III. Narrative Detours: The Rhetoric of the Real

Narrative Detours: The Rhetoric of the Real - Notes

1First Epigraph: Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1939; New York: Grove Press, 1961), 170. Second Epigraph: Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 5.

2 Henry Miller, "The World of Sex," in Quiet Days in Cliche and The World of Sex: Two Books by Henry Miller (New York: Grove Press, 1978), 95. "The World of Sex" originally appeared as The World of Sex (Privately printed by J[ohn] H[enry] N[ash] for Friends of Henry Miller, 1940; Paris: The Olympia Press, 1959)

3 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 39.

4 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), 10, 24; T. S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men" (1925).

5 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 39.

6 First Epigraph: Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1939; New York: Grove Press, 1961), 113-114. Second Epigraph: F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, Paris (ca. December 10, 1924); in Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence, ed. John Kuehl and Jackson Bryer (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 89.

7 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 34, 35.

8 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 328-329.

9 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 24, 25.

10 Henry Miller, "The Universe of Death, from 'The World of Lawrence,'" in The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961), 114.

11 Henry Miller, Introduction to Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel (Paris: Carrefour, 1936), 38, 39. Reprinted in Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1939), Vol I, **. The last line cited is, of course, a denial of Eliot's hope that "There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; / [....] And time yet for a hundred indecisions, / And for a hundred visions and revisions," (T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," in T. S. Eliot: The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950 [New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1952], ll. **. First published in book form in Prufrock and Other Observations [1917].)

12 Although my phrasing suggests the applicability of Harold Bloom's "anxiety of influence," the meta-fiction of Romantic poetry--to the extent Bloom has reiterated it--is quite distinct from the meta-fiction of the novel. The struggle for authority within the "historical genre" does not turn upon "priority" of perception, upon belatedly writing the "first poem." The authority of the novel is retrospective: the "Last," the latest, the most "novel" book is positioned to better understand the historical forces that, in changing reality, are always "out-dating" precursor texts. In some sense, the threat to the authority of Tropic of Cancer is that, as a parodic novel, its relation to Ulysses is too "poetic": its access to history is more tropological than mimetic. In Tropic of Capricorn, Miller attempts to solve this problem, not as a poet solves it through further "anxious" temporal tropes, but by representing events: history, rather than revision, is proffered as the source of Tropic of Cancer.

13 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 1.

14 The Christian motif is evident here as throughout Tropic of Capricorn. Christian teleology provides Miller with a model of catastrophic rather than evolutionary history. The manner in which this historical parallel is put to work in Tropic of Capricorn is explored below.

15 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 5-6, 6.

16 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 39.

17 Miller never grew tired of talking about Tropic of Capricorn. In the aftermath of the Munich Crisis, at the end of "The Revolution of the Word," he found the interpretive means to turn his texts from the discourse of the novel to the discourse of self-liberation. Having failed to displace the critical and aesthetic agenda of New Critical modernism, he found another arena within which to keep his texts in print and alive to debate. The representational work that first lent Miller's narrative fiction an air of "reality" capable of supporting his modernist polemics also proved capable of supporting his subsequent personal polemics. Tropic of Capricorn is an ugly book. But whether one finds in its ugliness art or artlessness, self-liberation or self-delusion, freedom of expression or pornographic misogyny, it is difficult to shake the illusion that, almost half a century after its first publication, this "world" of artifice, Tropic of Capricorn, a mere assemblage of printed words, is powerfully, frighteningly in and of our twentieth-century reality.

18 The elements of a novel's represented reality found most persuasive may change with the hegemonic aesthetics of the genre, the critical methods that discover their coherence, and the understanding of history that legitimates them--this is but to say that the rhetoric of the Real is relocated in the potentially endless reality of the text. The rhetoric of the Real is what sustains our sense that something is at stake in reading the novel as a novel: the shape of our historical moment. Without this sense of impending historical truth in the debate over the novel's aesthetics, one is studying language--a fine enterprise in its own right--but not novels.

19 F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, Paris (May 1, 1925), in Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence, 104. Fitzgerald perhaps intends his next novel, Tender Is the Night, but the inspiration is the achievement of The Great Gatsby--the title, structure, and experiences of Tender Is the Night (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933) lay yet in the future. The Great Gatsby effected the break between Fitzgerald's previous novels of manners, or rather novels of bad manners, and his later more ambitious works. "I'm tired of being the author of This Side of Paradise and I want to start over," Fitzgerald wrote, advising Max Perkins on the advertising strategy he wished Scribner's to follow in promoting The Great Gatsby. (Kuehl and Bryer, 80.)

20 This is the only sense in which T. S. Eliot's praise of Joyce's method--"It is, I seriously believe, a step toward making the modern world possible for art[....]"--is not strictly "poetic." Novelists may practice Eliot's dicta, but, under the rhetoric of the historical genre, it is the modern world that makes the art of the modern novel possible. (T. S. Eliot, "'Ulysses,' Order, and Myth," The Dial [November 1923]; reprinted in The Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode [New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Farrar, Straus and Giroux--A Harvest/Noonday Book, 1975], 178.)

21 M. M. Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel," in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, ed. Michael Holquist (1981; Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985) The essay dates from 1934-35, but was first published in Voprosy literatury i estetiki (Moscow, 1975), 262-263:

The internal stratification [...] present in every language at any given moment of its historical existence is the indispensable prerequisite for the novel as a genre. The novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity of speech types [raznorcie] and by the differing individual voices that flourish under such conditions. Authorial speech, the speeches of narrators, inserted genres, the speech of characters are merely those fundamental compositional unities with whose help heteroglossia [raznorcie] can enter the novel; each of them permits a multiplicity of social voices and a wide variety of their links and interrelationships (always more or less dialogized.) These distinctive links and interrelationships between utterances and languages, this movement of the theme through different languages and speech types, its dispersion into rivulets and droplets of social heteroglossia, its dialogization--this is the basic distinguishing feature of the stylistics of the novel.

22 Nick's narrative will not make a very persuasive Tropic of Capricorn, just as we have seen in previous chapters that Miller's novels will not make, and have not made--since this is precisely the history of their critical treatment--a very persuasive New Critical novel.

23 Henry Miller, "Reflections on Writing," in Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart (1941; New York: New Directions, 1960), 25-26.

24 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925), 182.

25 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (New York: Viking Press, 1977; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 8. Originally published as L'Anti-Oedipe (Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1972).

26 It is difficult to believe that Miller, always aware of the competition, did not read The Great Gatsby. Miller's use of the "promising face" so thoroughly tracks Fitzgerald's portrait of Daisy as to suggest deliberate borrowing and parody--much the same as Miller had borrowed and parodied Joyce in Tropic of Cancer. But this connection can only be inferred: I find no reference to The Great Gatsby among Miller's essays and correspondence.

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