Better than a breath of fresh air in the anodyne stuffiness of Literature is a lungful of lusty pungence. The author is one big, erect I, out to enjoy life and immensely so. More abundant life, in all its carnal honesty. He shows up hypocrisy in human dealings without compunction. Of course: why should he have compunction?
I picked this book up in Boston before a road trip from coast to coast, dipping one hand in Boston harbour and the other in the Pacific on arrival in San Francisco. The journey and the book would have wrought some change in me, you might think, but I was too goddamn obdurate to let it at the time.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t get a vicarious kick from the sexual abandon that Miller delights in. I was a young man, after all. But I’d have to wait for Spain to find the kind of affirmative sexuality that underpins healthy life. That I had largely missed out on and didn’t want to anymore.
Miller’s uninterest in work in corporate America made me laugh because it matched my own in England. His outright indifference to making money struck me as a basis for a cheerful, freewheeling way of life. “Why should I give a fuck about what anything costs? I’m here to live, not to calculate.”
It was this carefreeness that I envied and had always aimed for myself. “It was a beautiful Sunday and as usual I had about a quarter in my pocket.”
This way of life wasn’t a freedom, or even authentic, and certainly not in my best interests, leaving me time and again to start again from scratch, but hey-ho. In 1980s London, you could still get away with it, if you didn’t mind living squalidly a while.
It’s not a creed to live by: but I will always admire Miller for that vigorous, humorous style of his and utter candour.