Paperback review: Renegade - Henry Miller and the making of Tropic of Cancer, By Frederick Turner


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The Independent Culture

Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, first published in Paris in 1934 but banned in the United States until the Sixties, is a fictionalised, sexually explicit account of Miller's experiences as an expatriate in France.

Once dismissed as pornography, the novel is now recognised as a masterpiece, and Miller as a literary alchemist who made high art out of base pleasures. Frederick Turner's brief but illuminating study examines the book in relation to Miller's life (with a focus on his torrid marriages and his affair with Anaïs Nin) and American culture (in particular, the gritty humour that developed on the Western frontier). Like Paul Hendrickson's recent Hemingway's Boat, what it lacks in critical rigour it makes up for in the fine quality of its prose and its enjoyably digressive structure.