Book Review: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller is a controversial novel that has piqued the interest of censors since it was first published in France in 1934. To some, it is prosaic. To others, it is masterpiece. Either way, there is no denying its impact on censorship and on readers who care for the novel.

The best place to start in telling you about Tropic of Cancer is likely with language. If you are averse to "filthy" language, it is best to leave its reading to others. However, if "offensive" bursts of obscene language please you or do not affect you negatively, you have a shot at finishing this book un-offended. From start to finish, it is a lesson in obscene verbosity. Henry Miller could re-teach a sailor how to swear with this novel.

Now, in order to enjoy Tropic of Cancer it is essential to eke the meaning from these words and set aside any averseness to the words with which he conveys these meanings. You might wonder why anyone should bother if you are a not a fan of unpopular words. My answer to that would be that lying beneath those words is the strange beauty of one man's love and obsession with women and words. In a way, it is a romance.

Okay, perhaps calling Tropic of Cancer a romance novel is a stretch, but for some, it is truly that. While difficult to follow with its unpredictable switches between biography, fiction, past, future and present, it still manages to tell a story. It is essentially the story of a man's pursuit of his basest needs while coping with life as a pauper, lover, slightly insane writer, jealous admirer, etc. This novel is a whack on the head with a hammer. Forget plot. This book is a literary seizure and I loved every second of it. Pick it up, if you dare to challenge your concept of acceptable language or if all language is acceptable.

Shelly Barclay

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