Tropic of Cancer

At our May 2013 meeting we will discuss Bill Hagen’s selection:

Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, first published in the USA in 1961 by Grove Press.

Bill provides the following information about his selection:

Henry Miller (1891-1980) was an American writer frequently credited with developing a writing style blending fiction, autobiography, social criticism, and philosophical reflection. He was born in NYC and moved to Paris in 1930, where he wrote Tropic of Cancer. It was first published in 1934 by Obelisk Press and banned in the United States and Great Britain. In Paris, he became friends with writers like Anais Nin, Alfred Perles, and Lawrence Durrell. During this time, he also wrote Black Spring (1936) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939). Also banned in the U.S., these books were smuggled into the country, building Miller’s underground reputation.

In 1940, Miller returned to this country. Settling in Big Sur, he eventually became the grande monseigneur of the literary avant-garde, influencing the works of Genet, Kerouac Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and others. He continued his writing and in 1961 completed The Rosy Crucifixion, a trilogy consisting of Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus, which is a fictionalized account of his early relationship with his second wife, June Miller, during the six years he lived in Brooklyn.

Before his death, Miller appeared in Reds, a film about the lives of John Reed and Louise Bryant during the time of the Russian Revolution. Miller’s role was to explain the sexual mores of that era.

Tropic of Cancer would never have become well known in this country if it were not for Grove Press. Founded in 1951, it quickly developed a reputation for the literary avant-garde, emerging as the darling publisher of young intellectuals with and without prurient interests. It became known as a strong opponent of censorship in 1959 with its publication of an unexpurgated version of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. When The U.S. Post Office confiscated copies sent through the mail, Grove Press sued the New York City postmaster and won. The press was also attacked when publishing Cancer in 1961, but, again, was victorious. And it scored a First Amendment “hat trick” in 1966 in fending off censorship attempts when publishing Burrough’s Naked Lunch.

To the casual reader and some prurient minded intellectuals, Cancer may be viewed as a seedy tome full of dirty words. But in the literary world, it is often hailed as one of the most influential books of the 20th Century. Miller was much admired by Eliot, Orwell, Huxley, and Joyce, among others. Ezra Pound, no friend of our author, said of Cancer, “It’s one dirty book worth reading”.

The book is taught in most colleges and included in titles of Cliffs Notes and similar study guides. Yale, Michigan, and Princeton are among the universities offering courses devoted to Miller’s works.

A comment favoring parsimony: It is not uncommon when introducing a book of this stature to include a précis of what it’s about–symbols, themes, motifs, yadda³. I’ve resisted that temptation and encourage you to read it (as if for the first time) and ferret out all that stuff for yourself.

So in that spirit, good hunting!

Obtaining the book shouldn’t be hard:

There are multiple copies at local public and college libraries
(Call letters: F MILLE-H- Cancer).

The book is for sale locally at King’s Books and the Tacoma Book Center.

On-line, there are over 70 copies available for less than $1.00 each at
ABES and Alibris

There are also several free downloads. For example,


About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
Aside | This entry was posted in 2013 Selections, Tropic of Cancer and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tropic of Cancer

  1. Bill Hagens says:

    Hey Folks,

    I hope your ferreting has been successful for there’s a great deal out there on Miller and Cancer. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you view some of the many Miller interviews on You Tube. Here are the ones I found interesting:

    With Anaïs Nin:

    Henry Miller on The Artist and individuality, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche:

    Henry Miller – Reflections on Writing – 1974 part 1&2:

    Henry Miller – To Paint Is To Love Again:

    Henry Miller, “Bathroom Monologue”:

    I feel somewhat sheepish about making an assignment, since my rate of participation in the past has not been stellar. But here goes:

    I suggest using the Cinquain poetry form, which is five lines, with the following convention:

    Line One has one wor
    Line Two has two
    Line Three has three
    Line Four has four
    Line Five has one

    So for Cancer, how about?
    Line One (1): The times
    Line Two (2): The meaning of the title
    Line Three (3): Writer’s purpose
    Line Four (4): Contribution
    Line Five (1): Critique

    Here’s an option: Use the same convention, but create your own categories.
    And, of course, this is not intended to stymie our Haiku writers.


  2. Jim Robbins says:

  3. Ron Boothe says:

    Malignant Prose
    About Bodily Fluids;
    Not Quite Joyce, But

  4. Ron Powers says:

    I saw a sketch of Henry Miller in the May 13th, 2013 issue of The New Yorker that was helping to advertise that the Henry Miller Memorial Library was going to Brooklyn for a week’s celebration of Miller. Here’s a link to the programs taking place in Brooklyn all this week:

    I thought some of our members might find this of interest. There’s even a brief movie about Miller on that link.

    Ron Powers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s