I read this collection of essays without knowing anything about Anaïs Nin and what she’s trying to do. It made me search for more in her stories, whicI read this collection of essays without knowing anything about Anaïs Nin and what she’s trying to do. It made me search for more in her stories, which may not have had more than artists ‘taking’ women, sexual dysfunction, and overwhelming sensations, i.e. erotica. Is she Marquis de Sade (sadist, sexual insanity)? Edgar Allan Poe (symbolism x100)? I’ll reach out on limbs and say this, for me, was transgressive fiction…like the works of Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsch, Bret Easton Ellis, uninhibited stories that shock or feel taboo. I enjoy this genre and in assessing WHY I like these sinister tales & topics, I decided it’s because the stories highlight antisocial impulses of the common man. The impulses are ingrained maybe, and embedded in social context, so it’s a commentary.
The Maja was the most moving for me, detailing illusions and miscommunications: a painter falls in love with his wife, but only as she is depicted in images he has painted. He does not love her real life self, but only the canvas-painted version. He even ‘makes love’ to the canvases. When his wife discovers this affair with the canvas-painted version of her he was having, “with a wife he had not known in reality…her own controlled sensuality flared up, free for the first time to him…” Beautiful!!!...more
I GUESS since I recently admitted to myself that I like transgressive fiction, that Bukowski would be enjoyable for me – he fits into that genre. ButI GUESS since I recently admitted to myself that I like transgressive fiction, that Bukowski would be enjoyable for me – he fits into that genre. But I kind of hate myself for liking this. Charles Bukowski is the original Tucker Max (“I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead” and then make said women feel like fucks when I write about them on internet/book→from Tucker Max’s website).
Why does he have to say ‘I mounted’ every time he has sex with a new woman? WHyyyyy? And then there are excerpts like this: “She confused me. I was used to vile drunken wenches.” OR “’You’re right,’ she said, ‘you must have fucked me [last night]. I can feel the semen running down my leg.’ I decided not to see her again.”
I would feel more forgiving with these antics if it was pure fiction…but Henry Chinaski, the main character, is pretty well known to be at a minimum an alter ego of Bukowski, and the scenarios feel based on Bukowski’s reality. Which makes it more horrific.
The writing style is crass and simple, and the plot is basic and uninteresting. But this is the thing, people: he is recklessly FUNNY, and he paints sordid pictures that are VIVID with one or two sentences. For inst., “Tammie was down at the end of the couch snorting coke, using a McDonald’s spoon. Bobby put a beer in my hand.” → a typical night, a vivid picture of poor addiction. This is the same Tammie that is addicted to both uppers and downers, and is the mother of a young child named Dancy who is always “wailing” and in one scene, screams “I want a ding dong” over and over before she is left in a house by herself, while mother Tammie flies to New York to spend the weekend with a perverted man twice her age (Bukowski). As for funny:
“The dinner was fair. Cecelia had one drink with her dinner and explained all about her vegetarianism. She had soup, salad and yogurt; the remainder of us had steaks, French fries, French bread, and salad. Bobby and Valerie stole the salt and pepper shakers, two steak knives and the tip I had left for the waiter…Her one drink had Cecelia giggling and talking and she was explaining that animals had souls too. Nobody challenged her opinion. It was possible, we knew. What we weren’t sure of was if we had any.”
The drinking/vomiting/dirtiness made me mostly nauseous BUT every time sharp hatred began to balloon, there would be a very real, self-deprecating excerpt that transparently shows the reason Bukowski is so disgusting to other people, which is of course because he feels that he himself is disgusting. “It took a lot to excite me. I didn’t care. I didn’t like New York. I didn’t like Hollywood. I didn’t like rock music. I didn’t like anything. Maybe I was afraid…I wanted to sit alone in a room with the shades down. I feasted upon that. I was a crank. I was a lunatic.”
I found this famous quote in high school from one of Bukowski’s poems that epitomizes him: “and to walk across the floor to an old dresser with a cracked mirror- see myself, ugly, grinning at it all.” Although I think his poetry would be better than his prose, something is so lamentably compelling about this ugly, self-loathing, woman-hating barbarian → rawness....more
I enjoyed reading this, as the words were quite lovely like poetry, which is why my review mostly consists of Fitzgerald’s words….I was pleasantly surI enjoyed reading this, as the words were quite lovely like poetry, which is why my review mostly consists of Fitzgerald’s words….I was pleasantly surprised with the darkness of the beginning (familial rape and psych problems) and the emptiness of the end (decayed love). The point of the book seemed to partially be a contrast between ignorance-is-bliss (Rosemary) and madness (Nicole), and I accordingly loathed Rosemary and valued Nicole. Here we have a story about Nicole and Dick Diver: a mentally ill young woman who marries an older psych doctor. While the couple appears to be happy & dazzling, there is the underlying mental illness of Nicole and effective ‘hired permanent doctor’ aspect of Dick as her husband. Enter Rosemary, a young and fickle actress who becomes a foil to the relationship.
