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The Air-Conditioned Nightmare

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,990 ratings  ·  114 reviews
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 th ...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published January 17th 1970 by New Directions (first published 1941)
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ايمان
هنري ميللر قد يكون أول الكارهين لأمريكا يعري وجهها من تبرجها المبالغ فيه يعري أطروحة أمريكا الحلم الجنة بالنسبة لميللر أمركيا ليست سوى وليد مشوه من الأم الجميلة أوروبا استطاعت أن تصنع لنفسها صرحا قائم ‘لى اسس واهية و لكي تحمي هذه الأسس تبتدع ما تشاء من حروب و تقنيات في جوهرها فارغ.بالنسبة لميللر لا شيء حقيقي في أمريكا كل شيء سطحي عديم النفع بلا روح حتى جمال الجغرافيا يسقط أمام تاريخ الدماء التي بنت أمريكا عليها قوتها ميللر يجرد أمريكا من كذبة الحضارة و ينعتها بالعاهرة التي تيبع الوهم" قد ينتهي ب ...more
Tom Lichtenberg
Reading the prologue to this book by Henry Miller astonishes me. Written 70 years ago, it could have been written today. Some excerpts:


It is a world suited for monomaniacs obsessed with the idea of progress - but a false progress, a progress which stinks. It is a world cluttered with useless objects which men and women, in order to be exploited and degraded, are taught to regard as useful ... Whatever does not lend itself to being bought or sold ... is debarred

We are accustomed to think of ourse
...more
Josh
It's a shame that Miller didn't make it to the millennium (though he died at 88 years of age; 1891-1980), although I would imagine he lived long enough to see how right his bleak vision of our self-destructive world come to fruition - for lack of a better word. No man ever will be ahead of his time quite like Miller was, and despite his being ridiculed at the time for his vulgar outlook on the world, he has since become a legend in his own right. I can't begin to convey how enamored I am by his ...more
Rose
Apr 14, 2010 Rose marked it as abandoned
Update: I'm abandoning this one some 50 pages in. He is far too annoying and the racism is really grating on me. If you have read it, and know that it improves, please tell me.


In this book so far, Miller goes from being a more-or-less cool sex-drugs-and-rock&roll guy (as in Sexus/Nexus/Plexus and the Tropics) to being an archetypal Grumpy Old Man. The train is ugly! I don't like the skyline! That station is horrific! That seagull shows the utter decline of the American nation! I can't stand
...more
Louis
I enjoy the way Miller pieces together bits of prose to create an intertwined journey through not only the landscape of the United States but the culture we have developed throughout this nation. It is at once both amazing and depressing.

I was refreshed to realize that for over 100 years at least people like Henry Miller have been looking for the root cause of what is wrong with us. We have collectively done many great things and are blessed with an amazing land of resources and yet not only do
...more
Latanya Mcqueen
"Everything worth saying about the American way of life I could put in thirty pages. Topographically the country is magnificent--and terrifying. Why terrifying? Because nowhere else in the world is the divorce between man and nature so complete. Nowhere have I encountered such a dull, monotonous fabric of life as here in America. Here boredom reaches its peak."

A good quote to sum of the gist of reading this book. I thought I would get tired of reading Miller's criticisms of America, but I found
...more
Graham
The problem with this book wasn't that it was strictly bad. On the contrary, a reader gets a glimpse of some of Miller's talent as a writer, with pages upon pages of rhapsodic prose tumbling word upon word until the effect is less like a text and more like standing under a waterfall of imagery and ideas.

Unfortunately that doesn't constitute the bulk of the book. What Miller offers is a trip around a country with which he is disgusted and alienated. It's unfair to either blame him for the cliché
...more
Kathy Conde
I often didn't agree with what he said, but I always enjoyed how he said it. Quote from page 192: "The duck is plucked, the air is moist, the tide's out and the goat's securely tethered. The wind is from the bay, the oysters are from the muck. Nothing is too exciting to drown the pluck-pluck of the mandolins. The slugs move from slat to slat; their little hearts beat fast, their brains fill with swill. By evening it's all moonlight on the bay. The lions are still affably baffled and whatever sno ...more
Islam
الهجاء الأكثر راديكالية لأمريكا
Andrea Riley
I read this book in a road lit and film class, everyone called it propaganda except me...i fought for this book all semester...this is so refreshing and current...although he is a little long winded--but he is Henry Miller--I am sure he doesn't care
Michael
Henry Miller's lush prose is gorgeous, but he seems to get distracted about a third of the way through.

