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A Venture Into Bukowski

So, I read Charles Bukowski’s “Women” this week. He’s a writer that I’ve felt I SHOULD read for some time, but (from what I’d heard) felt a need to avoid (or, at least, imbibe my ‘other-things-to-do’ notions). Now, having succumbed to my literary aspirations, I’ve taken the dive. I figured, “Heck, I might actually like his stuff. Besides, all kinds of folks are comparing him to Whitman, Williams, and the like.”

Perhaps my literary aspirations are weak, but I found it coarsely written, with most detail centering around sex. Well, that and booze. Shouldn’t surprise me, I guess. However, after awhile, with nothing else, even sex gets boring (perhaps that’s why I find network TV dull and uninspiring?). This was (possibly) deliberate, to make the character one dimensional, unpleasant, and rather unsympathetic. As the point of view really never changed, things became more and more tedious; we looked through Chinaski’s eyes exclusively. And his view only mildly shifted. It was interesting to me how, at the very end, Chinaski lifted his view every so slightly outside himself. But I never found myself caring.

Bukoswski does a great job of creating a rather disagreeable character, surrounded by unpleasent companions. What I never, at all, ever, was able to do was care about Chinaski. That, perhaps, is what I found as the greatest weakness. Perhaps my lack of sympathy stems from Chinaski’s stark alien-ness to me. Yet, I’ve met many people with a wide array of deranged-ness. Most of humanity's dysfunction is not alien. Maybe that redeems me, maybe not. However, I never moved away from the analyst reading the book to understand the critical acclaim. I had hoped that I would, as I did with Keroauc, amongst so many others, find myself becoming absorbed. No dice, mi amigos. Life’s strangeness, I guess.


Every fan of Bukowski I've ever met became a fan between 18 and 21 and were male.

I tried a couple years ago, and picked up a book of poetry. My experience was the same as yours.

For me, I could read lyrics by Tom Waits and get the same amount of Americana with that deep respect for urban nighthawks without the ridiculous sexual exploits.

That said, Waits is a noted fan of Bukowski... but I just thing Waits succeeds at it all with an element of poetry and characters who are actually sympathetic... even if they are hookers from Minneapolis.