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 for three years, visiting many sections of the country and making friends of all descriptions.
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is the result of that odyssey. It is clear that Miller’s bad dream of the forties is still with us. He saw a nation of big business and little men, mass media at once soporific and violent, giant industries deadening workers and polluting the environment, of credit buying, cheap cars and gadgets ad infinitum, of misinformation and prejudice––a spiritual and aesthetic vacuum. One of his conclusions was that “nowhere else in the world is the divorce between man and nature so complete.” Yet Henry Miller falls in love with his automobile and weeps at the sight of the Grand Canyon. His stories and essays celebrate those rare individuals (famous and obscure) whose creative resilience and mere existence oppose the mechanization of minds and souls.