Kill Yr Idols…

June 13, 2007 at 12:19 pm (Bukowski, Ezra Pound, idols, poetry, T. S. Eliot, Vonnegut, writers)

…or how Bukowski convinces his future wife that he’s a great, sensitive writer by beating her.

That’s what this post would have been about but the video was removed for copyright infringement. I guess you’re just gonna have to take my word for it. Such a video would have demonstrated misogyny. Instead, here’s an excerpt from Women about, well, women.

“If I had been born a woman I would certainly have been a prostitute. Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better. And yet women-good women-frightened me because they wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep. Basically I craved prostitutes, base women, because they were deadly and hard and made no personal demands. Nothing was lost when they left. Yet at the same time I yearned for a gentle, good woman, despite the overwhelming price. Either way I was lost. A strong man would give up both. I wasn’t strong. So I continued to struggle with women, with the idea of women.”

Here’s Bukowski’s own reading of the poem dinosauria, we that hints at his misanthropy:

In the published poem, Bukowski refers to Dante’s Inferno as a children’s playground in comparison as to what’s to come. I assume he cut it out of the video since it would have appeared too learned for his usual crowd. Observe the comments at Youtube.

Before I go on, let me just say that I do not share this world-view with Bukowski and by the end of Women it appears that Buk’s veiled representation of himself, Hank Chinaski, has prepared to give up what is left of his soul. So I suppose there’s still hope for him. Or was hope. He’s dead and mostly dust by now. Perhaps he’s up in heaven with Vonnegut.

Although Charles Bukowski’s words and stories are for the most part ugly and painted with a Schopenhauer colored will, they can also be witty, charming and beautiful due to this marred world-view. Like such great writers as T. S. Eliot or Ezra Pound, one can take their antisemitism or fascism or Bukowski’s misanthropy and gain a greater understanding of ourselves as a whole without coming to the conclusion that they are just poor representatives of humanity. On the contrary, it is due to these flaws that make them “great” writers, “great” advocates of our species.

There is often difficulty in reading an author with such a forceful opinion of how things are, not to mention a belligerent following who take his or her word as gospel. Remembering that these writers are human just like the rest of us may be difficult as well, especially when they’re beating women and prophesying our doom.

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2 Comments

  1. truth9 said,

    I have yet to read any Bukowski, though he is on my “must read someday” list.

    I can make no statements regarding his greatness, but I certainly agree that we shouldn’t deny him the title based on human stupidity. If we did that, who would we be able to call great?

    The poem here is interesting, though my initial response doesn’t place it as particularly brilliant.

    But then, I didn’t have that initial response to The Wasteland, so what do I know?

  2. asfarasthoughtcanreach said,

    I wouldn’t call it brilliant either, just an example. Buk’s written a closet full of words more than Eliot, literally, so there’s a lot of crap to wade through. There’s something to be said about a writer’s popularity when over twenty new books of Bukowski’s have been published since his death.

    I’d also argue that his strength is in the medium of the novel or short story. Prose, I guess. For the themes of his work watch the movie Barfly and you’ll get the idea. Typical modern picaresque.

    I suppose this post was more about Bukowski’s fans or readers hero-worshiping him for the wrong reasons: for his personality and not his ability to communicate a unique perspective. In this way Bukowski is much like a Kerouac or Hemingway. He has a cult surrounding his persona which can easily outweigh the words that he wrote.

    I find myself envious and full of pity.

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