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The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder Paperback – January 17, 1974


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A simple, decorous and somehow devout tale.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“It is a modern parable. Like all good parables, it can have as many interpretations as there are readers. It has the magic of mystery, for which each reader must find his own clues and supply his own solution.” (Chicago Sunday Tribune)

“It has shape, like a good poem; it has emotional density, delicacy of thought and beauty of language.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 56 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Reprint edition (January 17, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811205568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811205566
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,474 in Books (See Top 100 in 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

4.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
75%
4 star
8%
3 star
0%
2 star
17%
1 star
0%
See all 12 customer reviews
Godspeed, Mr. Miller!
B. Allison
Get 10 dollars out of your wallet and buy a classic.
Jason C Hames
My mind will be dancing all night.
Ira

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Henry Martin on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Amidst millions of words of autobiographical writing, stands this lonely book, or rather a novella, The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, Miller's one and only composition that drew inspiration "from the blue", as Miller himself put it. However, do not be mistaken...this novella shines with brilliance. Apart from the exceptional writing Miller's readers are accustomed to, this story is far more complicated than any other novella I had read, ever. Auguste, the centerpiece in this intricate work, is the embodiment of human suffering, a man who carries out his duty until the last breath. His duty being to bring a lasting joy to his audience. For Auguste, there is nothing easier than to make his audience smile, for he is a clown, but the brief moment when he on stage, is not what he is after. His aim is far superior -- Auguste's desire is to unite people with endless joy, the kind that comes only through God himself. But this task, this task bigger than any one human, was a difficult one. When Auguste takes his "trick" to a new level, the audience, as humans tend to do when faced with something they do not comprehend, went up against him. Auguste abandoned the circus and took to wandering. Nevertheless, a man can escape his surroundings, but a man cannot escape himself. For Auguste, his shadow was always with him, in him, unsatisfied, longing. And so, after a nightmare where Auguste was faced with end of his life, he stumbles upon a circus on the edge of the town. His past, his shadow, catches up with him and Auguste is given a new chance to fulfill his task -- one of the clowns fell ill and the circus needs a replacement. Auguste agrees, partly because he wants to relieve his old life, partly because he wants to kill his old life off by making his "persona" more famous than he ever was as himself.Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jason C Hames on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I give everyone a copy of this I meet. Henry Miller does more in a few pages than most authors can do in a lifetime. I'm not even going to attempt to write down my thoughts on what all the symbolism means to me. I will just say this. Get 10 dollars out of your wallet and buy a classic. Whenever I am down I read Smile, when I'm really happy I read Smile. The blood trickling down his face.............
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ira on May 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Smile at the Foot of the Ladder today. The feeling of bliss at the end was immediately comparable to that of Siddhartha in short story form. He does an excellent epilogue too on the strangeness of the story in accordance with his usual manner of writing, and how the main character drifts into and out of the blue just as delicately as the story did itself. It was truly a wonderful summation of the philosophical concept that is miller- that very concept of a man which ultimately speaks to us and through us in our own rights. There is nothing like dancing with Henry Miller. My mind will be dancing all night.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. Allison on June 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a very short read but so intriguing that you will lust for the last few words so you may complete the mission. Henry Miller nurtures a childhood fantasy of becoming a clown and uses this vehicle to convey a perspective on life that you will find invaluable. Though short and full of entertaining imagery, the complexity and the symbolism (along with the epilogue) will blow your mind. Godspeed, Mr. Miller!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. C. Ee on April 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps we're all clowns. The clowns in the circus display exaggerated human ineptitude on stage, and the difference between them and us is that we're invited to laugh at them. By doing that, we learn to laugh at ourselves. "It's not us they applaud, it's themselves." Through Auguste, Henry Miller reveals himself to us and at the same time also reveal ourselves to us. Told from a subjective third person point of view, most of the story happens inside the circus and Auguste's head, but the world that he had created for us is small yet infinite. Miller lives on through his beautiful writing, as he invites us to see and experience that which had been there all along.

"And then and there it came to him - how simple it was! - that to be nobody or anybody or everybody did not prevent him from being himself." (p. 37)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Henry Miller was really tuned in for this short (about 50 pages) novelette. Tuned into what? With certainty he was tuned into his more poetic and esoteric side, but more significantly, he has magnificiently shown how, while others may question your ability to reach your dreams, or discount your dreams period, in holding to your dreams and what you believe in, you in fact are already there. This is brillaint literature, short and sweet. It is fantasy, but rooted in a different and real sort of hero's journey of self-acceptance and affirmation in the face of doubters. Henry Miller tops this concept off with the underlying idea that, as artists of life, we are all qualified from the get-go, as art places no limits on how it is expressed. It is a liberating concept for anyone struggling against the pigeon-hole.
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