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

3.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Henry Miller is the nearest thing to Céline America has produced .... He aims not at the ears, brains or consciences, but at the viscera and solar plexus.” (New Leader)

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

  • 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 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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