cover image Moloch, Or, This Gentile World

Moloch, Or, This Gentile World

Henry Miller. Grove/Atlantic, $18.95 (266pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1419-8

Dion Moloch, the hero of Miller's first extant, heretofore unpublished novel (written in 1927 and long thought to be the work of his wife June), is an anti-Semitic boor and vain intellectual snob who defends his wife-beating and crudely mocks a friend's death. A stand-in for the aspiring novelist himself, Moloch, who works for a New York telegraph company (modeled on Western Union, where Miller himself once worked) embodies the author's twisted Nietzschean image of himself as ``an iconoclast who destroyed from a sheer superabundance of health and strength.'' As Miller biographer Dearborn notes in her introduction, Moloch's dominant theme is its protagonist's poisonous, obsessive hatred of Jews, which makes long stretches of this work offensive. Peppered with repellent slurs against women, gays, blacks and other ethnic groups, the novel nevertheless provides tantalizing flashes of Miller's mature, quasi-surreal, apocalyptic style and offers flavorful glimpses of 1920s Manhattan, Brooklyn's mean streets and Jazz Age Harlem. Moloch's relationship with his wife, Blanche (modeled on Miller's first wife), is one long, bitter quarrel, in which the two simmer with mutual resentment. The chief interest in this half-baked, awkwardly written self-portrait lies in watching Miller feel his way into the autobiographical adventure narrative, a mode he would bring to fruition in Tropic of Capricorn. (Oct.)