One of my poet friends in high school once told me that he only would read Bukowski while taking a shit This has stuck with me over the years Once, a girl I became involved with praised Bukowski while simultaneously giving me a caveat about what a terrible sexist he was This is where I m coming from.
I started reading this one on the shitter after a long day s work Then I moved to the couch where I drank alcohol and chain smoked cigarettes while zooming through the book I sneered at the blunt simplicity of the sentences at first, feeling the intense distance between this kind of writing and the George Saunder s stories I d been reading recently, as well as the generally stylistically interesting and intellectually potent books I tend to gravitate towards But I still felt entertained by this stuff, nonetheless As Tesco brand scotch intersected with my veins, I began to see slightly nuance to this rather thematically repetitive first person, clearly auto bio stuff that Bukowski had written about a drunk as shit nihilist struggling writer who clearly is himself Very little imagination seemed to be at work here Just the spilt guts of a self aggrandizing louse But yet, I continued to be entertained, so I pressed on, feeling each sentence flow by without much effort on my part Following the narrative of being employed many, many times, failing and getting fired just as many, drinking, drinking, drinking to a sickening degree , and barnacle ing to the hulls of a series of horrendously depicted females That s about all there is to this novel Working, Drinking, Fucking Rinse, repeat Even the most horrible human being on earth deserves to wipe his ass But amidst the misspelled words he lighted his cigarette and dumb assed factual errors the USA fighting China in WWII I gradually found some remarkably human moments speckled within the details There s a potent dissatisfaction with the exploitative nature of American Capitalism to be found within the job after fucking job experiences the narrator tumbles through There s something weirdly edifying in witnessing the details of a severe drunk s day to day physical ailments and triumphs and tribulations, even when nauseating, like most of them are Even the contemptible attitudes displayed toward women have an oddly true ring to them This is NOT to say that I agree with treating women like shit the way Bukowski clearly does, but that his shittiness is a stark reminder of certain horrible realities that do certainly exist in the minds of many men And this I found interesting, in an historico anthropological sort of way, while simultaneously depressing and upsetting.
And then I thought of Raymond Carver He also was once a real life drunk of epic proportions who wrote in tight, blunt, staccato, matter of fact sentence lumps, consistently describing soul crushing work weeks, oceans of booze and cluttered ashtrays Why do I like his writing so much and yet feel this strong, largely pre emptive aversion to Bukowski That s the question Carver s prose style is really no innovative or poetic than Chuck s, but yet when I read two of Carver s collections I encountered them with such a different attitude and happy reception Carver, for one, doesn t denigrate women the way Bukowski does That s one thing And while he speaks of little else beyond sad, failed, alcoholic people, he manages to make it seem far less about him the almighty, misanthropic author and about said sad, failed, alcoholic people There s an extremely off putting narcissism to Bukowski, so far as I can tell from reading a single book of his, which Carver elegantly transcends, despite similar style and content But then I wonder, is there buried deep within the the wine soaked walls of Bukowski than lets on immediately Or, do I perhaps harbor some of the same misanthropy that he nakedly exposes one word to the next Am I really any better Well, my answer to the first query is still NO and my response to the second still YES but contemplating these things during my read was enriching in some way, so I reluctantly give some credit there to ol CB.
But what was Bukowski, really A terminally depressed, ego maniac self hater with a bottle permanently pressed to his lips Some part of me can resonate with this, as much as I high falutin ly know that this is the case There s a dark knot of nihilism stuck inside my heart, I know this Perhaps reading these rather bleak and repetitive exploits of Bukowski s tingles some part of that in me that seeks connection and recognition I do not know for sure.
