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Bukowski: Born Into This
May 28, 2004 12:02 PM   Subscribe

"Whadyawant, motherf*ck?" These are the first words Charles Bukowski speaks in John Dullaghan's documentary about the poet and novelist, famous for his writing and infamous for his drinking and brawling and screwing. The audience member might respond, "To hear your story, Hank, that's what I want." The movie opens with friends (Sean Penn, Harry Dean Stanton, Bono) and colleagues and lovers and fans recounting the myth; theirs are stories of blades pulled on the maitre d' of the swanky Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, of dangling dicks revealed in public, of a drunk who'd just as soon crack his bottle over your head than share its contents. (more inside)
posted by matteo (26 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Woke up this morning and it seemed to me,
that every night turns out to be
A little more like Bukowski.
And yeah, I know he's a pretty good read.
But God who'd wanna be?
God who'd wanna be such an asshole?
-- Modest Mouse

posted by jpoulos at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2004


We see Bukowski at a reading, many decades ago, threaten an audience member who won't shut up; the crowd eggs him on, ready to witness in person what they've only read on the page. His advice, says a poet and old friend, was to "drink, write, and fuck," because nothing else mattered.

"At the end of his life, when he was sick, he stopped the drinking while he wrote. And it's the most powerful stuff. It's like D.H. Lawrence's Ship of Death poems. He's looking at the end, and it's just this ingenious, dark, powerful stuff. And some of his best. So, it would be interesting to see what he wrote sober for a longer period of his life".

John Martin, Bukowski's publisher for 36 years at Black Sparrow Press: "He's the Walt Whitman of our day, so get used to it. As in Whitman's great poem 'I sing the body electric,' Bukowski sings the body electric, the whole experience of the human man."
posted by matteo at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2004 [1 favorite]


The movie is good. I was about to post my review but these links will keep me busy for a while. Great post!
posted by muckster at 12:12 PM on May 28, 2004


"At one point, we’re looking at a pile of fan letters stuffed into a copy of his most popular novel, Women. Suddenly a photograph of a young woman taking a bath while she’s reading Women appears on the screen.
That’s me. I’m “Barbara,” the girl in the bathtub. My shutterbug boyfriend took me by surprise with his camera and, it turned out, sent not one but two copies to Bukowski. The idea was to have the writer keep one for himself and send the other one back to me, signed. And one of the prints did come back, with Bukowski’s autograph and a bikini drawn in Magic Marker over my crotch — an unexpected gesture of modesty from the Dirty Old Man himself".
posted by matteo at 12:12 PM on May 28, 2004


Good post, matteo. I cannot stand most poetry (something about all those sparse lines arranged artificially in a sea of white space), but I have read most of Bukowski's. He's definitely the real thing, in a world full of posers, and should long endure. As someone who for whatever reason has always avoided drinking, smoking, drugs, brawling, sex with strangers, wasting money at the race track, I enjoy reading about his real-life exploits.

His prose, of course, is even better. Factotum and Post Office are just brilliant books about the pointlessness of having a real job. With which I concur wholeheartedly.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:34 PM on May 28, 2004


Here’s a fantastic series of Bukowski photos I just found, with little stories; click on each picture to go to the next one.

Surely this is what a real working-class poet should look like.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2004


I love Bukowski. Too bad I'll prolly never get a chance to see the documentary.

My friend, in his former life, had been up all night boozing and doing god knows what. Around 8am he started yelling out his boarding house window at all the people walking to work. His friend, tired and feeling like shit no doubt, told him to "shut up and read this," throwing a copy of Ham on Rye across the room.

I guess someone in such a state could really relate to Bukowski- Bukowski does not romanticize or glamorize the life of a drunk at all... He really lays everything bare and puts across how lonely and miserable it can be to sit in a dark hotel room drinking a six-pack by yourself day after day.
posted by crank at 1:21 PM on May 28, 2004


"Last time I saw you, you had nothing. Now you've got a woman and a radio!"
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:27 PM on May 28, 2004


there are people, and then there are People.
posted by NationalKato at 1:30 PM on May 28, 2004


Surely this is what a real working-class poet should look like.

Or like this guy .

Don't get me wrong, I like Bukowski's stuff a lot, but for his first four novels was Buk's east coast cousin.
posted by jonmc at 1:35 PM on May 28, 2004


Bukowski does not romanticize or glamorize the life of a drunk at all

Isn't it funny, though, how so many Bukowski fans do?
posted by freebird at 1:38 PM on May 28, 2004


Matteo, thanks for the great post. And freebird, your comment is spot in. I never knew who Bukowski was until they made the book Hollywood into the movie Barfly.

