This is a heavily autobiographical account of Miller's life in 1920s New York. He works for the Cosmococcic (sometimes Cosmodemonic) Telegraph Company as Employment Manager but he is always broke and always borrowing money off his friends to fund his low-life adventures. The book starts with him meeting Mara (later Mona); before ten pages are out they are fucking in the back of a taxicab. From then on, Miller rambles on about his hatred of the Company who employ him (goodness knows why they keep him on), his longing to be a writer, and the meaning of life whilst visiting his friends (artists, doctors, musicians etc) and having sex with his wife, his wife's friend, his new girlfriend, the girlfriends of his friends and almost anyone else he seems to meet. These encounters are described in frank detail and are as casual as could be. He is a stunning lover: he is clearly able to make a woman orgasm as soon as he penetrates her, she orgasms time and time again, he has multiple orgasms, he never gets anyone pregnant (except that the wife has "the child"), and he never contracts an STI (although his penis does get some spore spots but the doctor gives him a clean bill of health and he puts it down to having had sex with a menstruating woman).
Maybe he was a great lover. Apparently he had an affair with Anais Nin (who wrote Delta of Venus); later his wife did too. But most of the descriptions seem a little unlikely, superhuman.
In short, I found it a difficult book to read. It is little more than rambling self-indulgence interrupted by pornography. It reminded me of Jack Kerouac's On the Road (which was written before Sexus although after Miller's earlier works) but I found the energy of Kerouac carried his stream of consciousness along a lot better than Miller's; Kerouac also seems to use fewer characters and to have more structure. Sexus needs editing, trimming, structuring.
There are some delightful moments. I loved the description of the elevated train as a "ride across the rooftops" giving a romantic feel to what must have been rather urban and decaying. There is a brilliant description of a woman as "Her passport was in order but her luggage excited suspicion". But much of it was boring.
September 2015; 463 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57