0556 | Tropic of Capricorn | Henry Miller
Context: Was reading this when we did our best sales ever for my photography.
Following on from recently finishing Tropic of Cancer, Mrs Arukiyomi picked this one out for me. I thought I was in for the same rollocking ride that Miller took me on through the streets of Paris and was looking forward to more of the same.
Things started out with promise as we encounter Miller (not necessarily the author) at his desk in the Dickensianly dysfunctional Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company. His job is in the HR department which stands less for Human Resources than it does for Hell Released. Before him traipses the last dregs of humanity none of whom, because of quotas, he can turn away and none of whom are in any way hire-worthy. This was thoroughly entertaining.
But as you see Miller languishing in the banality of a wife and kid life, kicking against the goads, you know that it’s only a matter of time until he leaps from domestic frying pan into immoral fire. Such is the case.
It thus begins with the same celebratory tirade for and against the human condition that marks out Cancer as such a groundbreaking work, and I was quite enjoying it until about halfway through where he abandoned form at the same rate that he adopted fornication.
From hereon out to the end, the reader is left to make what sense he can of writing that is, at times, entirely formless and nonsensical and yet continuously punctuated by sex – the incongruous literary lovechild of James Joyce and Leslie Thomas.
Although this definitely disappointed me, I think it’s the only logical way that Miller could have ended this pair of novels. After all, he started out, prior to Cancer by telling a friend, “I start tomorrow on the Paris book: First person, uncensored, formless – fuck everything!” If he didn’t quite achieve that with the first novel, he certainly did with Capricorn, but it’s not an achievement that did much for me.
Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.
I blush to think of our [US] origins – our hands are steeped in blood and crime. And there is no let-up to the slaughter and the pillage…
When I think of some of the Persians, the Hindus, the Arabs I knew, when I think of the character they revealed, their grace, their tenderness, their intelligence, their holiness, I spit on the white conquerors of the world, the degenerate British, the pigheaded Germans, the smug self-satisfied French. The earth is one great sentient being, a planet saturated through and through with man, a live planet expressing itself falteringly and stutteringly; it is not the home of the white race or the black race or the yellow race or the lost blue race, but the home of man and all men are equal before God and will have their chance, if not now then a million years hence. The little brown brothers of the Philippines may bloom again, one day and the murdered Indians of America north and south may also come alive one day to ride the plains where now the cities stand belching fire and pestilence. Who has the last say? Man! The earth is his because he is the earth, its fire, its water, its air, its mineral and vegetable matter, its spirit which is cosmic, which is imperishable, which is the spirit of all the planets, which transforms itself through him, through endless signs and symbols, through endless manifestations. Wait, you cosmococcic telegraphic shits, you demons on high waiting for the plumbing to be repaired, wait, you dirty white conquerors who have sullied the earth with your cloven hooves, your instruments, your weapons, your disease germs, wait, all you who are sitting in clover and counting your coppers, it is not the end. The last man will have his say before it is finished. Down to the last sentient molecule justice must be done – and will be done! Nobody is getting away with anything, least of all the cosmococic shits of North America.
This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style
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