Friday, August 13, 2010

Stuff everybody should read: Quiet Days in Clichy

I've been pushing the Jim Thompson library all summer.  I thought I'd change the pace and talk about my favorite Henry Miller book, Quiet Days in Clichy.  There isn't much crime going on in the story, aside from an episode involving a seventeen year old girl.  To most uptight people in "polite" society, however, it is an amoral bible of sorts. 

The story I've heard about this book is that Miller was hired to write some pornographic literature.  What he came up with was this rambling, plot-less narrative about two guys living right on the edge of poverty in France.  They spend their time chasing women and crusts of bread.  Supposedly, the company that wanted Miller to write pornography thought the book was too artsy.  Henry Miller would go on to write a couple of volumes of graphic pornography (collected as Under the Roofs of Pairs.)  Luckily, Quiet Days in Clichy became available as a "normal" book (it may have been erroneously marketed as pornography in its first printings, just as most of Miller's work was.)  It's a great read.  The language is loose.  The depiction of poverty and having fun in spite of poverty are important lessons for anyone considering becoming an artist. 

Further, this book has helped me determine which women in my life are repressed and which ones are truly liberated in the old mind, body and spirit.  Most women I've given the book to have given it right back, furious.  One of them even threw it at me.  If a woman can make it through this volume without getting pissed off, it means she has an open mind.

By the way, for Miller's take on materialism in America, check out The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.


  1. I remember reading the TROPICS when they became available - banned in the US until I'm not sure when - 1960? Some scenes never fade from memory, like his piano lessons.

  2. Yeah. Tropic of Cancer is an especially beautiful book that defies all catagorization. I read it once a year to remind myself that anything is possible in literature.