Notes and Quotes – Tropic of Capricorn (1939), Henry Miller

– Notes and Quotes –


Henry Miller (1891-1980)

Tropic of Capricorn (1939)


“I had no more need of God than He had of me, and if there were one, I often said to myself, I would meet Him calmly and spit in His face” (9)


Envy: “I have never envied anybody or anything. On the contrary, I have only felt pity for everybody and everything.” (10) (Bullshit!!)


“. . . most children rebel, or make a pretense of rebelling, but I didn’t give a damn, I was a philosopher when still in swaddling clothes.” (10)


“The principle of futility.” (10)


“. . . people are naturally idiots, naturally sluggards, naturally cowards.” (10)


“Everything was for tomorrow, but tomorrow never came. The present was only a bridge” (11)


“People often think of me as an adventurous fellow; nothing could be farther from the truth. My adventures were always adventitious, always thrust on me, always endured rather than undertaken.” (11)


“Restless spirits, but not adventurous ones.” (11)


“I have walked the streets in many countries of the world but nowhere have I felt so degraded and humiliated as in America.” (12)


“It would have been better for my peace of mind, for my soul if I had expressed my rebellion openly, if I had gone to jail for it, if I had rotted there and died.” (12)


“. . . I wanted to see America destroyed . . .” (12)


“I thought, when I came upon her, that I was seizing hold of life, seizing hold of something which I could bite into. Instead I lost hold of life completely.” (13)


“I had a good time because, as I said before, I really didn’t give a fuck about anything.” (14)


Jack Lawson: “I said to myself he ought to die and the sooner he dies the better it will be, and having thought thus I acted accordingly, that is to say, I promptly forgot about him, abandoned him to his fate.” . . . . “I let a loud fart – right beside the coffin.” (15)


“Almost as quickly as I was hired I was fired. I had plenty of intelligence but I inspired distrust.” . . . . “People could tell at once when I asked for a job that I really didn’t give a damn whether I got it or not.” (16)


Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company of North America (16) (hundred and one branches, 18)


Henry V. Miller: “. . . I had a wife and child to support . . .” (17)


“He wanted me to tell him all about it, down to the last detail, his big hairy ears cocked to catch the least crumb of information which would justify something or other which was formulating itself inside his dome.” (17)


“It was also dear that Hymie was a Jew and that Jews were not in good odour with the general manager, nor with Mr. Twilliger, the vice-president, who was a thorn in the general manager’s side.” (18)


“. . . I was to be a spy for a few months and after that I was to have the run of the joint.” (19)


“In a few months I was sitting at Sunset Place hiring and firing like a demon.” (19)


“. . . it was worse than looking into a volcano. You could see the whole American life – economically, politically, morally, spiritually, artistically, statistically, pathologically. It looked like a grand chancre on a worn-out cock.” (20)


“A waybill was a messenger loaned by one office to another office for the day or a part of the day.” (21)


“And whenever [messengers] quit they wanted their pay immediately, which was impossible, because in the complicated bookkeeping which ruled no one could say what a messenger had earned until at least ten days later.” (21)


“If I had been a stickler for etiquette nobody would ever have been hired.” (22)


“And things being temporarily out of order brought on epilepsy, theft, vandalism, perversion, niggers, Jews, whores and what-not – sometimes strikes and lockouts.” (22-23)


“Anyway, the day always broke with confusion, complaints, constipation and vacancies. It also began with . . .” (24)


“Me understand everything but me no hear the voices.” (25)


“If I had had the power I would have given the company away to the poor buggers who pestered me. If I was asked for a dime I gave a half dollar, if I was asked for a dollar I gave five. I didn’t give a fuck how much I gave away, because it was easier to borrow and give than to refuse the poor devils.” (27)


“Men are poor everywhere – they always have been and they always will be.” (27)


“I was constantly urged not to be too lenient, not to be too sentimental, not to be too charitable. Be firm! Be hard! they cautioned me. Fuck that! I said to myself, I’ll be generous, pliant, forgiving, tolerant, tender.” (27)


“But I gave!” (27)


“I had the secret in my hand: it was to be generous, to be kind, to be patient.” (27)


“I did the work of five men. I hardly slept for three years.” (28)


“. . . to get the car fare to go to work in the morning I would swindle the blind newspaperman . . .” (28)


“So they cut the wages. It was like kicking the bottom out of a bucket.” . . . . “. . . they insisted that the gaps be plugged up immediately . . .” (28)


Vacancies: “I sat there and without asking a question I took them on in carload lots – niggers, Jews, paralytics, cripples, ex-convicts, whores, maniacs, perverts, idiots, any fucking bastard who could stand on two legs and hold a telegram in his hand.” (28)


“. . . introduction of female messengers. It changed the whole atmosphere of the joint.” (Hymie had a permanent erection.) “. . . I always had a list of five or six who were worth trying out. The game was to keep them on the string, to promise them a job but to get a free fuck first.” “. . . lay them out on the zinc-covered table in the dressing room. “(89)


After paying back Hymie: “He even insinuated that I might come home and fuck his wife, if I liked . . .” (89)


Vice-president: “He had said that he would like to see some one write a sort of Horatio Alger book about the messengers; he hinted that perhaps I might be the one to do such a job.” (30)


“I will give you Horatio Alger as he looks the day after the Apocalypse, when all the stink has cleared away.” (31)


“Except for the primitives there was scarcely a race which wasn’t represented on the force.” (31)

“. . . every bloody thing under the sun, and all of them down and out, begging for work for cigarettes, for carfare, for a chance, Christ Almighty, just another chance!” (32)


crapulous – over-indulgent


“. . . the inhumanity of man to man . . .” “The finer the calibre the worse off the man.” (33)


“I spit on the white conquerors of the world, the degenerate British, the pigheaded Germans, the

smug self-satisfied French.” (33)


The world: “. . . the home of man and all men are equal before God and will have their chance, if not now then a million years hence.” (33)


“Nobody is getting away with anything, least of all the cosmococcic shits of North America.” (34)


Writing on vacation: “. . . I wrote the book about the twelve little men. I wrote it straight off, five, seven, sometimes eight thousand words a day. I thought that a man, to be a writer, must do at least five thousand words a day. I thought he must say everything all at once – in one book – and collapse afterwards. I didn’t know a thing about writing.” . . . . “. . . I was determined to wipe Horatio Alger out of the North American consciousness. I suppose it was the worst book any man has ever written. It was a colossal tome and faulty from start to finish. But it was my first book and I was in love with it.” . . . . “Everybody I showed it to said it was terrible. I was urged to give up the idea of writing. I had to learn, as Balzac did, that one must write volumes before signing one’s own name.” . . . . “. . . one must give up everything and not do

anything else but write . . .” . . . . “I was attempting at the start what a man of genius would have undertaken only at the end.” (34)


“I am proud of the fact that I made such a miserable failure of it; had I succeeded I would have been a monster.” (35)


“To get beneath the facts I would have had to be an artist, and one doesn’t become an artist overnight.” (35)


Carnahan: a model messenger, exemplary character, “He had two vices – drink and the desire to succeed.” (35)

Sexton: “He had been fired from that job because he had broken into the sacramental wine and rung the bells all night long.” (36)

“Nevertheless he shot his wife and children in cold blood and then he shot himself. Fortunately none of them died . . .” (36)

The wife of Carnahan: “She said he was the meanest, cruelest son of a bitch that ever walked on two legs – she wanted to see him hanged.” (36)

Special privileges: “. . . he was looking forward to making the best of his time in prison by “studying up” on salesmanship.” (36)


Guptal, Hindu: saint, played the flute, throat cut by the janitor (37)


Dave Olinski: talked too much, twelve languages, beaten up by a tough Jew, files a police complaint, gets jumped and killed by roughneck robbery, at the hospital $500 were found in the toe of his sock. (37-38)


Clausen and Lena: baby, pregnant, parole officer, Lena sleeping on the roof (sleeping with everyone in the neighborhood), coal man in the attic, Clausen sterile, beat the children to death on the roof with a blackjack, jumped off the roof to his death, Lena taken to the madhouse (38-39)

“mirthless batrachian grin” (39)

batrachians – tailless amphibian (frog or toad)


Schuldig the rat: 20 years in prison, innocent, beaten to confession, anguish, last thirty day in jail “. . . the agony of waiting to be released.” “They” the spies, “. . . crashed his skull against the stone wall.” (39-40)


incipient criminals

“The whole continent was on the slide – is still on the slide . . .”

“The whole country is lawless, violent, explosive, demoniacal. It’s in the air, in the climate . . .” (41)


antediluvian – very old (relating to before the great Flood described in the Bible)

diluvian – relating to the great Flood described in the Bible


???”The whole continent is a huge volcano whose crater is temporarily concealed by a moving panorama which is partly dream, partly fear, partly despair.” (42)


“In America they’re constantly running amok.” . . . . “Europe is bled regularly by war. America is pacifistic and cannibalistic.” (honey comb vs slaughterhouse) (42)

“Like my compatriots, I was pacifistic and cannibalistic.” (42-43)


WWII: “The day I first realized that there had been a war was about six months or so after the armistice.” (43)


First realization of war: Disgruntled Texas veteran: “. . . despite his bravery the war had made him a coward . . .” . . . . “. . . . and that if he did any more killing it would be wide-awake and in cold blood . . .”(43)


Second realization of war: ex-sergeant Griswold (messenger) (44)

“He must have realized the moment he laid eyes on me that if I was a son of a bitch and a lying, stinking hypocrite, as he had called me in his letter, I was only that because he was, which wasn’t a hell of a lot better.” (44)


“. . . it was the strategic thing to do.” (45)


“And while [Griswold’s] sobbing like that suddenly the telephone rings and it’s the vice-president’s office – never the vice-president himself, but always his office -and they want this man Griswold fired immediately and I say Yes Sir! and I hang up. I don’t say anything to Griswold about it but I walk home with him and I have dinner with him and his wife and kids. And when I leave him I say to myself that if I have to fire that guy somebody’s going to pay for it – and anyway I want to know first where the order comes from and why.” (45-46)


“And before he has a chance to deny it, or to explain his reason for it, I give him a little war stuff straight from the shoulder and where he don’t like it and can’t take it – and if you don’t like it, Mr. Will Twilldilliger, you can take the job, my job and his job and you can shove them up your ass – and like that I walk out on him.” (46)


“All my life I have never wanted for friends, but at this particular period they seemed to spring up around me like mushrooms.” . . . . “Each set of friends I made despised the other set.” (47)

“His eyes seemed to be saying all the time – this has no value, no value whatever.”(47)


