i read both of the books, and can't say that i enjoyed one moreso than the other. they both end up reading very much like the books of the beat generation that i've begun to fall in love with, though the internal dialogues seem to be played up a bit more in these. there seems to be less of an explorer, yet more of an observer in miller's words. where you'll find kerouac excited to find his feet planted on new soil, miller seems to take on an element of acceptance of his surroundings, though he's not quite sure what to do with himself now that he's found himself there. it's hard to explain these books to anyone who hasn't read them, though they seem to be the predecessors of the BLOG writing style, sort of capturing moments as you've witnessed them, presenting a bit of internal narrative as opposed to giving a story that you can follow with characters and plot. these both have moved quickly to the top of a list of my favorite books. great reads, though a little rambling at times (on several occasions, paragraphs found themselves running on from 5 to 7 pages.) as always, these quotes are more or less for my own archiving/note taking purpose, but also to give you an idea of his writing style. sometimes, i've just underlined words amid other words, not for the meaning necessarily, but more for the way that those words work as alchemy.
TROPIC OF CAPRICORN
"once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos."
"everybody around me was a failure, or if not a failure, ridiculous. especially the successful ones. the successful ones bored me to tears."
"people usually took me to be good, to be kind, generous, loyal, faithful. perhaps i did possess these virtues but if so it was because i was indifferent; i could afford to be good, kind, generous, loyal, and so forth, since i was free of envy. envy was the one thing i was never a victim of."
"the present was only a bridge, and on this bridge, they are still groaning."
"i was the evil product of an evil soil."
"it's a wonder things didn't explode around me."
"what strikes me now as the most wonderful proof of my fitness, or unfitness, for the times is the fact that nothing people were writing or talking about had any real interest for me. only the object haunted me, the separate, detached, insignificant thing. it might be a part of the human body or a staircase in a vaudeville house; it might be a smokestack or a button i had found in the gutter. whatever it was it enabled me to open up, to surrender, to attach my signature. to the life about me, to the people who made up the world i knew, i could not attach my signature. i was as definitely outside their world as a cannibal is outside the bounds of civilized society. i was filled with a perverse love of the thing in itself -- not a philosophic attachment, but a passionate, desperately passionate hunger, as if in this discarded worthless thing which everyone ignored there was contained the secret of my own regeneration."
"living in the midst of a world where there was a plethora of the new i attached myself to the old."
"whatever set the object apart, or made it unserviceable, or gave it a date, attracted and endeared it to me."
"soon i too would become like these objects which i venerated, a thing apart, a non-useful member of society."
"somehow i had managed to sever my connection with the world that human hands and human minds were creating."
"but the way of the world is more insidious than that. instead of being punished you are undermined, hollowed out, the ground taken from under your feet. it isn't even treachery, what i have in mind. treachery is understandable and combatable. no, it is something worse, something less than treachery. it's a negativism that causes you to overreach yourself. you are perpetually spending your energy in the act of balancing yourself. you are seized with a sort of spiritual vertigo, you totter on the brink, your hair stands on end, you can't believe that beneath your feet lies an immeasurable abyss. it comes about through excess of enthusiasm, through a passionate desire to embrace people, to show them your love. the more you reach out toward the world the more the world retreats. nobody wants real love, real hatred. nobody wants you to put your hand in his sacred entrails -- that's only for the priest in the hour of sacrifice. while you live, while the blood's still warm, you are to pretend that there is no such things as blood and no such thing as a skeleton beneath the covering of flesh. keep off the grass! that's the motto by which people live."
"you will never die again but only pass away like the phenomena about you."
"to sleep listening, to dream listening."
"i wanted a metamorphosis, a chance to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer."
"i wanted to feel the blood running back into my veins, even at the cost of annihilation."
"durable as the atom, heartless as the earth itself."
"the dream of men before the flood."
"there is no solution for a man like myself, i being what i am, and the world being what it is."
"the spark that unsparks, the soft purr of the perfect mechanism."
"i am going to die as a city in order to become again a man. therefore i close my ears, my eyes, my mouth."
"confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood."
"above us the gas tanks, and below the marine life."
"why do the skeletons dance so ecstatically, i wonder. is it the fall of the world?"
"seemed possessed of a weight unnaturally. she had a more than human gravity, the gravity, one might almost say, of a warm corpse."
