Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 13, 2013 - 12:38pm

I realize this will severely hurt my chances for winning "Coolest Man Alive" awards among all you esteemed colleagues, but I'm never one to sacrifice education for vanity...

I have never read any Charles Bukowski. Yes. There it is. I said it. Please, not in the face!!!

Any suggestions/comments about which Bukowski work(s) are best to start with?

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like August 13, 2013 - 12:53pm

I've only read maybe two poems and three pages of one of the novels while I was browsing a store one time.

I did watch a documentary on him.

Neither experience compelled me to pursue explore his work.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies August 13, 2013 - 1:03pm

For his poetry, I really enjoyed LOVE IS A DOG FROM HELL. Novels? Maybe POST OFFICE.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 13, 2013 - 1:08pm

K, somewhere to start.

Richard, if you're the Richard who left a review on Amazon of this one collection of shorts from some guy I can't recall at the moment, I trust your judgement. Thanks for the input.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon August 13, 2013 - 1:44pm

I think everybody's favorite Bukowski is the first one they read. For me, it's Women.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 13, 2013 - 1:50pm

Cool, thanks, one more to put on the list. I'm figuring I just need to pick one and get going rather than trying to figure out the 'best' choice.

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones August 13, 2013 - 2:19pm

Tales of Ordinary Madness is pretty awesome, too.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies August 13, 2013 - 2:43pm

@SP - could have been me. do you remember the collection? I've reviewed a lot of collections at The Nervous Breakdown (and later, i post those at Amazon and Goodreads). Brian Allen Carr? Stephen Graham Jones? Matt Bell? William Walsh? Alan Heathcock? Craig Davidson? Paul Tremblay?

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts August 13, 2013 - 2:46pm

First one I read was FACTOTUM and I couldn't stand it. The one that changed my mind was the collection HOT WATER MUSIC. I still think his poetry is much better than his prose even though his poetry style is basically prose anyway.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro August 13, 2013 - 5:22pm

As for Bukowski's prose, Renfield said it better than I've ever heard it said. His poetry is prose that is ten times better than his prose. My favorite collection of his is Slouching Toward Nirvana

"There's a lioness 
down the hallway. 

Put on your lion's mask
and wait."

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 14, 2013 - 4:31am

Richard, it was Paul Tremblay. That was a good review, sold me on the book, and was right - the book was worth it.

I've started with "Play the Piano..." and also picked up "Love Is A Dog From Hell," and I'm glad I did because I'm LOVING his poetry. Haven't gotten to any prose yet, but I completely see what is meant by his poetry being prose. I read a few to my woman (whose a Bukowski virgin same as me) and she said the same thing.

I get this sense from every single poem, no matter the subject, length, tone, or any other dynamic factor... I just get from every one of them this sense that the moment he finishes writing the very last word on the very last line, he's gonna kill himself. I dig that vibe.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 14, 2013 - 4:37am

If you realize don't like Bukowski, don't feel bad about it.  I don't like him.  We could be in a very small club together.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 14, 2013 - 4:39am

What is it you don't like?

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 14, 2013 - 4:49am

Um.  Well.  It isn't a popular opinion here and it might be better if you read it first, I don't want to ruin your experience with my dumb opinion. 

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 14, 2013 - 4:59am

Gotcha. What have you read that you didn't like for whatever reason? I've heard suggestions of his better stuff, I'd love to know what some people find to be his lesser work. So far, I'm already hooked enough to give them all an honest try even if others say they don't really fly.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 14, 2013 - 6:54am

Well, I haven't liked anything of his I read.  Perhaps it's just not my taste, you know.  Don't care for his poetry or fiction.  I sometimes think people like the myth of Bukowski and that tricks them into liking the writing. 

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 14, 2013 - 6:57am

LOL, well, I'm glad I know nothing about him beyond the fact that many here recommended him to me. It's nice to not come into a new reader/writer relationship with no preconceived expectations.

