Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer
Title: Tropic of Cancer
Author: Henry Miller
Publication Date: 1934
Pages: 318
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 11/6/16

Summary: A partially autobiographical work, the novel follows Miller's years in Paris. He struggles as a writer, but mostly he engages in all sorts of lascivious behavior.

What I Thought: Where to even begin?

My experience with this book reminded me so much of my experience with Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. I did not enjoy either at all. 

Historically, I can see the literary value in this book. It broke down a lot of barriers regarding erotic content in literature and what should or should not be banned. Whether or not those barriers were worth breaking down is a completely different discussion. I just want to focus on the book itself. 

In my mind, a book can be valued for how it changed social norms or expectations and still be seen as a lesser literary work. I think that's part of my issue here. I don't see the writing to be anything particularly amazing. The book can have cultural value and still be of average quality. I mean, look at something like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. While we certainly don't know yet what, if any, long-term cultural impact that book will have, we can all agree that it made some big cultural waves. I like that book, but it's not well written. It's not badly written necessarily, just not worth considering for a Pulitzer. That's where I'm at with Tropic of Cancer.

Maybe this is a literary masterpiece and I'm just missing it because of all the gratuitous sex. As I said when discussing Portnoy's Complaint, I have no problem with adult content so long as it's there for a reason. When it feels excessive or there strictly for the sake of scandal, I get annoyed. There are such classier ways you can go about expressing some of this stuff. If we need to know that a character sleeps around a lot in order to better understand him, fine, but leave out the graphic detail, please.

Next year, when I finish this challenge. I'm going to write a long post about the types of books the Modern Library committee chose to put on this list and where I wish they would have chosen a different path. You can bet books like this will come up in that post. I'm really hoping there isn't another sex-crazed, female-degrading novel between me and then end of these 100 Best Novels.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Will I Re-Read: No

A Reduced Review: Another lascivious entry on the Modern Library list and one in which I could not find much to appreciate. 

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