Tropic of Cancer
(critiqued December 2000)
 Tropic of Cancer, By Henry Miller
    (c) 1995
Summary:  This is a largely autobiographical story about a down-and-out American writer living in Paris.  The book begins with him scrounging for food, and living with his selfish "artist" friend Boris.  He has a plan devised, where he has asked each of his acquaintances if he can eat dinner at their home once a week.  It's hard to tell the million little things that happen in the book.  Miller spends most of his time scrounging for food or "cunt".  That word is used many times in this book.  He thinks of women as whores, though a few chance encounters show shreds of wistful romance.  He has many friends and lives with them at their homes, until he is kicked out or grows tired of their company.  He holds a job as a proofreader until he is layed off (he oddly loved that job).  He wants freedom, the worst thing to him is to be stifled, to feel shackled.  He loves Paris for the lugubriousness of it.  He loves it because he is left alone, because people are genuine by being indifferent.  He is married, but his wife has left him.  He does not wish to go back to America.  He shacks up with his friend Fillmore until he finds a post as a Franco-American teacher at a stuffy academy.  He does that for no pay, only for room and board.  This brief stay kills him, drains the life and passion from him.  He hurriedly travels back to Paris at first opportunity, and discovers that Fillmore is in the hospital for mental illness.  A forceful frenchwoman has her claws embedded into him.  Miller, the hero, devises a plan for Fillmore to escape the frenchwoman, and fillmore, in the anxiety of the moment, entrusts 2800 francs to Miller.  The book ends with Miller gloating over his money, so very happy.

Critique:  Well.  Though this book was difficult at times to plow through, overall it was worth it.  Randomly throughout the book there were scraps of sheer genius, and the utter honesty and freedom was very empowering.  Miller also disclosed some very interesting insights.  If it weren't for the vague confusing tangents Miller sometimes went on, the book would be perfect.  Overall, the passion and endurance of the book blew me over.

Other critiques:      One        Two        Three        Four