What is his myth? (Now that I've already begun reading him, it's ok to tell me)

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 14, 2013 - 7:11am

Well, you know, basically that what he wrote was his life (which it wasn't, not really).  The womanizing and the alcoholism and whatnot.  He gives you this idea that he’s larger than life. He gives this unapologetic view of the young male fantasy -  a slob who is an uninhibited bachelor and totally free. 
And that sort of thing is incredibly appealing to young people (I’ll say men especially, but that’s just me being presumptuous).  It can serve to excuse poor behavior.  Not to say it always does.  I'm just saying I think that's what attracts some people to his writing.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 14, 2013 - 7:48am

Hahaha, here I thought that was just the standard life of most unmarried male authors. Learn something new every year.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 14, 2013 - 9:16am

Hahaha - yes, males are all comically similar.

 

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry August 14, 2013 - 12:59pm

What I like about Bukowski's poetry is that it's pretty short.

Not a huge fan of his prose.  I read Women and wasn't all that impressed.  Certainly someone can say, well, you read the wrong Bukowski.  If you really want a good Bukowski experience, read [insert something].  But...why should I?  If one of his books doesn't impress me, why should I risk another when there are so many out there by people who have proven to me that they write stuff I like? 

I tried the above method (reading something else by an acclaimed writer after I didn't like the first thing) with Norman Mailer.  I also did not like the second attempt.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon August 14, 2013 - 1:28pm

What if your first Palahniuk was Snuff, and your second would have been Survivor?

Arturo Bandini's picture
Arturo Bandini from Denver, CO is reading Beautiful Ruins August 14, 2013 - 3:17pm

I've been a pretty devoted reader of Bukowski since the 1991 when I first discovered him.  I'll just say that I think his writing is definitely not for everyone.  I even skip most of his horse racing stories and poems and will tire of the "cheap booze and bad women" stuff.  But when he hits, he hits. Right in your gut.

I'd tell someone giving Hank a first try that they should start with the poems from the 80s and early 90s.

Love Is A Dog From Hell
Sometimes You Get So Alone It Just Makes Sense
War All The Time
Last Night Of The Earth

 Those are all solid works.  Then maybe go for the short stories and Notes Of A Dirty Old Man. If you like all/most of that, you'll be ready for the novels.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 14, 2013 - 5:08pm

Thanks Arturo, Love Is A Dog... is the next one on my list. I've only got a few pages left of Playing the Piano... which I picked first mainly because it's so short. The fact that you and Richard recommended the same one as one of your top choices makes it a decided pick for next.

I can already say that when I like a poem of his, I REALLY like it, but can see what some people mean when they say he's hit or miss. This is true of EVERY WRITER EVER, though, so not really a new experience to find fluctuating levels of subjectively measured 'quality'.

Arturo, what do you think of Suttree? I've tried slogging through that one before, and am on my third go with it right now. I'm about a quarter of the way through, which seems to be where I usually drift away from it, so it'd be interesting to hear your thoughts.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies August 14, 2013 - 7:23pm

Suttree is on my TRList. BLOOD MERIDIAN is one of my favorite books ever.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons August 14, 2013 - 7:28pm

I read him a long time ago and can't tell you what it was I read. I liked him, and read several. But they all started sounding the same, a bit woman hating, although the prose flowed and hooked me. But it was a long time ago so I can't talk about his workdefinitively at this point.  

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 15, 2013 - 4:56am

Richard, YES, Blood Meridian was AMAZING. I'm most partial to Outer Dark and Child of God, but other than Suttree, I have a hard time picking a favorite McCarthy novel - they're all solid gold.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder August 15, 2013 - 5:03am

I not only burnt my balls in that shower
last Wednesday, I spun around to get out of the burning
water and burnt my bunghole
too.

There comes a point in your reading career when you realize coarseness for the sake of it simply begins to lose its appeal. At the risk of sounding like an asshole pedant, it didn't take long for me to grow out of Bukowski. 

Two of my favorite poets are Philip Levine and Louise Glück.

