Print May 17, 2023 8 comments
Not Pretending to Be Anything:
What matters most is how well you walk through the fire. — From an interview with Charles Bukowski
Sometimes the first lines of novels become as famous as the novels themselves. Think of some of the classics:
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Bukowsski is like the Tarantino of literature. You think he’s cool as a young man, then wonder what the hell you were thinking when you revisit later in life.
Ditto William S. Burroughs.
“You think he’s cool as a young man, then wonder what the hell you were thinking when you revisit later in life.”
Well put. I binged on Bukowski in my early years, beginning with “Post Office.” (He dedicated it to “absolutely nobody”) Somehow, the unabashed nihilism grabbed me. Years later — I must have been crazy.
BTW: “Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Genet, calling Bukowski ”the greatest American poet alive today” https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/05/02/bib/990502.rv104515.html
JPS seemed to have a soft spot for degenerates and mass-murderers.
Maybe you’re just not old enough to appreciate him again.
Bukowski’s prose and poetry can be very humorous. Which I truly enjoy. There is not much poetry that I have been able to appreciate. However, I love Rumi’s love poetry (thank you Coleman Barks). I like quite a bit of Whitman (Song of Myself, When Lilacs Last in Dooryard Bloomed). But I really enjoy Bukowski’s poetry. Especially his earlier poems. What an amazing and huge body of work he produced. In my opinion the great Everyman poet of the 20th century. Uneducated (probably the key to his ability to see the world as clearly as he did) but very well read. It seems he would just sit down at the typewriter and start drinking and listening to classical music radio and just crank out massive quantities of great, insightful, often hilarious poetry. And even though his subject matter was usually just drinking, the horses, and bad women he was able to describe the human condition with profound and beautiful insight and honesty. My humble assessment of the great Charles Bukowski.
I agree to both of the above comments, although I was never fond of both authors. A movie, Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke, was partly based on Bukowski. An article in a Semiotics magazine had an interview with Bukowski, and it was kind of entertaining, since it was in Germany, and he rather liked Germans more than Americans, and German youths liked him, although you could tell how lefty they all were. you think they grew up to be the Merkel lovers Germans seemed to have become.
I do like one thing Burroughs said: “If a flying saucer landed, I’d jump in, no questions asked.” I’m kind of feeling that way.
Drunk authors are some of the most overrated creatures in history. I suspect most of them were able to write well in spite of their thirst, not because of it (as is so often posited).
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