In 1930 Henry Miller moved from New York to Paris, leaving behind — at least temporarily — his tempestuous marriage to June Smith and a novel that had sprung from his anguish over her love affair with a mysterious woman named Jean Kronski. Begun in 1927, Crazy Cock is the story of Tony Bring, a struggling writer whose bourgeois inclinations collide with the disordered bohemianism of his much-beloved wife, Hildred, particularly when her lover, Vanya, comes to live with them in their already cramped Greenwich Village apartment. In a world swirling with violence, sex, and passion, the three struggle with their desires, inching ever nearer to insanity, each unable to break away from this dangerous and consuming love triangle.
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Early Henry Miller fighting the hydra of English. In the late 20's Miller was living in Greenwich Village, writing Crazy Cock and being housed and fed by his wife June. He kept revising Crazy Cock but later in Paris set it aside to write Tropic of Cancer--a wise choice, since the first three paragraphs of Cancer are worth Crazy Cock entire. Here is Miller at his most swollen and surreal, with barely a hint of his comic genius and with the worst faults of Cancer now strung end to end. There are perhaps only two or three scenes in Crazy Cock that spring to their feet as storytelling. The rest is French dross: ``Late one afternoon, as if electrified, he sprang out of bed...and began to write...The words rose up inside him like tombstones and danced without feet; he piled them up like an acropolis of flesh, rained on them with vengeful hate until they dangled like corpses slung from a lamppost. The eyes of his words were guitars and they were laced with black laces, and he put crazy hats on his words and under their laps table legs and napkins. And he had his words copulate with one another to bring forth empires, scarabs, holy water, the lice of dreams and dream of wounds.'' The plot is that one day June (called Hildred), who works as a waitress, brings home Vanya, a midwestern artist-waif who makes puppets and paints surreal figures on the apartment's walls and with whom Hildred forms a lesbian tie (the novel's first title was Lovely Lesbians). Miller, called Tony Bring, is soon fed up with Vanya, whom he treats as a retarded child. The rages and bad vibes among the three figures give the reader what action the novel has. Although the tie between the two women comes off rather warmly, Tony is a cold fish not even an author could love. Dull and amateurish despite the overrich boil of words. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Written between 1928 and 1930 but never before published, Miller's autobiographical novel describing his rage over his second wife's live-in lesbian lover is an awkward performance. Aspiring writer Tony Bring, depicted as a sensitive soul in a rotten world, is a misogynistic bully. Morbid enchantress Hildred, modeled on Miller's unbalanced wife, June Mansfield Smith, comes off as a pseudo-bohemian. Her lover, painter-poet Vanya (based on Jean Kronski), with an invented past as a bastard Romanoff princess, cuts a pathetic figure. The trio lives in a frescoed basement apartment in Brooklyn and cavorts in Greenwich Village. Vicious anti-Semitic remarks and references reflect the obsession that preoccupied Miller ( Tropic of Capricorn ) until after WW II; his homophobia is also offensive. Despite the verbal power of many passages, this novel remains mawkish, its overheated hand-me-down surrealism, purple prose and self-conscious decadence prefiguring the adolescent egomania of much of Miller's later work.
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