Book Review: Women by Charles Bukowski (1st 49 Pages)

11 Aug

I see why women like Charles Bukowski.

It’s all about relationships.  A soap opera about people in love, they break up, they get back together.  Nevermind that he’s a blackhead-laden drunk who takes down a quart of hobo vodka and then kicks the shit out of them; it’s about boys and girls breaking up and getting back together and are they gonna break up and are they gonna get together and who’s he gonna get together with next.  My mother gave me a book of Bukowski’s when I was 15.  Here, she said, this guy is a good writer. I think you’ll like him.  I didn’t.  What the fuck did I know when I was fifteen.  Hunter Thompson I could get at that age; boys’ stories about going on adventures.  But Bukowski is for girls who can intuitively grasp that relationships are what’s important in life. I had no fucking idea of what relationships were like.

But now I can understand it. At least, the first 49 pages of Women.  Now that I’m an aging alcoholic who lives in dusty sweaty L.A. with a weird chainsmoking landlady and a bunch of pain in the ass women who keep coming back to me after I tell them to fuck off. Now that I can still get laid even though I feel that I look like some sort of overgrown gnome.  Bukowski is a romantic hero and it doesn’t matter that he’s ugly and old– the fact that he has women after him is proof enough of his worthiness.   Bukowski, the pineapple-headed miscreant who licked the last drops of scotch out of a shattered pint bottle on the sidewalk, passed out, and shat himself,* was attractive to women because he was attractive to other women.  That’s all that matters.  Women go after men who other women are going after.

Anyway: it’s also basically a crystal ball. When I’m 50 I’m still gonna be poor in a  hot smelly apartment and nurse a pint of cheap liquor every night and have a big gin blossom and blackheads.  I’m still gonna be walking drunk on the streets of Echo Park looking for girls in their 20’s, when I’m 50.  My car will mysteriously only operate in reverse when I’m trying to pull away from a chick’s house after telling her to fuck off, forcing me to go back inside. And like him, I will be matter of fact about it.  Or I’ll be miserable, but I’ll be so drunk I won’t care.  The only question is: what will the equivalent of being a cult poet who published in journals that guys had to print on mimeograph machines and staple together by hand– what will that level of literary fame be in the future, because I want it. I want that job at the fucking post office that you can stop thinking about when you leave and go home and write drunk all night, and it gets you famous enough to go read out loud in college professors’ living rooms in Kansas and then dewey eyed coeds fuck you even though you look like a muppet.  I want that life.  Just broke enough to still have something to complain about but those complaints get me free airline tickets and pussy.  This guy did it, when he was my age.  So maybe there’s hope.  Not for too much longer though.  The days run away like wild horses over the hills.

*Last part not true.

33 Responses to “Book Review: Women by Charles Bukowski (1st 49 Pages)”

  1. SpellingNut August 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    Typo in last paragraph: equivalent*

  2. Lazy Eyed August 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    The last two or three sentences were too precious. Charles Bukowski was cool. I don’t think he would want you inserting such superfluous, self-conscious drivel into your writing as an homage.

    • delicioustacos August 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

      Agreed. The last sentence especially.

      • Manish February 17, 2013 at 3:00 am #

        Thanks a ton for your time and efforts to have put these tihgns together on this website. Robin and that i very much loved your ideas through the articles over certain tihgns. I recognize that you have many demands in your timetable hence the fact that an individual like you took the maximum amount of time as you did to help people like us by this article is also highly liked.

  3. Jake August 11, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    It’s like the guy who only draws five-minute-people-caricatures on the tourist sidewalk, grumbling into his beer that he wants to be the next Goya. Time to write something more substantive than Twitter nublets.

    • Constance August 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Agreed. You really can write, DT, and there’s nothing like suffering to fuel it. Is that why you don’t want to be happy — because then you’d lose your material?

      • pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 6:33 am #

        This is another pervasive myth; that you have to suffer to be a good writer. You don’t. Just look at Nicholas Sparks.

  4. Christy August 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    In his later years, he settled down with his longtime love, married her, and lived the rest of his life in a quiet house in a quiet town with cats, his typewriter (and later word processor) and occasional visits to the bank, the local cafés, and the town’s used bookstore. We would see him doing his errands and he was quiet and dignified. I wish this part for you, as well.

    • Anonymous August 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      He mentions her (his wife) in the book you’re reading. She’s the one who runs the health food place.

  5. Jake August 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    If I suck your dick, will I become a better writer? My current blog about how many women I bang isn’t very good.

    • R. Lee August 28, 2012 at 1:25 am #

      I want to such your dick, too, Jake. Please let me such your dick. Please, please, please.