Twenty bucks! Nobody in this neighbourhood can swallow paste like I can.
posted by vito90 at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2004


First Nick Cave, now Bukowski...which dead cult celebrity is on the list to be discovered again tommorow?
posted by car_bomb at 1:54 PM on May 28, 2004


maybe Nick Drake?
;)
posted by matteo at 2:01 PM on May 28, 2004


FWIW, I recommend War All The Time for the Bukowski-hater in your life. It's much more sophisticated than some of the drinking/smoking/screwing stuff that's better know, even quite gentle in places. His verse style in it is mature, tight, delicious. There's naturally some horsetreack nonsense, but other poems, such as one about him nursing a cat back to health, or breaking up a fight in a parking lot, are a nice antidote to the overall image the man has accumulated. Highly recommended for the hardcore fan as well.
posted by scarabic at 3:02 PM on May 28, 2004


"Americans do not know what suffering is.....the first little thing sets them to chattering like monkeys.....Imagine if this city were bombed, not with a nuclear bomb, no - but with regular old blockbuster bombs day in and day out...."

(...Bukowski poem, quoted very loosely from memory)
posted by troutfishing at 3:23 PM on May 28, 2004


Great post and jpoulos beat me to all I had to say.
posted by yerfatma at 3:41 PM on May 28, 2004


My review, and a poem:

Bluebird
by Charles Bukowski

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pur whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.


there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?
posted by muckster at 4:09 PM on May 28, 2004 [3 favorites]


"drink, write, and fuck"

[this is good]
posted by mr.marx at 12:00 AM on May 29, 2004


I love Buk. Always have. Now fuck off and get me a beer.

Also, goddamn you, car_bomb, you made me think Nick Cave was dead for a minute.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:40 AM on May 29, 2004


Hey may not have directly or intentionally glamorized the life of a drunk. But he wrote about men with a kind of grit that most of his male readers wish they had, and those men tended to also be drunks. He promoted the living of a gritty, hands-on, down-to-earth life, and it's abundantly clear that part of that life, for him anyway, was drinking.

Yes, to sit in a nice condo in the suburbs and get smashed on Friday after your office job while reading Bukowski is not an act that is in the spirit of what the man wrote about. But to say that he didn't romanticize the life of a drunk is really an oversimplification. His poetry was generally not about romanticizing things, drinking or no drinking. It was about, excuse the cliche, "telling it like it is."

Let's be honest. He liked drinking. He liked to see other people drinking. He liked drinking with other people. To extract drinking by itself from his whole life and works and to say that you're being like him just by drinking is stupid. But the man was very pro-drinking.
posted by bingo at 6:30 AM on May 29, 2004


My favorite Bukowski poem: "i'm not a misogynist"

more and more
I get letters from
young ladies:

"I'm a well-built 19
am between jobs and
your writing turns me
on
I'm a good housekeeper
and secretary and
would _never_ get in
your way
and
would send a
photo but that's
so tacky . . ."

"I'm 21
tall and attractive
have read your books
I work for a
lawyer and
if you're ever in
town
please call me."

"I met you
after your reading
at the Troubadour
we had a night
together
do you remember?
I married
that man
you told me had a
mean voice
when you phoned and
he answered
we're divorced now
I have a little
girl
age 2
I am no longer in
the music
business but
miss it
would like to
see you
again . . ."

"I've read
_all_ your books
I'm 23
not much
breast
but have _great_
legs
and
just a few
words
from you
would mean
so much
to me . . ."

girls
please give your
bodies and your
lives
to
the young men
who
deserve them

besides
there is
no way
I would welcome
the
intolerable
dull
senseless hell
you would bring
me

and
I wish you
luck
in bed
and
out

but not
in
mine

thank
you.
posted by bingo at 6:45 AM on May 29, 2004


Hey may not have directly or intentionally glamorized the life of a drunk. But he wrote about men with a kind of grit that most of his male readers wish they had, and those men tended to also be drunks. He promoted the living of a gritty, hands-on, down-to-earth life, and it's abundantly clear that part of that life, for him anyway, was drinking.

Well, he clearly wasn't a trust-fund pretender like the beat writers and he didn't write about going on a week-long bender and sitting in a dark room talking about the Bhagavaad Gita with his jerk-off friends... I don't know, I guess Bukowski 'glamorized' drinking like Trainspotting 'glamorized' heroin- there's enough stupid people out there to think either of them made their respective vice look like a lotta fun... but mostly to people who've never been, nor known, real drunks or real addicts...
posted by crank at 12:39 PM on May 29, 2004


I liked Bukowski's work until I had the misfortune of my life intersecting with his. A roomate of mine went out with him.

I do not think I could pick up any of his stuff now and read it. The source material from his work seemed to be taken from his behavior. He was just a jerk, imo, better to read than to know.
posted by Danf at 5:33 PM on May 29, 2004


You're not going to tell us any more than that, DanF? Anecdotes, please!
posted by scarabic at 11:46 PM on May 29, 2004


I guess Bukowski 'glamorized' drinking like Trainspotting 'glamorized' heroin- there's enough stupid people out there to think either of them made their respective vice look like a lotta fun... but mostly to people who've never been, nor known, real drunks or real addicts...

Drinking can be a lot of fun, and I'm sure heroin can be too. But both Bukowski and Welsh show both the good and the bad.
posted by bingo at 12:26 PM on May 30, 2004


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