?Ulric: “Just a Brooklyn boy! That was an expression he used sometimes when he felt ashamed of his inability to express himself more adequately. And I was just a Brooklyn boy, too, which is to say one of the last and the least of men.” (48)


“. . . when I was extraordinarily gay . . . . extravagant bursts of gaiety” . . . . “Never a level in which I was myself. It sounds strange to say so, yet I was never myself. I was either anonymous or the person called Henry Miller raised to the nth degree.” (49)


“. . . why begin again, the same thing everywhere, death, death is the solution, but don’t die yet, wait another day, a stroke of luck, a new face, a new friend, millions of chances, you’re too young yet, you’re melancholy, you don’t die yet, wait another day, a stroke of luck, fuck anyway, and so on over the bridge into the glass shed, everybody glued together . . .” (50-51)


icy isolation (51)


“On one side of the ledger are the books man has written, containing such a hodge-podge of wisdom and nonsense, of truth and falsehood,” (52)


lucubration – study, meditation, piece of writing (52)


Fuck Henry Miller: “Living in the midst of a world where there was a plethora of the new I attached myself to the old. In every object there was a minute particle which particularly claimed my attention. I had a microscopic eye for the blemish, for the grain of ugliness which to me constituted the sole beauty of the object. Whatever set the object apart, or made it unserviceable, or gave it a date, attracted and endeared it to me. If this was perverse it was also healthy, considering that I was not destined to belong to this world which was springing up about me. Soon I too would become like these objects which I venerated, a thing apart, a nonuseful member of society. I was definitely dated, that was certain. And yet I was able to amuse, to instruct, to nourish. But never to be accepted, in a genuine way.” (54-55)


Henry Miller, get over yourself: “I should have been a clown . . .” (55)


“. . . how easily people could become rued just listening to me talk.” (too modest, too humble; too free, too gay.) (55)


“Hope to see you again some time”, they would say, but the wet, limp hand which was extended would belie the words.” (56)


“The moment you have a “different” thought you cease to be an American.” (56)


This is a skyscraper: “If you get tired of climbing you are shit out of luck.” (57)


Valeska: dead, “. . . she had nigger blood in her veins.” . . . . “. . . and the fact that her mother was a trollop. The mother was white of course. Who the father was nobody knew, not even Valeska herself.” (57)


“I told her quietly that if she were fired I would quit too.” (58)


Dinner and dancing with Valeska: “It was just the time, as luck would have it, that my wife was getting ready to have another abortion. I was telling Valeska about it as we danced.” (58)


Valeska give Miller’s wife $100: “. . . Valeska would come to the house the day of the abortion and take care of the kid.” . . . . “It was just the thought that if anything happened – if the wife were to kick-off- I wouldn’t feel so damned good having spent the afternoon at the burlesque.” (59)


“Suddenly Valeska was leaning against the table, her tongue halfway down my throat, my hand between her legs.” (59)

“I thought of my grandfather sitting on the bench, the way he had warned my mother one day that I was too young to be reading so much, the pensive look in his eyes as he pressed the hot iron against the wet seam of a coat . . .” (59)


“We had hardly finished when the bell rang and it was my wife coming home from the slaughter house. I was still buttoning my fly as I went through the hall to open the gate. She was as white as flour. She looked as though she’d never be able to go through another one.” (60)


“Now people are books to me. I read them from cover to cover and toss them aside. I devour them, one after the other. And the more I read, the more insatiable I become.” (60-61)


“But due to the fact that my mother had a clutching womb, that she held me in her grip like an octopus, I came out under another configuration” (61)


“. . . the retarded hour of birth.” (61)


“Always dragging behind, like a cow’s tail” – that’s how she characterized me.” (61)


“What is a fanatic? One who believes passionately and acts desperately upon what he believes. I was always believing in something and so getting into trouble.” (62)


“The more you reach out towards the world the more the world retreats.” . . . . “Keep off the grass! That’s the motto by which people live.” (62)


“Being in constant trim you develop a ferocious gaiety, an unnatural gaiety, I might say. There are only two peoples in the world to-day who understand the meaning of such a statement – the Jews and the Chinese. If it happens that you are neither of these you find yourself in a strange predicament. You are always laughing at the wrong moment; you are considered cruel and heartless when in reality you are only tough and durable.” (63)


“Life becomes a spectacle and, if you happen to be an artist, you record the passing show.” (64)


“. . . sought the woman who was to liberate me from a living death.” (64)


Walking with O’Rourke: “Always it seemed a little crazy to me, the earnestness with which he recounted his banal murder stories in the midst of the greatest muddle of architecture that man had ever created.” (65)


“The tale of the poorest among them with a huge tome, and yet if each and every one were written out at length it might all be compressed to the size of the ten commandments, it might all be recorded on the back of a postage stamp, like the Lord’s Prayer.” (66)


“Only the lash of hunger could stir them. The empty belly, the wild look in the eye, the fear,

the fear of worse, driving them on.” (66)


“Fresh coffee was important – and fresh bacon with eggs.” (67)


“. . . the boy on closing the book will think to himself what a great race the Americans were, what a marvellous life there had once been on this continent which he is now inhabiting.” (70)


Whatever, dude: “Chaos!” (70)


“Mondays I got my allowance from the wife -carfare and lunch money. I was always in debt to her and she was in debt to the grocer, the butcher, the landlord, and so on. I couldn’t be bothered shaving – there wasn’t time enough.” (70)


“Wouldn’t I make an exception for a boy who has just walked into his office – a boy who was in the reformatory for a year or so. What did he do? He tried to rape his sister. An Italian, of course.” (71)


“A beautiful looking young woman with a handsome fur around her neck is trying to persuade me to take her on. She’s a whore clean through and I know if I put her on there’ll be hell to pay.” (71)


Mailman circus midget: “Valeska takes “it” under her wing, takes “it” home . . .” thorough examination including vaginal exploration (73)


Miller nails the sister of one of his friends (73)


Valeska’s cousin, had sex to no longer be a virgin, may be pregnant: “And then Valeska takes me aside and she asks me if I wouldn’t care to sleep with her cousin, to break her in, as it were, so that there wouldn’t be a repetition of that sort of thing.” (74)


“. . . the two of them began to paw at me and neither one would let the other do anything.” (74)

Miller leaves them to sleep, goes home, the wife nags him, he clouts her, the woman from upstairs come down in a kimono, they put the wife to bed, Miller bones the neighbor, the neighbor leaves, Miller goes to bed and bones his wife, but imagines hooking up with the whore with the fur around her neck, fall asleep and has a wet dream. (74-75)


Valeska commits suicide, he runs into Mara, “Pauline Janowski, a little Jewess of sixteen or seventeen” . . . . “What attracted me to her was her passion for Balzac.” . . . . “My wife of course was stupefied to see me standing at the door with a beautiful young girl.” (78)


Wife goes to the movies: “Suddenly she threw her arms around my neck and she kissed me passionately. We stood there for a long while embracing each other and then I thought to myself no, it’s a crime, and besides maybe the wife didn’t go to the movies at all, maybe she’ll be ducking back any minute.” So they go to the beach. (78)


“We lay there a while and she began talking about Balzac again. It seems she had ambitions to be a writer herself.” (79)


“It was after midnight when I left her standing in front of a gasoline station. She had about thirtyfive cents in her pocket-book. As I started homeward I began cursing my wife for the mean son of a bitch that she was. I wished to Christ it was she whom I had left standing on the highway with no place to go to. I knew that when I got back she wouldn’t even mention the girl’s name.” Got back to important message from O’Rourke. (79)


“There was always somebody around to take care of a corpse. Especially if the bereaved were an attractive young blonde with sparkling blue eyes.” (80)


The Egyptian Jewess, Thelma, and Kronski: “She’s hot stuff and the two of us are working on her at once.” (80)


“Everybody had illusions of one sort or another. Monica too wanted to be a writer. Everybody was becoming a writer. A writer! Jesus, how futile it seemed!” (81)


“When I woke up I had an erection. The sun seemed to be burning right into my fly.” (81) . . . . “I could see too that she was enjoying the idea of being fucked half asleep.” (82)

“I didn’t dare to think what she might be thinking or I’d have come immediately.” (83)

Kronski leaves a note for the Jewess, Thelma, to meet him at the hospital where his wife, Yetta, is being treated, but the wife dies the next day (83-84)


“He dreamt that he had lost his identity.” (84)

“The first girl I ever loved died in the same way.” (85)


“. . . it all came back to me. I was back in Trenton, at the grave, and the sister of the girl I loved was sitting beside me. She said it couldn’t go on that way much longer, that I would go mad. I thought to myself that I really was mad and to prove it to myself I decided to do something mad and so I said to her it isn’t her I love, It’s you, and I pulled her over me and we lay there kissing each other and finally I screwed her, right beside the grave.” (85)


Kronski on Thelma: “She’s living with a Russian poet – you know the guy, too. I introduced you to him once at the Cafe Royal.” (86)


“To do so he had to first destroy everything around me – the wife, the job, my friends, the “nigger wench”, as he called Valeska, and so on. “I think some day you’re going to be a great writer,” he said. “But,” he added maliciously, “first you’ll have to suffer a bit.” (86)


“But first you’ve got to get rid of that hatchet-faced wife of yours.” (87)

“I know there’s something griping you – and it’s not just your wife, nor your job, nor even that nigger wench whom you think you’re in love with.” (87-88)


“. . . he wouldn’t even enjoy the funeral – his own wife’s funeral!” (88)


“. . . I stumbled into a hole in the wall and I ordered a big foaming stein of beer and a thick hamburger sandwich with plenty of onions. I had another mug of beer and then a drop of brandy . . .” (90)


“The best I could do was to imitate a death rattle, but on that I nearly choked, and then I got so damned frightened that I almost shit in my pants.” (90)


“Whichever way the coin flips is right, so long as you hold no stakes.” (91)


“A third of our lives we snore away like drunken rats.” (91)


“Everybody had the clap sometime or other. But not syph!” (92)


“. . . syph or no syph, I thought to myself, if she’s up to it I’ll tear off another piece and call it a day. But evidently she wasn’t up to it. She was for turning her ass on me. So I just lay there with a stiff prick up against her ass and I gave it to her by mental telepathy. And by Jesus, she must have gotten the message sound asleep though she was, because it wasn’t any trouble going in by the stable door and besides I didn’t have to look at her face which was one hell of a relief.” (92)


Wife and Arline (committed to an insane asylum), convent school in Canada, studied music and the art of masturbation. (93)


