Monday, May 21, 2012

Mingus meets Miller

I’ve been reading Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. It’s not the first time this book has crossed my path. As a teenager, Henry’s work added something to my meagre knowledge of life. I was introduced to his books by my elder brother, (not unusual that he would lead me astray). He had a much thumbed copies of the Tropics books as well as Sexus or was it Nexus or maybe solar plexus. I couldn’t get into Miller's stream of consciousness, which spread across page after page of rambling discourse, philosophy mixed with anecdotes from his life. But the books would always fall open naturally at sections which covered Miller’s sex life. He was forever tumbling women on to couches, sidewalks, carseats and generally catching them unawares (but available) anywhere that was handy. As an impressionable teenager at a catholic boys school I guess I gained the impression that if you could string together pages of incoherent thought and be in perpetual need of bus fare (one of Miller's ongoing concerns was to find the ‘car’ fare for either himself or his paramours to exit from their couplings) then women would be at your eternal beck and call.

Well either Henry was exaggerating or I didn’t have the required technique. Perhaps it was my work ethic that let me down as I usually managed to have enough busfare. Either way Miller's work didn’t fit my view of the world.  However this time around I have struggled manfully with the stream of Miller's mind. I must admit that I havn’t read it all word for word and some of his childhood recollections have been skimmed pretty fast. But with sections in which he describes America as  “a cesspool of the spirit” and “ the greatest jamboree of wealth and happiness (where) I never met a man who was truly wealthy or truly happy” I am beginning to get into his groove. Watch out for tumbling couches ……… ouch.

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