But I also think, if we look into our hearts, all of us, every one of us is winging it.
"We're all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each another, but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by life's trivialities. We are eaten up by nothing." - Bukowski
And on the other hand even if you tell the story of someone/something reprobable, it is their story, and stories are “virus” for our empathic minds - so we end up understanding and siding with the wrong ideas / actions when they are explored (because to explore them by focusing om them turns them into the protagonist of the story).
It seems quite essential to any narrative medium.
In other words, it isn't essential at all. Spielberg could have made a movie that represented only the helplessness, misery, and horror and left it at that.
HST is a great subject. But really, he was documenting a madman he travelled with more than anything with a few spots of other occurrences in between.
If you haven’t before, I recommend reading the compilations of his letters. He was a much more “normal” person than his literary persona. I distinctly recall letters to his mum about being proud about having paid his credit cards off finally after his... endeavours.
That does not make him less attractive - but you would have to be already in a very bad shape if you felt any compulsion to emulate him.
Its entirely possible that I found it revealing because before that all my reading/viewing had led me to believe a different reality of how Romance and Sexual Attraction work.
>Bukowski unquestionably lived a life much darker and hungrier and more desperate than that of most writers. But in his writing he paused at the black threshold and backed away. He was probably wise.
Yes, Bukowski presented a heavily edited portrait of his alcoholism, but that discretion is the only thing protecting the sick charm that makes his work so interesting. A step or two further and the light would be completely shut out.
He's been using the same exact jabs and barbs for more than a dozen years.
An example, in this 2019 review he writes:
> At this point, new books by Bukowski tend to be pretty old. Bukowski’s publisher has issued something like 20 volumes from “Buk” since the writer’s death in 1994, frequently with large chunks of them scavenged from previously published writing. The many recycled poems, letters and prose fragments in “On Drinking” follow previous collections including “On Cats” and “On Love” and “On Writing,” with “On Cats Who Love Drinking and Writing” presumably waiting in the wings.
In 2006, for a humor issue of _Poetry_ , he wrote a review titled:
> Reviewed Work: Charles Bukowski: Drafts, Scribbles, Doodles, Signed Leases, Cancelled Checks, Drawings on Cocktail Napkins, Things He Wrote on a Nerf Football with a Green Marker, Things He Wrote on a Waitress in Tulsa with the Same Green Marker, Things He Wrote (Possibly in Blood) on an Issue of Marie Claire, Things He Wrote (Possibly in Vomit) on a Copy of X-Men vs. the Fantastic Four No. 3, and Sestinas by Charles Bukowski
in which he goes on to write:
> If you've seen the 9,473 Charles Bukowski collections currently for sale in Barnes & Noble, you probably wondered, along with the rest of the poetry world, when we'd finally be given a full picture of this major artist by his choosy publisher. Sadly, this isn't it. Missing,
for example, are five poems known to have been written by "Buk" on scraps of toilet paper during a binge in Sante Fe
Repeating the same lame 'here's a long title to show my displeasure at the amount of posthumous material that is being published because for some reason it is personally irritating to me just how prolific Bukowski actually was' joke for more than a dozen years is pretty hackneyed.
It almost seems like he's just rewriting the 2006 review here and adding some concern trolling about drunk driving.
Dude's been dead since 1994. There's only so much you can say.
His writing has never glamorized drinking, to me. Quite the opposite, he revels in sharing the dregs of a depressing lifestyle. But there is some beautiful prose burried in his vulgar squalor.
But the basic desire to project an image of being somehow special is the key ingredient that leads to glamour. Glamour is essentially mediated charisma: always constructed, to a degree, always something artificial rather than a direct encounter with someone's real self.
Postrel's politics lead her to let glamour off lightly. IMO, though (on the other hand), manifestations of glamour (and its pursuit) are closely tied to narcissism, and something we should get tough on.
The "hacker" image, by the way, is a glamourous MacGyver kind of deal. Calling hackers "coding bums" as Dijkstra did, is the antithesis of that. The former term glamourizes what the coders are doing, the latter mocks it.