Regardless, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is a great motivation to leave the US, if only I could afford...
Lawrence
I found this to be a weak interpretation of what should be an epic road trip. There are wonderful moments of truthfulness, but for the most part the tone makes it seem like a stretch for a paycheck. I don’t believe that a man as brazen as Mr. Miller would continue a journey of this sort for such a long amount of time if he really hated it so. Why would he make this trip, come to these conclusions, and then retire in a country that banned his capstone works? He acts like he is making objective ob ...more
Ryan Murdock
Though Henry Miller’s book on Greece, The Colossus of Maroussi, is generally regarded as his greatest achievement, he also wrote a second travel book which should be regarded as a definite classic of the genre.

The Air-Conditioned Nightmare chronicles Miller’s return to America in 1939, hot on the heels of the Greek trip referred to above, and from what he believed would be an open-ended life in France. The journey begins on a note of hope: “I wanted to have a last look at my country and leave it
...more
Nevada McPherson
Frustrated and depressed during the BP/Gulf Oil spill of 2010, I looked for something to read that might either a) take my mind off of it or b) help me to make some kind of sense of what was happening. I picked up this book and it had an oddly therapeutic effect. Not because it's a happy book, it's really quite angry and harshly critical of so much that Miller saw in America when he returned from Europe--which I guess is part of what prompted him to go in the first place, but his critiques of mi ...more
Samantha
I never considered myself a patriot, until I read this book and felt so fiercely insulted by every trivial insult he flung at all things american. I was fleeing Charleston at the time, and driving through the Smokey Mountains--which were incredible. His arguments seemed extremely petulant ("the parks in america aren't as good as the parks in europe. The stores in america aren't as good as the stores in Europe," etc, etc, etc), and I knew he had no idea what he was talking about when he stopped t ...more
Adrienne Flis Vance
I've read the many mixed reviews about this book and I must agree with the reviews that reflect how much this book relates to our current times. It's not a book to be lumped with Miller's well known Sexus, Plexus & Nexus series. Instead, the readers should be prepared to see a dark and at certain moments, a downright depressing outlook on our nation. He makes no effort to hide problems that existed when the novel was written and continue to exist today.

This book is worth reading merely for t
...more
Jenna
Henry Miller, soaked through, sopping, swimming in his world of beauty and truth, confronts America, 1941. Observations, ruminations, lamentations and more follow. The best chapter is hard to name... I love the bit on Weeks Hall, and the bit on the surgeon painter, and of course the last essay, the evening in Hollywood.
Jesús Santana
Henry Miller es uno de tantos escritores malditos norteamericanos, todo adicto a la literatura ha pasado o lo tendrá que hacer por referencia en algún momento por novelas como “Trópico de Cáncer” y “Trópico de Capricornio” junto con su trilogía “Sexus”, “Plexus” y “Nexus” aprovecho sumar y recomendar a estos clásicos literarios la obra “Días tranquilos en Clichy” un libro corto y probablemente no tan conocido pero si admirado y respetado por todos nosotros los Milleradictos. Todos estos son libr ...more
Joanna
Still reading....however, I will add that despite being published in 1945, I feel Miller's observations on American and European culture are timeless. He could be writing the same today. Extremely descriptive and passionate...I'll revise my review upon finishing.
Phillip
i think this is my favorite miller...he rambles, to be sure, but he's rambling about the america we all love to hate. i much prefer this to the sexus plexus nexus messes, which have moments of brilliance, but....damn dude, get an editor.
F.J. Nanic
I am just amazed how many Americans have not even heard about this book...but then again, many didn't hear about Depleted Uranium Weapons either.
Graham
It's great to read some one's long rambling explanation about how much they hate America during a presidential campaign.
Joshua Buhs
Scorching--if ultimately flawed.

The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is Henry Miller's recounting of his trip across the United States after war forced him to leave Europe. Coming out at the end of the war, when patriotism was high, its excoriating of the country would have won him few general plaudits, even as it contributed to his cult status.