Rosemary…painted perfectly by Fitzgerald, beautiful without depth. Rosemary is a caricature, an actor pretending to have the real emotions of love but in fact possessing none. At one point Rosemary was suffering pains of her supposed unrequited love, when she suddenly looked at a tree on top of a car that was “like a lovely person in an undignified position yet confident none the less of being lovely,” and she identified with it and laughed cheerfully, and everything all the sudden “seemed gorgeous.” I LOVED THAT!
The Contrast… while by appearances, Rosemary and Nicole are just two rich gals shopping and being pretty, they are actually horribly different…“It was fun spending money in the sunlight of the foreign city, with healthy bodies under them that sent streams of color up to their faces; with arms and hands, legs and ankles that they stretched out confidently, reaching or stepping with the confidence of women lovely to men.”
Nicole…I love that Nicole is semi-biographical of Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda: a beautiful mad woman. The relation between Nicole and Dick being perfectly summed up by the following: “Her [Rosemary’s] naïveté responded whole-heartedly to the expensive simplicity of the Divers, unaware of its complexity and its lack of innocence, unaware that it was all a selection of quality rather than quantity from the run of the world’s bazaar; and that the simplicity of behavior also, the nursery-like peace and good will, the emphasis on the simpler virtues, was part of a desperate bargain with the gods and had been attained through struggles she could not have guessed at.”
Dick, the third main character, seems to be nothing more than a pawn whose purpose was to flesh out the characters of Nicole and Rosemary. I realize that Dick is perhaps modeled off of Fitzgerald himself, with Nicole modeled off of Zelda, but Dick was forgettable for me. He seemed a bit confused, used, and abused. I loved the sudden way Nicole became disgusted by Dick in the end, highlighted when as an old man, he was trying to do tricks on the boat with Rosemary’s young friends, and “Nicole felt the sweat glands of her forehead open as she strained with him,” and felt annoyed by everything he did.
Overall: a great piece that grew on me with each page, but does not surpass This Side of Paradise. ...more
Like most people, I read this book out of my love and affection for Kurt Vonnegut, the father of Mark Vonnegut. Obviously, Mark was riding on this conLike most people, I read this book out of my love and affection for Kurt Vonnegut, the father of Mark Vonnegut. Obviously, Mark was riding on this connection for the interest base of this story, and it was likely the very reason this book was published. The memoir details the life of Mark Vonnegut: a hippie who took too many drugs and went insane. I am sensitive to mental illness, but I hated Mark by page 15. I could not get past his delusions of hippie grandeur (“…but the big problem was that although I did all the things good hippies do, I always did them with a twist and was too conscious and/or proud of that twist to be the hippie I would have liked to be.” Wha?) and other worldly musings. I unexpectedly felt the same frustrations as I did while reading the cheesy Christian Baldwin brother book (The Unusual Suspect: My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith) – I was crossing out large excerpts, writing profanities in margins, and sizzling.
Honestly, a large part of my disinterest in this book has to do with the fact that I hate hippies. I can’t handle the “we’re just victims of our fucked-up, materialistic, impersonal, hectic, overmechanized, dehumanizing society” bit (actual quote). This was a hippie mantra repeated throughout the book, but without details as to WHY Mark believed our society might be so. It’s not necessarily that I disagree with this mantra, but it bothers me when people use clichés without giving substance/explanation, because then it makes me feel like they don’t know why they are rattling them off.
Mark did too many drugs. Mescaline, acid, speed, weed, amyl nitrates...to name a few regulars. A sample of Mark’s thoughts while tripping: -“Think think think. What a funny word. A funny sound, a funny meaning. Almost as funny as funny. I think I’ve probably spent more time and energy thinking than most people, but that’s a very hard thing to be able to say for sure. I don’t even know very well what thinking is, let alone have a way to tell who’s doing it and how much.” -“The goats didn’t like me. I knew it and it hurt. The goats didn’t really dig anyone but they seemed to like me least. Maybe it was because I had played the heavy when we first got them.” What I failed to understand is why Mark kept trying to blame his “going nuts” on the state of the world, parents breaking up, or his girlfriend cheating on him…I kept waiting for him to confront the “elephant in the room” and admit that drugs juuuuuust might have played a substantial role in his insanity. Caught up in the trend of the 70s, he had been tripping for years, talking to goats and living on a commune.
Again, I really am sensitive to, and interested in, mental illness. The hallucinations, delusions, and dysfunction of schizophrenia must be terrifying. However, it has been proven that drug use is associated with the development of schizophrenia. In fact, psychotic episodes caused by certain drugs can be almost indistinguishable from schizophrenic episodes…On the other hand, environmental factors can also play a role. To this end, I would have liked to see a little more family history – was there trauma or dysfunction? Did we not get mention of this fam history because Kurt axed it? Am I just disappointed because I didn’t get an inside glimpse into Kurt’s life? Who knows.
The book became more interesting & understandable when Mark started going insane after one too many drug binges. The perspective was extremely vivid and made me feel like I was going crazy, or that I could identify with those thoughts, or that “sanity is such a fine line” – which means his writing was powerful enough to do this. The accounts of insanity are so realistic, that I would like to know if he journaled or just recreated through a fantastic memory. But…WHAT was that “Letter to Anita” in the end that basically served to summarize the memoir? Eeks; wish I hadn’t read that because I was just starting to get invested....more