I must have been in the 1oth or 11th grade when I borrowed three Charles Bukowski novels from M***ael J***ings. These were:
Women, easily my favorite and Bukowski’s best. I didn’t return this one.
The short story collection, Tales of Ordinary Madness. I kept this one too, but it is no longer in my possession. Loaned out, never to be returned.
And another collection, The Most Beautiful Woman in Town. I think I gave this back; anyway, I don’t have it anymore.
I was reading Henry Miller and Hemingway at the time, and macho Bukowski fit right in. Something about being a teenager, trying to gain access to the “adult world”–or something like the adult world. How to act, what to say. I read just about all the short stories that Bukowski wrote. Factotum and Post Office were two of my favorites. Everyday when I see our mailman I think of Post Office.
Our mailman is old, and skinny as a sick girl, and he has a nose like a bird’s beak to boot. He runs his entire route; he has a strange little knock-kneed hustle. He always tells me to “Stay safe” when I see him. He’s withered. Post Office makes working for the post office sound like an annihilating, damning, Sisyphean task. I wonder: “Does the mailman not feel safe?”
Bukowski painted some pictures.
Factotum was recently made into a movie starring Matt Dillon as Bukowski’s alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. Mickey Rourke played the “real” Bukowski in a horrible-looking movie called Barfly. I haven’t seen either film.
So Bukowski’s sort of been “branded” commodified as “type”–like Hemingway and Miller (and HST, and Anaïs Nin, and Wm Burroughs, and Nietzsche, and so on) He becomes a stolen writer, a lazy gesture, a footnote in the movie Swingers. Then again, maybe a few people saw that movie and picked up Hollywood, a really funny late-period Bukowski novel about making the film that will come to be Barfly. In Hollywood, Bukowski endures the trouble of having other people manipulate his writing and sweats sweats sweats that he might have sold out.