At the moment I am reading ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac. I have been happily slating this book for many years and I now realise that I hadn’t read it. I conclude that as it was vaunted so very much by everybody I knew that I decided to take agin it. (The same thing with ‘Lord of the Rings’) This is no excuse for telling everybody it was a lousy book and now seems unforgivable. I repent and I love it in spite of my extreme envy and having seen Carolyn Cassady speak a few weeks ago and reading her book ’Off the Road’ I note that women are strictly secondary in this scenario. I always identified with the guys when I was young and continue to do so though I am aware that the guys in this book would not have thanked me for my company as any kind of equal. Carolyn was an interesting speaker and brought a slightly caustic view of this group of ‘boys’ who never had to grow up into ‘responsible’ men – having evaded responsibility myself for most of my life I understand this attitude totally. I still envy their freedom and having spent a lot of my life with the British version of these boys I can well understand Carolyn’s attitude. I read her book first.
In the last couple of weeks I also read ‘How to be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran a hilarious and horrifying take on the manipulation of young women by men, the advertising industry and pornography. I had no idea of the fact that the fashionable body state is totally hairless – achieved in the same agonising manner as the ‘back sack and crack’ for men (that I did know about). Is this infantilising women? I only ever liked pornography in the written state and that limited to Anais Nin which is hardly porn at all. I find the idea of hairlessness repulsive in the extreme I am fond of my bush and think it marks out rather well the dimensions of the female form – a sort of exclamation mark. This is obviously not the most important message of the book and Caitlin Moran sounds totally well adjusted to me, even as a youngster. I like this woman enormously find her frankness enchanting and would love to know how she would have reacted to Kerouac and company.
I have also just finished Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Why be Happy When You Could be Normal’, nobody can say I don’t ring the changes in my reading pattern. I found this beautifully written book resonated with me as an adoptee who had only one disastrous meeting with my mother. I am not entirely sure that being abandoned shortly after birth is as damaging as she implies but it would certainly help explain some of my weirder warps of character. She is almost the only writer I know who can induce laughter and an inadvertent sob of compassion within seconds of one another. She showed the most magnificent determination in her desire to go to Oxford and I admire her loyalty to Mrs Winterson who was clearly a monster and also terribly sad and very possibly sick too, I know what she means when she says that Mrs. W was her private monster. I love this woman’s style – all her styles, and admire her independence and honesty about her private life.
So the last three books have all affected me in their different wonderful ways and reading has been a saviour for me in all kinds of harrowing states. In my opinion nothing is as profound as a book for taking you by the scruff, raking up ancient memories, giving you a shake and putting you back down with an adjusted view of life, love, yourself and everything!
So that’s me away back to my (!) flatbed truck guzzling whiskey and trying to pee off the back.