“I remembered what you told me once and so I gave her a sound slap in the jaw. It worked like magic. She quieted down after a bit, enough to let me slip it in, and then the real fun commenced. Listen, did you ever fuck a crazy woman? It’s something to experience. From the instant I got it in she started talking a blue streak. I can’t describe it to you exactly, but it was almost as though she didn’t know I was fucking her.” She thanks him and says a prayer for his soul, “Please make Mac [Wallace MacGregor] a better Christian . . .” (93-94)


Paula: “Listen, if you don’t shoot off in your pants when she starts wiggling, well then I’m a son of a bitch.” (94)


leitmotif – repeated tune in a piece of music, repeated idea in a speech or book


Woodruff to woman: “. . . hello kid, why don’t you sit down and have a drink with us?” And as a drunken bitch like that never travels alone, but always in pairs, why she’d respond with a “Certainly, can I bring my friend over?” . . . . bill was getting too high and they leave without paying (96-97)


“Broadway, such as I see it now and have seen it for twentyfive years, is a ramp that was conceived by St. Thomas Aquinas while he was yet in the womb.” (98)


anthropophagy – custom and practice of eating human flesh


sic itur Ad astra – Latin: “thus you shall go to the stars” (100)


“. . . the frozen glass of the window cutting like a jack-knife, clean and no remainder.” (100)


“At the opera, the music makes no sense; here in the street it has just the right demented touch to give it poignancy.” (102)


“The thought of running away and beginning all over again is equally terrifying: it means working like a nigger to keep body and soul together. For a man of my temperament, the world being what it is, there is absolutely no hope, no solution. Even if I could write the book I want to write nobody would take it.” (102)


“. . . . fundamentally I have no desire to work and no desire to become a useful member of society.” (102)


“Why do you go on living the way you do?” (103)


“I ask myself – does any one ever talk to himself the way I do?” (103)


“. . . get rid of your false notions about humanity.” . . . . “you’re dealing with cut-throats, with cannibals, only they’re dressed-up, shaved, perfumed,” (103)


“Into each and every one of them, as I shuffle about, I throw an imaginary fuck. The place is just plastered with cunt and fuck” (104)


“I mention it because for a moment, just while I was studying a juicy ass, I had a relapse.” (104)


“The haughty looking one with the statuesque figure, I bet she’d squirm like an eel if her palm were well greased.” (104)


“No Improper Dancing Allowed”.” (105)


“. . . nuns laying in bed and masturbating one another . . .” (105)


“Everybody is caught with his pants down, including the strip teasers who wear no pants, no beards, no moustaches, just a little patch to cover their twinkling little cunts.” (105)


MacGregor and Pauline


“The world is divided into three parts of which two parts are meat balls and spaghetti and the other part a huge syphilitic chancre.” (106)


unguent – ointnment, thick soft substance used on skin


“. . . Maxie Schnadig announcing the death of our friend Luke Ralston.” (109)


“. . . I was really glad Luke had kicked off at the opportune moment: it meant that I could forget about the hundred and fifty dollars which I owed him.” . . . . “It was a tremendous relief not to have to pay that debt. As for Luke’s demise, that didn’t disturb me in the least. On the contrary, it would enable me to pay a visit to his sister, Lottie [Somers], whom I always wanted to lay but never could for one reason or another.” (109)

“. . . nothing like tackling a woman when she is in sorrow.” (109-110)


“She was the sort of woman who would give you a fuck while pretending to be talking music or some such thing.” (110)

“. . . she’d have enough presence of mind to slip a towel under her so as not to stain the couch.” (110)


Maxie, sister Rita, and deranged brother

Curley, parents were carnival people, seduced by Aunt Sophie, “. . . at the best he had the makings of a clever criminal.” (112)

“I think I liked him particularly because he had absolutely no sense of honour. He would do anything in the world for me and at the same time betray me.” (112)


“He said she had seduced him. True enough, but the curious thing was that he let himself be seduced while they were reading the Bible together.” . . . . “he offered to put me next to his Aunt Sophie.” (112)


“The sly intelligence of a fox and – the utter heartlessness of a jackal.” (112)


Curley: sex with Veleska, the cousin, and the midget, liked the cousin most (money), “Valeska was too cagey, and besides she smelled a little too strong.” (113)


“A gun was too good to use on the old man … he’d like to dynamite him.” (113)

Jealous, Oedipus complex: “He couldn’t bear the thought of the old man going to bed with her.” (113)


Borrowing money from Aunt Sophie: “. . . t means a quick diddle and he doesn’t want to diddle her any more. She stinks.” Doesn’t was regularly. Religious, fat, greasy, “It’s like going to bed with a sow.” Sophie wants to sleep with father, but father has young girl on the side. (114)


“O’Rourke is a born student of human nature.” (115)

“. . . now look here, my lad, don’t you think you had better come clean? And if you think he’s only trying to browbeat you and that you can pretend innocence and walk away, you’re mistaken.” (116)

Stolen money: “You did it without my knowledge. That’s quite different. Besides, can you prove that I accepted money from you?” (116)

Schnapps: “I suggested that we take a little to brace us up.” (116-117)


Maxie, Luke, Lottie: “If Luke could only see what a friend he had in me!” (117)


At the funeral, over Luke’s open coffin, Henry: “It’s like this, Maxie… I came up here purposely to see you … to borrow a few bucks.” (117)

Maxie: “I don’t mind giving you the money, but couldn’t you have found another way of reaching me?” (118)

Henry unknowingly takes a $20 bill: “It enraged me to think that in the pocket of that idiot, Maxie, there were still more bills, probably more twenties, more tens, more fives. If he had come out with me, as I suggested, and if I had taken a good look at that wad I would have felt no remorse in blackjacking him.” (119)


“. . . get rid of Curley as quickly as possible – a five-spot would fix him up – and then go on a little spree. What I particularly wanted was to meet some low-down, filthy cunt who hadn’t a spark of decency in her.” (119)


“. . . money makes money, but what makes money make money ?” (120)


“This is the icy white maidenhead of love’s logic, the web of the ebbed tide, the fringe of absolute vacuity. And on this fringe of the virginal logic of perfection I am dancing the soul dance of white desperation, the last white man pulling the trigger on the last emotion, the gorilla of despair beating his breast with immaculate gloved paws.” (121)

“These are my brothers and sisters who are insane and unangelic.” (121)


legerdemain – display skill or cleverness especially for deceitful purposes.


“I am the arrow of the dream’s substantiality. I verify by flight. I nullify by dropping to earth.” (122)


interstice – small opening/crack/gap between two things/atoms


“The city grows like a cancer; I must grow like a sun.” (123)


inanition – exhaustion due to starvation, lethargy


“. . . I shall make no answer. There will always be a cunt or a revolution around the comer, but the mother who bore me turned many a corner and made no answer, and finally she turned herself inside out and I am the answer.” (123-124)


Rock fight, Aunt Caroline, Cousin Gene, up near Hell Gate: “We had to show even more courage than the other boys because we were suspected of being sissies. That’s how it happened that we killed one of the rival gang.” Gene takes a rock in the gut from the ringleader, Henry gives the guy a rock in the temple, cops come, ringleader’s dead, 8-9 years old, Gene and Henry hurry home to eat Aunt Caroline’s rye bread, played marbles with Joey Kasselbaum (Kesselbaum) and lost everything, Joey takes them into the cellar and makes his sister, Weesie, pull up her dress and show Gene and Henry her goods, she likes Henry, and shows them for free where others had to pay (124-125)


Twenty years later, Henry sees Gene, and Gene has forgotten that they’d killed the boy (125)


After Weesie: “She was the first of the other sex to admire me for being different.” (127)


“The boy whom I saw drop dead, who lay there motionless, without making the slightest sound or whimper, the killing of that boy seems almost like a clean, healthy performance.” (127)


“Alfie Betcha turned out to be an absolute bum: Johnny Gerhardt went to the penitentiary: Bob Kunst became a work horse. Infallible predictions.” . . . . “From the day we went to school we learned nothing: on the contrary, we were made obtuse, we were wrapped in a fog of words and abstractions.” (128-129)

???” With the sour rye the world was what it is essentially, a primitive world ruled by magic, a world in which fear played the most important role.” (129)


“Gene became an absolute nonentity: Stanley became a first-rate failure.” . . . . “Joey, who has since become a letter carrier.” (129)

Gene: New York; Stanley: Poland “. . . there was always between us the mark of the voyage.” (130)


Dr. McKinney, veterinarian, stallion castrator, smells of iodoform (antiseptic) and stale horse piss (131)

“The smell of a bloated dead horse is a foul smell and our street was full of foul smells.” (131)


“The smell of a dead horse, which is almost unbearable, is still a thousand times better than the smell of burning chemicals. And the sight of a dead horse with a bullet hole in the temple, his head lying in a pool of blood and his asshole bursting with the last spasmic evacuation, is still a better sight than that of a group of men in blue aprons coming out of the arched doorway of the tin factory with a handtruck loaded with bales of fresh-made tin.” (131-132)


Silverstein’s tailor shop, pressing clothes: “. . . cleaning out the farts which his customers had left behind in their pants.” (132)


The lingering odour of cunt on the fingers: “. . . this smell is even more enjoyable, perhaps because it already carried with it the perfume of the past tense, than the odour of the cunt itself.” (132)

“One can remember many things about the woman one has loved but it is hard to remember the smell of her cunt – with anything like certitude.” (133)


Aunt Tulle’s hair: “. . . stringy, ugly, imbecilic creature with two enormous buck teeth . . .” smelled sweaty (133)


Father Carroll’s pet choir boy, sissy, fairy, taunted until bursting into tears, pounce like wolves, rip his clothes off, “Nobody knew yet what a fairy was, but whatever it was we were against it. In the same way we were against the Chinamen.” (135)


Stanley’s birthday party: “Somehow nobody wanted to touch the [fried] bananas, as this was a dish known only to Polaks like Stanley’s parents. It was considered disgusting to eat fried bananas.” (137)


Willie and George Maine: “Bjork! Bjork!” start a fight over the fried bananas (137)

Stanley’s father beats Willie, Mr. Maine beats Stanley’s father, Willie gobbles up the fried bananas on the floor, Mr. Maine beats Willie for eating the fried bananas (137)

“. . . Alfie Betcha, who was very drunk though only eight years old, bit crazy Willie Maine in the backside and then Willie bit him and then we all started biting each other and the parents stood by laughing and screaming with glee and it was very very merry and there were more fried bananas and everybody ate them” (137-138)


“The fried bananas, too, were a success and for a time it was hard to get any rotten bananas from Louis Pirossa’s old man because they were so much in demand.” (138)


