Orwell primarily references two books by Henry Miller; Tropic of Cancer and Black Spring. Both are written in the first person, which can be limiting due to the fact that we're deprived of a full, all-spanning point of view to provide us with objectivity. However, Miller doesn't care. He's not there to be objective or expansive. He's there to provide a slice of life through a nearly stream of conscious point of view. And I love it.
In Tropic of Cancer after Miller (as the protagonist) has written for a few chapters about debauchery, he writes in chapter three: "There is only one thing which interests me vitally now, and that is the recording of all that which is omitted in books. Nobody, so far as I can see, is making use of those elements in the air which gives direction and motivation in our lives. Only the killers seem to be extracting from life some satisfactory measure of what they are putting into it. The age demands violence, but we are getting only abortive explosions...The telephone interrupts this thought which I should never have been able to complete. Someone is coming to rent the apartment."
While he's examining civilization and how it's rotting away, we get this sense of paranoia. These sudden attention shifts set the landscape for his diatribes into debauchery and sexuality, as well as violent aggression. Miller's transparency, even if you don't agree with him or are offended, is laudable because so much of what we say and write in our civilization is rehearsed, risk-assessed, and socially affirmed. Although there are authors who attain authenticity other ways, simple dismissal of Miller on grounds of literary pornography are inappropriate. Orwell says on page 214: "But read him for five pages, ten pages, and you feel the peculiar relief that comes not so much from understanding as from being understood. 'He knows all about me,' you feel; 'he wrote this specially for me.' It is as though you could hear a voice speaking to you, a friendly American voice, with no humbug in it, no moral purpose, merely an implicit assumption that we are all alike. For the moment you have got away from the lies and simplifications, the stylised, marionette-like quality of ordinary fiction, even quite good fiction, and are dealing with the recognisable experiences of human beings."
I totally agree with Orwell in his interpretation of how Miller portray's ordinary, normal people. Fiction writers work so hard at trying to make dialogue and plot realistically sounding that the product is actually a derivative of reality, rather than true reality. (I touched upon this in the previous post). When you read dialogue on page, you're not reading real-life dialogue. Mentally it sounds like real-life, but only because it makes sense, is well paced, and we can intuit the tone and mood. People don't talk in real life like they do in literature. Most of the things we pass back and forth in real-life dialogue are simply interstitial relationship fluid: In-jokes, repeated clauses because with didn't hear, run-on sentences, misused words, poor grammar, overlapping dialogue and awkward pauses to re-align the conversation. If this stuff were published, no one would read because no audience cares about which coupons are up to date in the coupon envelope. Audiences do care, however, why one spouse always updates the coupons and the other is always unknowingly using the outdated ones. In real life not everything is as relevant, pertinent, and profound as it is in fiction. Miller bridges this gap. He puts real life on page, producing this guttural, primal product.
Page 216: "In Miller's case it is not so much a question of exploring the mechanisms of the mind as of owning up to everyday facts and everyday emotions. For the truth is that many ordinary people, perhaps an actual majority, do speak and behave in just the way that is recorded here. The callous coarseness with which the characters in Tropic of Cancer talk is very rare in fiction, but it is extremely common in real life; again and again I have heard just such conversations from people who were not even aware that they were talking coarsely." Hence, Miller's surrealism is ironically more realistic than many ordinary, academic and sterile works of fiction.
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