In characteristic Miller fashion, he eschews the obvious linear narrative--first here, then here--and opts for a spiral form. Even so, at first, the book shows
...more
Brian
Other people feel that you should like this Miller offering. I disagree. I had to force my self to finish the damn thing. Not to say that there aren't some good pieces, there are. Unfortunately, there aren't nearly enough, and most seemed to be relegated to the end of the book. As a collection of previously published stories, I suppose I should have expected this. The hustle - return from across the Atlantic for a cruise of the state of America, hopefully funded by a Guggenheim fellowship - is w ...more
Ametista
"Il leone ha sempre un'aria indicibilmente triste, più sgomenta che infuriata. Si prova il desiderio irresistibile di aprire la gabbia e lasciare che semini terrore. Un leone in gabbia, per una ragione o per un'altra, fa sempre sembrare debole e meschina la razza umana. Ogni volta che allo zoo vedo leoni e tigri sento che dovremmo avere una gabbia anche per gli esseri umani, una di ogni genere a ciascuno nell'ambiente adatto: il prete con il suo altare, il dottore con i suoi strumenti di tortura ...more
Skip
First of all, Henry Miller's mastery of the English language ifar exceeds most anyone you are likely to read. He is in that elite class of great writers. Secondly, when you read any of his books, letters, essays and whatnot, you feel is is right there in the room, cafe, or on the street with you, so conversational is he. In this book AIR CONDITIONED NIGHTMARE, he writes about a year on the road in the US, he was contracted to write about by his agent. What he found was a lot of sterile robotic b ...more
S.J. Pettersson
Henry Miller frequently wrote about great titles of books that he came across. He himself produced a notable amount of great titles such as the title of this book written upon his return to the US after his years in France and a brief sojourn in Greece. Miller was truly a linguistic anarchist, a semantic villain of the rarest kind who in his heart of hearts truly believed that the typewriter was heavier than the pen. They say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (I have a friend who for ...more
Alex
Like I did last summer, Henry Miller traveled across the country beginning in 1939. Unlike me, he fucking hated it. This is not why I didn't like his book - some of the best travel writing is born of hatred and disgust. It was the structure and the tone of the hatred that really irked me.

First, the tone. Much of this book consists of the whiny laments of a starving artist against The Man. Maybe this was groundbreaking in 1945 when the book was published. But in 2013 it just sounded kind of, well
...more
Michael
I hadn't read Henry Miller since 2001 and forgot how brilliant his prose is in the service of indignation. That said, Miller's rage at American consumerism, corporatism, materialism, and all-around ignorance -- a feeling with which I duly agree -- once in a while, but far too often, sails past insightfulness and lands in the realm of self-righteousness, leading one to suspect that underneath his bohemian persona lies a secret aristocrat. This from the last chapter of The Air-Conditioned Nightmar ...more
Marc Horton
Feb 08, 2008 Marc Horton rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who "love America"
Finally got around to this dyspeptic travelogue, in which Miller returns from Paris, travels around the late 1930's-early 1940's U.S. of A., and, apparently, throws up a little bit in his mouth daily from Mobile to Manhattan. What you imagine to be the quintessential Henry Miller voice is here--sort of like Tropic of Cancer without all the sex--and chock full of classic Miller bon mots: "The American park is a circumscribed vacuum filled with cataleptic nincompoops." Still, it had to have been w ...more
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147
Henry Miller sought to reestablish the freedom to live without the conventional restraints of civilization. His books are potpourris of sexual description, quasi-philosophical speculation, reflection on literature and society, surrealistic imaginings, and autobiographical incident.

After living in Paris in the 1930s, he returned to the United States and settled in Big Sur, Calif. Miller's first tw
...more
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“The earth is not a lair, neither is it a prison. The earth is a Paradise, the only one we'll ever know. We will realize it the moment we open our eyes. We don't have to make it a Paradise-it is one. We have only to make ourselves fit to inhabit it. The man with the gun, the man with murder in his heart, cannot possibly recognize Paradise even when he is shown it.” 50 likes
“Begin this moment, wherever you find yourself, and take no thought of the morrow. Look not to Russia, China, India, not to Washington, not to the adjoining county, city or state, but to your immediate surroundings. Forget Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and all the others. Do your part to the best of your ability, regardless of the consequences. Above all, do not wait for the next man to follow suit.” 20 likes
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