Monday, 13 November 2017


I was somewhat surprised to be given a copy of the best writings of Henry Miller by a neighbour. Why me? Miller was the literary infant terrible of the 1950s and ‘60s. His description of sex makes “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” sound like Enid Blyton (‘Five Off for a Jolly Bonk’.) They are very rude indeed but rather sad too. His ability to have relationships as opposed to frequent and impulsive shags seems limited. Yet when he writes about Greece (especially Mycenae) or flying or food or having his car serviced (prosaic but riveting) this man is literary giant. When he gets obsessed with parts of the body his sense of humanity and humour goes. 

June (his second wife) and Henry Miller

And that’s because there’s not much joy in his sex. Sophocles said it first and was then quoted by Plato, Socrates and others ending with Russell Brand…“The male libido is like being chained to a maniac”… yeah, that’s Horrid Henry. Not just horrid but a bit boring too.

It was peculiar reading this high-class porn whilst MPs were being denounced for playing ‘handsy’ or
worse. I hope none of them gets caught with a copy. That would not be funny.

Unlike Caitlin Moran who’s very funny but also rather rude. Her recent book is called “Moranifesto” which “sets the world to rights”. The substance isn’t rude at all but the fucking language often is. She uses the “f” word not so much for effect as for emphatic punctuation and to show she’s one of us.

Caitlin is a genius. I use the word circumspectly. She understands manners and why they matter so much (there aren’t many good manners in politics) and despite her rebelliousness she belongs in kinder, more literary times than these. Unsurprisingly her style in influenced by writers like Dorothy
Parker and H.L. Mencken. She’s an almost Dickensian figure in her exuberance and in being larger-than-life when she says things like: “Why do people keep on talking about the sweet fragrance of women? We smell. Me? I smell of soup … onion soup.”

Things that need sorting out she says are as diverse as include cystitis, bacon (ugh?) and social media. How about this for a bullseye of observation?  “The internet is like a drunken toddler.” 

She thinks many things are wrong but that there are some things blindingly right. Like having joy in life, being kind to ourselves and to others and in not taking ourselves too seriously. How lucky we are, she says, to have friends, family, to be going out together, drinking wine (lots of it) and laughing. Never get angry. Being angry shows you’re scared. Try being polite instead.

I wish she’d met Henry. She’d have soon been put that gloomy old libertine in his place. And she’d have made him laugh too. And they might have focused on improving joy, good humour and manners in the world, Henry in his tsunami style, Caitlin by wit and insight. What a team.


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