Worrying about if you are high enough up in the tanning hierarchy can be alleviated by having a good holiday book on the go. As you can see, I’m reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac, the original road trip novel. (The baseball cap is my beach hat, by the way, a genuine guard’s hat from Riker’s Island prison in New York. It’s having a much better life than it would have had in Riker’s Island ).
The timing is good for reading On The Road, as it turns out, because Andrea Arnold has just won a big prize at Cannes for her road trip movie, American Honey. Plus, the letter that Neil Cassidy (the real-life model for the famous Beat hero, Dean Moriarty) wrote to Kerouac back in the ’50s that influenced Kerouac’s crazy ad lib, chaotic writing style, is up for auction at Christies for an estimate of $500,000.
I think this new road trip vibe will help people understand Sex Drive a bit better. It takes the road trip concept on a bit. The trouble with Kerouac’s trip, while it is an entertaining book, is that it flounders all over the place with almost laughable sexism. Women in On The Road are stupid “blondes,” nagging wives or “whores.” The tragedy of the Beat generation is the gaping absence of any women. Apart from William Burroughs’ wife, Joan Vollmer, who unfortunately got shot in the head by Bill one night.
The goal of Kerouac and Dean Moriarty’s trip is just to travel – to indulge in the “ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being.” And this is a good goal to start with. Maybe the truth about all road trips is that just to be moving takes your mind of the pain of living. “Happiness is in the saddle” as a taxi driver in Milan once told me. Which is all very well but after a while you do need to actually focus on something,. For me, it was seeking out wisdom about female bodies and sexuality from a bunch of broads who clearly knew a trick or two. I wanted to listen to their philosophy and see what I could learn. Heal myself. To give me a reason – in the long term- for getting up in the morning.
I haven’t seen Arnold’s American Honey yet. Apparently it is very long but two good positives are that 1) it was directed by a woman and 2) there are actually women in it.
The hero of the Beat generation, Neil Cassidy, re-created as Dean Moriarty in On The Road, comes across as a bit of a prat, if you ask me. He gets load of women pregnant, has a penchant for 13-year-old girls and he and Kerouac drive across the country, stopping off at whore houses, “negro” bars and bee bop joints, getting drunk stealing cars and not seeming to like the company of women very much.
But he was undeniably cute when he was very young and in reform school:
In fact, Kerouac didn’t just admire Neil Cassidy for his ragged joy in pure being. It has been documented that the couple had sex in real life, although Kerouac never owns up to this in On The Road. That would have been a truly liberating message for 1957. Instead, Dean talks of a ‘fairy’ at one point and the pair talk disparagingly of ‘fags’.
Andrea Arnold racked up 12,000 driving around the States. Here’s the lead character in her story, played by actress Sasha Lane
Arnold doesn’t seem that big of a road trip fan, telling interviewers in Cannes that, “I had some quite difficult times by myself traveling and being in all that open wilderness.” Being on your own in the wild is the point of a solo road trip. You’re just stuck with your self. It’s like non-sexual masturbation. Well, that’s the delirious conclusion I came to after driving solo through Texas for 11 hours non-stop one day. Arnold’s film is about skint young people driving around America trying to sell magazine subscriptions. I suppose there’s a purpose in that.
Actually, I did enjoy reading On The Road though, in my own twisted way. It’s great history, if nothing else. The Beat philosophy was a reaction by young people to the rampant materialism that exploded after World War 11. Ha, if they thought rampant materialism was bad in the late 1940s and 1950s, it seems like we’re due an apocalyptic Beat resurgence any minute now.
The other good thing is that Kerouac’s book broaches a subject that I’ve written about in next month’s Red magazine, namely the Second Sexual Revolution. The First Sexual Revolution in the 60s and 70s was all about male pleasure. (At least there was a concept about a revolution in sexuality in the 60s and 70s. Such an idea was pie in the sky in the days of the supposedly utopian Beat kids). Dean Moriarty talks constantly about wanting to “ball chicks,” and he sets Kerouac up with a waitress at one point who, he warns, the writer, is “slightly hung-up on a few sexual difficulties which I’ve tried to straighten up and I think you can manage, you fine gone daddy, you.” Wonder what her sexual difficulties could possibly be. Being bored of being shagged by narcissistic men who seem uninterested in birth control or the fact that a clitoris has 4000 more nerve endings than a dick?
Luckily, when books start pissing you off on holiday there is always the beach to return to. Here’s a few vulva shapes I made earlier this week: