cover image Crazy Cock

Crazy Cock

Henry Miller. Grove/Atlantic, $18.95 (202pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1412-9

Written between 1928 and 1930 but never before published, Miller's autobiographical novel describing his rage over his second wife's live-in lesbian lover is an awkward performance. Aspiring writer Tony Bring, depicted as a sensitive soul in a rotten world, is a misogynistic bully. Morbid enchantress Hildred, modeled on Miller's unbalanced wife, June Mansfield Smith, comes off as a pseudo-bohemian. Her lover, painter-poet Vanya (based on Jean Kronski), with an invented past as a bastard Romanoff princess, cuts a pathetic figure. The trio lives in a frescoed basement apartment in Brooklyn and cavorts in Greenwich Village. Vicious anti-Semitic remarks and references reflect the obsession that preoccupied Miller ( Tropic of Capricorn ) until after WW II; his homophobia is also offensive. Despite the verbal power of many passages, this novel remains mawkish, its overheated hand-me-down surrealism, purple prose and self-conscious decadence prefiguring the adolescent egomania of much of Miller's later work. (Oct.)