Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tales of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski - a review

Tales of Ordinary MadnessTales of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bukowski – the man, the myth, the legend.

I’ve been reading Bukowski’s works on and off for the past 25+ years, and I have yet to find it boring.

Tales of Ordinary Madness is a collection of 34 short stories, some fictional, some less so, and some downright out of his own, unique life.

Unlike his other, pseudo-autobiographical works, or his other short story collections, this one was harder to read than most. Not because of the subject matter – after 25 years I know what to expect from him – but because of the frequent lack of proper punctuation, capitalization, and discard for text readability. In essence, many of these stories appear as how they would have been written prior to a proper edit. (this could have been either an intentional choice, or true first drafts – either way, it does not matter to me enough to do the research) Although harder on the eyes, the style does not take away from the content.

In this collection, Bukowski delivers his usual subject matters in his usual style. The master of the lowlife short story form. And for that, I am grateful.

By contemporary standards, Bukowski would be a misogynist, a racist, a tramp, a drunk, and a generally unappealing person. However, the same standards would throw many other great writers under the bus, so to speak. And Bukowski was, undoubtedly, a great writer.

Sure, he was a drunk, and probably not a very nice person. Nevertheless, Bukowski dealt in raw emotions, raw settings, and he did not really give a flying f#@#k about what I, or anybody else think of him. He wrote because he had to (those nagging voices would not stop), and he wrote in an utmost honest way. And that, I can appreciate.

There were many other great writers, but none came even close when it came to honest, raw emotion – Kerouac was too polished, Miller too philosophical, and Hemingway . . . well.

The beauty in Bukowski’s writing lies in its simplicity. If something smells like shit, he writes that. If he is too drunk to get an erection, he writes that. If he manages to get laid, he writes that. And if he finds himself in jail on yet another drunk charge, he writes that, too. He is able to observe the world, make fun of it, and laugh at himself at the same time.

In an era where the radio pours forth the high-pitched voices of whiny, wimpy-sounding male singers; where the media promotes sensitive males, tough women, and gender-neutral bathrooms; where political correctness trumps everything else – Bukowski’s rough manliness is a breath of fresh air (even though he was not being a man - he just did not give a damn). [and judging by the rise of #MeToo the image of correctness, equality, and sensitivity is very much just an image] I would never want to be like him, however, I can appreciate his existence.

In a way, Bukowski’s writing shows what he always said – he hated people, society, ideals – he wanted to be left alone. He drank to escape his inner demons, to escape the world. He gave up on the world, and reemerged honest in a way many other writers could not.

Reading his works never fails to inspire me to create, which is perhaps the paradox in all of this.

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