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