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Themes

Henry Miller loves to wax poetic about writing. In Tropic of Cancer, he pretty explicitly talks about the book itself, even describing it as "growing" inside him. But when does this guy get the time to write? He seems to spend more time thinking about the book he is going to write and discussing other authors and their glories and failures than actually putting words to paper. But he clearly gets the job done, and we learn from the horse's mouth that he enjoys the tedium of editing and proofreading. He finds comfort in a world reduced to commas and semicolons, parentheses and quotation marks. And for some reason, we're not surprised.

Questions About Writing

  1. Is Tropic of Cancer a story about Henry or a story about Tropic of Cancer?
  2. Why is Henry so sketchy about his own biographical details if he's writing an autobiography? Is he even writing an autobiography?
  3. Why does Henry derive such pleasure from proofreading?
  4. What's your verdict: is Henry a good writer? A good narrator?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Henry Miller isn't always clear about his faith in writing. At times he seems to believe that novels can change the world; at other times he thinks that everything is hopeless anyway.

Henry announces his plan early on that he will be "recording … all that which is omitted in books." The scary thing is, he might actually believe that.

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