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The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – October 1, 1970

ISBN-13: 978-0811201063 ISBN-10: 0811201066

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (October 1, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811201066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811201063
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Nonfiction account of Henry Miller's travels through the United States, published in 1945. Miller undertook these travels in 1940 and 1941 after returning from a lengthy stay in Europe. Miller comments, mostly negatively, on America's physical landscape as well as on the mood and spirit of the American people. Among other things, he contrasts the ideals of the original founders with contemporary Americans' love of making money. Miller commented further on these themes in the sequel Remember to Remember (1947). -- The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature

About the Author

Henry Miller (1891—1980) was one of the most controversial American novelists during his lifetime. His book, The Tropic of Cancer, was banned in the some U.S. states before being overruled by the Supreme Court. New Directions publishes several of his books.

More About the Author

HENRY MILLER (1891-1980) was an American writer and painter infamous for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of "novel" that is a mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism, one that is distinctly always about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller and yet is also fictional. His most characteristic works of this kind are "Tropic of Cancer," "Tropic of Capricorn," and "Black Spring." His books were banned in the United States for their lewd content until 1964 when a court ruling overturned this order, acknowledging Miller's work as literature in what became one of the most celebrated victories of the sexual revolution.

Customer Reviews

I have a huge affection for Henry Miller, but i didn't enjoy this book as I thought I would.
KC Weaver
People like to hear bad news, and they like to be told how rotten they have it, no matter how wealthy and well-off they are.
Robert Bell
His scathing, relentless narrative berates the 'American Dream' and 'Way of Life'...and the pursuit of such.
B. Morse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By B. Morse on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
In reading Henry Miller's surprisingly contemporary 'The Air-Conditioned Nightmare <surprising since it was written 60+ years ago> I experienced the same kind of desire to 'see' America as I did when reading Kerouac's 'On the Road', but for very different reasons.

While Kerouac's narrative was that of his experiences with people he encountered along his way while traversing the country, Miller seems most at ease in dozens of miles of empty desert highway, alone with his thoughts.

Miller, returning from many years of living abroad, decided to write about his experiences traveling across America, and what his native people were really like; what the country had become, since the ideas and ideals put forth by the founding fathers.

His scathing, relentless narrative berates the 'American Dream' and 'Way of Life'...and the pursuit of such. Americans are painted as greedy, self-indulgent, ignorant of history, bereft of morals, and devoid of honor and dignity.

But Miller also finds along the way things that he loves. A greater understanding of the workings of an automobile, a love of the land itself that he never had while living in America, and much more.

Juxtapositioned with his disdain for American culture and standards, it illustrates how Miller himself learned to separate the people from the place, and love America itself for it's most basic beauty and qualities; while bemoaning those who inhabited its soil.

An excellent read by a gifted narrator, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is not a book for the very patriotic. While it might give such people cause to re-think their love of life here in the states, it also has the potential to offend.

Highly recommended, but only to like-minded readers.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 1997
Format: Paperback
In "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare", Henry Miller writes about an automobile trip he made through the United States in the 1950's. His encounters with colorful characters, and his hilarious and insightful descriptions of the towns he passes through make this a "must read" for Miller fans. His criticisms of the banality and shallowness of American life he observed then still hit the mark. His favorite region was the South, which, as a Southener, I appreciate, and so this part of the book was especially interesting to me. Compared with Jack Kerouac's "On the Road", which was written at about the same time, this is a more cynical and negative view of America, but is saved from being merely depressing by Miller's wonderfully savage sense of humor and his ultimately forgiving human heart
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Buffalo Head on July 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Miller's observations of the USA are still true 60 years later. The contrast is between the man-made horrors and some of the wonderful artists Miller found in out of the way places. My favorite chapter is the story about Weeks Hall's mansion "Shadows" at Bayou Teche, Louisiana -- it inspired me to visit the place, which was still as mysterioso as Miller had described it.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth W. Movius on March 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
In some ways, Air Conditioned Nightmare is one of Henry Miller's most accessible books. It can be consumed, processed, and enjoyed by readers who are not, per say, Miller fans, as the themes are somewhat broader than his usual subject matter of himself and his friends.
This is a great book to introduce newcomers to Miller's work. It also is a fascinating portrait of America at a point in time and from a certain perspective. Especially given the modern habit of romanticizing the WW2 era, Air Conditioned Nightmare gives an alternative, cynical view that remains insightful today.
What holds me back from giving the book five stars is that it falls victim particularly harshly to Miller's characteristic laziness. His favorite trope of gushing over some new friend of his for a chapter or two unfortunately dominates the book, and he rambles off on some very dull tangents about things like car trouble.
Nonetheless, there's plenty of Miller's brilliant diatribes and observations, which make it quite worth the while to plough through the hubris.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
Henry Miller had just returned from Paris, living there as an expatriate throughout the 1930's, when he decided to become reacquainted with his native land by undertaking a rambling road trip across America, and (naturally) writing about it. If for no other reason, an expat returning to his native land resonates, and is at least one reason why this book has merit for me. In Miller's case, the trip was in 1940-41 (at least a couple Amazon reviewers place the trip after WW II, including one who says it was in the `50's!) Miller has been compared, inter alia, with Louis-Ferdinand Céline, whose most famous work is Journey to the End of the Night (Soft Cover). In terms of being acerbic, and relentlessly negative and critical (and thereby feeling better about oneself?), I think the comparison is apt. Yet Miller is an icon, of sorts, having broken down numerous (hypocritical?) boundaries of propriety with his salacious accounts of his life in Paris, starting with Tropic of Cancer which was one of the first 20 books I ever read, nervously telling the much older 19-year old sales clerk that it was a "school assignment."

Three-stars certainly imply ambivalence, and I feel much of that towards the author, and this particular work. At some level, he is disgusted with "the game" of making a livelihood, and there is much to be said for that. In general though, he "solves" the problem by being a parasite, looking for the next handout. France had provided him with solace and nurture for a decade. Others have noted his casual "noblesse oblige" attitude towards Hitler.
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