“Baby,” I said, “I’m a genius but nobody knows it but me.” (Factotum)
Twenty years ago, in march 1994 (the 9th of march, to be precise) Charles Bukowski kicked the bucket. “Big deal”, you might say. Yes, in fact, it is a big deal. Here’s why.
A while ago I met the love of my life. I’m one of those people who like to read Literature with capital L, in books with capital B, and he liked to read mindblowing left-wing political Pamphlets with capital P, and all sorts of glommy gritty stuff. If the stuff he read were a person, you really don’t want to get in a bar fight with it. So anyways, one day, he came home bringing a pile of book, one of them being Charles Bukowski’s Women.
“Bukowski – you might like this,” he says.
“I don’t know, babe,” I said. “I don’t really like the kind of novel in which all they ever do is fight and take massive dumps and eat instant noodles out of a dirty wineglass.”
Little did I know that’s just its surface. Underneath the vomit and empty liquor bottles lies a treasure, and, truthfully, you don’t even have to look that hard.
Suppose you’re an average confused, bored, and extremely angry twenty-something, like me (I guess that’s probably not even that hard to imagine. I bet you are one, aren’t you?), and you decide you want to stop being so goddamn bored all the time, and someone offers you a book by a middle-aged alcoholic who has been dead for twenty years. And you’re pretty sceptical at first, cause you don’t see how that’s going to mean anything for regular ol’ you. But then you start reading anyway, only to find the oh so familiar feeling of disinterest and emotional distance from the world and the people that surround you combined with a sort of contradictory urge to get the best out of life (“I wanted the whole world or nothing”, Henri Chinaski said. Holy shit. I get you, man). Yet, unlike you, Bukowski never loses himself in dreary self-pity and has a remarkable talent in pointing out the irony of it all.
Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way. (…) it’s been a tough fight worth fighting as we all drive along betting on another day. (Gamblers all)
And I guess that’s exactly the value of his work, just like that of every Author with a capital A. Twenty years after his death, Bukowski still speaks to us. He still gets us.
A somewhat shorter while ago I met absolutely not the love of my life. I sat on a bar stool, reading p.47 of Bukoswki’s Post Office when he said:
“WATCHA READING BRO? BUKOWSKI – AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW HIM OR SUMTHIN’?”
I always felt like people aren’t supposed to do anything really.
But you sure as hell don’t know what you’re missing.