You hear about people stumbling across Bukowski’s work somewhere and having this epiphany. They get this idea in their head that to write authentically one has to live this way. They want to lay in bed all day and drink beer while floating from woman to woman –dead end job to dead end job.
The only difference between those writers and myself I suppose, is by the time I discovered Bukowski, I was already living that way. Never knowing one could parlay that lifestyle into some kind of literary career.
I was in my early twenties, my girlfriend had just thrown me out for finding a message from another girl on my phone, I was crashing on my parents couch, drinking way too much in an attempt to forget what a mess my life was, working in a bagel shop, and secretly harboring fantasies of becoming a busboy (talk about setting the bar low). The only reason being –no one ever really seemed to expect that much from a busser. From my estimation, as long as you cleared the tables on time and wiped them down with a greasy rag from a bucket, no one seemed to fuck with you and you were pretty much left to your own devices. And that’s all I wanted, to be left alone.
When I wasn’t at the bagel shop or a bar, I was trying to write a novel. It wasn’t very good, but I didn’t let that me discourage me. I didn’t have anything left to lose. I had struck out at the game of life. So who cared if my novel sucked. Maybe it would give people something to laugh at after my untimely demise. For some reason, at this time in my life, I sincerely believed I was not long for this world. I was a mutant and a failure. The perfect candidate to be introduced to Bukowski. Then as fate would have it, our paths did cross.
I was kicking around Borders bookstore with an old girlfriend of mine, looking for a new book to read. I had just finished Jailbird by Vonnegut and I was feeling flat and empty from an author so many had propped up. Then Cynthia grabbed something from the shelf. “Have you ever read Women by Bukowski?” she asked.
Bukowski??? What a God awful name, I thought. Sounded like some German composer or something.
“I’ve never heard of him,” I said.
“Oh, he’s great! You’ll love him,” said Cynthia.
I took the book from her and looked at the craggy old man pictured on the back. What a mug! The ol’ boy sure wasn’t gonna win any beauty contests with a face like that. I saw the price.
“Thirteen bucks! That’s a lot of money for someone I’ve never heard of.”
“Trust me, you’ll like it,” she said. “I’ll tell you what, if you don’t, I’ll buy it off you, you cheapskate!”
“Cool,” I said.
I went home blissfully unaware of the treasure I held inside my hand. One could only imagine my surprise when I started the book later that night.
Here, for the first time in my life, was someone giving it to you straight –no chaser. The writing was raw and he didn’t mince words. He was writing about the drudgery of work and the working class. But not like Dickens or Upton Sinclair (looking from the outside in), this guy was writing from the trenches. His “voice” carried an honesty I had never encountered in writing. It was like that first splash of cologne after a shave; it stung but felt refreshing.
In Bukowski, I found this macho Hemingway type cat. But instead of scouring the hills of Africa he was trying to find his way in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles –playing the ponies and perusing the pubs. Leaving a trail of women in his wake. Yet, he wasn’t a Lothario by any means. Like myself he found women confusing and complex. He was just as likely to strike out, as he was to get lucky.
I find people who label Women or Bukowski misogynistic, are only looking at the book and the man skin deep. That or they have never actually read the book at all, and are only coming to their conclusions via hearsay. For anyone who had truly studied the book, could tell you it’s a story about a man trying to traverse the most rugged terrain of all –the human heart.
-Steven Eggleton, author of [b:Dry Heat|20912181|Dry Heat|Steven Eggleton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1393357780s/20912181.jpg|40277500]