Sunday, August 06, 2006

Black Spring by Henry Miller

It’s hard to call this work a novel; it’s more a stream of consciousness short story anthology, but written in a semi-autobiographical sense. To be honest, I almost stopped reading this book, and by the end I wasn’t sure that I actually gained much by keeping up with it.

Black Spring was unable to get published in this country for a long time, and the edition I read was from Ireland, though this is not a controversial printing. Nor do I particularly see why this book shouldn’t have been published, except perhaps because it was barely interesting. Sure it describes explicit sexual situations, and it exhibits callous attitudes toward women at spots. Plus, its syntax is sexed up, but this isn’t Penthouse Forum. A few instances of the c-word. Sexual interludes with prostitutes. Personally, I found Henry Miller's common use of sentence fragments and unhelpful disregard for commas far more disturbing.

But all was not lost. One of the vignettes borrowed from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jaberwocky, which is noted for its odd language and sense of silliness during a serious situation. While not as much fun as Carroll’s poem, Miller’s “Jabberwhorl Kronstadt” story made me chuckle at times.

But the writing: metaphor after metaphor, allusion after allusion. Miller’s closing story is entitled “Megalopolitan Maniac,” and it’s as self-absorbed as that title suggests. Indeed, the entire book is an ego trip. Unlike many books – both those few that I’ve reviewed here and among the few dozen I’ve read this year already – this is one that I doubt I’ll ever re-read.

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