  6. fakegirlfriend August 13, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    LOL! you sound like me now that i’m gone.

    • R. Lee August 28, 2012 at 1:26 am #


      I’m a Pisces. You?

  7. pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    The thing I can’t stand about writers like Bukowski, Hemingway, Burroughs, etc. is that, like every addict, they are amazing bullshitters. They created this huge myth surrounding their lifestyles. Maybe Bukowski acknowledged this – I don’t know, I haven’t read too much of him – but it seemed like he used everything as an excuse to drink. He painted this picture of an American existential wasteland, where everybody is emotionally cut off from one another just mindlesssly going about their dull lives – just this theme of self-righteous condescension and misanthropy that pervaded his writing is fucking annoying, like what he was doing, being a drunken fucking bum, was somehow noble. This is a theme that’s very ammusing to addicts; it’s the cognitive dissonance we all go through. Bukowksi’s vague claims that the alcohol was needed to dull some kind of keen insight into life and finer sensibility that he supposedly had is the usual self-serving bullshit. You hear the same shit from drunk fucking construction workers and tow truck drivers: that they drink to still the demons. Irvine Welsh did it with heroin in Trainspotting:

    “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a big fucking television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disk players and electrical tin openers… choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on the couch, watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life. But why would I want to do a thing lke that? I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs resons when you’ve got heroin?”

    Now compare that to this Bukowski quote from Women:

    “Nothing was ever in tune. People just blindly grabbed at whatever there was: communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Back, Buddha, Christ, TM, H, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporated and fell apart. People had to find things to do while waiting to die. I guess it was nice to have a choice.”

    or one of his poems:

    “I sit here
    drunk now.
    I am
    a series of
    small victories
    and large defeats
    and I am as
    as any other
    I have gotten
    from there to
    without committing murder
    or being
    having ended up in the

    as I drink alone
    again tonight
    my soul despite all the past
    thanks all the gods
    who were not
    for me

    Bukowski didn’t drink because he was creative, or insightful, or alienated, or even weak-willed; he drank because that’s what the fuck his brain was wired to do. For an addict, the right to the drink or drug of their choice must be preserved at all costs. All the rest is a bunch of selfish, self-serving bullshit. But I guess he’s a great anti-hero to some people because he makes them feel less bad about being shitty human beings.

    • Anonymous August 13, 2012 at 7:33 am #

      My eyes fucking glazed over a this giant wall of “ME TOO!” comment. Didn’t read.

    • Anonymous August 13, 2012 at 7:56 am #

      You started with saying how you can’t stand Bukowski and then go on to say that you haven’t really read any of his works and then go on some self-serving rant about him with a few internet copy-pastes to somehow give you legitimacy. Take it down a notch, dude.

      • pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 9:19 am #

        I read “Ham on Rye”, that was enough for me. I was just making it clear that I’m not necessarily an expert on his writing. If there is one thing I’m an expert at, though, it’s calling an addict on their bullshit.

  8. pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    I know I said in an earlier post that I became an addict to fill a void in my life, and that contradicts the post above to a certain extent. But I truly believe that the overarching cause was a genetic/biological predisposition – that’s what the fuck I’m wired to do. If it wasn’t heroin it would’ve been something else further on up the road. If I wasn’t an addict, I would’ve been able to put the drugs down when my life began spinning out of control. That’s how you know you’re an addict. When you continue using despite catastrophic consequences, like my grandfather who continued drinking despite having stomach ulcers, and smoked non-filter cigarettes while he was hooked to an oxygen tank dying of emphysema.

    I don’t know, for some reason I don’t think you’re an alcoholic. Your alter-ego, Delicious Tacos, might be, but the guy behind the curtain isn’t, I don’t think.

    • Nikol August 13, 2012 at 7:32 am #

      No, he’s an alcoholic.

      • Anonymous August 13, 2012 at 8:02 am #

        You try so desperately to differentiate yourself as the “real life best friend! Omgzers!”.

      • sylviasarah August 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

        Oh, Nikol, how dare you comment on the blog of someone who leaves his comments section open for anyone, including friends he’s invited, to read. What are you thinking?!

      • pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

        There are a lot of sayings and cliches in NA/AA. A lot of them are bullshit, but some of them are true. There’s one that goes, my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk/high. That one is bullshit. There’s another one that goes, one is too many and a thousand is never enough. That one is true. If the latter one applies to you, you’re probably an alcoholic.

        Also, if you start shaking and hallucinating and going into seizures when you don’t have a drink, you’re probably an alcoholic.

