Turn The Page: Charles Bukowski

bukowski You find the beats, you find Fante, you’re gonna find Bukowski. As a writer how can you not be drawn to him? It is arguable that he is one of the most influential out of any of that type of writer — the ones taking their real life and fictionalising, drawing a thin veil between them and their reading public. Bukowski lived what he wrote — and he wrote it warts and all, none of that prettifying that some people go in fo; Bukowski didn’t give a fuck what you thought about him. He drank, he screwed and he gambled, and he wrote. I recently read Factotum for the first time and had a kind of crisis of confidence in the guy. I had read Post Office and loved it; I think Ham On Rye is the best thing he wrote; I even enjoyed Pulp which seems to be something of an accomplishment considering how many people slate it; and I really got into the poetry. You see, I was recently in New York (well, about a year ago) and someone I know had managed to get hold of some of Bukowski’s unpublished letters and I met someone that knew him — so it fired up a new enthusiasm in me for his work. I went out and bought loads of books of poetry by him and determined to read everything by the guy. Now Factotum I was looking forward to and I wanted to read it before I saw the film, which is in my Blockbuster queue as we speak, and as far as I could tell this was one of the works that I could trust. But I hit a point about two thirds of the way through and, as if it was some kind of revelation, I turned to my wife and said ‘AllĀ  this guy writes about is fucking, gambling and drinking, and he’s an arsehole.’ I think the thing is, the reason why that realisation hit my so hardis that the writing didn’t keep me engaged like it always had — something flagged in the writing in that boo, and I was suddenly standing outside in the cold looking in at something I didn’t really want to see; like an enraptured rubbernecker at a godawful accident. I think the dirge-like quality of the work lasted about fifty pages and then I got back into it and it seemed to find its footing again. What springs to mind is an audio-clip from the Manic Street Preacher’s album Holy Bible (can’t tell you where from) that says: “I want to rub the human face in it’s own vomit.” That was how I suddenly felt — dirtied by what I was reading, and I have rarely felt like that — Jack Ketchum did it with The Girl Next Door by making me feel complicit in the acts being carried out, and maybe that is what happened here: that I felt like I was glorying in the awful shit Bukowski was writing about. One book and it’s travails have not killed my enthusiasm for the man, but it re-framed him for me — let me see it in a different light. Perhaps you need that once in a while — to have people you look up to knocked down. I want to strive to reach the heights of my heros but if they are more human then it is more attainable. Bukowski’s humanity, his failure, is nothing if notĀ  a source of inspiration. —————- Now playing: The Dogs D’amour – Empty World via FoxyTunes

One Reply to “Turn The Page: Charles Bukowski”

  1. I remember “passing the Bukowski around” in the Ozarks, and the book that you gave me when we parted for that brief month. I remember reading it (come on in) at the airport waiting on my flight back to Dallas. Before you, and Ilene, and the retreat, the only time I’d been acquainted with Bukowski was when a friend of mine told me that every modern poet was a rip off of Bukowski . . . the short lines and what have you. Now, not being acquainted with the fellow, I felt that maybe at that time, I was ripping off the style of someone else who had ripped off Bukowski. Silly what you believe when someone intelligent speaks to you. When I finally started reading the book at the airport, I came to the conclusion that Buk was indeed an alcoholic gambler who had never come out of the closet. His poetry was a far cry from the unpublished letters that had been read to us in the Ozarks . . . the most memorable (and I wish it were published so that I could quote it properly) was when he was writing to his lover and quite cockily and assuredly told her to go fuck whoever she wanted because no one else’s dick would make her feel the way his did. He said it in an encouraging and unselfish way, and the confidence and openness had to be the sexiest, most endearing thing I’d ever heard. It is a shame that this Bukowski is not what the world gets to see.

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