, it makes that appreciation all the more necessary.

The history that Rosset's Grove Press and its literary-magazine offshoot Evergreen made is a testament to the power that publishing could exert within the culture at large — a kind of muscle that we may never see the likes of again. That fact speaks less to the relative decline in prestige of print than to the fact that Grove and Rosset, like any great publisher, were perfectly attuned products of their moment. And what a moment it was, an upsweep in what could be said and published and thought like no other that America has ever experienced. Plenty of publishing houses were equally happy to get a piece of the zeitgeist and snag its eager, youthful consumers. What separated Rosset though from the others during Grove and Evergreen's great run in the late '50s and into the '60s was that he got there first — and furiously — with an unfailing trust in his own instincts and the audacity to build a publishing program around it.

It started famously with Waiting for Godot, which Rosset published in 1954 and saw through initial sales numbers of 200 copies. Beckett, as De Kooning famously said about Jackson Pollock, broke the ice for a good bit of what gave Grove its noticeably avant-garde tang — Genet, Ionesco, Robbe-Grillet. It's important to remember what a model Grove was for the idea of a truly international literary culture — an example one now can only yearn to see rejuvenated when it comes to the dispiriting state of American publishers' commitment to literature in translation today. Offering a vision of the American bookstore as a gateway to the news of the world, Grove managed to combine this Francophone enthusiasm with an eye and ear for the literature just beginning to flower in the States. In retrospect, it was a far-seeing feat of imagination to couple European absurdist literature and the resolutely unaloof languages of Burroughs, Hubert Selby, Kerouac, and others — not to mention the "erotica" that brought in more business to Grove. It was even more visionary to publish alongside them Malcolm X, whose autobiography had been dropped by Doubleday, and Che Guevara.

But in addition to having a sixth sense about the possibilities in publishing the overlooked and the underrepresented, Rosset was an eager promoter who not only knew how to sell tickets to the show but took unabashed glee in running the tills. "We did almost a yearly bombshell," Richard Seaver, whom he hired in 1959, told Newsweek in an excellent 2008 profile of Rosset. "Barney loved — I won't say he loved the litigation, but he loved everything that went with it."

By the time Seaver left, in 1971, the tight Grove formula was starting slowly to come loose. Rosset bitterly resisted a unionization drive in 1970 and the blockade of his offices by women who were beginning to look differently on the whole idea of a sexual revolution. After expanding his staff in the wake of his successful launch of the Swedish soft-core flick I Am Curious (Yellow) — his foray into producing film, a passion that stuck with him since he wrote and produced the anti-racism documentary Strange Justice in his early 20s — he disastrously overspent on new offices and, as they like to say now, growing the brand. (As the '70s went on, Grove did a steady but hardly spectacular business on the strength of its backlist. Rosset sold the company in 1985 and was fired a year later.) You can hardly fault him in hindsight for his business optimism, though. He'd successfully figured out that with a combination of conviction and a knack for marketing, Grove could be not just a brand but an identity that the converging countercultural currents would embrace. Rosset helped change the course of more than just publishing in the process. As if that weren't enough, no one seems to have had more fun in doing so.

Eric Banks is the former editor of Bookforum. He has contributed to The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, and the Financial Times and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle board of directors.

Reviewer: Eric Banks

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555846985
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2007
  • Series: Miller, Henry
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 318
  • Sales rank: 41,774
  • File size: 413 KB

Meet the Author

Henry Valentine Miller was born in New York City in 1891 and raised in Brooklyn. He lived in Europe, particularly Paris, Berlin, the south of France, and Greece; in New York; and in Beverly Glen, Big Sur, and Pacific Palisades, California where he died in 1980. He is also the author, among many other works, of Tropic of Capricorn, the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy (Sexus, Plexus, Nexus), and The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.

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Read an Excerpt

I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.

Last night Boris discovered that he was lousy. I had to shave his armpits and even then the itching did not stop. How can one get lousy in a beautiful place like this? But no matter. We might never have known each other so intimately, Boris and I , had it not been for the lice.

Boris has just given me a summary of his views. He is a weather prophet. The weather will continue bad, he says. There will be more calamities, more death, more despair. Not the slightest indication of a change anywhere. The cancer of time is eating us away. Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing themselves. The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. We must get in step, a lock step, toward the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not change.

It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom.

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.

This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolongeo insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirtycorpse....

To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.

It is to you, Tania, that I am singing. I wish that I could sing better, more melodiously, but then perhaps you would never have consented to listen to me. You have heard the others sing and they have left you cold. They sang too beautifully, or not beautifully enough.

It is the twenty-somethingth of October. I no longer keep track of the date. Would you say--my dream of the I 4th November last? There are intervals, but they are between dreams, and there is no consciousness of them left. The world around me is dissolving, leaving here and there spots of time. The world is a cancer eating itself away.... 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. It is not even I, it is the world dying. shedding the skin of time. I am still alive, kicking in your womb, a reality to write upon.

