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Literature / Tropic of Cancer

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The original cover, ironically, is one of the least Contemptible Covers the book has. And no, there is no giant crab note 
“I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.”
— The book’s opening line
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Tropic of Cancer is a novel by Henry Miller, published in 1934. However, it’s known mostly for being the subject of much controversy in America for being considered obscene and pornographic.

The novel follows the author and his dealings in Gay Paree while struggling as a writer, having sex, meeting with friends, having sex, going to social clubs, having sex, uttering non sequiturs and, you know, having sex. It doesn’t really go in circles around sex, though, it focuses heavily on the other issues, all this mixing autobiography and fiction, past and present, with a Stream Of Consciousness approach.

So yeah, it sounds just like your pretentious intellectual novel. And it is. However, the achievement of the novel is Miller's honest approach to reality, ignoring the sex taboo of the age. It was acclaimed by famous writers like George Orwell and Samuel Beckett.

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It was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Tropic of Capricorn, which was also controversial and banned in several countries.


Provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Averted. Since the book his written mostly in Miller’s perspective, we read his thoughts, so he’s the only recognizable pervert.
  • Author Avatar: The main character is called Henry Miller, so...
  • Book and Switch: Though the book was legally published on America for the first time in the 1960s, it was introduced illegally much earlier disguised with Jane Eyre book covers.
  • Contemptible Cover: Obviously, some publishing houses just want to capitalize on the book’s controversy.
  • Country Matters: Van Norden particularly is obsessed with it.
  • Culture Clash: The Indian visitor mistakes a bidet for a toilet. Guess what he does with it.
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  • IKEA Erotica: This only happens with some situations, specifically the more cold and mechanical ones.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Miller hated people who hated or loved the book as porn. To him, sex was just a part of life and it should be treated like that.
  • Moral Guardians: They tried to ban the book in America for being pornographic.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Henry Miller, the author, writes about Henry Miller, the fictional character, trying to write a book.
  • The Muse: To the real Henry Miller, his lover, Anaïs Nin. To the Henry Miller of the book, Mona.
  • Really Gets Around: Miller, but he’s not the only one. For example, Van Norden takes him to a bar and describes all the prostitutes with whom he has slept. According to him, there is hardly one in sight “he hasn’t fucked at one time or other.”

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