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The Air-Conditioned Nightmare by Henry…
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The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (original 1945; edition 1970)

by Henry Miller

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762721,057 (3.82)10
In 1939, after ten years as an expatriate, Henry Miller returned to the United States with a keen desire to see what his native land was really like - to get to the roots of the American nature and experience. He set out on a journey that was to last three years, visiting many sections of the country and making friends of all descriptions. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is the result of that odyssey.… (more)
Member:PatrickF1982
Title:The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Authors:Henry Miller
Info:New Directions (1970), Paperback, 292 pages
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The Air-Conditioned Nightmare by Henry Miller (1945)

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» See also 10 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
get over it! ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
The best part of The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is the title. Miller's prose is often merely serviceable, and he is better when he can force himself to write about someone or something that is not Henry Miller. Like the 8-yr old kid in the ‘Negro quarter’ of Charleston in the porkpie hat who swaggers into the drugstore, asks the soda jerk for a match then flips a coin through the air to pay for a magazine (“Heroic Comics”) before twirling to strike the match on the edge of the bar, lighting the cigarette dangling from his mouth then bounding out on to the street. Or the nearly-submerged ruins of the health resort Monte Ne in northwest Arkansas, the legacy of Wm. ‘Coin’ Harvey, who died before finishing the giant obelisk that was to serve as a repository for the knowledge (Harvey’s own) necessary to rebuild human civilization now that the existing one (circa 1901) was so obviously near collapse.

One of the more successful chapters is “My Dream of Mobile,” in which Miller connects his own idiosyncratic mental picture of Mobile (I kept hearing Dylan sing “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end…”) with the kind of imaginative aspirations that inspire adventuresome travelers everywhere, then folds in his first impressionable encounter with the work of Marco Polo (all readers know the feeling of finding a magical book) and comes back to the present dangerous moment in a world we fool ourselves into thinking we understand.

Our conception of these places, of the people that fill them, of their striving, their goals and their fulfillment is almost nil. Our adventurers and explorers lose themselves there, our scholars are confounded there, our evangelists and zealots and bigots are reduced to nullity there, our colonials rot there, our machines look puny and insignificant there, our armies are swallowed up there. Vast, multiform, polyglot, seething with unharnessed energy, now stagnant, now alert, ever menacing, ever mysterious....

The American South is no less mysterious and confounding for being close at hand.

It would be impossible to live in the South without being undermined. The climate, the landscape, the manners and customs, the soft speech exert a charm which is difficult to resist. This world of the South corresponds more nearly to the dream life which the poet imagines than do other sections of the country.

Miller’s perspective can surprise, even when the ideas are more suggestive than well-rendered. As much as some of these essays impress me, though, I was left ambivalent. Too many terrible sentences. Inane observations. Miller's propensity for clunky, clichéd phrasing.

”…oodles of time…”
“…Have faith. Dreams come true…”
“…a silence unlike anything we have experienced…”
“…spinning like a top…”
“…three sheets to the wind…”
“…make your hair stand on end…”
“…beyond the shadow of a doubt…”
“…ready in a jiffy…”
“…drunk with exaltation…”
“…hit the hay…”


Ugh. ( )
  HectorSwell | Apr 23, 2018 |
un regard sur l'Amérique des années 40 des plus visionnaire et des plus critiques sur ce style de vie qui ce prépare pour les générations futures. ( )
  richardsaulnier | Dec 6, 2015 |
Not read ( )
  GlenRalph | Jul 14, 2009 |
Miller grabs you by the mental testicles and yanks. Scathing social commentary hits the bullseye with clarity and breadth. This happens to be the first work of Miller's I've read, oddly enough, and I'm already an addict. On to more...
1 vote NateJordon | Feb 26, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Henryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leppänen, PetriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was in a hotel in Pittsburgh that I finished the book on Ramakrishna by Romain Rolland.
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A new world is not made simply by trying to forget the old. A new world is made with a new spirit, with new values. Our world may have begun that way, but today it is caricatural. Our world is a world of things.... What we dread most, in the face of the impending death

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In 1939, after ten years as an expatriate, Henry Miller returned to the United States with a keen desire to see what his native land was really like - to get to the roots of the American nature and experience. He set out on a journey that was to last three years, visiting many sections of the country and making friends of all descriptions. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is the result of that odyssey.

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