“. . . the defeat of Joe Gerhardt at the hands of Joey Silverstein [the tailor’s son].” Joe’s little brother Johnny seeks revenge, “. . . as tough and invincible as a young puma.” Johnny jumps Joey, hits Joey’s temples with rocks, Johnny runs and winds up “out West”, Joey winds up in the hospital “a bit daffy”, Joe Gerhardt makes an apology (a knight errant) to Joey, Joe becomes considered to be a “gentleman” (138-140)


Mother Gerhardt on Johnny: “His mother, who was a slatternly, jolly Irish bitch, said that it served him right and she hoped to God she’d never lay eyes on him again.” (139)


“. . . it was considered a distinction to be a gentleman.” (140)


Claude de Lorraine: French boy, sissy, gentleman, “strange elegant behaviour.” (140)

“German we had heard and German was a permissible transgression, but French!” (140)


“[Claude’s family] used to make us feel rather ashamed of ourselves – they were superior, that’s what it was. And there was still another baffling thing – with the other boys a direct question brought a direct answer, but with Claude de Lorraine there was never any direct answer.” (140-141)

“. . . Claude de Lorraine had come up to me on a certain occasion obviously to win my friendship

and I had treated him rather cavalierly.” . . . . “But back in those days I had a code of honour, such as it was, and that was to run with the herd.” (141)


Words like that: gentleman, reasonable, really, dessert

Jack Lawson (really), Carl Ragner


Carl: “Had his father not been a powerful figure in the neighbourhood Carl would have been stoned to death.” (142)


bandying – casual exchange of words


Santos Dumont (143)


Cuban flag: “. . . Sweet Caporal cigarettes and on which there were represented either the flags of the different nations or the leading soubrettes of the stage or the famous pugilists.” (143)


Ayesha or Ouida’s Under Two Flags (143)


Miller’s wants (145)


Oberon the night-rider (Universal: second largest moon of Uranus) (Medieval: king of fairies, husband of Titania) (145)


Roy Hamilton, Henry at age 21, dreams of California, MacGregor, Hamilton’s real father, wants a biologic link and without one becomes a “superfather”, invents practical things (ex: a drill he makes a fortune on) (146)


“. . . the role of the father meant little to me, or the role of the mother . . .” (147)


Self-aggrandizing – enlarge or extend, improve status, exaggerate greatness


“. . . Mr. MacGregor in the flesh was infinitely less than Mr. MacGregor as symbol of the lost

father.” (148)


“. . . the me, for example, which emerged when, suddenly, reading a book I realized that I had been dreaming. Few books had this faculty of putting me into a trance,” (148)


“. . . when [Roy Hamilton] said goodbye, when he renounced Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Hamilton also, he was like a man who had purified himself of all dross.” (dross – worthlessness) (150)


MacGregors: “foolish, empty fluttering of the hands” (150)


“Pourri avant d’etre muri!” (Rotten before being matured!) (150)


“Is it really me that is rotting in this bright California sunshine?” (151)


Arizona ramble (151-152)


Father remembrance (152-153)


redolent – suggestive, aromatic


Mrs. Kicking: old housekeeper (154)


“Even when I was most cruelly deceived I still believed . . .” (155)


Father, mother, mortal illness, church, pastor, “. . . representative of a species midway between a fool and a charlatan.” (156)


Gossip hounds: “. . . peals of scornful laughter and sly mimicry” (156)


Henry’s father: “. . . had I been in his boots myself I would have drunk myself to death.” . . . . “My mother was so astounded that, idiot that she was, she began to make fun of him” (156)

“. . . he soon found himself almost completely isolated.” (157)


“Dr. Rausch had been the family physician for years. He was a typical “Dutchman” of the old school . . .” . . . . “He made one feel that there was not only something wrong physically but that there was also something wrong mentally.” (157)


“. . . I came prepared, that is, with the laboratory analysis of my father’s stool. I had also analysis of his urine” (157-158)


“. . . I went to him with a dose of clap he had lost confidence in me and always showed a sour puss when I stuck my head through the door. Like father like son was his motto . . .” (158)

On the doctor: “. . . “I think you’re a goddamned old fart and I hope you croak, good-night!” (158)


valetudinarian – someone in poor health, obsessed with health

sequestration – confiscation, seizure, being isolated


The father finding religion: “If he recommended me to read a certain chapter of the Bible he would add very seriously – “it will do you good.” It was a new medicine which he had discovered, a sort of quack remedy which was guaranteed to cure all ills and which one might even take if he had no ills, because in any case it could certainly do no harm.” (160)


Blow-outs: “. . . the good pastor was just an ordinary man like themselves and could, on occasion, enjoy a hearty meal and even a glass of beer.” Maybe a piece of tail in moderation (161)


balsam – oily plant substance, ointment


Uncle Ned goes on the wagon and gets active in religion with father (161-162)

The day of the picnic, Ned gets drunk, goes on a three day bender, is found unconscious on the waterfront, and never recovers, he dies. (162)


“Those were the days when the old man knew the meaning of “moderation”, when he drank because he was truly thirsty, and to down a schooner of beer by the ferry house was a man’s prerogative. Then it was as Melville has so well said: “Feed all things with food convenient for them – that is, if the food be procurable. The food of thy soul is light and space; feed it then on light and space. But the food of the body is champagne and oysters; feed it then on champagne and oysters; and so shall it merit a joyful resurrection, if there is any to be.” (163-164)


Unctuous – excessively ingratiating, charming in an unpleasant way, oily/fatty/greasy, soft and rich in texture


Snoring: stertorous (noisy labored breathing) and stentorian (loud, power, declamatory tone), morbid and grotesque (166)


The whale: “He was in the land of Nod searching for Cain and Abel but encountering no living soul, no word, no sign.” (167)

“. . . the deepest and sleepest sleep of sleep’s sweet sleep.” (167)


Grover Watrous: club foot, quit smoking, found god, genius piano player, Weber, Berlioz, Liszt and Co. (167-170)

Grover’s father: “Now and then he threatened to chuck the fucking piano out of the window – and Grover with it. If the mother were rash enough to interfere during these scenes he would give her a clout and tell her to go piss up the end of a rope.” (169)

“The old man’s ignorance was even harder for Grover to bear than his brutality.” (170)


palaver – conference between parties, empty idle talk


On Henry’s sister: “A phrase like “the pleasures of the flesh” meant to her something like a beautiful day with a red parasol.” . . . . “She was not only religious, my sister, but she was clean daffy.” (171)

The sister asks if Grover would like to bowl, Grover says it’s a sin to bowl and churches are godless


sardonyx – semiprecious stone


equanimity – calm temperament


Grover and God: “He recognized no duties, no obligations, except to God. And what did God expect of him? Nothing, nothing … except to sing His praises.” (173)


“. . . I have met thousands of people and none of them were alive in the way that Grover was.” (174)


ineluctable – inescapable, unavoidable


“This is probably the reason why I write about him – just the fact that I had enough sense to realize that Grover had achieved greatness even though nobody else will admit it.” (175)


“It is a pity that he had to use Christ for a crutch . . .” (176)


Interlude (176)


“Hymie was completely wrapped up in his wife’s rotting ovaries.” Sexual proverbs, “. . . prolonged snake-life copulations in which he would smoke a cigarette or two before un-cunting.”. . . . “Ergo, fuck away!” (176)


“. . . all without un-cunting. Sometimes he’d fuck away like that for a couple of hours and never

bother to shoot off. Why waste it! he would say.” (177)


Steve Romero

The chop suey joint, funny little black mushrooms (177)


“. . . the rhythmic movement of the trolley would stimulate his appetite, would give him a slow, “personal” hard-on, as he put it.” (178)

“With us he got a change of meat – Gentile cunt, as he put it.” (1787)


“The one thing he couldn’t tolerate was dark meat. It amazed and disgusted him to see me travelling around with Valeska. Once he asked me if she didn’t smell kind of extra strong like. I told him I liked it that way – strong and smelly, with lots of gravy around it. He almost blushed at that.” (178)


Hymie’s wife: “. . . his wife too was an immaculate bitch. Douching herself all day long in preparation for the evening nuptials.” (178)


“Up until the day she was taken to the hospital she was a regular fucking block. The thought of never being able to fuck again frightened the wits out of her.” . . . . “He was sure the operation would be successful. Successful! That’s to say that she’d fuck even better than before.” (178)


Steve hated Curley. Hymie didn’t like Curley much either. (178)


“What he disliked especially was the way Curly talked about his aunt. It was bad enough, in Hymie’s opinion, that he should be screwing the sister of his own mother, but to make her out to be nothing but a piece of stale cheese, that was too much for Hymie.” . . . . “If she’s a whore that’s different. Whores are not women. Whores are whores.” (179)


“. . . Shit, I’m too old to have any moral character.” (179)


Curley: 5-6 girls, Valeska (She was so damned pleased to have some one fuck her without blushing that when it came to sharing him with her cousin and then with the midget she didn’t put up the least objection.), the cousin Abercrombie (If she came within a foot of a stiff prick she was like putty. . . . such a prim, priggish bitch in her street clothes. . . . (He had it in for the whole bunch because, as he put it, they were sucking one another off behind his back.) wheelbarrow, dog fashion, light a cigarette and blow the smoke between her legs . . . after he had almost polished the ass off her . . . . shoved a big long carrot up her twat. . . . she farts and the carrot falls out) (180-181)


Hymie and Mrs. Laubscher by comparison (181)


The girl upstairs, simpleton, had a cunt, in the bathroom, Henry looks through the keyhole to find her petting her little pussy, pulls his junk out to mesmerize her from the couch, “Come here, you bitch,”, she comes out, he puts his hand between her legs, she puts “it” in her mouth, he goes four finger deep, they make it a regular thing, “She was probably the best fuck I ever had.” (181-182)


eiderdown – eider duck’s down, bed covering


“When she pitched herself high, when she turned the juice on full, it made a violaceous purple, a deep mulberry stain like twilight, a ventiloqual twilight . . .” (183)

“Above the belt, as I say, she was batty. Yes, absolutely cuckoo,” (183)

“All I had to do was to lie down in the dark with my fly open and wait.” (183)


??? King Kong, leper armed with sawed-off gonococci. (184)

Logos, Bucephalus, Scotch Gambit! (gambit: leap for no purpose), Andromeda, Gorgon Medusa,

Castor and Pollux, lucubration, stabbed “behind the arras” (184-185)


“It was the fuck that counted and not the construction work.” (185)


Noah and the Ark metaphor (185)


“With Veronica it was always a tussle in the vestibule.” (186)

