Factotum – Why I Read Bukowski

Even my spontaneity is planned. That is why I read Bukowski.

Google Maps ensures that I don’t even get lost, sealing my last bastion of unpredictability.That is why I read Bukowski.

Somewhere underneath all that filth and grit, I want to believe Bukowski’s sadness exists untouched. Somewhere beyond all the boozing and whoring, I convince myself there is a vulnerability. That is why I read Bukowski.

Most of us read Bukowski pretty early in life. I think that is a good thing. We can identify with his manic energy, lewd womanizing, hazy hangovers, drunken brawls. We all read his accounts well dressed and sober in a sunny house. And then we write highbrow reviews about it. Clinically clean.

I have realized Bukowski is a better read (like Jan) later in life. Reading Bukowski after 35 as a blue collar domesticated man/woman is when the futility hits you.

That is when one is Chinaski, in character. When you down the drink and hiss through clenched teeth, earmarking the page where you stopped, because you have work tomorrow.

“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

It feels good to hear someone else say what you can’t say out loud.

That is why I read Bukowski.

All the while there is a search for stability, and a rejection of it when it becomes too real. Conditioned as I am for stability, 37 years of institutional industrial conditioning of pedigree, I rejoice in Bukowski’s expulsions.  That swagger when he walks out drunk with 35c in his pocket. Even if it is just a story, and nobody can verify his claims, Chinaski-Bukowski tells what many times I have imagined. I want to walk in drunk, throw a bottle smashing it against the window, and sneer that I am quitting. And I’ll sit and wait for the cops to take me home. I’ll even joke with them.

I know I can’t do it. I know I won’t do it. I don’t even want to do it most times, I would die of anxiety.

That is why I read Bukowski.

I want to have conversations with Manny that go

Chinaski: You married, Manny?
Manny: No way, no.
Chinaski: Women?
Manny: Sometimes. It never lasts.
Chinaski: What’s the problem?
Manny: A woman is like a full-time job. You have to choose your profession.
Chinaski: Yeah, I suppose there is an emotional drain.
Manny: Physical too. They want to fuck night and day.
Chinaski: Well, get one you like to fuck.
Manny: Yeah, but if you drink or gamble they think it’s a put down of their love.
Chinaski: Well, get one who likes to drink, gamble and fuck.
Manny: Who wants a woman like that?

I know I can’t do it. I know I won’t do it. I don’t even want to do it most times.

That is why I read Bukowski.

Then there are times when Chinaski is describing me.

“Then came the Christmas party. That was December 24th. There were to be drinks, food, music, dancing. I didn’t like parties. I didn’t know how to dance and people frightened me, especially people at parties. They attempted to be sexy and gay and witty and although they hoped they were good at it, they weren’t. They were bad at it. Their trying so hard only made it worse.”

That I know I can do. That I know I will do. That I know I am.

That is why I read Bukowski.

Then one day when I tell her

“Baby, I’m a genius but nobody knows it but me.”

She’ll look down at me and say,

“Get up off the floor you damn fool and get me a drink.”

That is when I’ll stop reading Bukowski.


2 thoughts on “ Factotum – Why I Read Bukowski

Add yours

  1. Factotum and Post Office are hilarious – there’s a down and out squalor to them which is only really matched by some of Orwell’s works. I read Bukowski for the dry humour and wit, plus there’s something reassuring about this guy having a dismal time of it but gritting his teeth and blundering on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They are absolute gems, aren’t they? Orwell, oh man, exactly. Chinaski is all crass till something goes aww and then he fucks and fucks up again. Apocryphal maybe, but as you said, reassuring. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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