Do you know what semantic satiation is? It is a condition where you repeat a word so many times that it ceases to have any meaning. Reading Tropic of Cancer is like that, except every page is like a giant brick of a word that clobbers you on the head. Repeatedly. Then you lose track of what you were reading or about whom you were reading.
This review is going to be brief. I had the urge to stop reading every few pages, but this book is considered to be a monumental achievement in the world of literature by some critics. To be fair, it has its moments – Henry Miller makes some profound statements that make you pause and think. But honestly, it takes a lot of getting-clobbered-on-the-head to reach one good sentence. Kind of like reading a text book on the day before a test. You read the same paragraph over and over without even realizing that’s what you’re doing until your eyes get strained and then you move to the next paragraph. You absorb nothing and you realize the words fell through your head like it was a sieve. Henry Miller describes in detail the life he led as a broke writer in Paris who did not know where his next meal was coming from. But the tone he uses, it just does not resonate with the audience. It reads like a grating noise – you want to be shocked or maybe sympathetic (whether or not Miller intended it) at the dire state he was in, but the grating noise just does not let you. A book must show you the world around its story. Here, the world around the story is being written about, but you can’t see it. It is raw and honest, but not the heart-wrenching, or even the take-your-breath-away kind of raw and honest.
There was one part I could actually relate to though. He talks about an acquaintance (one out of the many, many, *sigh* many he talks about in this book) who has always wanted to publish his own book, but never does because he has been reading too much. It was funny, it kinda sounded like me, because I’m reading all kinds of books, but never gathering the courage to finish any of the stories I started!
The rest of it, are there some insights I am not getting? Is there something I am missing out on?
Drab as it was, I read it nevertheless so you would not have to. But if you’re the kind that likes being clobbered on the head, or want to find out for yourself what the fuss is about be my guest: Amazon
PS: Did not include the cover pic as it is NSFW.