Tropic of Cancer

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“Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller
(First publication: 1934 / This edition: Penguin Modern Classics 2015)
Taken on a lazy afternoon in bed. The little purple paper thing on the side is an “aromatic bookmark” from Karmakamet and it smells like cranberries. I love it.

There’s something perverse about women…
they’re all masochists at heart. (p.105)

I wish I had more to say about this book. I really thought I would enjoy it—the whole vulgarity and grittiness that it’s so famous for. But…I didn’t.

This morning I was looking through the monthly newsletter I receive from Kinokuniya, and it’s main topic was on books that were banned. “Tropic of Cancer” was one of them. I was chuckling a bit, because…well, I was just reading the book. And though I can understand why it was banned, I just feel like it was…boring?

It’s known for being really “pornographic”, but I felt that the story itself is just not amusing. And, really, after seeing the word “cunt” repeated over and over again in almost every sentence for a few chapters, it actually became kind of tedious and annoying. I just thought there would be more depth to the story, and just not trashy dirty words strung together. I didn’t find it sexy or entertaining or funny; I just found it boring. I felt like listening to a 14- or 15-year old boy show off to his friends about going to brothels and trying to be all “cool”—that kind of vibe.

But then again…I read up to only half and decided to put it down. Even after just a quarter way through, I felt like putting it down, but then kept hoping that I might start enjoying it if I keep going for a little bit longer. Unfortunately, I just kept drifting off and didn’t even get interested.

I think this book confirmed even more that I’m not really good with reading books that are written with the “stream of consciousness” style. I tend to get so bored and wander off and have no idea what’s going on. Just like with Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves” and Robert Walser’s “The Tanners”, I try and try to get into the story and end up just wanting to give up after every page. Good thing I didn’t order “Tropic of Capricorn” at the same time, because I didn’t even get through this one.

Maybe I’ll give “Tropic of Cancer” another try in the future. But for now, I’m pretty disappointed with it and will just stop reading. Oh well.

…..

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book—up to the 128th page that I read anyway:

I sit down beside her and she talks—a flood of talks. […] I hear not a word because she is beautiful and I love her and now I am happy and willing to die. (p.15)

And what is more strange is that the absence of any relationship between ideas and living causes no anguish, no discomfort. We have become so adjusted that, if tomorrow we were ordered to walk on our hands, we would do so without the slightest protest. Provided, of course, that the paper came out as usual. And that we touched our pay regularly. Otherwise nothing matters. Nothing. (p.123)

At this very moment, in the quiet dawn of a new day, was not the earth giddy with crime and distress? Had one single element of man’s nature been altered, vitally, fundamentally altered by the incessant march of history? By what he calls the better part of his nature, man has been betrayed, that is all. At the extreme limits of his spiritual being man finds himself again naked as a savage. (80)

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