Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Soft and fat like summer roses

This guy is one of my favourites.

I have been a fan of Charles Bukowski's novels since my later high school years - but neglected to read his poems because I'm not big on poetry. (Okay, maybe at 13. Ones about love and abortion ripping apart tiny babies in wombs. I know you know the one, Catholic high school girls)

Thankfully, I spotted this gem of a novel at the used book shop, that changed my mind about poems once more - or at least Bukowski's.

This biography is a very insightful read, and just happened to include snippets of Bukowski's poetry throughout.

And they are truly wonderful. Here are some of my favourite passages:

“I walked into a dark hall
where the landlady stood
execrating and final,
sending me to hell,
waving her fat, sweaty arms
and screaming
screaming for the rent
because the world had failed us both.”

"in the cupboard sits my bottle
like a dwarf waiting to scratch out my prayers.
I drink and cough like some idiot at a symphony,
sunlight and maddened birds are everywhere,
the phone rings gamboling its sound
against the odds of the crooked sea;
I drink deeply and evenly now,
I drink to paradise
and death
and the lie of love."

His writing is succinct, never flowery but always beautiful - to me at least. For me, what really makes a Bukowski novel is its pace, something he had complete command over.

Sure he may have been a misogynistic, shameless drunk, but the man could write. I have tried to read other novels from the misanthropic male point of view, but just couldn't stomach the depictions of women and the vulgarity of the protaganists (I'm talking to you, "Average American Male") - which is strange, because Bukowski is as crude as it gets. I just feel like a lot of "stereotypical" male voice novels lack the wit and pace needed to overlook the blatantly misogynistic undertones that permeate some of this genre. Plain and simple, Bukowski makes me laugh, despite my disgust at some of the things Henry Chinaski does.

In his own words, "Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way."

It's surprising just how autobiographical Bukowski's novels are. I felt as though I had heard it all before because Chinaski's life pretty much mirrors his own. The book includes letters from one of Bukowski's girlfriends, and though they were definitely interesting and relevant, there was something all too voyeuristic about it. And excuse me for this, really, but I wrote a poem.


I was reading a book
about a writer I admire
in the pages
were letters from lovers
perverse and damning
I couldn't read on
without feeling like I had
invaded a private space

when I die
will they go through my emails
Jesus Christ
I hope not