“If you grabbed her by the boobies she would squawk like a parrot; if you got under her dress she would wriggle like an eel: if you held her too tight she would bite like a ferret.” Marvelous ass, Pons Asinorum (Euclid: bridge of two donkeys, two white donkeys led by a blind man; theorem on isosceles triangles.) (187)


“[Veronica] thought so much of her beautiful white ass that she wouldn’t part with it for anything.” (187)


prestidigitator – magician conjuror


intermediate zone labeled “fuck” (188)


“Veronica, as I say, had a talking cunt, which was bad because its sole function seemed to be to talk one out of a fuck. Evelyn, on the other hand, had a laughing cunt.” . . . . “. . . when she got hot and bothered, Evelyn, she put on a ventriloqual act with her cunt.” (188)


“Jesus H. Christ and Immanuel Pussyfoot Kant” (188)


ferroconcrete – reinforced concrete


“. . . she will lay not only with Tom, Dick and Harry, but with Cholera, Meningitis, Leprosy: it means that she will lay herself down on the altar like a mare in rut and take on all comers, including the Holy Ghost.” (189)


“. . . every word I say is a lie.” (190)


Digging, tunneling: “. . . Culebra Cut, the nec plus ultra, of the honeymoon of flesh.” (190)


“It was most imperative to find and enjoy the metaphysical fuck . . .” (190)


Planting the territorial flag: “These misadventures happened so frequently that it was impossible not to believe in the reality of a realm which was called Fuck . . .” (191-192)


“What is unmentionable is pure fuck and pure cunt . . .” “What holds the world together, as I have learned from bitter experience, is sexual intercourse.” (192)


Priapus, Parthenon, Jesus, Abysinnia, “He began to sing through that long cock of his with such divine grace and elegance that the white condors came down out of the sky and shat huge purple eggs all over the green marshland.” (194)


Cunt varieties (194-195)


The cemetery: the world of sexual intercourse (196)


“My mother, poor imbecile that she was, thought I was lazy.” (196)

“. . . I am alone in the Land of Fuck.” (197)

Ubiguchi: terrain vague (198)


“If I killed a little bird and roasted it over the fire and ate it, it was not because I was hungry but because I wanted to know about Timbuctoo or Tierra del Fuego. I had to stand in the vacant lot and eat dead birds in order to create a desire . . .” (198)


gerundive – Latin: must or ought to be done


“It was fuck and be fucked – and the devil take the hindmost.” (201)


Pseudonym: Samson Lackawanna (202)

Speaks Yiddish, Hebrew, learning Tibetan


“At the hotel I rang for women like you would ring for whiskey and soda.” (202)

“There I took a Mr. Rico in hand and taught him the art of selling books with no handling charges. All the profit came from ocean freight rates . . .” (202)


vacuity – lack of clear of serious thought, blankness


“. . . creation was merely a job of filling up holes.” . . . . “. . . I dropped a ton of poems to wipe out the idea of annihilation.” . . . . “And God, for the first time in my knowledge, was dean-shaven.” . . . . “. . . I was dying as one being in the ecstasy of full consciousness.” . . . . “This is the Land of Fuck . . .” . . . . “Nothing is determined in advance, the future is absolutely uncertain, the past is nonexistent.” (203)

“Everything has soul . . .” spermatozoa, God, embryo, “Even in embryo God has no memory.” (204)


Morganatic diseases (between people of different social ranks) (205)


“All department stores are symbols of sickness and emptiness, but Bloomingdale’s is my special sickness, my incurable obscure malady.” (205)


“In the street I begin to stab horses at random, or I lift a skirt here and there looking for a letter-box, or I put a postage stamp across a mouth, an eye, a vagina.” (205)


“. . . schizerino flying . . . . with the etheric body . . .” (206)


millenary ages – millennium


“The interlude which I think of as the Land of Fuck, a realm of time more than of space, is for me the equivalent of that Purgatory which Dante has described” (208)


abeyance – a state of temporary disuse or suspension.


“. . . from the moment that I dipped into Dostoievski I was definitely, irrevocably, contentedly queer.” . . . “Any ambition of desire I had to write was also killed . . .” (209)


Maxie, sister Rita (209)

“. . . I was really bored to death with Maxie’s company, tolerating him only because he loaned me money readily and bought me things which I needed.” (209)

Far Rockaway: “. . . undressing in the bath house and he was showing me what a fine tight scrotum he had . . .” . . . . “. . . where the hell is Rita all the time . . .” (209)


quim – woman’s genitals


“Maxie, being a Jew from Odessa, had never heard the word quim before.” (209)

“Damned if I would go drown myself just because his sister like all other women happened to have a cunt.” (210)


Far Rockaway: “I was standing at the end of the earth, at a place called Xanthos . . . . a word like this to express no place at all.” (210)


“. . . I was really a brother to Dostoievski, that perhaps I was the only man in all America who knew what he meant in writing those books. Not only that, but I felt all the books I would one day write myself germinating inside me . . .” . . . . “And since up to this time I had written nothing but fiendishly long letters about everything and nothing . . .” (211)


A place: the end of the known world (Far Rockaway, Xanthos) (211)


Henry had suddenly walked away from Maxie, realizing, “. . . carfare! Jesus, the bastard Maxie had walked off without leaving me a sou. There I was with my fine budding antique world and not a penny in my jeans.” (211-212)


Henry bumps into Rita, they go to a chop suey joint, sit side by side, they danced, “. . . I had a notion to bring her back to her own home, stand her up in the vestibule and give her a fuck right under Maxie’s nose – which I did.” . . . . “. . . suddenly I felt that she was coming, one of those long drawn-out orgasms such as you get now and then in a Jewish cunt.” (212)


Rita comes, her purse spills out some coins, and Henry takes some coins for carfare, “Somebody had to pay . . .” . . . . “. . . turning her over and back-scuttling her.” (213)


Henry comes, Rita loans Henry a few dollars anyway, then she blows him with her shit on his dick, he eats her pussy, then he gets up again and shoves it back in her rear . . . “What a quim! And I had only asked to take a look at it!” (214)


Odessa, Brooklyn, Italian paintings without perspective, “Murder is in the air, chance rules.” (214)


The invasion: Williamsburg Bridge opened, the invasion of the Jews from Delancey Street, New

York, then the disintegration of our little world on Fillmore Place, pushing the “real people” out of the neighborhood, “The Jews came, as I say, and like moths they began to eat into the fabric of our lives until there was nothing left but this moth-like presence which they brought with them everywhere.” (215)


“To me it was heartrending. I could have taken a machine gun and mowed the whole neighbourhood down, Jew and Gentile together.” (216)


“. . . the authorities decided to change the name of North Second Street to Metropolitan Avenue.” Metro Ave becomes an artery of traffic, a link between two ghettos, rather than the road to the cemetery as it had been when the Gentiles still lived there. (216)


“The imaginary boundary of my world had changed.” (217)

In America: “The new is, from day to day, a moth which eats into the fabric of life, leaving nothing finally but a great hole.” . . . . “In America the destruction is completely annihilating.” (217)


“In fact, I am always regarded as a stranger, a foreigner. I have unlimited time on my hands and I am absolutely content in sauntering through the streets.” (218)


Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution

“Creative”: “This word was my talisman. With it I was able to defy the whole world, and

especially my friends.” (219)


“Friends”: “I pitied them, and in short order. I deserted them one by one, without the slightest regret.” (220)




In Henry’s father’s shop, he read Creative Evolution to the Jews who worked there, like Paul reading to the disciples: “. . . these poor Jew bastards could not read the English language.” (221)


???” My understanding of the meaning of a book is that the book itself disappears from sight, that it is chewed alive, digested and incorporated into the system as flesh and blood which in turn creates new spirit and reshapes the world.” Order vs disorder (221)


On the elevated train: the girl across from Henry has her legs around his, so he pushes his knee deeper into her crotch, “. . . she turns to the girl next to her and complains that I am molesting her.” (222)


Henry can’t remove his legs, the girl moves hers, and the girl next to her winds up with her legs around Henry’s. One girl tells the other, “. . . it is really not the man’s fault but the fault of the company for packing us in like sheep.”(222-223)


Henry pulls out his book so she can see what he’s reading, and continues with the “leg language” without attracting attention. The train empties, he sits next to her, and converses about the book, “She’s a voluptuous Jewess . . .” (233)


They exit the train walking arm in arm through the neighborhood, “I am the intruder, the Goy who has come down into the neighbourhood to pick off a nice ripe cunt. She on the other hand seems to be proud of her conquest; she’s showing me off to her friends. This is what I picked up in the train, an educated Goy, a refined Goy!” (223)


No dinner: “. . . as she lets drop just before we reach the door, she’s got a husband who’s a travelling salesman and she’s got to be careful.” (223)


Later that night: “This time I’ve left the book at home. It’s cunt I’m out for now and no thought of the book is in my head.” (224)


Una, past love: “What’s a fuck when what I want is love? Yes, suddenly it comes over me like a tornado… Una, the girl I loved, the girl who lived here in this neighbourhood, Una with big blue eyes and flaxen hair, Una who made me tremble just to look at her, Una whom I was afraid to kiss or even to touch her hand. Where is Una? Yes, suddenly, that’s the burning question: where is Una ?” (224)


Simile: He lost Una “. . . like a penny falling through a hole in your pocket.” (224)


On their last encounter, Henry wanted to marry Una, but he told her and himself that he was going to California to lead a new life. “I turned the comer and that was the end of it. Good-bye! Like that. Like in a coma. And I meant to say come to me! Come to me because I can’t live any more without you!” (224-225)


Beyond the boundary: “There is no end to it, it is unfathomable, and it is the lot of every man on

earth, but especially mine . . . especially mine.” (225)


“The dream was a mirage. There never was a house in the midst of the vacant lot. That’s why I was never able to enter it. My home is not in this world, nor in the next I am a man without a home, without a friend, without a wife.” (226)


“Fuck it! Blow it to hell! Kill, kill, kill: Kill them all . . .” (226)


Cabbage leaf universe: “Look around you, young man, see how still and beautiful everything is. Do you see, even the garbage lying in the gutter looks beautiful in this light. Pick up the little cabbage leaf, hold it gently in your hand. I bend down and pick up the cabbage leaf lying in the gutter. It looks absolutely new to me, a whole universe in itself. I break a little piece off and examine that. Still a universe. Still unspeakably beautiful and mysterious. I am almost ashamed to throw it back in the gutter. I bend down and deposit it gently with the other refuse.” (226)


Lamp post: “When I stand and lean against a lamp post to light my cigarette even the lamp post feels friendly. It is not a thing of iron – it is a creation of the human mind, shaped a certain way, twisted and formed by human hands, blown on with human breath, placed by human hands and feet.” (227)


