Thursday, February 21, 2008


I can't summon the spirit of ironic vitriol or apocalyptic zeal that animated Henry Miller when he welcomed reader-guests to his Villa Borghese in the first, short, blistering paragraph of The Tropic of Cancer:

I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.

Indeed, my life in Providence, Rhode Island is antithetical to Miller's in Paris. His was itinerant, frustrated, periodically exultant, and lice-infested; mine is domestic, predictable, and, except for the occasional cat-related (and possibly imagined) flea problem, hygienically sound. I invoke Miller, then, not as a kindred spirit but as a model--of urgency, voracity, and authenticity.

Miller finishes his long introduction to Tropic, an introduction that has indulged in the most bitter (or juvenile?) despair ("There is no escape."), with a strident affirmation:

To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.

The Tropic of Cancer is about various "conquering worms"--time, war, illness, ennui, resignation--but it is, and is also about, the wild song we sing to sustain and inspire us as we go.

I hope that my virtual Villa Borghese will provide the right acoustics for whatever song it is I'm singing.

Thanks for visiting.

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