American in Paris Reading List Vol. 1: Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer

“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive”

This bawdy autobiography details Henry’s life as a starving writer in 1930s Paris. Banned as obscene for nearly thirty years in the U.S., Tropic of Cancer has garnered for itself a reputation for being pornographic literature. But Miller’s sense of freedom and unaccountability is intoxicating, perhaps enough so to jump on a plane to Paris with nothing but a passport and a burning need to live for the sake of living. Joni Mitchell’s lyrics “I was a free man in Paris, I felt unfettered and alive” must have been inspired by Henry Miller. Swaying between utter depravity and transcendent enlightenment, Miller whets the palate for the sort of full-bodied sensuality found only in Paris.

Legacy: Miller lived in the 18th arrondissement for a few years and wrote of his impressions of the local color in Tropic of Cancer. He especially favored the pimps and prostitutes milling around the red light district (between metro stops Pigalle and Blanche). For in depth walking tours, maps, and historical essays on all of his old haunts, consult the exhaustive Walking Paris with Henry Miller blog.

Or simply visit the Wepler located at Place de Clichy. Miller’s favorite Parisian brasserie is still around today serving up fine oysters and smugness (from the old-school waiters of course, but then again this place has been an institution since 1892!). For reservations call 01 45 22 53 29‎.


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