Gottlieb Leberecht Müller (Henry’s “right” name): lost his identity (227)

??The draught of forgetfulness in dreams


“I am capable if needs be, of killing in cold blood, for the sake of my family or to protect my country, or whatever it may be. I am the ordinary, routine citizen who answers to a name and who is given a number in his passport. I am thoroughly irresponsible for my fate.” (228)


The “Just” are the real monsters: “In this condition I have always fallen in with thieves and rogues and murderers, and how kind and gentle they have been with me! As though they were my brothers. And are they not, indeed?” (229)


???She???Una: “I forgot what she looked like, what she felt like, what she smelt like, what she fucked like . . .” . . . . “. . . saw the new race of man stewing in the yolk of futurity. I saw through to the

last sign and symbol, but I could not read her face.” . . . . “. . . electric effluvia of her incandescent vision.” (231-232)


“. . . she was a mirror which had lost its quicksilver, the mirror which yields both the image and the horror.” (232)


“Thus we walked and slept and ate together, the Siamese twins whom Love had joined and whom Death alone could separate.” (233)


Balckhole living: “She wore no underclothes, just a simple sheet of black velvet saturated with a diabolical perfume.” . . . . “We lived in black holes with drawn curtains, we ate from black plates, we read from black books.” . . . . “For sun we had Mars, for moon Saturn: we lived permanently in the zenith of the underworld.” (233)


internecine strife – happening or existing within a group, organization, etc


“She was double-barreled, like a shot-gun, a female bull with an acetylene torch in her womb. In heat she focused on the grand cosmocrator, her eyes rolled back to the whites, her lips a-slaver. In the blind hole of sex she waltzed like a trained mouse, her jaws unhinged like a snake’s, her skin horripilating in barbed plumes. She had the insatiable lust of a unicorn, the itch that laid the Egyptians low. Even the hole in the sky through which the lacklustre star shone down was swallowed up in her fury.” (233-234)


horripilating – bristling of hair or scales, goosebumps


“We were the twin snakes of Paradise, lucid in heat and cool as chaos itself. Life was a perpetual black fuck about a fixed pole of insomnia. Life was Scorpio conjunction Mars, conjunction Mercury, conjunction Venus, conjunction Saturn, conjunction Pluto, conjunction Uranus, conjunction quicksilver, laudanum, radium, bismuth. The grand conjunction was every Saturday night, Leo fornicating with Draco in the house of brother and sister.” (234)


malheur – French: misfortune


“The reason why it is difficult to tell it is because I remember too much. I remember everything . . .” (234)


Watching her lips: “. . . whether they hissed a viper’s hate or cooed like a turtle dove.” (234)


“Next to the panther and the jaguar she did the bird stuff best: the wild heron, the ibis, the flamingo, the swan in rut.” (235)


“. . . the mandibular clutch-clutch of the mandala wheel of lust.” (236)


“I thought purely within the walls of our amoebic life, the pure thought such as Immanuel Pussyfoot Kant gave us and which only a ventriloquist’s dummy could reproduce.” (236)


“I calculated everything out to a pin point with gnostic decimals to boot, like primes which a drunk hands out at the finish of a six-day-race.” (236)


“I remember how the second time I met her she told me that she had never expected to see me again, and the next time I saw her she said she thought I was a dope fiend, and the next time she called me a god, and after that she tried to commit suicide and then I tried and then she tried again, and nothing worked except to bring us closer together,” Her body changed, jaguar to emaciation, like a chameleon. (237)


Devoted to beauty: “She lived constantly before the mirror . . . . She changed her whole manner of speech . . . . She conducted herself so skilfully . . . . She was constantly on her guard . . . . And, like a good general, she discovered quickly enough that the best defence is attack.” (237)


“But in the pursuit of beauty, she soon forgot her quest entirely, became the victim of her own creation. She became so stunningly beautiful that at times she was frightening, at times positively uglier than the ugliest woman in the world.” (239)


“I know that we were conjugating the verb love like two maniacs trying to fuck through an iron grate. I said that in the frantic grappling in the dark I sometimes forgot her name, what she looked like, who she was.” (239)


Reminiscing of his ladies: “Georgiana, for instance, of only a brief afternoon, Telma, the Egyptian whore, Carlotta, Alannah, Una, Mona, Magda, girls of six or seven; waifs, will’o’-the-wisps, faces, bodies, thighs, a subway brush, a dream, a memory, a desire, a longing.” (239)


“. . . men of perhaps that very afternoon, of perhaps only an hour ago, her cunt perhaps still choked with the sperm of the last fuck. The more submissive she was, the more passionately she behaved, the more abandoned she looked, the more uncertain I became.” (240-241)


“If she were properly coked she would vomit it forth like an oracle, everything . . . .” (241)


“She would be condemned to recognize her unique self everywhere until the end of time. What a fate she had chosen for herself!” (241)


“Who Killed Cock Robin”: English nursery rhyme, used as a murder archetype in world culture.

“Not I, my lovely angel could say, and by God, who gazing at that pure, blameless face could deny her? Who could see in that sleep of innocence that one half of the face belonged to God and the other half to Satan? The mask was smooth as death, cool, lovely to the touch . . .” (242)


“A clean exit, such as the Devil himself might make for reasons of his own.” (245)


“Between the time she took off and the time she returned I lived the life of a full blooded schizerino.” (246)


“. . . I am like a diver with a torch in the body of a dead marine monster.” (246)


“I move around in my own dead body, exploring every nook and cranny of its huge, shapeless mass.” (247)


“. . . the seed has become a little knot of cold fire which roars like a sun in the vast hollow of the dead carcass.” (247)


Henry performing for his father and company: “. . . I would do a few handsprings for them on the carpet before the bed” (248)


“One Sunday, just like that, I composed one of the loveliest scherzos imaginable – to a louse.” (249)


German aunt who looked like a bull-dyker: “She used to pat me on the head and tell me I would be another Mozart. I hated Mozart, and I hate him still, and so to get even with her I would play badly, play all the sour notes I knew.” (249-250)


“Music is still the antidote for the nameless, but this is not yet music. Music is planetary fire, an irreducible which is all-sufficient; it is the slatewriting of the gods, the abracadabra which the learned and the ignorant alike muff because the axle has been unhooked.” (251)


Lola Niessen (Henry age: 15, Lola age: 25-28, not exactly a beauty, looked like a Kalmuck or a Chinook, hairy, stinking perfume she soused her armpits, morose, withdrawn type): “. . . I never got anywhere with the bloody music is that it was always mixed up with sex. As soon as I was able to play a song the cunts were around me like flies.” (251)


“She was always late in coming, being a conscientious idiot, and by the time she arrived I was always a bit enervated from masturbating.” (252)


“Anyway she was hairy, that’s what I want to say and being hairy as a gorilla she got my mind off the music and on to her cunt.” Henry bribes Lola’s younger brother to let Henry watch her through the keyhole while she bathes, Lola’s hairy from navel to crotch, the next two lessons Henry leaves his fly open, Lola rejects Henry, “I closed in on her and I reached up under her dress to get at that handwoven rug I had seen through the keyhole.” (252)


Lola dolls herself up for future lessons, “I didn’t dare to open my fly again, but I would get an erection and hold it throughout the lesson . . .” and Lola would gaze at Henry’s crotch (253)


Follows Lola at night: “I used to dog her steps, hoping she would get to some deserted spot near the cemetery where I might try some rough tactics.” (253)


Henry, laid out on an embankment, sees Lola coming, calls her over, she joins him, he puts the moves on her, “Not here, please,” she begged, but I paid no attention. I got my hand between her legs, all tangled up in that thick sporran of hers, and she was sopping wet, like a horse salivating. It was my first fuck, by Jesus, and it had to be that a train would come along and shower hot sparks over us. Lola was terrified. It was her first fuck too, I guess, and she probably needed it more than I . . .” (254)


They go to a pond, she gives in, he cums quick in her hand, he gets it up again, pushes it in, “. . . she came I don’t know how many times – it was like a pack of firecrackers going off, and with it all she sunk her teeth into me, bruised my lips, clawed me, ripped my shirt and what the hell not.” (254-255)


Lola’s family moves a month later, Henry never sees her again, he hangs the sporran above his bed and prays to it, “And whenever I began the Czerny stuff I would get an erection, thinking of Lola lying in the grass, thinking of her long black hair, the bun at the nape of her neck, the groans she vented and the juice that poured out of her. Playing the piano was just one long vicarious fuck for me.” (255)


Henry’s second fuck: “. . . just a cold mechanical fuck for a buck in a dirty little hotel room, the bastard trying to pretend she was coming . . .” Next room: Simmons and the Czech, “. . . she hadn’t been at it very long, apparently, and she used to forget herself and enjoy the act. Watching her hand it out, I decided to wait and have a go at her myself.” (255)


A year later, Miller is giving lessons: “. . . the mother of the girl I’m teaching is a slut, a tramp and a trollop if ever there was one. She was living with a nigger, as I later found out. Seems she couldn’t get a prick big enough to satisfy her.” . . . . “I was afraid of starting in with her because rumour had it that she was full of syph, but what the hell are you going to do when a hot bitch like that plasters her cunt up against you and slips her tongue halfway down your throat.” (255-256)


“I’m holding her one night when suddenly I hear a key being fitted into the lock,” The woman’s man comes home and Henry slips out. He quits giving lessons, but the daughter is sixteen and asks him to give her lessons at a friend’s house, “We begin the Czerny exercises all over again, sparks and everything. It’s the first smell of fresh cunt I’ve had, and it’s wonderful, like new mown hay. We fuck our way through one lesson after another and in between lessons we do a little extra fucking.” . . . until she gets pregnant. (256)

He runs to the Adirondacks and begins giving lessons, “More velocity exercises, more condoms and conundrums. Every time I touched the piano I seemed to shake a cunt loose.” (256)


Francie and Agnes from the Catskills, boating (257)

Agnes: “. . . she looked like a George Grosz idiot, one of those lopsided bitches with a rosary around the neck and yellow jaundice to boot.” (258)


Henry does a wardance in the rain, lightning hits a nearby tree, “I’m so damned scared that I lose my wits. Always when I’m frightened I laugh. So I laughed a wild, blood-curdling laugh which made the girls scream.” . . . . “. . . bread-basket blue with fright I got the notion to do a sacrilegious dance, with one hand cupping my balls and the other hand thumbing my nose at the thunder and lightning.” (258)