"between the time she took off and the time she returned i lived the life of a full blooded schizerino. it was not an eternity which elapsed because somehow eternity has to do with peace and with victory, it is something man made, something earned: no, i experienced an entr'acte in which every hair turns white to the roots, in which every millimeter of skin itches and burns until the whole body becomes a running sore. i see myself sitting before a table in the dark, my hands and feet growing enormous, as though elephantitis were overtaking me at a gallop. i hear the blood rushing up to the brain and pounding at the eardrums like himalayan devils with sledge-hammers; i hear her flapping her huge wings, even in irkutsk, and i know she is pushing on and on, ever further away, ever further beyond reach. it is so quiet in the room and so frightfully empty that i shriek and howl just to make a little noise, a little human sound. i try to lift myself from the table but my feet are too heavy and my hands have become like shapeless feet of the rhinoceros. the heavier my body becomes the lighter the atmosphere of the room; i am going to spread and spread until i fill the room with one solid mass of stiff jelly. i shall fill up even the cracks in the wall; i shall grow through the wall like a parasitic plant, spreading and spreading until the whole house is an indescribable mass of flesh and hair and nails. i know that this is death, but i am powerless to kill the knowledge of it, or the consciousness persists, and, as the inert carcass expands, this flicker of life becomes sharper and sharper and gleams inside me like the cold fire of a gem. it lights up the whole gluey mass of pulp so that i am like a diver with a torch in the body of a dead marine monster. by some slender hidden filament i am still connected with the life above the surface of the deep, but it is so far away, the upper world, and the weight of the corpse so great that, even if it were possible, it would take years to reach the surface. i move around in my own dead body, exploring every nook and cranny of its huge, shapeless mass. it is an endless exploration, for with the ceaseless growth the whole topography changes, slipping and drifting like the hot magma of the earth. never for a minute is there terra firma, never for a minute does anything remain still and recognizable: it is a growth without landmarks, a voyage in which the destination changes with every least move or shudder. it is this interminable filling of space which kills all sense of space or time; the more the body expands the tinier becomes the world, until at least i feel that everything is concentrated on the head of a pin. despite the floundering of this enormous dead mass which i have become, i feel that what sustains it, the world out of which it grows, is no bigger than a pinhead. in the midst of pollution, in the very heart and gizzard of death, as it were, i sense the seed, the miraculous infinitesimal lever which balances the world. i have overspread the world like a syrup and the emptiness of it is terrifying but there is no dislodging the seed; the seed has become a little knot of cold fire which roars like a sun in the vast hollow of the dead carcass."
"sunday came like a thaw."
"in the shape and weight of skulls."
"an age with less instruments and stronger antennae... a different kind of suffering has to be experienced before such music can be appreciated."
"despite the outward appearance of coma."
"death is the automaton which rules the world of activity. death is silent, because it has no mouth. death has never expressed anything."
"each page must explode, either with the profoundly serious and heavy, the whirlwind, dizziness, the new, the eternal, with the overwhelming hoax, with an enthusiasm for principles or with the mode of typography."
"i had a marvelous sexual dream that ended with the guillotine."
"i remember the first time we were separated this idea of totality seized me by the hair. she pretended, when she left me, or maybe she believed it herself, that it was necessary for our welfare. i knew in my heart that she was trying to be free of me, but i was too cowardly to admit it to myself. but when i realized that she could do without me, even for a limited time, the truth which i had tried to shut out began to grow with alarming rapidity. it was more painful than anything i had ever experienced before, but it was also healing. when i was completely emptied, when the loneliness had reached such a point that it could not be sharpened any further, i suddenly felt that, to go on living, this intolerable truth had to be incorporated into something greater than the frame of personal misfortune. i felt that i had made an imperceptible switch into another realm, a realm of tougher, more elastic fiber, which the most horrible truth was powerless to destroy. i sat down to write her a letter telling her that i was so miserable over the through of losing her that i had decided to begin a book about her, a book which would immortalize her. it would be a book, i said, such as no one had ever seen before. i rambled on ecstatically, and in the midst of it i suddenly broke off to ask myself why i was so happy."
"i realized that the book i was planning was nothing more than a tomb in which to bury her--and the me which had belonged to her."
"...this atomic eternity..."
"the very sight of these papers, of the strange languages in which they were printed, was sufficient to dislocate me for the day."
"her talk is as formless as dream."
"i have the feeling of being drowned in a deep mesh of words."
"two hemispheres, two skies, two sets of everything."
"tack your womb up on my wall, so that i may remember you. we must get going. tomorrow, tomorrow...."
TROPIC OF CANCER
"my thoughts are spreading. the music is slipping away from me, now that the drums have ceased."
"sleep is the keynote. no one is listening any more."
"the grief from his breath."
"if i am a hyena, i am a lean and hungry one; i go forth to fatten myself."
