Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eggleston, Neill, Bukowski, no lies.*

(Caption: "Old writer puts on sweater, sits down, leers into computer screen and writes about life. How holy can we get?" -Robert Crumb)

Paul Eggleston, my lifelong pal from various record stores and general musical over-indulgence (also a teacher at PVPA) and I were talking over a beer at The Deck in Northampton tonight (the old train depot...maybe soon to return?) about our latest plans to collaborate on a music related project that will win the ears of millions and engorge our retirement funds with honest dough. We ended up talking about Charles Bukowski, and I told him why I liked him; actually LOVED him now, after avoiding him for decades based on his base reputation as a vulgarian and cad. Paul thought that I was referencing my newfound apreciation of Charles because I went through some sketchy and downtrodden times in Los Angeles and felt the empathic resonance, but no. I told him that my love for Bukowski lies in the fact that he was not merely (or really EVER) a drunken celebrant of overindulgence (a portrayal that a simple-minded marketing mainstream decided would best provide a monetary return) but a true beautician (a word wasted on the cosmetic vocation).
The gutter bravado that people came to demand of him gave him a steady outlet and captive audience of unsuspecting readers who looked to him for hedonistic validation but ended up with secret doses of Bukowski's profound and first-hand tenderness , love, and beauty, warts and all. Read enough Bukowski and you don't feel like you're revelling in Bacchanalia but in the highest levels of human love and experience in the plainest language. His best work is as profound and universal as the bible gets all the credit for. The basic message I get from "Hank" is that happiness and sadness are not opposites but partners. I just randomly searched for a Bukowski poem to illustrate my point ands I swear this is the first one I found in the Google search "bukwoski poems."

A Smile To Remember
we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, "be happy Henry!"
and she was right: it's better to be happy if you
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn't
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: "Henry, smile!
why don't you ever smile?"

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother

by Charles Bukowski (below, with parents)

*Blog post title inspired by the knock knock joke:

Knock Knock, Who's There?
Eskimos, Christians, Italians.
Eskimos, Christians, Italians who?
Eskimos, Christians, Italians no lies.
---(ask me no questions I'll tell you no lies.)

so you want to be a writer?
by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in

there is no other way.

and there never was.

--From sifting through the madness for the Word, the line,
the way by Charles Bukowski.


marginalutility said...

I wanted to avoid liking Bukowski too. But he got to me. I also love the way he depicts lower class life with such realism and tenderness in his prose. I'm thinking of a scene he writes up that's also depicted in the pretty good movie of his material, where the couple walk all the way to the man's work to pick up his paycheck so they can buy some groceries, only to find it's not there yet. Then they walk back and the woman's feet hurt, so she takes them off and he carries her home.

I don't like his fan club, those who venerate his alcoholism and not his writing. I get what you mean.

A lot of writers and thinkers are ruined by their fan clubs. Nietzsche comes to mind.

I love the R Crumb you included...

MOMUS is coming to the Iron Horse? YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!

Anonymous said...

You just provided the needed lubrication for me to take that plunge. It still feels a bit awkward, like really good sex with someone that you're not attracted to.

Tom O'Bedlam said...

If you want to hear it