There is a lyrical, truly masculine grace to Levine's poetry. If you want to read about men, about what it means to be a man, read Levine. He's able to avoid talking about bungholes and clasping assholes and still be meaningful.

Read Glück just because. I'll mention her in any post that has to do with poetry.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder August 15, 2013 - 5:09am
Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 15, 2013 - 5:09am

Thanks, MES! I love getting recs on reading material. As far as my all-time favorite poet, I think I have to go with Robinson Jeffers. Maybe it's the former survival instructor in me, but the way he esteems the wild over civilization just resonates with me.

I'll check out Levine if you check out Jeffers.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder August 15, 2013 - 5:12am

Deal!

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 15, 2013 - 5:21am

Of course, that is only if you haven't read Robinson Jeffers already, then it wouldn't exactly be a fair deal, now would it?

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 15, 2013 - 5:24am

Ok, just read the poem you linked. You've sold me. Now I gotts find one of Jeffers' poems to link and post here. It's only fair.  :)

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics August 15, 2013 - 5:29am

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/182234

Robinson Jeffers - Hurt Hawks

Arturo Bandini's picture
Arturo Bandini from Denver, CO is reading Beautiful Ruins August 15, 2013 - 8:29am

Strange Photon -

I am really liking Suttree. Once again McCarthy puts an unforgettable character in my life.
Like many of his books, the prose can be challenging between his vast vocabulary and the slower pace of the narrative.  But, again like his other books, the hard work pays off.

I will say that other than No Country, all of the McCarthy books I've read have taken me a lot longer than they should have.  They require a slower read to really catch the beauty of his sentences.  I had to take a few breaks from The Road too because that is just such a dark and vivid world that it was like entering a really bad dream every time I opened it.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies August 15, 2013 - 9:19am

you definitely have to slow down to read Cormac. OUTER DARK was amazing. i haven't read all of his stuff yet, i have to be in the right frame of mind. 

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like August 15, 2013 - 10:03am

The parts in Suttree about the hovel of booze-hounds made me laugh out loud. "Good whusk." It's been a while, but I think one of them was named Cabbage.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore August 15, 2013 - 11:09am

For your amusement, I'll paste in my Goodreads review of Buk's The Pleasures of the Damned.

________________________

I read nearly all of this on the
toilet.
Hank would've approved.
Really dig the mundane topics he often
wrote about, like a poetic Harvey
Pekar.
Some very clever phrases, and many not-so.

I took issue with much of the formatting, though.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a little
enjambment, when it's in
service to an established rhythm. But the
awkward
and unmotivated
line breaks drove me up the friggin wall sometimes.
All those widows and
orphans.
Pointlessly, and to excess.
Someone told me his editor was responsible
for all that stuff,
so maybe it's not his fault.
I eventually tried to ignore them and just ran the lines
together
on the fly
however they sounded right to
me.

Here's hoping your 4 horse
eventually
came
in,
and that you found yourself
a clean
well-
lighted
place.

Arturo Bandini's picture
Arturo Bandini from Denver, CO is reading Beautiful Ruins August 15, 2013 - 11:24am

That had to be one hell of a bowel movement! (kidding...)

Good review.
I've read that his editor, John Martin, did most of the line breaking.  If you look up some of Bukowski's original manuscripts, this looks to be the case.

Pleasures of The Damned makes for good portable Bukowski. 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder August 15, 2013 - 1:42pm

SP, I loved it!

I spent a lot of time on that first section before moving to the second and doing so, I think, served both me and the poem well. The final lines gave me chills on the first slow read of that second section. 

First section kind of a meta view on pride and mortaility, the hubris of both hawk and man, and the God that's wild but far from capricious, punishing and ruthless at the fall. 

Second section much more singular in its effect, building to those final images, as described by the "I". Man's folly is realized by himself when the hawk returns, and the hawk returns, out from under the oak-bush as it were, realizing its life can be best served in death.

Hubris slashed. Humility learned.