I’ve been lauding Bukowski and after being moved by a few passages and very much liking the first novel I read by him, Post Office, I tore through Factotem, Women and Pulp. And I have had enough.
I know he was a prolific poet and short story writer, and my knowledge of those is scant but as a novelist I have to say that he is slim pickings indeed. He’s kind of like a beer that I sort of like. This beer, let’s call it Big Rock Traditional is not one I keep in the house and is not one of my favourites but every few months when I am out and having fish and chips I’ll get one of these and its just right. But its not the best beer in the world (in its particular category I would vote for Pilsner Urquell any day) but on those occasions it makes the day a wonderful place. Bukowski is a little like that. A little of him can be very good.
Read a few novels back to back and you are struck by the lack of variation. Now perhaps its just that I have difficulties with a main character who vomits every morning, whose sex is just this side of rape, and whose writing smells of a possible con. A man who has figured out that his idiosyncratic (and very honest) scribblings fill a niche few have managed to work in but someone will buy.
I realize this may say as much about me as him. As I said, I know only the novels but still. I’ve found that if I am taken by a writer, I can read three or four of their novels back to back and remain taken. Bukowski is closer to alcohol. A little is nice, a little more exhilarating but more than that gets to the point of wishing you had stopped while you were ahead.
By the way, Pulp was really very bad; an exercise in noir that did little except expose his narrow talent.