Charles Bukowski

This is probably the last person anyone would expect me to blog about. Yes, I like normal stuff sometimes, too.

Charles Bukowski was a novelist/poet/drunkard from Los Angeles. I say drunkard lovingly here because he would not be the same without the booze. He had a rough childhood complete with an abusive father and horrible acne. This is all documented in his novel Ham On Rye, which is supposedly being made into a film (can’t wait!). His poems, short stories, and novels are semi-autobiographical, revolving around Charles’ fictional alter ego Henry Chinaski.

There is nothing flowery about the writing style of Charles Bukowski. It’s simple, realistic, and blunt. That is a major reason for his popularity. You don’t need an education or a dictionary to figure out what he’s saying. People from all kinds of backgrounds can easily understand a Bukowski work. The excerpt below demonstrates this:

“I met an old drunk on the street one afternoon. I used to know him from the days with Betty when we made the rounds of the bars. He told me that he was now a postal clerk and that there was nothing to the job. It was one of the biggest fattest lies of the century. I’ve been looking for that guy for years but I’m afraid somebody else has gotten to him first.”

This quote comes from the first novel Bukowski ever wrote, Post Office. It chronicles the 12 years he spent working for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier and clerk. While the work was extremely boring, ridiculous, and unbearable, Bukowski managed to get through the day-to-day grind with alcohol, sex, and race-track betting. Post Office is my favorite of Bukowski’s works because I relate soooo much to it. I also worked for the U.S. government (not telling which agency it was ;-)) in the past and so many of the things he wrote about I dealt with on a daily basis: lazy co-workers, psychotic bosses, unnecessary stress, and office romances. There were bad times, but there were also amazing times. All I can really do is laugh about it all because it really was ridiculous. And I met some great people there. Actually, I discovered Bukowski through that job. One of the girls I worked with told me to check out his stuff and loaned me one of his books. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Bukowski always manages to add loads of humour and surprises into his writings. You never know what the “Dirty Old Man” will throw your way next. He can get vulgar, but I think it adds to his charm. Bukowski’s graphic descriptions of his own bodily functions definitely make him a class act. You don’t get more real this man. I could quote the infamous “beer shit” from Ham On Rye, but I think I’ll save everyone from that visual. Instead I’ll share a different excerpt from the novel:

“I could see the road ahead of me. I was poor and I was going to stay poor. But I didn’t particularly want money. I didn’t know what I wanted. Yes, I did. I wanted someplace to hide out, someplace where one didn’t have to do anything. The thought of being something didn’t only appall me, it sickened me . . . To do things, to be part of family picnics, Christmas, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Mother’s Day . . . was a man born just to endure those things and then die? I would rather be a dishwasher, return alone to a tiny room and drink myself to sleep.”

True story. Bukowski had the balls to say what we all think. I think he was a bit of a pessimist, but some would say that’s just being real. It’s a shame that he died in 1994 at the age of 73. I’m just happy he got the chance to share his life stories with the world. Now I have a craving for booze.

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4 thoughts on “Charles Bukowski

  1. I’ve recently read “Post Office” and having read it I simply cannot put it down. And having gone through quite a mission trying to find it; I say it was well deserved. Sadly, there aren’t many good European-American authors sold here in the bookstore of Barnes&Nobles, but when having heard they had the last copy available I couldn’t resist. So now it is mine at last especially having heard that they were going to simply give it up!

    • I’m glad you were able to get a copy! You would think that novel would be easier to get ahold of. It’s a classic! I can never put Bukowski’s books down either. I am also not too impressed with Barnes & Noble. I loved Borders, but they are all gone now. 😦 I love old used book stores though. They are so charming and smell so good! I could just live in one among the dusty books. lol

      • I know! T,.,T Barnes & Noble has always been a huge let down. Nothing like Borders. And it’s such a shame. In Borders I could find EVERYTHING I was looking for in a flash and new whether or not they had it in stock. The people there were friendly and so “I a stick up my ass” tempered.
        But when Borders closed it was a real shame and I was quite devistated. As for the old used book stores I know what you mean. Anytime I find one, I feel as if I’ve walked into a book wonderland. haha

  2. Hmm, this fellow sounds interesting. From the way you’ve described him, he kind of reminds me of Bernard Black or Tom Waits.

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