The Beats are dyin’ away, and I don’t think I can stop em…

I hate to give a dead man a somewhat poor review for one of his books when I can in no way ask him about what was going through his head at the time. But even if I could ask him, why would that matter? He’s Bukowski. He doesn’t have to give a shit.

9

As a late novel in his Chinaski series, Hollywood plays out in some areas feeling similar to an “Old Man Logan” feel, or in this case “Old Man Chinaski”. The parts that are best are the passages in which Buk reflects back on his “old life”, fueled by nostalgia and how he would have handled present-day situations if he were younger and of a different mindset. He recalls how far he’s come, but still isn’t quite on board with where he ended up, and considers the idea that he may have rolled over, bellied-up, and died inside by taking on the “responsibilities” of so-called normal society like buying a new car, a house, hiring a tax-advisor, etc. Buk occasionally wonders what people he knew during his formative years “are doing now” because he’s subconsciously comparing his own self-worth to whatever they became and however they must have turned out, answers he will probably never get. The banter between he and his wife Sarah (Linda) remind me of my own conversations with my wife, so that was fun.

That being said, the rest of the book is insanely boring, tedious, and a literal chore to get through. I found myself stretching before opening the book each time to read a few chapters, both physically and mentally, because much of the story deals with the making of the movie “Barfly”, one of the worst movies ever made in my opinion. All of the conversations between the Hollywood minds go on and on and on and on about the making of the movie and all the trials and tribulations (some of which are interesting but only in the same way you might discover a new favorite kind of toilet paper because it’s a dollar cheaper, or it feels slightly better on your exiting hole) and they never seem to achieve anything other than placing another domino on its skinny end next to the last domino, making an endless trail of dominos that never seems to lead anywhere, whereas Buk just sits there and observes next to his wife who in this story serves as little more than a character ornament (Buk was never very good at making his characters stand out in any special way, they all kind of blend together, cut from the same cloth).

By the time I finished, I found myself wanting to hire someone to cut my head off with a chainsaw, just so I could find some peace of mind. While not a horrible book, it is a pretty bad in terms of being compared to Buk’s earlier work. There were some lines that gave me an out-loud chuckle or two, but that doesn’t make a book a particularly good book. I didn’t hate this book, but I will have to agree with a friend of mine in saying that this is officially my least favorite of Buk’s. If you’re going to write a book about writing a screenplay for a bad movie, maybe you shouldn’t. I’d give it 3.5 stars if I could, but I never round up. So 3 stars it is.

Postscript:
In recent days, I’ve noticed something that I don’t think I’m ready to fully allow to take hold of me, not to sensationalize pain and suffering. I have come to a crossroads with Bukowski, a potential parting of paths, at the very least a realization, if you will, similar to that of one I experienced with Kerouac several months ago. With Kerouac, after reading several of his books, ending with Dharma Bums, I’d come to the point in my short existence in which I cannot ever read another word uttered by Jack. I’ve grown out of him, I guess you could say. I’m bored with him. He writes the same… damn… thing. Over and over. Long passages soaked with “spiritual realizations”, pretentious nonsense that’s intended to be intensely examined by the reader, looked at like a mirror and then tossed out of a window just to go on another journey of painfully unchanged semblance and importance and find another mirror, look into it, and talk about the sanctity of “the human condition”. Maybe that’s not what Kerouac was goin’ for, maybe his followers all wish they were him in some way, shape, or form (all those pretenders certainly do). At the end of the day, my realization that I’m over Kerouac was somewhat painful because there was a time in my life in which I felt something good about myself while reading his work. I thought maybe there was some truth to what he was writing about, and maybe there still is, but it’s no longer a truth I need in order to understand life. That time has since passed. I don’t think that will ever happen with Bukowski, at least to that violent extent, because there’s so much variance to be found among his poetry and short stories (his novels are all pretty much the same but they’re still enjoyable for their own reasons). Having read Hollywood, though, I feel like for the first time that maybe one day I could feel the same about Bukowski that I do about Kerouac. The Beats are dyin’ away, and I don’t think I can stop it. There will always be a spot on my shelf for the works of Hank, because in a way, he’s responsible for my having tapped into a form of writing that would eventually lead to the refined(still absolutely shit) style I now stroke and choke the blank page with. Reading Bukowski taught me that it’s okay for a story to be about essentially nothing to someone but everything to someone else, to not care who read and appreciated what, and how to make that aforementioned nothing be overflowing with that intangible jizzy substance: frothy, flavorful literary ejaculant that makes the reader feel like they’ve been fucked by their 9th grade history professor. Maybe, in a way, Hank has been like an anchor (in this example I don’t mean my goddamn devil cat). There isn’t an anchor on this earth designed to last forever.

 

About Dave Matthes

Writer and author of poetry and prose. Award-winning author of over twenty books of varying genres, with poetry appearing in Paper and Ink Zine, Analog Submission Press, and Hickathrift Press.
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5 Responses to The Beats are dyin’ away, and I don’t think I can stop em…

  1. tara caribou says:

    Finally. I’m glad I’m not the only one! I for one … am not a fan.

    • Dave Matthes says:

      I’ve been reading both Kerouac and Bukowski for years. I’ll never regret having read them, and like I said in the post, I think there’s still some juice to squeeze from Buk, but Kerouac is absolutely dead, deader than dead, he’s so dead that to use the phrase “overrated” would be a compliment. I get why people gravitate towards them and writers like them, they’re a novelty, their writing style has a way of unearthing emotions and thoughts and proclivities that one may not have otherwise discovered. I remember feeling like the words had all been written specifically for me, and other people like me, and I still think that’s true in a way. But like all novelties, at least for me, I can’t speak for everyone, the euphoria of discovery wears off. That’s where I’m at with Buk; I still respect the man and always will, but it’s getting harder and harder to read his shit and appreciate it, much less relate to it, in the same way I did when I was younger.

      • tara caribou says:

        Yes, I think we think quite similarly. I would never say they are my favorites, but I respect them as writers, to a point. But I don’t idolize or canonize them. I’m the same with writers like Shakespeare, who I think is HIGHLY overrated. There are literally millions of writers out there, past present future… I refuse to toe the line to the “top twelve”. But that’s me… and probably why I will never be revered as a writer or ‘famous’. 🤷🏼‍♀️

      • Dave Matthes says:

        The only way you’ll never be revered as a writer is if you don’t write, and who gives a rats ass if you get famous or not(not that I’m assuming that’s what you want). Chances are, if you do get famous, it’ll happen close to your death or long after, which is probably for the best since fame tends to speed up the dying process anyway.

        Also, fuck Shakespeare.

      • tara caribou says:

        I couldn’t agree with you more! (On every point – lol)

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