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It is always a pleasure to read a new edition from One World Classics, particularly when the title is one I've not read before. Black Spring was written between Miller's more well-known Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn and while it has not gained the stature of the other books, it is well worth a read in its own right.

First published in 1936, the book consists of ten almost independent (though linked) episodes covering Miller's early life in Brooklyn and the period when he was writing in Paris.

The Wikipedia description of Miller's writing applies perfectly to this book: "mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism". I have little doubt that while the work may be rooted in personal experience, this is more like an excursion from the bare bones of Miller's existence than a verifiable memoir rooted in the real-world.

The book was banned in the English-speaking world when it was first published in Paris, but the modern reader will again be surprised at what shocked earlier generations for there is nothing particularly salacious in it to the modern mind.

Much of this book is set in Paris and Miller seems to transform this busy, commercial capital into an almost mystical place. Never more so in fact than in the chapter, Walking Up and Down in China, where Miller experiences Paris as China, with its Great Wall of streets and boulevards which he wanders through and lives out a Chinese life, an incomprehensible opium-inspired dream of "a man who wakes from a long sleep to find he is dreaming".

Like so many before him, Miller wanders all over the city creating wonderful word pictures from typical Parisian scenes. He sits in the Café Wepler (the photograph comes from Walking Paris with Henry Miller) reading a book on "Style and Will" because is is a luxury to read in a noisy café, a whore breathing down his neck enquiring why he is alone, rhythmical music augmenting the sense of solitude, "trembling on the high notes, poised like a chamois above a ravine".

As I read the book, I was reminded of James Joyce, for many of the passages are a sort of free meditation on a theme, creating rich word-pictures as powerful as any painting.

Overall this is a fascinating book with much to interest. Its a book that could be read as a whole or could be dipped into over a period of months and is definitely one to return to - I suspect I will keep remembering passages and want to look them up, and my copy is now full of pencil marks side-lining notable quotations.
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on 12 December 2015
they don't write travel books like this any more.
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