"in the midst of his reveries he suddenly arrests himself, and grabbing my arm excitedly, he points to a whale of a woman who is just lowering herself into a seat. 'there's my danish cunt,' he grunts. 'see that ass? danish. how that woman loves it! she just begs me for it. come over here... look at her now, from the side! look at that ass, will you? it's enormous. i tell you, when she climbs over me i can hardly get my arms around it. it blots out the whole world. she makes me feel like a little bug crawling inside her. i don't know why i fall for her--i suppose it's that ass. it's so incongruous like. and the creases in it! you can't forget an ass like that. it's a fact... a solid fact. the others, they may bore you, or they may give you a moment's illusion, but this one--with her ass!--zowie, you can't obliterate her... it's like going to bed with a monument on top of you."
"it takes it out of you, that fucking job! i want to write my life, my thoughts. i want to get the dirt out of my belly."
"it's a pretentious place with one of those huge empty lobbies in which englishwomen sit for hours with a blank look."
"a huge mirror covered with green gauze and tipped at an angle of 45 degrees hangs directly opposite the entrance over a baby carriage which is filled with books."
" 'you think i like myself... that shows how little you know about me.' "
"and the more he reads, the more disdainful he becomes. none of them are satisfying; none of them arrive at that degree of perfection which he has imposed on himself. and forgetting completely that he has not written as much as a chapter he talks about them condescendingly, quite as though there existed a shelf of books bearing his name, books which everyone is familiar with and the titles of which it is therefore superfluous to mention."
"the day is sneaking in like a leper."
"the alchemy of sound and sense."
"no searching for formulae, no crucifixion of ideas, no compulsion other than to create."
"the wheel is falling apart, but the revolution is intact..."
"now and then, it's true, i did think of mona, not as of a person in a definite aura of time and space, but separately, detached, as though she had blown up into a great cloudlike form that blotted out the past. i couldn't allow myself to think about her very long; if i had i would have jumped off the bridge. it's strange. i had become so reconciled to this life without her, and yet if i thought about her only for a minute it was enough to pierce the bone and marrow of my contentment and shove me back again into the agonizing gutter of my wretched past. ...when i realize that she is gone, perhaps gone forever, a great void opens up and i feel that i am falling, falling, falling into deep, black space. and this is worse than tears, deeper than regret or pain or sorrow; there is no climbing back, no ray of light, no sound of human voice or human touch of hand."
"since then of course, i have learned what every madman in paris discovers sooner or later; that there are no ready-made infernos for the tormented."
"the language apocalyptic."
"that day a woman addressed her puppy in the apocalyptic language of the slaughterhouse, and the little bitch, she understood what this greasy slut of a midwife was saying. how that depressed me!"
"wherever there are walls, there are posters with bright venomous crabs heralding the approach of cancer."
"it has eaten into our souls and we are nothing but a dead thing like the moon."
"it's a name you give to an abstract idea..."
"how the hell can you climb over a woman when her mother's dying downstairs, perhaps right beneath you?"
"a climate that eats into your soul."
"[about whitman]: there is no equivalent in the languages of europe for the spirit which he immortalized. europe is saturated with art and her soil is full of dead bones and her museums are bursting with plundered treasures, but what europe has never had is a free, healthy spirit, what you might call a MAN."
"windmills overlooked by cervantes."
"gold is a night word belonging to the cthonian mind:it has dream in it and mythos."
"the dream slides into artifice."
"an arabian zero rather, the sign from which spring endless mathematical worlds, the fulcrum which balances the stars and the light dreams and the machines lighter than air and the lightweight limbs and the explosives that produced them. "
"dear, crazy, metallurgical eyes."
"the story of art whose roots lie in massacre."
"if now and then we encounter pages that explode, pages that wound and sear, that wring groans and tears and curses, know that they come from a man with his back up, a man whose only defenses left are his words and his words are always stronger than the lying, crushing weight of the world, stronger than all the racks and wheels which the cowardly invent to crush out the miracle of personality."
"she used to say to me, mona, in her fits of exaltation, 'you're a great human being,' and though she left me here to perish, though she put beneath my feet a great howling pit of emptiness, the words that lie at the bottom of my soul leap forth and they light the shadows below me."
"i believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even it has only one great page in it: we must search for fragments , splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and soul."
"yes, i said to myself, i too love everything that flows: rivers, sewers, lava, semen, blood, bile, words, sentences."
"the thought of such absolute privacy is enough to drive me mad. it's like a clean birth. everything cut away. separate, naked, alone. bliss and agony simultaneously. time on your hands. each second weighing on you like a mountain. you drown in it. deserts, seas, lakes, oceans. nothingness. the world. the me and the not-me. everything has to have a name. everything has to be learned, tested, experienced."
"he didn't seem exactly nuts to me -- just caved-in ilke. typical anglo-saxon crisis. an eruption of morals."