I love this poem about the drunken Charles Bukowski, written by Raymond Carver, depicting fictional Buk speaking to a bunch of creative writing students, in You Don t Know What Love Is Factotum describes someone who does a range of low level meaning low paid work This short novel I listened to, which makes it a bit like a guy telling you his life story while drinking you under the table oh, he always could, and even now, years gone, could probably still do it I was driving while listening to it, and not drinking as I was driving, for your information, thanks The story is really a prequel to Ham and Rye, which was about the early years of Henry Chinaski, Bukowksi s mostly I am told autobiographical main character If Ham on Rye is about Chinaski s lost youth, Buk s second one features Chinaski s lost twenties about booze, terrible jobs, women, and drunken brawls Because of the title, there might be a greater focus here on all the soul killing, mind numbing jobs he worked to pay for flophouse rent and booze, almost all of them from which he was fired, sometimes after only a day In one job, he got paid by a bar owner 5 bucks and all the shots of whiskey he could drink to clean a total of six window blinds, which as it turns out took him all day, and in the end required because he was of course drunk the help of all his fellow bar patrons, for whom he used the five bucks to buy a round this was the fifties, when five bucks could actually almost buy a bar full of patrons a round well, almost In the end he had to put 8.
50 on the tab he owed the bartender.
Bukowski also worked at Sears FIVE different times during this period, fired each time for stealing and various other infractions Usually for not showing up for work while he was on a three day bender with some girl, or healing from some fight Hey, I worked at Sears, in the stockroom, for a year or so Boring job, in which I hid out and read books during long evening shifts Did I ever sneak in a bottle of wine for me and my fellow misery suffering warehouse rats I seem to recall I may have done this once or twice, but you ain t a priest, and this ain t no confessional booth.
Factotum doesn t quite have the innocence of Ham and Rye, when he actually just lusted after various girls and women, when he was just a kid In this book he actually has a lot of sex, some of it funny, all of it described in gloriously vulgar detail, though finally, as with the jobs, it s really mostly misery, all the time He s going nowhere fast And it feels like the well told raucous romp of a million alcoholics And a guy who is during this time often an unapologetic asshole I think you could ask any of the women he was with during this period for their view of him and it would not be positive though when they were drinking with him, at least, I am sure they had fun.
But can I turn away and stop listening Nope Bukowski will be hilarious for some, and too offensive for many, but he sure can tell a story The poverty and squalor of Factotum is not quite as fun as it was in Ham and Rye, but at his best, Bukowski is worth the offense, imho It was true that I didn t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6 30 a.
m by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so Who in working class America cannot raise a glass to that In the end, Bukowski reveals himself in all his assholism to be in the company of other great and painful stories of the ravages of booze, such as Malcolm Lowry s Under the Volcano, or any Kerouac, or Raymond Carver s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Bukowski almost convinces you that the pursuit of drunkenness as a way of coping with reality is a kind of spiritual pursuit If you re going to try, go all the way Otherwise, don t even start This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind It could mean not eating for three or four days It could mean freezing on a park bench It could mean jail It could mean derision It could mean mockery isolation Isolation is the gift All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it And, you ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds And it will be better than anything else you can imagine If you re going to try, go all the way There is no other feeling like that You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire You will ride life straight to perfect laughter It s the only good fight there is Factotum is not for everyone, I warn you, or welcome you, depending on your love of the tales of the down and out.
fac to tum fak t d m noun An employee who does all kinds of work Welcome Henry Chinaski, Bukowski s ever sarcastic, cynical, alcoholic and perpetually unemployed alter ego It s the 1940s, Chinaski had been rejected by the World War II drafts on account of his mental health, and he s searching for a job A job that would serve him nicely and won t come in between him and his true love writingHow in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8 30 a.
m by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do soChinaski works one menial job after another and gets thrown out of most, except the ones he leaves on his own hence, Factotum He constantly writes short stories to Clay Glad, whose New York magazine Frontfire he admired As it happens, all of them come back with a rejection slipNothing is worse than to finish a good shit, then reach over and find the toilet paper container empty Even the most horrible human being on earth deserves to wipe his assAs with most Chinaski stories, we end up finding love over drinks at a barBaby, I said, I m a genius but nobody knows it but me She looked down at me Get up off the floor you damn fool and get me a drink .
or over a hamburger and beerShe was strange she was always hot in the morning with her hangovers I was not so hot in the mornings with mine I was a night man But at night she was always screaming and throwing things at me telephones, telephone books, bottles, glasses full and empty , radios, purses, guitars, ashtrays, dictionaries, broken watch bands, alarm clocks She was an unusual woman .
only to lose it allI hate it when he fucks me, Jan had said She was now probably saying the same thing about me to him.
