Monday, 23 July 2012

America's Black Spring!

Denver cinema shootings:  Some thoughts on Henry Miller's fantasy foresight

Henry Miller's book Black Spring, published in 1936, was described at the time as a book in which the ordinary events of everyday life are bye-passed in order to venture into a surrealist world of fantasy.  George Orwell accused him in a letter of moving away 'from the ordinary world into a sort of Mickey Mouse universe where things and people don't have to obey the rules of space and time.' 

Given the events over the weekend at the Denver cinema in which dozens of people were shot, Miller's book may not seem so fantastic or surreal.  Here is a paragraph taken from the book:
'... Men and women promenading on the sidewalks:  curious beasts, half-human, half-celluloid.  Walking up and down the Avenue their eyes glazed.  The women in beautiful garbs, each one equipped with a cold-storage smile.  ... smiling through life with that demented, glazed look in the eyes, the flags unfurled, the sex flowing sweetly through the sewers.  In had a gat with me and when we got to Forty-Second Street I opened fire.  Nobody paid any attention.  I mowed them down right and left, but the crowd got no thinner.  The living walked over the dead, smiling all the while to advertise their beautiful white teeth.'

That was from the book Black Spring by Henry Miller, written by an American at the time of Hitler, Stalin, and at the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, but written while Miller was living in exile in Paris.  Yet at that time George Orwell considered this prose rather like a dream sequence that had drifted beyond the real world where the 'grass is green, stones hard etc', but to us, after the Second World War and 9/11, it may not now seem quite so unreal or so dreamlike.

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