LITERATURE: Tropic of Cancer – Imagery

Let me begin by advising you to put down that slice of pizza before you read this.  I made the mistake of eating just that and while my ironclad stomach was fine, I found myself making some bleh lip movements and much nose wrinkling.

On a Sunday afternoon, when the shutters are down and the proletariat possesses the street in a kind of dumb torpor, there are certain thoroughfares which remind one of nothing less than a big chancrous cock laid open longitudinally.  And it is just these highways, the Rue St. Denis, for instance, or the Faubourg du Temple–which attract one irresistibly, much as in the old days, around Union Square or the upper reaches of the Bowery, one was drawn to the dime museums where in the show windows there were displayed wax reproductions of various organs of the body eaten away by syphilis and other venereal diseases.  The city sprouts out like a huge organism diseased in every part, the beautiful thoroughfares only a little less repulsive because they have been drained of their pus.  (p. 40)

What cracks me up is again looking at the back cover blurbs:

"…a rush of spirit into the world as though all the sparkling wines have been uncorked." — William H. Gass, the New York Times Book Review

"Here is a book which, if such a thing were possible, might restore our appetite for the fundamental realities."  — Anais Nin

Uh, I don’t agree.  And it’s not the language the author uses, highly sexually oriented and in a low-opinionated way, but rather the rather depressing and dirty vision he sees and relates via the narrator.  C’mon, no one can say that pus, even as a white blood cell reaction to fighting disease, is not a nasty thing.

A point made in this observation of Paris and New York however is that it is attractive to people; it attracts them to itself, this sliced-open cock of a street.  What’s Miller telling us about human nature?

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4 Responses to LITERATURE: Tropic of Cancer – Imagery

  1. Lisa Kenney says:

    Blech!!! Is that how you spell “blech”? It’s so weird how certain writers tend to go for the most disgusting imagery — Charles Bukowski tended to do the same thing and I think so did William Burroughs. If they were going for a visceral response, they get it from me, every time!

  2. I find that I need an equal bliss response for every bleh! response while reading, so I hope there are some high points? Then again, I’m waiting for an equal bliss response from life for every bleh, and sometimes they just seem too far apart, so maybe I’m not being realistic. I’ve been accused of that before.

  3. Roberta S says:

    Susan, what in God’s name are you reading???

    Don’t put the pizza down. Put the book down!

  4. susan says:

    Well, I’m sort of determined to work my way through this because I am indeed learning some things about pushing limits in writing. Though contemporary story has flown way past this on a regular basis, in his time, Miller’s book broke some barriers in what was considered novels rather than out and out pornography, which was written but not as easily published or available.

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