In the end, we just get a full on Bukowski moment at a strip joint, as we prepare to go out in a blaze of unemployed, poverty stricken, alcoholic frenzy, butAnd I couldn t get it upLoved this book, from start to finish.
When the undercurrent of life starts to pull you away even struggling against it can take you further awaythis book is the perfect example of this.
What kind of job you looking for Stockboy, shipping clerk, janitorThe denizens of Bukowski s fictional world encompass the marginalized chaff of mid 20thcentury America Barely a step ahead of abject vagrancy, Bukowski s protagonist and alter ego Henry Chinaski is the everyman of our species comfortable asking the bare minimum of this world When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn t have you by the throat.
Chinaski s story isn t pretty, but Bukowski isn t concerned about offending a reader s middle class American sensibilities If the reader comes to this text with our typical baggage work issues, money problems, familial strife Chinaski s search for his next drink and fuck can be jarring It s a credit to Bukowski s genius that he can make a character and not a caricature How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8 30 a.
m by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so
people like talking shit about charles bukowski on goodreads, it seems funny.
i liked this book a lot henry chinaski is an asshole but he knows he s an asshole and simply accepts being an asshole everything seems detached and transient, nothing really matters to him, life is just this thing that is happening which he feels powerless to, so he doesn t invest much emotion in the things he feels like he needs to do to stay alive, and drinks to avoid feelings of alienation i laughed out loud several times, alone this is the first bukowski novel i ve read i understand how people could claim that he s misogynistic, but it seems to me like he is someone who is extremely detached from people in general, but also enjoys the experience of sex when he talks about women in an overly sexualized way, they are usually women he doesn t know in my experience, i usually objectify have enhanced biases towards strangers of any kind or like, when i see a man i don t know who i m intensely attracted to, i usually focus strongly on his physical characteristics because it s impossible to do anything else without knowing someone bukowski seems to objectify women in a way that is not offensive, it just strikes me as what people who don t interact with a lot of people do, because people are always at a distance he objectifies everything, kind of.
i empathized with him a lot if he were alive and someone it made sense for me to know, i would probably have intense feelings for him and we would have sex but he wouldn t be able to fall in love with me because he was too self involved depressed, or he d see that i care too much or something still, reading this made me feel less alone.
i recommend this book to people who are depressed, introverted, maybe have had problems with alcohol, disenchanted with people society in general, don t like lengthy descriptions cliches language masturbation, and are able to view life with a detached, sarcastic eye.
Factotum an employee who does all kinds of work.
Henry Chinaski an alter ego of Charles Bukowski was a special kind of Factotum he was an employee who didn t want to do any kind of work I m a writer temporarily down on my inspirations Oh, a writer, eh Yes Are you sure No, I m not What do you write Short stories mostly And I m halfway through a novel A novel, eh Yes What s the name of it The Leaky Faucet of My Doom Oh, I like that What s it about Everything Everything You mean, for instance, it s about cancer Yes How about my wife She s in there too You don t say Why do you want to work in a ladies dress shop I ve always liked ladies in ladies dresses Dull jobs in the dull world he didn t care about anything He wanted to be a writer And he kept writing all the time and anywhere I drank for some time, three or four days I couldn t get myself to read the want ads The thought of sitting in front of a man behind a desk and telling him that I wanted a job, that I was qualified for a job, was too much for me Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed So I stayed in bed and drank When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn t have you by the throat He honestly told the world what kind of the man he was and what kind of the world he lived in and in spite of anything he became a writer one of the most uncompromising writers.