This is a strange book because at his stage in the game…that is Western society and especially Western literature, the kinds of personal and sexual discoveries and intimate details are not exactly shocking anymore. Their strength in this memoir is not their shocking nature, at all of course, but that’s part of the appeal. Instead, there’s a historical moment and fascination in this book.
On the one hand, this book really does represent someone’s real earnest desire to be sexual consumed in a love affair, to consider multiple partners, to attempt sex without love, to understand the kinds of compromises and resignations we make in love and with sex, and also explore personal and cultural sexual taboos when the desires are otherwise healthy and consensual. Depending on your own personal experience with cheating in love affairs and how you view that in others, there’s nothing “wrong” here. There is real cultural limits being transgressed, and more accurately transcended, within this book. Mores falsely decrying casual sex, enjoyable sex, same-sex relationships, and masturbation are challenged and ignored. All of that is an interesting and exciting element of this memoir.
But after growing up, being about the same age as Henry Miller was in this memoir, and making it out of my 20s having answered a lot of these questions for myself and having the privilege, options, and social fluidity to explore what I felt like I needed to explore, the insights here, while perfectly true, are not super interesting to me anymore. I, personally, am not going to be awakened by this one. And that’s fine…it’s not about me.
But I should admit that direct descriptions of sex aren’t generally my thing in a lot books, and some of the language used here is weirdly inconsistent. Anyway, it might be your thing. Maybe I read this too soon after “Tampa” to be good.