Having made a similar comeback myself recently, from Asia to Europe, I could sympathize with this keen observer of a world. It is somewhat ironical fact that I did a shift an ocean eastwards, having in mind his idolatry of the Chinese and the East, but feelings are compatible. Not in content, but in reflections they awoke.
Most Millerian treat is that the book is NOT what it promised to be: he could not find anything worth recording during his trip. Everything disgusted him-and more so as he was ready to enjoy, feast on the Return, discovery...there was nothing to discover, only a vasteland of Humanity.
Yet, he produced a memorable tome of memories of America Lost, which is a pleasure to read, an agreeable companion to the Hemingway and Orwell impressions from Paris and London, which it followed in my readings.
I love his start with a citation from Vivekananda, which is setting the stage for the anonimity of his heros. Artists are the only recognizable patterns on the soil of America, and they are like rare birds, in danger of extinction. Others are regulars, tramps, or just an illusion: "The fat, puffy, wattle-faced man of forty-five who has turned assexual is the greatest monument to futility that America has created. He's a nymphomaniac of energy accomplishing nothing. He's a hallucination of the Paleolithic man." Or: "Most of the young men of talent whom I have met in this country give one the impression of being somewhat demented. Why shouldn't they? They are living amidst spiritual gorillas, living with food and drink maniacs, success-mongers, gadget innovators, publicity hounds."
Sounds familiar? What would Henry Miller say about celebrity culture we suffer today? I think he would say nothing, he would follow Hemingway, and right so.
"The american way is to seduce a man by bribery and make a prostitute of him. Or else to ignore him, starve him into submission and make a hack of him."
There is a hope: only yesterday I heard from an American expat that maybe it is not so bad that USA is turning the 3rd world country, as maybe it will put the people there back to senses, turn them away from the utilitarian paradigm in which they are living. A refreshing thought, but it is painful to see it has to go through such transformations from the very times described by Miller.
The worse is that Europe is trotting, as usual, 10 years behind America. We still think digital watches (or, today, iWatches) are a good idea...