Bukowski – Just Beyond the Piss and Vinegar

6 January 2012 in Reviews


I have read several Bukowski books, but have rarely found such an obvious depth. Tales Of Ordinary Madness starts out with what I’ve come to expect from Bukowski vulgar, crude and honest tales of the seedy side of life. A side often left unacknowledged by the literary world. These short stories depict the beaten and the downtrodden without sparing any of the gruesome details or seeking any sympathy. They tell of the criminal, the gambler, and the alcoholic most of the time in a biographical manner or subtext. He does not glorify the drink or crucify it, but accepts its role in his life and presents both the highest highs and the lowest lows as equals and without apology.

In some of the other books I’ve read like Ham On Rye and Post Office I was often forced to search out truth and philosophy. This was never a hinderance, the stories alone are well written and entertaining. In most cases I finished these books in a afternoon or two. But when Bukowski does rally against society it is almost always a fresh take on a stale subject or an eye opening look at a subject or issue I may have never considered. An example of this within Tales Of Ordinary Madness is when Bukowski is discussing poetry with a professor seeking advice about publishing some new, fresh work. They discuss how the legends are comfortable and tired in their old age. They’ve refined their art to a fragile, untouchable practice that lacks the fire of the young up and comers. But on the other hand all of the raw honesty associated with youth is inexperienced in the truths of life that are only gained through living it.

All this, for me translated into larger context of life in general and specifically political, environmental, and societal activism. In youth we are consumed by an unwavering amount of energy. This energy is released in passionate bursts for the causes we find of worth. Much of it is wasted on the trivial hardships of youth. It also finds outlets in the senseless destruction of property, life and self. But in some, and at times it will be directed towards a cause. Unfortunately in our juvenile minds we lack a true understanding of the facts so our actions can come off as shallow, misguided and are easily dismissed by the society we wish to change. As we grow older the natural energy and passion which drove us dwindles and fades. This in part might be due to the physical aging process, but I believe there’s another culprit lurking in the shadows. See while exiting our youth and entering adulthood the knowledge we obtain about the world and its workings both increases our defenses with a wealth of factual knowledge and deters our efforts by shedding light on the true inner workings of the world. As we learn more about the past and present events we begin to see our once virtuous plight as hopeless. We begin to compromise and conform believing the only way to change is within the constrains of a system we see as broken. This blurs the definite lines of right and wrong so no longer are things black and white. They have now see everything in shades of gray. As adults we are all but forced into submission by established norms and paths to “change”. We are no longer enflamed with an impatient belief that we can change the world, but settle for the tiny insufficient things we feel we might slightly alter. I’m reminded of a song lyric I love and can relate to from David Bazan “you used to feel like a forest fire burning, but now you feel like a child throwing tantrums for your turn.”


6 January 2012 Reviews

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