Monday, March 09, 2009

Revisiting Bukowski (again).

Several years ago I wrote a post reviewing a documentary called Born Into This, which portrayed the life and times of Charles Bukowski. It was a movie that stuck with me, as I have a lot of interest in the author's work. I've said it before, but it bears repeating- Bukowski inspired me to try writing. He also made me appreciate poetry for the first time in my life. When I first got turned on to his books, I devoured any of his titles that I could find. And it was difficult to find them. There was something about the early '90s that made his words live especially vividly. Perhaps it was the growing rejection of the materialistic 80's. There was so much fakery and emptiness in that decade that made any form of authenticity seem fresh.

It takes a special form of genius to make an existence of degradation sparkle. Many of us in the "X-Generation" were taken with the seedy undercurrents of the street that Bukowski represented. In retrospect I feel that I received a precious gift by having come of age during the popular resurgence of "Hank Chinaski". I was able to enter almost complete dissolution without sacrificing the social ties that such a lifestyle usually precludes. It is true that I engaged in it all in a self-conscious way. I managed to avoid the kind of mistakes that allow no full recovery. Unlike many of the people I knew during that time, I emerged relatively unscathed. Yet I realize that "fate's caprice" had much to do with it. I can't accept all of the credit.

Last night I watched Born Into This once again. I've been showing selections from my DVD collection at a local bar every Sunday night. I was pleased to get the chance to share the story of a Twentieth Century icon with anyone who wanted to see it. Oddly, a couple of the folks who watched it with me are still unfamiliar with Bukowski's work. This fact seems a bit surreal to me given the role the great scribe has played in my life. How is it possible that I have old friends who I haven't shared this work with? These are people who are firmly placed in my demographic. How have they not found Bukowski on their own? I know we are in the midst of an illiterate era, but it seems odd that such an accessible writer would be ignored.

It could be that Charles Bukowski is becoming increasingly irrelevant with time, but I suspect that this is only a passing phase from which society will eventually awake. The hardscrabble times in front of us could spark the rediscovery of his genius. He knew the most visceral and simplest of pleasures. He celebrated them above all else. He was constantly on the lookout for phonies and poseurs. He could sniff them out as soon as they approached him, and he wasn't too shy to let them know their true quality. I could only hope to emulate his example. Certainly I would employ a greater degree of diplomacy. After all, I never took the kind of beatings that he did growing up. But I took my share of blows from the bitches of "fate".

I'm sure that Charles Bukowski would be turned off by some of the artifice I employ. He was, after all, an iconoclast. He seemed to have an unwavering conviction that he was right, and most others were wrong. I'm much more of a relativist than he was. My rejection of metaphor is not complete like his was. And in some strange way, I feel that Bukowski was a bit of a romantic at heart. He held tightly to his ideals, and was often uncompromising in a way that I can scarcely imagine being. Yet he could turn a phrase unlike anyone I have ever read. He could cut to the marrow of a special kind of squalid existence, and make even the idea of loneliness a bit appealing. In that respect he was a magician.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great little story (yours). That was a interesting biopic, and for me brought what of Bukowski I had read into context.

I remember (based on your interest in his works) reading a couple of his works before an incident adulterated my interest in continuing.


8:15 AM  

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