All original work © 2009 - 2019 Alexey Provolotsky

7 November 2010

Henry Miller

Like Joyce for Ezra Pound’s poetry, I’m simply too old-fashioned for Henry Miller’s prose. And “Tropic Of Cancer” being written in the late 20’s of the previous century, this might not sound extremely healthy. And yet.

Henry Miller’s free-floating pornographic philosophy doesn’t impress. I imagine in its time it could make Orwell, Beckett and others swoon half-dead, but today it comes off badly amateurish and unfocused. Granted, “Tropic Of Cancer” is not devoid of its base charm and it might be hard to find a person who would not be turned on by those initial sentences or ideas on art scattered here and there, but the novel itself falls flat. No, literature’s savior Miller could never be, for his central book, that critics’ daring darling, doesn’t even contain a decent plot.

Maybe it’s just me, but Henry Miller’s prose sounds vulgar. Unintentionally vulgar, and that's a capital offence. Perhaps one of the most impressive (and expressive) sex acts in literature was depicted by Will Self in his short story “Incubus”, where he mixes ardency and straightforwardness with brilliant results. But Self is deliberate, he intends it, he makes it the point of his narrative. While Miller’s pornography is natural, totally free of any artistic restrictions. And ends up sordid. 

My major fear and concern is that any bohemian loser and wanker, anyone can write a "Tropic Of Cancer". And now they are doing exactly that. Which robs art of an artist, which brings closer and closer still that last book… The one that, according to Henry Miller’s prophecy, will be written anonymously.

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