Talented and unabashedly debaucherous, Joey (a fictionalised Miller) and his roommate Carl mostly seem to spend their ‘quiet days in Clichy’ either writing or fucking. Every woman in these two stories exist entirely as sex objects for Joey and Carl, and almost all of them are ready and willing to spread their legs, for money or lust, and occasionally with utter indifference.
Normally, this would lead me to rip the story to shreds for its sexism, but I was completely swayed by Miller’s brilliant writing. There isn’t much of a plot here and there are no admirable (or perhaps even likeable) characters, but I devoured every word. It makes me feel like the parents of Colette, the 15-year old runaway waif who gets taken in by Carl and Joey and becomes their “Cinderella, concubine and cook”. When Colette’s parents eventually find her they naturally want a word with Carl about his illicit relationship with their daughter. But upon finding out that he and Joey are writers who study the likes of Proust and Goethe, they are instantly placated and decide not to press any charges. As Carl interprets it, “The French have a great respect for writers, you know that. A writer is never an ordinary criminal”.
In the same way, the artistry of Miller’s writing makes me forgive, and in fact, thoroughly enjoy the depravity of his content. Should I feel a bit guilty, or perhaps deceived about this? I don’t know, but oh, what a great read!