Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Crazy Cock

by Henry Miller

“To write, Miller always required an air of the literary, and Crazy Cock supplies the blueprint.” —The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date September 01, 1992
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3293-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date May 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-1-5558-4692-3
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

In 1930 Henry Miller moved from New York to Paris, leaving behind—at least temporarily—his tempestuous marriage to June Smith and a novel that he had fully expected to be his masterpiece. Begun in 1927, and originally titled Lovely Lesbians, Crazy Cock sprang from his anguish over June’s love affair with a mysterious woman called Jean Kronski. Purging himself of this pain through the writing of Crazy Cock helped Miller to discover his true voice a few years later in Tropic of Cancer.

Rediscovered in 1988 by Miller biographer Mary V. Dearborn, Crazy Cock is the tale of Tony Bring, as Miller calls himself in the book, a writer bewildered by his independent wife, Hildred, and the sordid world of Greenwich Village in the 1920s. His bourgeois upbringing and inclinations are shaken when Hildred announces that her dear friend Vanya, a woman taken with the arts and men’s clothes, is coming to live with them. As Tony learns the truth—that Hildred and Vanya are indeed lovers—the tale descends into their sexual souls. In a world swirling with violence, sex, and passion, the three struggle with their desires, inching ever nearer to insanity, each unable to break away from this dangerous and consuming love triangle.

Crazy Cock is both a historical and a literary addition to the canon of Henry Miller, one of the world’s most original and deeply human novelists.

Tags Literary

Praise

“Through his eyes, the Village writhes with a grotesque and diseased energy. Miller tempers his baroque sensibility with irony, plumbing the depths of despair while lashing out at life’s absurdity. A potent tale that holds its own with Miller’s best works.” —Booklist

“Must reading, both for what it repeatedly portends of Miller’s later writing, and also for the light it sheds on events he later used so successfully.” ­—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“To write, Miller always required an air of the literary, and Crazy Cock supplies the blueprint.” —The New York Times Book Review

Excerpt

Part 1

A remote and desolate corner of America. Vast mud flats on which no flower, no living thing grows. Fissures radiating in all directions, losing themselves in the immensity of space.

Standing on the platform in her heavy cowhide boots, a thick, brass-studded belt about her waist, she puffs nervously at a cigarette. Her long black hair falls like a weight to her shoulders. The whistle blows, the wheels commence their smooth, fateful revolutions. The ground slips away on an endlessly slipping belt.

Below her a gray waste choked with dust and sagebrush. Vast, vast, a limitless expanse without a human being in sight. An Eldorado with less than one inhabitant to the square mile. From the snowcapped mountains that shoulder the sky strong winds blow down. With twilight the thermometer drops like an anchor. Here and there buttes and mesas dotted with creosote bushes. Tranquil the earth beneath the moaning wind.

“Taken as I am and as I shall always be, I feel that I am a force both of creation and of dissolution, that I am a real value, and have a right, a place, a mission among men.”

She shifted languidly in her seat. The sensation of movement rather than movement itself. Her body, relaxed and quiescent, slumped deeper into the cushioned recesses of the seat. Taken as I am . . . The words seemed to raise themselves from the sea of type and swim before her muted vision in a colorless mist. Was there something beyond the screen of language which imparts to us . . . ? It was impossible for her to formulate, even to herself, the meaning of that flood which illumined for her, at that moment, the hidden places of her being.

After a time the words erased themselves from the inner pool of her eye; they vanished like the ectoplasm which is said to issue from the bodies of those who are possessed.

“Who am I?” she murmured to herself. “What am I?”

And suddenly she remembered that she was putting behind her a world. The book slid from her hands. She was again in the cemetery behind the ranch house, her arms clasping the trees; riding naked on a white stallion toward the icy lake; valleys everywhere choked with sunshine, the earth fecund, groaning with fruit and flowers.

IT WAS after the Krupanowa woman made her appearance that she chose for herself the name Vanya. Before that she had been Miriam, and to be a Miriam was to be a considerate, self-effacing soul.

The Krupanowa woman was a sculptress. That she possessed other accomplishments—accomplishments less easily categorized—was also conceded. The collision with a star of this magnitude flung Vanya out of her shallow orbit; whereas before she had existed in a nebulous state, the tail of a comet, as it were, now she became a sun whose inner chromosphere blazed with undying energy. A voluptuous ardor invaded her work. With bister and dried blood, with verdigris and jaundiced yellows, she pursued the rhythms and forms that consumed her vision. Orange nudes, colossal in stature, clawed at breasts dripping with slime and gore; odalisques bandaged like mummies and apostles whom not even the Christ had seen exposed their wounds, their gangrened limbs, their bloated lusts. There was Saint Sossima and Saint Savatyi, John the Warrior and John the Forerunner. Her madonnas she surrounded with lotus leaves, with golden groupers and leprechauns, with a vast, inchoate spawn. Inspired by Kali and Tlaloo, she invented goddesses from whose grinning skulls reptiles issued, their topaz eyes raised to heaven, their lips swollen with curses.

A singular life she led with the Krupanowa woman. Drugged by the ritual of the mass, they staggered to the slaughterhouse, thence to the lives of the Popes. They ran their fingers over the skins of cretins and elephants, they photographed jewels and artificial flowers, and coolies stripped to the waist; they explored the pathologic monsters of the insect world and the still more pathologic monsters of Rome. At night they dreamed of the idols buried in the morain of Campeche and bulls charging from the stockade to expire under straw hats.

HER PULSE quickened as the tumultuous procession of thoughts drove the bright warm blood full-crested through her veins. She looked at the book in her lap and saw again these words:

“Taken as I am and as I shall always be, I feel that I am a force both of creation and of dissolution, that I am a real value, and have a right, a place, a mission among men.”

Suddenly, without let or warning, a dynamo broke loose inside her. Every particle of her molten being was convulsed with shuddering raptures. Mottled words drugged her with venomous lust. . . . She felt that in everything, sublime or ignoble, there was hidden a turbulent, a vital force, a significance and beauty of which art, however glorious, was but a pale reflection. “I want to live!” she muttered wildly. “I want to live!”