“. . . I could see the Czerny exercises resting on the piano, the white page full of sharps and flats, and the fucking idiot, think I to myself, imagining that that’s the way to learn how to manipulate the well-tempered clavichord.” Henry spits up at Czerny in the sky. Agnes is crazy dumb Irish Catholic, Francie screams for Henry to bring Agnes back, “. . . the rain still coming down like pitchforks . . .” Henry catches Agnes in the water near the boat, she hysterically calls him an atheist for insulting the Lord Almighty, Henry wants to “bat her one in the eye” (259-260)


Henry soothes Agnes and strokes her ass, “I got my hand in her crotch and said all the beautiful things I could think of . . .” He goes three fingers deep and then get inside of her (260)


Francie: “She certainly wasn’t a Catholic and if she had any morals they were of the reptilian order. She was one of those girls who are born to fuck.” At parties she would sit on Henry’s lap while he slipped it to her, and had done so in front of her mother. She’d do Henry in a telephone booth while talking to someone like Agnes. “She seemed to get a special pleasure out of doing it under people’s noses . . .” (261)


Francie’s morals: “Men like to fuck, and so do women. It doesn’t harm anybody and it doesn’t mean you have to love every one you fuck does it? I wouldn’t want to be in love; it must be terrible to have to fuck the same man all the time, don’t you think? Listen, if you didn’t fuck anybody but me all the time you’d get tired of me quick, wouldn’t you? Sometimes it’s nice to be fucked by someone you don’t know at all.” Once, she tried to get her brother (eunuch) to fuck her, “. . . the big sap actually massaged me for five minutes without realizing that it was all a game?” Henry asks, “. . . “did you ever tell that story to the cop you’re going with?”(262-263)


Francie’s brother beats her occasionally: “Sometimes it makes me feel good inside … I don’t know, maybe a woman ought to get beaten up once in a while. It doesn’t hurt so much, if you really like a guy. And afterwards he’s so damned gentle – I almost feel ashamed of myself…” (163)


Trix Miranda (going with MacGregor) and her sister Mrs. Costello (pretending to be frigid, has a husband she sees twice a year)

The girls would nap together and MacGregor would lie between them pretending to sleep and tackle the wakeful one, the more risk the more thrill, “Nothing on earth could make her admit that she was actually permitting herself the pleasure of being fucked by a man.” . . . . “. . . she let me put my finger inside her.” She was dry, tight, and hysterical, and she pulls her dress down, denying him. (263-265)


“I always thought you were a gentleman.” “Well, you’re no lady,” I retorted, “because even a lady admits to a fuck now and then . . .” (265)

“. . . she was as moist as a dishrag.” . . . . Four fingers deep, “She had an enormous cunt and it had been well reamed out . . .” . . . . “. . . eyes were tight shut, as though she were pretending to herself that it was all a dream.” . . . . “. . . I slipped it in again and she held it tight with that suction valve she used so skilfully, despite the outward appearance of coma.” (266-267)


Carousing with MacGregor: “listen, no cunts tonight” . . . . “We can’t be bothered with cunts like

that, can we Henry?” . . . . Next time: “And maybe this time it would be something exciting, a dithery little bitch with nothing else to do but pull up her skirt and hand it to you.” . . . . “And if she was an emptyheaded bimbo, as they usually were, he wouldn’t even bother to drive her home.” . . . . “His next thought was, of course, was she clean?” . . . . “I must be cunt-struck . . .” (267-268)


Fucking with your hat on “. . . it seems more genteel.”: “Once I had a drunken Irish bitch and this one had some queer ideas. In the first place, she never wanted it in bed . . . always on the table.” . . . . “[MacGregor] was one of my oldest friends and one of the most cantankerous bastards I ever knew.” (269)


MacGregor and his family: “It seems they didn’t mind so much his coming home with a girl and keeping her all night, but what they did object to was the cheek of him asking his mother to serve

them breakfast in bed. If his mother tried to bawl him out he’d shut her up by saying – “What are you trying to tell me? You wouldn’t have been married yet if you hadn’t been knocked up.” Convincing his sister to bring up breakfast, not remembering the name of the girl in his bed, and asking the sister to worm borrowed money from the father. “Now scram, sis, I want some coffee . . . and don’t forget, make the bacon crisp!” (270)


MacGregor’s weaknesses (271)


“The neighbourhood was composed of nothing, it seemed, but lovable failures.” . . . . “Nobody could rise very far above his neighbour or he’d be lynched.” Plato or Nietzsche, “Of course, [Plato] he was probably a eunuch, he would add, by way of throwing a little cold water on all this erudition.” (271-272)


“He said the best fun he got out of the whole fucking business was to pop off his own major. Not that he had any special grievance against him – he just didn’t like his mug. He didn’t like the way the guy gave orders. Most of the officers that were killed got it in the back, he said.” (273)


“You’ve got to keep in with people, you don’t know when you may need one of these guys. You act on the assumption that you’re free, independent!” . . . . “Listen, you never know what a man might do for you some day. Nobody gets anywhere alone…” (273-274)


“So the poet has to eat too?” . . . . “I suppose you’d like me to drive you to the restaurant too, eh? Listen, get up from that chair a minute – I want to put a cushion under your ass.” MacGregor’s bums would rather steal than borrow. (274)


“I know you don’t want to hear my stories all the time. But shit, sometimes I really have to talk to you. A fucking lot you care though.” . . . . “Henry, you’re the only real friend I’ve got but you’re a son of a bitch of a mucker if I know what I’m talking about. You’re just a born good for nothing son of a bitch.” (275)


Plato’s Atlantis (276)


“I can’t believe that [men] always were the pigs they are now and have been for the last few thousand years.” (277)

“Do you know what drives me crazy? It’s looking at my old man. Ever since he’s retired he sits in front of the fire all day long and mopes. To sit there like a broken-down gorilla, that’s what he slaved for all his life. Well shit, if I thought that was going to happen to me I’d blow my brains out now.” (277)


“When the war broke out and I saw them go off to the trenches I said to myself good, maybe

they’ll come back with a little sense! A lot of them didn’t come back, of course. But the others! –

listen, do you suppose they got more human, more considerate? Not at all! They’re all butchers at heart, and when they’re up against it they squeal.” (277)


“Well I’ll tell you, I want to earn a little pile so that I can get my feet out of this muck. I’d go off and live with a nigger wench if could get away from this atmosphere.” (278)


MacGregor on Henry’s wife: “Listen when are you going to break off with that battle-axe of yours?” . . . “To think that I was the one who picked her out for you!” . . . . “Jesus, if you have to go to Africa, beat it, get out of her clutches, she’s no good for you.” . . . . “But Jesus, man, there’s thousands of cunts in the world you get along with. To think that you had to pick on a mean bitch like that . . .” (278)


“Listen, if you try to run away from me to-day I swear I’ll never lend you a cent… What was I saying? Oh yeah, about that screwy bitch you married.” . . . . “As for the kid… well, shit, if I were in your boots I’d drown it.” . . . . “. . . you’re too god-damned good a fellow to be wasting your life on them.” (278-279)


“. . . it would be gayer, by Jesus!” (281)


macadamized – small stones in road surface


“. . . there certainly wouldn’t be any cabinet ministers or legislatures because there wouldn’t be any goddamned laws to obey or disobey . . .” . . . . “. . . it wouldn’t make any difference since you wouldn’t own anything except what you could carry around with you and why would you want to own anything when everything would be free?” (281)


Henry’s father’s desk (282)


“The million words or so which I had written, mind you, well ordered, well connected, were as nothing to me – crude ciphers from the old stone age . . .” (284)


“Everything I had written before was museum stuff, and most writing is still museum stuff and that’s why it doesn’t catch fire, doesn’t inflame the world. I was only a mouthpiece . . .” (284)


Dadaists followed by Surrealists, Henry didn’t know until ten years afterward: “. . . I never read a French book and I never had a French idea. I was perhaps the unique Dadaist in America, and I didn’t know it.” (286)


“Nobody understood what I was writing about or why I wrote that way. I was so lucid that they said I was daffy. I was describing the New World – unfortunately a little too soon because it had not yet been discovered and nobody could be persuaded that it existed.” (286)


“To write intelligibly for them I would have been obliged first of all to kill something, secondly, to arrest time. I had just made the realization that life is indestructible and that there is no such thing as time, only the present.” (287)


The rape of “America”: “I blush to think of our origins – our hands are steeped in blood and crime.” (287)


Life rhythm – death rhythm (288)


“What is energy? What is life? One has only to read the stupid twaddle of the scientific and philosophic textbooks to realize how less than nothing is the wisdom of these energetic Americans.” (289)


“The war was on . . .” (290)


These indelible lines:


“Be forbearing when you compare us

With those who were the perfection of order.

We who everywhere seek adventure,

We are not your enemies.

We would give you vast and strange domains

Where flowering mystery waits for him would pluck it.”


Ignorant that in this same poem he had also written:


“Have compassion on us who are always fighting on the frontiers

Of the boundless future,

Compassion for our errors, compassion for our sins.” (291)


Henry ignorant of men with “outlandish names of Blaise Cendrars, Jacques Vache, Louis Aragon, Tristan Tzara, Rene Crevel, Henri de Montherlant, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, George Grosz . . . .” etc (291)


“. . . now that you are dead by suicide, yes, the world is crazy, you were right.” (292)


Jacques Vaché: “Art ought to be something funny and a trifle boring.” . . . . “It is of the essence of symbols to be symbolic.” (292)


“. . . tell them that their best is not good enough, that we don’t want to hear any more this logic of “doing the best one can”, tell them we don’t want the best of a bad bargain, we don’t believe in bargains good or bad . . .” (294)


Je ne parle pas logique,” said Montherlant, “je parle generosite.” I don’t think you heard it very well, since it was in French. I’ll repeat it for you, in the Queen’s own language; “I’m not talking logic, I’m talking generosity.” (294)


Generosity: “You don’t know what the fucking word means, you bastards! To be generous is to say Yes before the man even opens his mouth.” (295)


“doubt’s duck with the vermouth lips”

“I have seen a fig eat an onager”

—(onager – wild Asian ass, an ancient war machine used to throw stones)

“Find flowers that are chairs”

“my hunger is the black air’s bits”

“his heart, amber and spunk” (285)


Il faut le dire, il y a des cadavres que je ne respecte qu’a moitie” (“It must be said, there are bodies that I respect only half”) (296)


et ipso facto e pluribus unum.” (and by that very fact out of many one.) (297)


Henry as a garbage man: “I tried reading the Inferno at night, but it was in English and English is no language for a Catholic work.” (297)


