It’s hard to find the right words that will do justice when writing about Charles Bukowski. Not because of his complexity but because he is someone whom you can’t label as this or that. You can try, and some have. Calling him a womanizer, saying his work is utterly depressing, but I don’t believe so. When I read works by Bukowski I feel as if I am reading the reality of life. There are no lies, it’s not dressed up to look pretty, nothing is left unsaid. It all hangs out in it’s terrible beauty. It, to me, is uplifting. It is hope in hopelessness. Through all the crap everyone goes through in their lives I feel as if Buk is always along for the ride and when I get down, depressed, angry, hungry and drunk I read his words and realize “it’s ok”. Good, bad, fucked up, mad. It’s alright. He’s the angel sitting on my shoulder talking dirty in my ear and never putting me down if I don’t act on what he says. He’s my most unheroic hero.
I have only discovered him in recent years but I try to slow my pace when reading his material as no more is being written and I blast through his stuff like a hot beer shit. I first discovered him while viewing a back catalog of Micky Rourke’s movies and by coincidence at the same time finding one of his poems on youtube’s Spoken Verse channel. His words struck me down like the back of a hammer and I was hooked, if not drunk, on them.
His first book which I read was ‘Women’ which had me in stitches of laughter from the opening pages and in some ways it paralleled a period of my life not so far removed.
This was my main introduction to Charles Bukowski and his alter ego Henry Chinaski. This along with discovering his poems made me take a life changing dive into his writings.
Rourke’s quite funny as the alcoholic Henry Chinaski. Bukowski himself had said he liked the performance. Though if you read his novel ‘Hollywood’ you might find a more honest opinion of Rourke’s portrayal in which he thinks Rourke overplayed the part and was more of an upbeat alcoholic than Bukowski imagined himself (Chinaski) as. Originally Sean Penn was considered for the role but Penn had wanted to change directors and Bukowski remained loyal to Director Barbet Schroeder who helped get the film off the ground.
It’s a something of a mishmash of Bukowski’s novels and stories. Worth watching if not for the character of Chinaski then for seeing Micky Rourke in his prime before his long break from acting.
It’s a really good movie and I love Matt Dillion’s portrayal of Bukowski. It is however a little too subdued and the movie lacks the ‘umf’ of the main character. Dillion’s Chinaski is a little too clean and proper. He plays it low key but comes across as a bit too tidy compared to Rourke’s down and dirty appearance. Most of this story is straight from the book of the same name with a few differences here and there with some things thrown in from other works.
Tales of Ordinary Madness
This film is not liked critically. But I for one enjoyed it. I liked Ben Garcia in this role and thought he made for a realistic Bukowski. Although Bukowski himself didn’t think so. Garcia looked far more like a man that had given up on life which is how I sometimes pictured the character in the books. There is a certain mad darkness here in this film that’s not in the others.
Said to be a favorite of Bukowski’s as it had the most realistic portrayal of his character. It might be because the main character that suffers from acne visits the prom in the same fashion as Bukowski did in his youth, with his face wrapped in bandages to cover up his scars.
It’s certainly the most downbeat of all the movies that were adapted from Bukowski’s works. I got drunk on a bottle or two of wine while watching this one, wondered off out at 3am onto the streets of Hong Kong and into a bar full of whores before coming home an hour later to throw up in the shower. Good times…
The Killers (1984)
Haven’t been able to track this one down but it’s based on one of Bukowski’s short stories.
The Blanket (1994)
Another one I haven’t been able to track down but based also on a short story which can be found in the collection ‘Tales of Ordinary Madness’.
The Bukowski Tapes
By Barbet Schroder, Director of Barfly, provide some nice moments with Bukowski as he reflects back on his writings and life experiences before reaching the point where he could live more comfortably.
Born into this
A very nice documentary on Bukowski and his life with interviews from many people who were close to him and knew him personally.
It’s not based on any of Bukowski’s works but it’s heavily inspired by them. It’s not a bad series and it is fun at times but David Duchovny is way too much of a pretty face. When it comes to his character Hank Moody getting all those young, attractive ladies it’s not because of his character’s talent but because of his looks. It’s a pale shadow of Henry Chinaski.
Interestingly enough, screen rights to other novels of Bukowski’s have been sold but so far have not appeared in movie form. Post Office was sold to Taylor Hackford in the 70s. Ham on Rye was sold to Cyril Humphris. Women was sold to Paul Verhoeven (that would have been damn interesting to see). At the moment James Franco (who seems to be making movies on every worthy writer under the sun) is making a film based on the early years of Charles Bukowski, however Franco says it is not based on ‘Ham on Rye’, but this seems to be in dispute at the moment.
Charles Bukowski was born on this day, August 16th 1920 and died March 9th 1994. Bukowski’s last novel ‘Pulp’ was finished shortly before he died. There seems to be a lot of people who dislike this novel, perhaps expecting a more coherent story or something closer to his previous novels but I still think the character in it, Belane, is pure Bukowski. It’s funny and wacky. Not his best work but it is powerful. It’s his ode to death. Death is a character in this book. The final lines of this novel are saddening as they are the real thoughts and words of a dying man looking death in the eye.
Bukowski once said that John Fante was his God. Well Charles Bukowski is mine. His books are my bibles, his poems my prayers.
Favorite Quote: “If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance. Of how much you really want to do it. And you’ll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is. “ – Henry Chinaski