Renegade: Henry Miller and the Making of "Tropic of Cancer"
was another and even more significant influence—a powerhouse lecturer with an attachment to the natural world that was an antidote to the soullessness of the city and much else of modern living. Benjamin Fay Mills was another influence, a reformed Christian evangelist who had made something akin to Emerson’s conversion eighty years earlier, from a strict orthodoxy to a more mystical worship in which Christ was only one of the gateways to salvation. Miller was enough taken with what he took to be Mills’s message that he volunteered his services as an usher and alms collector at Mills’s appearances in the New York area.
    Meanwhile, the slaughterhouse of daily, meaningless drudgery loomed ever closer as Louise insisted with increasing urgency that he join his father at the tailor shop and so save the family from ruin. Only Henry, she wailed, now stood between the family and starvation.

Entering the Slaughterhouse
    To Miller the tailor shop seemed somehow a particularly degrading form of work, as if he were being condemned to spend the rest of his days pressing out the farts the customers had left in their pants, as he so pungently put it. Nonetheless, he could see nothing else possible under the circumstances and knuckled under to his mother’s demands. His father had new business forms made up, reading “Henry Miller & Son,” which must have looked to that son like the official stamp and seal of his fate. No escape now, only the weary commute to the Bowery stop where he would get off so that at least he might get some exercise in the walk uptown. At that morning hour the place was filled with others on foot, some of them stumbling and shuffling—pimps and coke-heads, Miller said,“beggars, touts, gunmen, chinks, wops, drunken micks. All gaga for a bit of food and a place to flop.” Miller himself possessed these necessities, of course, and a job to go to, but spiritually he felt as much on the streets as these men in the Bowery, homeless and alone.
    The shop itself was no better. If anything, it might be worse than the streets, where at least there was a kind of freedom, even if it was only the freedom to starve. At the shop his immediate associates were the three Jewish men in the busheling room to whom he felt an instant aversion. But he couldn’t be around them for very long without privately coming to realize that each of them had a fund of personal culture far richer than his own. They could talk about philosophy, music, and literature with an assurance he lacked, despite his frenzied, unsponsored reading. Yet here they were, wage slaves, as he saw it, working away in a back room to cut and shape cloth for men who in too many instances were not their intellectual equals. The longer he was forced to look down their road, the same one he was traveling, the bleaker it looked, the pavement each day harder, the steel-and-concrete canyons narrower, more inescapable, the “new world eating into me, expropriating me.” Soon, he began imagining, he would be swallowed whole, just another nameless sacrifice.
    Meanwhile, in the front room where his father greetedsuch customers as there still were he saw how truly hopeless his true task here was—to save his father. Those remaining customers were for the most part his father’s cronies, drinking partners who paid—tardily, if ever—for the expertly tailored suits the Jewish cutters in back turned out. These were men who needed to keep up the appearances they could no longer afford, men who felt they must positively sparkle when they walked across the avenue to the Wolcott Hotel for their eleven o’clock drinks, and in Henry Miller, Senior, they had a man who understood this, for their needs were his own. They were all like Paul Dexter, a “ten-thousand-dollar-a-year-man,” a brilliant monologist, but who was always temporarily between positions and who frequently disappeared on week-long bats. Or else they had some tarnished Old World background like the

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