Dozing off. The physiology of love. The whale with his six foot penis, in repose. The bat--penis libre. Animals with a bone in the penis. Hence, a bone on ... "Happily," says Gourmont, "the bony structure is lost in man." Happily? Yes, happily. Think of the human race walking around with a bone on. The kangaroo has a double penis--one for weekdays and one for holidays. Dozing. A letter from a female asking if I have found a title for my book. Title? To be sure: "Lovely Lesbians."

Your anecdotal life! A phrase of M. Borowski's. It is on Wednesdays that I have lunch with Borowski. His wife, who is a dried-up cow, officiates. She is studying English now--her favourite word is "filthy." You can see immediately what a pain in the ass the Borowskis are. But wait....

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 62 )
Rating Distribution

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(25)

4 Star

(11)

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(13)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not Really A Book

    This "not really a book" plot-less, stream-of-consciousness, anti-everything, self-indulgent, crudely-rudely-gimme-some-boody, was one of the novels in the 1960s that tested USA laws about pornography. It is also regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century literature. Time magazine lists it in their 100 Best English-language novels from 1923-2005. The preface is supposed to have been written by Anais Nin, but many believe Miller wrote it. I've never been as impressed with Henry Miller and Henry Miller is impressed with Henry Miller, but I do appreciate his staggering (specifically chosen word) literary talent, his abrupt/curt one-liners, and some of his intoxicated poetic rantings/ramblings.

    I first read Tropic of Cancer in a teen reading club. One boy in our group insisted that it is "an awesome read" if you are falling down drunk. One girl said she got a sexually transmitted disease from reading it---and she announced that she was going to stop engaging in one night stands, even with cute guys. One girl reviewed the book with her own curt one-liner, saying that "Tropic of Cancer was confetti of seediness" in her opinion. Three of us became even more determined to become "real" writers.

    Jerry Seinfeld had a successful TV show about nothing. Maybe Jerry got his "nothing" idea from Miller. In a Seinfeld episode Jerry is accused of not returning Tropic of Cancer to the library after checking it out when he was in high school.

    I admit, I'm no Miller scholar, but I think I can say anything I damn well please about this novel---Henry Miller couldn't care less.

    7 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A difficult read to put down.

    Henry Miller's passion for Passion (redundant, yet true) is inspiring. The raw, uncensored, stream-of-consciousness quality to this book is truly fantastic. Having dog-eared certain pages in which I found his writing to be particularly visually brilliant, I noticed that, by the end of the book, nearly half of it was intricately folded, a constant reminder of the brilliance of Miller's writing.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2006

    Book lover/Actress from MN

    Yes, I agree with the the reviewer above, that Miller basically says whatever it is that comes in to his mind. It's is easier to write a diary rather then sit down and write a novel. Diaries rarely have structures.:) But on so many occasions he says things that are so touching, yet raw and real and that makes parts of the book wonderful and human. Many brilliant remarks and obsevations and views. The thing it lacks most is form. I suppose that's what makes him great, his style and the fact that he didn't care for form and polishing.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2001

    If these are the 'fundamental realities', you can keep 'em.

    I read Tropic of Cancer a couple of months after Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, also a semi-autobiographical novel of its expatriate author in Paris. The time periods are different (AMF set 13 years earlier) but the major difference is in the authors' lives and perceptions. Diametrically opposed to Hemingway's burnished and cerebral Paris, TOC's is as sordid and squalid as imaginable. The story follows its protagonist on a seemingly unending filth ridden bacchnal: decit, disease, whores, purulence, weevils and lice suppurate the novel. Viscerally evocative and initally compeelling, after a while these seemy tales simply become tiresome. The prose is jarring and, while at times elegantly lyric in its depiction of the authors sordid affairs, tedious and diffuse. The narrative is a meandering tale, unintelligble and incoherent at times; and for the majority of the book, I was totally unengaged in any of the characters. However, by the conclusion, the protagonist's actions do coalesce to embody a personality, the events become coherent, and some of the fire and vitality other critics have spoken of is transmitted. Additonally, TOC is fascinating in its coarseness and vulgarity chronologically speaking. That Hemmingway and Miller could participate in the same Paris so differently, intriguingly bespeaks of the disconnect between public writing and private living. Bottom line: TOC is a chaotic and jarring book that for its majority reads like the methamphetamine-induced stream of conscious of a contemporary frat boy. One has long become disenchanted by the time its characters communicate their message.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2005

    Stellar contribution to the literary canon

    Henry Miller's 'Tropic of Cancer' is easily one of the best books written by any American author in this century. Written with a refreshing honesty and a realistic outlook, 'Tropic of Cancer' is a fine example of the autobiographical-novel form (so autobiographical that Miller says its not really a book at all and that he is referred to as Henry Miller in the book). It is sad to realize that this book was banned from 1934, when it was published, to 1961, when it finally got published in America (although the legal battles did not end until 1963). For nearly thirty years Americans were denied this fabulous book, and it makes me wonder why this was allowed to happen. But perhaps all the hoopla got more people interested in the book and therefore helped the exposure of it. What more is there to say? 'Tropic of Cancer' is an outstanding work and I personally will be reading more of Miller's books very soon. I bought this book along with Jackson McCrae¿s ¿Katzenjammer¿ as it was said that it too should be banned, but for different reasons. The McCrae book is funny---hysterical in fact, but nowhere near as off-color as ¿Cancer.¿ Still, it was a great read. Also try Miller¿s ¿Tropic of Capricorn.¿

