top of page

“Tropic of Cancer” Ruled Obscene

July 10, 1963 - New York state’s highest court held in a 4-3 decision today that Henry Miller’s novel “Tropic of Cancer” is obscene under New York’s obscenity law. A majority opinion by Judge John F. Scileppi called the book “a compilation of a series of sordid narrations dealing with sex in a manner designed to appeal to the prurient interest.” Characterizing the book as “dirt for dirt’s sake” and “dirt for money’s sake,” he said it met every test for obscenity that had been laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. He asserted it was plain that the work was “devoid of theme or idea” and that it contained “a constant repetition of patently offensive words used solely to convey debasing portrayals of natural and unnatural sexual experience.” In his dissent, Judge Marvin R. Dye likened the book to James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which he said was a commentary on the inner lives of human beings caught in the throes of hopelessness. As a result of today’s decision, the sale, advertising, gift, loan or distribution of the book, or its possession with the intent of doing these things, constitutes a misdemeanor in New York.


bottom of page