Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Love is a Dog From Hell

I just finished Charles Bukowski’s Love is a Dog from Hell, a collection of his poetry written between 1974 and 1977. It’s a long book, 307 pages, but I finished it in about 2 hours with the sun creeping down the windows of the library where I sat.

What can I say? I hated it. But I loved it. Sort of. It’s not even poetry. There’s not a fragment of music in it. Bukowski writes microfictions with lots of line breaks. Some of it was disgusting, some cruel, some the kind of braggadocio that I despise. I had the feeling that at least some of it was written while he was stone-drunk. But I couldn’t look away.

I could say there’s truth in it. But it’s not my truth. It’s not universal truth. But I have the feeling it was Bukowski’s absolute truth. And it was refreshing to see so much honesty on the page, even if it was a drunken honesty stained with feces and vomit.

Bukowski writes poetry much like Hemingway wrote books. His works are simply stated, nothing fancy. I have a feeling that Hemingway could have been a Bukowski of prose if he’d learned to embrace his alcoholism rather than fight it. But Hemingway was always concerned with his reputation, and Bukowski only rarely seemed to give a shit. He just wanted to get laid, maybe because he came to it late.

I will try not to make too complete a judgment about Bukowski based on this one collection. I need to find out more. I certainly can’t say that I liked this first foray into his world. But it hit me harder than any poetry I’ve read, or written, in quite a long time. I know I’ll read more.

I wonder if I’ll hate myself for it.


Sidney said...

I've always loved the part in Bukowski's "Barfly" with Mickey Rourke where the editor hires a private investigator to track down the writer because his work is so brilliant.

That happens every day, right?

Lucas Pederson said...

To tell you the trith I've never heard of this guy Bukowski. Perhpas I'll have to check into it and see for myself. Sounds interesting, but of course I'm all for the gross out in things, just as long as it's not over done, as I've been reputed to do, I guess. Thanks for this. Catch ya later!

miller580 said...

I am not sure if you will hate yourself, but you'll probably want to shower. I have read most of Come On In! and it is consistant with what you have posted here. I also have his novel Woman in line for a read soon.

My understanding of the man is that he was high in one way or another, all the time.

He is/was true to himself and I think that is what makes his writing so powerful.

Michelle's Spell said...

I've always enjoyed CB even when I had to live in a house that had a huge framed picture of him and trust me on this one, he was not an attractive man. My then boyfriend worshipped him. I think he's lots of fun. Factotum is worth seeing -- Matt Dillon makes a very subtle good Bukowski.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sid, yeah, that happened to me just last week. Twice.

Lucas, he's interesting, but there's a certain amount of mold that grows on you from reading him.

miller580, the poetry in this collection would certainly support the "high all the time" thought.

Michelle, I've heard that he wasn't a pretty writer. I've heard of "factotum" too and want to check it out.

Danny Tagalog said...

He was supposed to come to it late, but as I read in wikipedia he has published earlier, and probably never quit writing when he worked in the P.O....leaving lots of ideas waiting to be polished up.

Danny Tagalog said...

had published..

Steve Malley said...

I've read smatterings of his work, here and there over the years. He's all right, though for whatever reason, fellow junkie-writer William S Burroughs strikes more of a chord with me.

Thing is, I hate them both. Really, like walk-up-to-them-in-a-crowd-and-punch-them, hate them.

They wrote through their pain and their addicitions, sure. But they also reveled in their problems. And that's what pisses me off.

I got *so* burnt out on seeing their work waved around by the junkie screwups of my youth, used as some sort of lame-ass justification for further self-destruction.

Not the writers' fault, maybe, but since when is anger rational?

the walking man said...


Go here to read a wide variety of Buks work. i usually do not have heros but i have a button with his picture on my ball cap, and when it gets to dirty and smelly to wear any more i will transfer the button to the new cap and the spirit of Bukowski will hate the hat until it smells like shit then i will change it again to piss him off but by then it will be his fifth or sixth hat,

You are correct it may not be your reality but it certainly was his honest truth of his perception of his life, he'd rather drink than work, play the horses than go to church and in his younger days it was a toss up between fighting in the alley and fucking.

But his most amazing work to me was a love poem he wrote to his wife just priot to his death in 1984.

Bukowski was his own man. Period.

Erik Donald France said...

While I'll agree with Walking Man and everyone else, I do think he's spawned a lot of terrible imitators, just like the Beat writers.

Not only Factotum, also Barfly. And Born Into This.

Unknown said...

The documentary on Bukowski that came out in the last 5 years or so (I saw it in L. A.) is excellent. It shows how foul-mouthed and not pretty he was, but also how funny in a smart and goofy way.

Emily Toth

Susan Miller said...

I like the way you describe how his writing affects you. I think the point is that it affects you and so many others.

It is his truth without apology.

Drizel said...

Sounds facinting:)

Bernita said...

I donno.
Life's too short for slime-talk, even by a brilliant creep.

Eric Paul said...

Love him or hate him, he is what he is, or was. I’ve been reading him for almost thirty years and love his work immensely (of course, I don’t take him too seriously). He’s definitely not for the squeamish, and even now there are bits of his poetry and fiction that still make me cringe. I admire his guts and honesty and his alcohol fueled hubris. Buk is certainly not a writer for everyone, but for those who can appreciate his wavelength (and I don’t mean loser sots and social cripples) he can be invigorating, though startling. I highly recommend the DVD, Born Into This. It will give you a fascinating overview of the man and his work.