Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bukowski's Big Day

   If you've ever read anything by Charles Bukowski, then you know he had some serious problems.  He mostly wrote about drugs, alcohol, sex, and work - well, how much he hated to work.  Despite Bukowski's depression and addictions, he managed to become a highly respected poet and novelist.  For me, his work would probably fall into the "naturalist" category (even though the timeline doesn't quite match up. I know), writing about the down and out members of a hopeless society - those hardworking men and women of the lower class who enjoy few pleasures in life other than drink and sex.  Well...at least according to Charles Bukowski.  His world was a dismal one, yet the raw, crude honesty of his writing is what will continue to keep him relevant.

   On this day in 1920, Mr. Bukowski was born in Germany, but his family moved to America when he was only 2 years old, so I guess that's how we can claim him as an American.  Anyway, in Bukowski's more autobiographical works he reveals a tumultuous childhood riddled with poverty, and emotional and physical abuse from his father.  It's no wonder why he developed such severe depression, and if you want to read more about his childhood, you can pick up a copy of Ham on Rye, his book that documents this time period in great detail.

   A few years ago, I read Post Office, which is Bukowski's semi-autobiographical tale of Henry Chinaski, a bored, self-destructive, yet funny and sarcastic postal worker.  Hmmm.....now who does that remind us of?  Post Office is not for the faint of heart or those who are easily offended.  The book is full of profanity, violence, and sexually explicit content.  Needless to say, Charles Bukowski was often (and still is) criticized for being a bad influence on readers.  But he seemed to believe that humans are the most corruptible beings ever to exist and that, as creatures of discontent, we deserve to be a little devious from time to time - to suck a little fun out of life before life sucks all the fun out of us.

   Whatever your personal sentiments toward him may be, there is no denying Bukowski's tremendous influence on American culture and literature.  He died in 1994, but today would be his 91st birthday if he were still alive.  So wherever you are, Mr. Bukowski, know that world raises its dirty shot glass to you and toasts your memory today.  Happy Birthday.