“I remained locked in, a prisoner of Forculus, god of the door, of Cardea, god of the hinge, and of Limentius, god of the threshold. I spoke only with their sisters, the three goddesses called Fear, Pallor and Fever.” (298)


“Dear reader, you must see Myrtle Avenue before you die, if only to realize how far into the future Dante saw.” (298)


“If there had been no music I would have gone to the madhouse like Nijinsky. (It was just about this time that they discovered that Nijinsky was mad.) He had been found giving his money away to the poor – always a bad sign!” (300)


Ed Bauries: lived in an aristocratic section of Brooklyn, eccentric pianist who couldn’t read a note, bosom pal George Neumiller, all between ages 21-25 years old (300)


hoose-gow – jail


Piano: “Two men who can play like Ed Bauries and George Neumiller are hired by the radio or the movies and only a thimbleful of their talent is used and the rest is thrown into the garbage can.” (303)


Anonymous performer on the Keith circuit: “. . . the energy and the joy in him was so fierce that nothing could contain it.” . . . . “They ought to sack the President of the United States and the whole Supreme Court and set up a man like this as ruler.” . . . . “This is the type of man which empties the insane asylums. He doesn’t propose a cure – he makes everybody crazy.” . . . . “. . . this man, whose name might be God, I suppose, if he had to use a name . . .” (304)


“Some cities you don’t even have to pass a night in – just an hour or two is enough to unnerve you.” Bayonne (306)


Henry selling encyclopedias, meets a poor simp who wants to improve himself: “I told him I was only pretending to sell the encyclopaedia in order to meet people and write about them.” (307)


Henry then writes about the effects of having me the poor simpleton: “I will never again sell anything, even if I have to starve.” . . . . “I want to prevent as many men as possible from pretending that they have to do this or that because they must earn a living.” (307)


atavistic struggle – relating to the feelings and ideas of a distant past


A bridge in North Carolina, near the Tennessee border: “This bridge is the end, the end of me, the end of my known world. This bridge is insanity” (307-308)


Imaginary line dividing North and South: a “darkie” tips his hat, “This man had to tip his hat to me –because I was of the white race.” Henry goes on post-slavery guilt trip (308)


“Every time the nigger looks at a white man he’s putting a dagger through him.” . . . . “. . . it’s not the bad crops that’s killing the South off – it’s the nigger! The nigger is giving off a poison, whether he means to or not. The South is coked and doped with nigger poison.” (309)


Man hunter, the sheriff: “I let him take me back into town and hand me over like a thief. I lay on the floor with about fifty other blokes. I had a marvelous sexual dream which ended with the guillotine.” (310)


“If a man talks to me I try not to seem too intelligent. I try to pretend that I am vitally interested in the crops, in the weather, in the elections.” (310)


“Yes sir, I reached the Gulf of Mexico and I walked right into it and drowned myself.” . . . . “I had to go and drown myself in the Gulf of Mexico in order to have an excuse for continuing this pseudo-civilized existence.” (311)


“Their logic was that art was very beautiful, oh yes, indeed, but you must work for a living and then you will find that you are too tired to think about art.” (311)


Henry laments his wife (312)


cordovans – leather shoes made from horse leather


Life and accident insurance: “Supposing you should drop dead one day – what then?” . . . . “. . . take a good look at me. Now tell me, do you think I’m the sort of fellow who gives a fuck what happens once he’s dead?” . . . . “I don’t think that’s a very ethical attitude. Mr. Miller.” . . . . “. . . “supposing I told you I don’t give a fuck what happens to my wife when I die – what then?” . . . . “As far as I’m concerned you don’t have to pay the insurance when I croak – I’m only doing this to make you feel good.” . . . . “You’ve got to live, haven’t you?” (313-314)


“. . . come and take the things away – if I can’t pay for them, I mean…” (314)

“Sure, I can sell anything. The only thing is – I’m lazy.” (315)

Sign the papers before Henry reconsiders and commits suicide


“. . . when I was hiring and firing like a forty-two horse caliber revolver, I was betrayed right and left myself, but by that time I had become so inoculated that it didn’t matter a damn.” (315-316)


“He seemed to guess that I was a writer, or wanted to be a writer, because soon he was asking me what I liked to read and what was my opinion of this writer and that writer. It just happened that I had a list of books in my pocket – books I was searching for at the public library” (316)


“Perhaps they thought I was writing up new ideas for the company, because for quite a while nobody paid any attention to me. I thought it was a wonderful job. I had almost the whole day to myself, for my writing, having learned to dispose of the company’s work in about an hour’s time.” (317)


Anti-Christ: “. . . in a sarcastic tone of voice begins to read aloud what I had just written.” (317)


“. . . I would have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge if it would have convinced people that I wasn’t a heartless son of a bitch.” (317-318)


“If only I could get to believe in this business of work!” . . . . “. . . people were working their balls off because they didn’t know any better.” (318)


“. . . Herr Nagel was the unacknowledged saint which every artist is . . .” . . . . “No man wants to be an artist – he is driven to it because the world refuses to recognize his proper leadership.” (318)


“. . . I was an exceedingly active individual. Even if it was just hunting for a piece of tail . . .” (318)


“Everything that happens in between, which is “life” to most people, is merely an interruption in his forward round.” (320)


“The men who are the most honoured are the greatest killers.” (320)


“As I sat at my desk, over which I had put up a sign reading “Do not abandon all hope ye who enter here!” (321)


The monster and the pathologist: “. . . that is reserved for certain species of men who, disguised as artists, are supremely aware that sleep is an even greater danger than insomnia.” . . . . “. . . they resort to the drug of putting words together endlessly.” (323)


“. . . . I would not be drowned in the hive, like the others.” (324)


“It was as though I had come out of the fires of hell not entirely purged. I had still a tail and a pair of horns, and when my passions were aroused I breathed a sulphurous poison which was annihilating. I was always called a “lucky devil” (324)


“Suffering is futile, my intelligence told me over and over, but I went on suffering voluntarily.” . . . . “All my Calvaries were rosy crucifixions, pseudo-tragedies to keep the fires of hell burning brightly for the real sinners who are in danger of being forgotten.” (325)


Mother: “. . . after giving birth to me she gave birth to my sister, whom I usually refer to as my brother.” Mother is whipped, “Nothing was worse, I learned as a child, than to do a good deed without reason.” (235-326)


Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat: “. . . in the old man’s tailoring brain, might have been either double-breasted or cutaway or frock.” (327)


“If they wish me to be quiet and say nothing I become as quiet as a rock: I don’t hear when they speak to me, I don’t move when I’m touched, I don’t cry when I’m pinched, I don’t budge when I’m pushed.” (330)


“Because she . . .” . . . . “I could skate through hell, I was that fast and nimble.”(330)


???Father Coxcox, pan-American Noah of the Ark (331)

“Nothing can be more real than what you suppose it to be.” (331)


For goddess’ sake, wrap it up Henry!!! End the madness!!!


“. . . Cancer is separated from Capricorn only by an imaginary line.” (331)


“To jump clear of the clockwork – that was the liberating thought.” (332)


Coda (333)


“I was passing exactly below the place where we first met.” . . . . “I wasn’t thinking of her any more; I was thinking of this book which I am writing, and the book had become more important to me than her, than all that had happened to us.” (333)


Truth: “. . . I wrestled with this question of “truth”. For years I have been trying to tell this story and always the question of truth has weighed upon me like a nightmare. Time and again I have related to others the circumstances of our life, and I have always told the truth. But the truth can also be a lie. The truth is not enough. Truth is only the core of a totality which is inexhaustible.” (333)


???Her: “. . . I had decided to begin a book about her, a book which would immortalize her.” . . . . “our life had come to an end: 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.” . . . . “ . . .the idea of an “end” is intolerable to me.” (334)


“For years now I have been trying to tell this story; each time I have started out I have chosen a

different route.” (334)


crenelated – constructed with battlements (ex: “soaring, crenellated battlements flocks of huge white geese”)


“. . . the spasmodic gambit of the chicken whose head has just been lopped off.” (335)


“Whenever I try to explain to myself the peculiar pattern which my life has taken, when I reach back to the first cause, as it were, I think inevitably of the girl I first loved. It seems to me

that everything dates from that aborted affair.” (335)


???”Perhaps I had the pleasure of kissing her two or three times, the sort of kiss one reserves for a goddess.” (336) Oh, no, my boy, you don’t kiss the goddess, the goddess kisses you, composure willing.


Henry age 21, lining with a woman age thirty-six (336)


“They were Armenian eyes. Her hair, which had been red once, was now a peroxide blonde. Otherwise she was adorable – a Venusian body, a Venusian soul, loyal, lovable, grateful, everything a woman should be, except that she was fifteen years older. The fifteen years difference drove me crazy.” (336)


“Climbing the stairs I would run my fingers up her crotch, which used to make her whinny like a horse. If her son, who was almost my age, were in bed we would close the doors and lock ourselves in the kitchen.” (337)



air the bedding


“Both she and the son had T.B.” (337)


“moonless night” (338)


I don’t love you!” “I look at her and I am tongue-tied. I can’t do it …” (338-339)


???”I was thirty then. I had a wife and child and what is called a “responsible” position.” (339)


???”I became an angel. It is not the purity of an angel which is so valuable, as the fact it can fly.” (339)


???: “I was pure and inhuman, I was detached, I had wings. I was depossessed of the past and I had no concern about the future. I was beyond ecstasy.” (339)


The dance floor, Miss Mara, the ogre (340)


duveteen – drape


Strindberg and Henriette (341)


“This is Broadway, this is New York, this is America. She’s America on foot, winged and sexed. She is the lubet, the abominate and the sublimate – with a dash of hydrochloric add, nittoglycerine, laudanum and powdered onyx.” . . . . “This is America, buffaloes or no buffaloes, America the emery wheel of hope and disillusionment.” (341)


“America moving like a streak of lightning towards the glass warehouse of red-blooded hysteria. Amurrica, fur or no fur, shoes or no shoes.” (342)


At a Chinese restaurant: “She is still talking about Henriette . . .” (343)


The man who lifts up her dress, the man who commits suicide (343)


“Only sometimes the truth comes out like that too, especially if you think you’re never going to see the person again. Sometimes you can tell a perfect stranger what you would never dare reveal to your most intimate friend.” (345)


“Never before have I been so wide-awake and so sound asleep at the same time.” Aside from reading this book that is. (345)


“No beginning, no end. I’m aware not of time nor the passing of time, but of timelessness.” (346)


“If only you had a million suns in you! If only I could lie here forever enjoying the celestial fireworks!” (347)


“. . . asleep in the black womb of sex.” (347)


“You come to me disguised as Venus, but you are Lilith,” (347)