I don't think many people who read Bukowski think "wow, that's the life for me!"
"Hey baby, when I write, I'm the hero of my shit."
You either accept that conceit - or there isn't much point reading his work.
I forget which doc, though. Saw it probably ten years ago.
Something like “you’ve got your film, you do your film. ... I’m the hero of my shit.”
It was something about a guy complaining that Bukowski had misrepresented a moment between them in an earlier work to which Bukowski simply acknowledges as essentially correct, but that - he is the hero of his shit.
If you remember the doc it'd be great to know what it is. I would love to see the live action complement to that moment.
BTW, I think the doc was "Born Into This": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h32g3g7r4Q8
Hemingway and Bukowski with alcohol, Philip K Dick with amphetamines, Hunter S Thompson with practically every substance, practically every musician with every substance under the sun.
Art and altered states of mind seem to go hand in hand.
I also remember a quote— by whom I forget—but probably one of your selection: “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but it worked for me”.
Take that one with a grain of salt— maybe it worked for humanity.
There’s something to be said for the ones who stared into the abyss and reported back...
Or maybe artists just take/enjoy/use drugs 'because' humans take/enjoy/use drugs. You just only hear about it when it's someone famous for something.
Also Steve Jobs marijuana and most famous LSD habit, according to him, one of the "two or three most important things" he ever did in his life.
The author of this article is being incredibly unfair at the least in his attempt to moralize a poet who died of old age a quarter century ago.
Bukowski is the guy who would more often write about the misery of his life as the latter. I agree your example is a lot better. One-upmanship of degeneracy was there at times no doubt and I'm sure he exaggerated some events. But I think the reason he will stand the test of time is that he had many authentic sides to show in his writing. Some of them quite vulnerable. And if memory serves me right, the theme of the dullness of life came up more than once too. If it were mostly or even too much one-upmanship, that would wear thin very quickly. There's clearly a lot more to his writing than that.
Really though it comes down to how much his lifestyle appealed to me the reader. Almost not at all. I can think of other authors who have been far better at romanticizing a degenerate lifestyle and made me feel like I wanted a part of it.
Cynical me says you answered your own question right here:
I admire his writing style and his brutal honesty about how he perceived the world.
There's something romantic and intoxicating about frank, brutal honesty w/rt the inner id, the fortitude to look deep into the heart of one's own darkness without blinking that gets frequently conflated with 'romanticizing' or 'normalizing' that darkness.
Unless the behavior we are talking about is his writing style and his honesty and his ability to talk about some of our darker states of mind in a way that feels authentic to the reader.
> There's something romantic and intoxicating about frank, brutal honesty w/rt the inner id, the fortitude to look deep into the heart of one's own darkness without blinking that gets frequently conflated with 'romanticizing' or 'normalizing' that darkness.
Well yes. My point was that the parent comment got it wrong with the 'romanticizing'. Sounds like you agree.
Well, if the musician did write the "most profound music of their career" while on heroin, then that's also reality.
He was the man in the arena. Writers for newspapers, well, they write about men like him.
Washington Post has been somewhat better, focusing on news more than opinions. I used to subscribe to both NYT and WaPo but then terminated my NYT subscription. Haven't missed it since.
This always stuck with me, and reminded me of a recent comment from How to Make Other Developers Hate to Work with You, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19227371.
It's oddly refreshing to think this signaling problem Bukowski describes is so broadly applicable - in this context specifically about nurses and doctors - and not just a technical problem.
He must have had serious nightmares. Kudos, and strength, this doesn’t shows in his writings. However I would be very interested in the darker side of his life, too.
Bukowski was a 'great' influence because he highlighted the seedier side of reality, simple people living unglamorous lives who find pleasure and maybe love in a basement flat with a bottle of cheap wine and some jazz on an old radio.
> Although this incidence rate differs between countries, it is clear
that the risk of developing pancreatitis increases with increasing
doses of alcohol and the average of alcohol consumption vary since 80
to 150 g/d for 10-15 years.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3574589/pdf/WJG... (Alcohol consumption on pancreatic diseases | 2013)