thinking about Bukowski

Seeing Born Into This got me thinking about Bukowski and reminded me of an anecdote.

When I was a graduate student in a large university using its immense library for research, I used to enjoy getting distracted with things like Charles Bukowski. I checked out and read all the Bukowski they had. I remember one story — or was it a novel? — in which our first person narrator wakes up in the middle of the dark night after a fierce drinking binge, and discovers a warm body in bed with him. He marvels at the fearlessness and generosity of anyone who would bed down with a beast like him, and writes: what better way to reward her than by fucking her in the ass?

You know how students sometimes underline certain passages in books to draw attention to them. I came to regard this practice as a form of communication through which one reader of a copy of a library book would signal not just to himself, but also to future readers, that the underlined parts were particularly meaningful and important.

As a little gift/joke for the next reader, I took out my pencil and my ruler and meticulously underlined a passage which I felt exemplified the Bukowskian combination of irony and absolute non-ironic seriousness (and in so doing, imitated it): what better way to reward her than by fucking her in the ass?

It’s remarkable how well known Bukowski is not. A lot of reasonably well-rounded, educated people have never heard of him. I imagine that’s because Bukowski has to do with an altogether different kind of education from the traditional one you get in schools. Let’s see whether this documentary helps bring Buk some of the recognition he deserves. If it doesn’t, that’s ok with me. I am happy to continue to share the secret with a couple hundred thousand of my closest fellow Bukowski fans.

Pull A String, A Puppet Moves
each man must realize
that it can all disappear very
the cat, the woman, the job,
the front tire,
the bed, the walls, the
room; all our necessities
including love,
rest on foundations of sand –
and any given cause,
no matter how unrelated:
the death of a boy in Hong Kong
or a blizzard in Omaha …
can serve as your undoing.
all your chinaware crashing to the
kitchen floor, your girl will enter
and you’ll be standing, drunk,
in the center of it and she’ll ask:
my god, what’s the matter?
and you’ll answer: I don’t know,
I don’t know …
Charles Bukowski

when your personal life is in the shitter

When your personal life is absolutely in the shitter;
When all your alarms and sirens are wailing disaster;
When your brain kicks into full crisis mode;
When the pain is more than you can bear;
When your pain is mixed with raw fear of the magnitude and likely duration of the pain itself;
When you keep collapsing in a sobbing heap, and just barely manage to bathe and dress and leave your house for work in the morning;
When you haven’t slept adequately more than five times in the last four months;
When you know there are not enough drugs and alcohol in the world to ease your suffering;
When you wish there were some way short of suicide to escape from your own head, but you know there is none, so you can either do yourself in or suck it up:
Isn’t it grand to be alive?

Diet my ass

I sneer with characteristic arrogance and self-righteousness when I hear people speak of going on a diet. That’s crap, my friends, it’s a fundamental mistake. You want to get in shape? I can’t hear you. I said, do you want to get in shape and stay that way? OK good. Now understand this first: you don’t “go on a diet,” because go on implies go off. You adopt sane eating habits. (Note the period at the end of the preceding sentence.) That’s step one.
Next, work out. If you claim you don’t have time, then sorry, you’re out of luck. Don’t complain to me when your clothes strain to contain your fat. If your problem is that you don’t like perspiration and exertion and raising your heart rate — that is, if you try to excuse yourself on the grounds that you’re too lazy — then you need a thorough brainwashing. You need to learn to love it, as Winston what’s-its learns to love Big Brother at the end of 1984. I guarantee you that once you win this Orwellian victory over yourself, it will literally be harder not to work out than to work out. Your brain starts to demand it and next thing you know you are strapping up and hitting the street to go running — or walking, that’ll work too.
Oh by the way. My program — which, modesty aside, is marvelously effective — costs me the price of a pair of shoes every nine months or so. I don’t pay for gyms, personal trainers, or any of that shit. For cardiovascular I put on my shoes, go out my front door and run. For strength training I do body-weight stuff on my lunch break with the playground equipment in a park near where I work, and I do it close to five times per week, even through the winter (those mild global warming New York City winters are a boon).
This is what we call a lifestyle, to use a term that makes me want to puke, but it has its uses. It’s a question of permanent, consistent behavior, not something you do for a while until you reach a goal and then stop.