  9. nikolhasler August 13, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Hey, DT, when we hang out in real life later on and eat pot roast and skip down the street singing songs about how we’re best friends, can we please also make sure to stop by that one place that only we know about and not anyone on this comment thread who isn’t your real life best friend?
    pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn: I was just reminded of a tidbit about Bukowski. He first started to drink in high school. A friend of his gave him some booze. After he drank it he said something like “This is going to help me for a long time.”
    Chinaski was a full blown alcohoilc for sure. Many would argue that he’s overrated and writing about drinking and fucking is only a success because sex and booze are easy to sell. I like his writing because I like the way he says things. There’s a lot of beauty in it.

    Here’s my favorite Bukowski poem:

    this, then

    it’s the same as before
    or the other time
    or the time before that.
    here’s a cock
    and here’s a cunt
    and here’s trouble.

    only each time
    you think
    well now I’ve learned:
    I’ll let her do that
    and I’ll do this,
    I no longer want it all,
    just some comfort
    and some sex
    and only a minor

    now I’m waiting again
    and the years run thin.
    I have my radio
    and the kitchen walls
    are yellow.
    I keep dumping bottles
    and listening
    for footsteps.

    I hope that death contains
    less than this.

    • pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      He was talented, not saying he wasn’t. Any writer who can make being a stewbum sound like some kind of romantic adventure has to get some credit. His prose is a little too stripped down for my tastes, but there’s also something to be said for a writer who can make due with what few tricks they have. I just don’t like the overall message of his writing: everything is shit, nothing is worth it, might as well drink yourself to death.

      • nikolhasler August 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

        If I had my copy of “Women” here, I could pull a passage from near the end where he talks about how much great stuff there is to love. Even the booze and the track, even when some woman was stealing his paintings, or some stray cat was walking past. Bukowski loved the fuck out of everything, especially women.

        That was a man with an appreciation for things. He died happily married, and before he died he managed to make exactly the living he wanted to make.

        People talk about his tombstone, because it says “Don’t Try”, and they get it wrong. They see it as him making a statement about how life is just shit. When he said “Don’t try”, it was in reference to some kid at a college asking him how to be a great writer. There’s some happiness to a person who’s figured out that all they have to do is spend their time doing what they love, write it down, and people will love them for it.

    • pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      The part about when he started drinking was in Ham on Rye. That was basically his memoir, that book.

      • nikolhasler August 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        They’re all his memoirs.

  10. asdf August 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm #


    Can you recommend books and writers that you like?

    • pffffffftttsssssssiimmbllllllddddddnnnnnnnnn August 18, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Okay, but my literary tastes aren’t exactly refined. I’m not reading fucking Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy” or “War and Peace” or any of that shit. Not that I’m an anti-intellectual or anything, I just tend to read mostly stuff that fascinates me or that I can relate to, which probably makes me a fucking horrible human being considering the list. Most of what I consume would be considered the literary
      equivalent of junkfood. And I probably won’t mention anything that isn’t already on Goodread’s or some other “best of” list out there on the internet already, but typically, the stuff that I really like:

      William S Burroughs, Cormac McCarthy, Jim Caroll, Don DeLillo, Bret Easton Ellis, Kurt Vonnegut, Hubert Selby, William Faulkner, Irvine Welsh(if you can get through the Scottish dialect), John Steinbeck, some of Hemingway, Stephen King’s older stuff – particularly Pet Semetary, Cujo, all of the Dark Tower books up to Wolves of The Calla, The Stand, Skeleton Crew, Misery, It, Different Seasons, Dolores Claiborne. Mcteague by Frank Norris is a good book. The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren.

      I read a lot of true crime books – The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas, Murder inc., The Story of the Syndicate by Burton Turkus, Murder Machine by Jerry Capeci, Finders Keepers: The True Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million(mainly because the guy it was written about was from my nieghborhood, he was sort of a local legend, great story nonetheless), David Simon and George Pelacanos’s stuff (The guys who wrote HBO’s “The Wire”, possibly the best television series ever, definitely the most realistic. Except for maybe Brother Mouzone, that character was a little far-fetched), Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah.

      War memoirs/personal memoirs – Siegfried Sasson’s Memoirs of a foxhunting man and memoirs of an infantry officer, All Quiet on the Western Front, Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Tobias Wolff’s This Boys Life and In Pharoahs Army, Generation Kill by Evan Wright, I’ve been encouraging my cousin to write about his experiences in Iraq, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. It would be nice to able to add his name to the list.

      I’ll think of some more, but that should be enough to hold you over.

      • asdf August 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

        Thank you!

      • Versace August 19, 2012 at 11:18 am #

        King is a great opener, but motherfucker just can’t close..


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