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2003

    henry miller is just swell!

    wow! Henry Miller is awesome and this book was everything that i expected and more! some people might argue that it is too long and rambeling but this is just one of those books that you have to enjoy for the content if the storyline strikes you as dull. Miller has this incredible style that blends a storyline with deep emotions that aren't too obviously expressed, but hinted at enough to make the reader understand. this book is just splendid and don't let anyone tell you differently!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 1999

    how come nobody has reviewed this yet

    i can't believe noone has reviewed this book on here yet. the book is great. nobody writes quite like henry. the words just pile up. u start to think, 'my god, how long can he keep this up?' it's like watching a sports player that's 'in the zone.' i think both rabelais and celine have better literary reputations, but i enjoy henry more than either. he seems to combine the best of both.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Umm why is it called Tropic of Cancer?

    From what i can tell its not about cancer and the sample i got to see what it was didnt show the story at all, it just said stuff about the author.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not my cup of tea

    I'm tempted to say that Tropic of Cancer is overrated, but in its time it certainly was a break with the norm. Widely considered "obscene" when it first appeared on the scene, the book will not shock modern readers. Its stream of consciousness style became tedious, and its morally impaired narrator impressed me as callow and feckless rather than provocative. Still, as a companion piece to other novels of the post-WWI Lost Generation of ex-patriots in Paris, it does have some interest.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Conscious unconciousness

    provoking different thoughts on madness. began to think about controlling unconsiousness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2005

    Prolific, Beautiful, Erotic, Insightful MASTERPIECE!

    This book has said more to me in it's first 5 pages, than 10 books have throughout the entire book! Miller's language just flows beautfully and is so tragic, and joyous, that you cannot help but love this erotic treasure.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2005

    FAVORITE!!!

    this book is definitly my favorite book alive..he's like literally my bible..my good friend donny introduced me to it.and he writes like its nothing.his words are soo strong.as if he examines everything in life..he speaks like sex is precious and if it was a surprise..o mann o mann i cant explain..BUT DEFINITLY NOT A TERRIBLE BOOK!!!

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2005

    Tropic of Rambling

    Rambling on and on about everything that came in to the author's mind. Very few coherent paragraphs. Only in the last 50 pages a story started to develop. Terrible book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2003

    Raw and true depiction of man and the nature of existence

    Miller's look at life in Paris in the thirties is stories and insight fused together with a vivid and poetic style. This work truly did restore a sense of wonder in me about the world around us. At a time when we are surrounded by fear, Miller's words bring an acceptance of the natural flow of the universe and puts emphasis on the importance of living in the instant...because it's all we have.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2003

    This isn't a book, it's an experience.

    The rich, undiluted candor of Miller's writing fills me with a hunger for life. This, to me, is the highest measure of any writer. That said, he probably isn't for everyone. It took me a while to warm up to him (his language can be a bit shocking at times). Well worth it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2002

    'Always Merry and Bright'

    The miracle of life explored in Depression era Paris. If this book doesn't want to make you get up and live, I fear you are dead already--best check the pulse.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2000

    Surrealist/Realist/Dadaist/Humanist handbook

    This book is all of these and more. A carnival of ideas and a new way of looking of life introduced almost 70 years ago. Still, most people haven't caught on. This writer opened more doors than any other American writer and let loose all that was contraband in a land that preached freedom but practiced much of the opposite. Get this book in your hands right now and while you're at it, grab Tropic of Capricorn and The Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    At first, like a lot of readers, I thought Henry Miller's T.O.C.

    At first, like a lot of readers, I thought Henry Miller's T.O.C. was a bunch of rambling ideas put on paper
    under the guise of a book. The first time I read it, I got halfway through it and thought I wasted money and time. But then I picked up again and read it from cover to cover and found myself pulled into his world of where the filthiest things are worth a second glance. The way he speaks of surroundings and the people he knows is vivid and when he focuses on his thoughts I find myself pulling quotes from him (especially the money bit).Any body who read this book and was dismissive, please re-read it. I find that every time I read it, something new is discovered and open for a different interpretation( And isn't that what a good piece of literature is supposed to do?). Miller's writing style takes some getting used to because it's not the standard structured form. But once you do, you will find that his views are raw, real, and uncompromised. I am now reading his follow-up Tropic of Capricorn and will be moving into the Rosy Crucifixion. I am so glad that I gave this man a chance because he has become one of my favorite authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    Henry Miller is a genius...

    He knew, we knew. This was THE book we all wanted to get our hands on, & I graduated high school in 1994, so it was rather easy. But my friends & I, who dreamt of becoming writers (& only I achieved that goal) still felt oddly dirty, like maybe we were doing something wrong when one of us finally did attain Tropic of Cancer & we sat in my basement behind my parent's pool table ooo'ing & aah'ing over Miller's amazing words. One of the Top 5 Best Written Works ever.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    Eaglewing

    Helps her up and says lets fly he flies in the air and heads back

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews

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