Author: Charles Bukowski
Time: around 1942
Length: months or years
Type: living the life
The guy with the bluebird
The story: CB is not exactly a travel writer. He is a writer, and some people have called him an existentialist writer. But he is not a travel writer. I am going to include him here anyway, simply because he moves around a lot in this novel. And because I think he is awesome.
So, here’s the story: It’s the early 1940s, the world is at war in Europe and the Pacific, and CB is staying at home, because he is apparently considered unfit for duty. He roams about the United States (mostly Los Angeles), looking for work, getting fired, then looking for work again. In between, there is a lot of drinking, hooking up with women and writing. The resulting book calls itself a novel, so it is unclear exactly how much of the story is fictional. But we don’t know that about Marco Polo’s or Ibn Battuta’s books either, do we?
The world celebrating Charles Bukowski
I have to admit one thing first: For me, talking about CB is a bit like talking about Henry Rollins. It is difficult, mostly because I have been enjoying his work since I was very young, and I have to ask myself: how can I do justice to the heroes of my adolescence?
The other thing is that there is just too much annoying stuff going on about CB. Tom Waits recites his poetry and sounds like he has „just been to a bar“. Cringeworthy. Bono does the same and then talks about how he once invited CB to a music show and CB really did go and probably thought it was great. Makes you question your own judgment. If that isn’t enough, just watch a video of one of CB’s poetry readings and hear the audience laugh whenever he uses a dirty word. You will know what I mean.
Why this is still great
That being said, this book is one of CB’s greatest works. It is fast-paced, the language is beautiful, and somewhere between all the action there is something special. I mean, of course it can be fun to read about whoring. Or about bars. Dirty words can be fun, too. And CB definitely knows how to come up with a good aphorism. „What matters most is how well you walk through the fire“ was one of his (posthumous) book titles. Isn’t that catchy? And deep, if only you want it to?
But what I really find valuable about this book is the gentleness that shines through here and there. The gentleness and the humor. It’s as if life can never be too tough on you, because CB has been there and done it before.
There is a poem by CB called „Bluebird“. It’s from a different book, but it sums everything up perfectly.
I think you’ll be able to find it if you want.
This one is a rare 10/10.