You hear about people stumbling across Bukowski’s work somewhere and having this epiphany. They get this idea in their head that to write authenticall...moreYou hear about people stumbling across Bukowski’s work somewhere and having this epiphany. They get this idea in their head that to write authentically one has to live this way. They want to lay in bed all day and drink beer while floating from woman to woman –dead end job to dead end job. The only difference between those writers and myself I suppose, is by the time I discovered Bukowski, I was already living that way. Never knowing one could parlay that lifestyle into some kind of literary career. I was in my early twenties, my girlfriend had just thrown me out for finding a message from another girl on my phone, I was crashing on my parents couch, drinking way too much in an attempt to forget what a mess my life was, working in a bagel shop, and secretly harboring fantasies of becoming a busboy (talk about setting the bar low). The only reason being –no one ever really seemed to expect that much from a busser. From my estimation, as long as you cleared the tables on time and wiped them down with a greasy rag from a bucket, no one seemed to fuck with you and you were pretty much left to your own devices. And that’s all I wanted, to be left alone. When I wasn’t at the bagel shop or a bar, I was trying to write a novel. It wasn’t very good, but I didn’t let that me discourage me. I didn’t have anything left to lose. I had struck out at the game of life. So who cared if my novel sucked. Maybe it would give people something to laugh at after my untimely demise. For some reason, at this time in my life, I sincerely believed I was not long for this world. I was a mutant and a failure. The perfect candidate to be introduced to Bukowski. Then as fate would have it, our paths did cross. I was kicking around Borders bookstore with an old girlfriend of mine, looking for a new book to read. I had just finished Jailbird by Vonnegut and I was feeling flat and empty from an author so many had propped up. Then Cynthia grabbed something from the shelf. “Have you ever read Women by Bukowski?” she asked. Bukowski??? What a God awful name, I thought. Sounded like some German composer or something. “I’ve never heard of him,” I said. “Oh, he’s great! You’ll love him,” said Cynthia. I took the book from her and looked at the craggy old man pictured on the back. What a mug! The ol’ boy sure wasn’t gonna win any beauty contests with a face like that. I saw the price. “Thirteen bucks! That’s a lot of money for someone I’ve never heard of.” “Trust me, you’ll like it,” she said. “I’ll tell you what, if you don’t, I’ll buy it off you, you cheapskate!” “Cool,” I said. I went home blissfully unaware of the treasure I held inside my hand. One could only imagine my surprise when I started the book later that night. Here, for the first time in my life, was someone giving it to you straight –no chaser. The writing was raw and he didn’t mince words. He was writing about the drudgery of work and the working class. But not like Dickens or Upton Sinclair (looking from the outside in), this guy was writing from the trenches. His “voice” carried an honesty I had never encountered in writing. It was like that first splash of cologne after a shave; it stung but felt refreshing. In Bukowski, I found this macho Hemingway type cat. But instead of scouring the hills of Africa he was trying to find his way in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles –playing the ponies and perusing the pubs. Leaving a trail of women in his wake. Yet, he wasn’t a Lothario by any means. Like myself he found women confusing and complex. He was just as likely to strike out, as he was to get lucky. I find people who label Women or Bukowski misogynistic, are only looking at the book and the man skin deep. That or they have never actually read the book at all, and are only coming to their conclusions via hearsay. For anyone who had truly studied the book, could tell you it’s a story about a man trying to traverse the most rugged terrain of all –the human heart. -Steven Eggleton, author of Dry Heat(less)
I think every writer would ultimately admit, that out of all the books they’ve read, there was one that stood above the rest. One that lit a fire in t...moreI think every writer would ultimately admit, that out of all the books they’ve read, there was one that stood above the rest. One that lit a fire in them. A book that changed their idea of what writing could be. A book that in the end helped to shape their career as an artist and perhaps touched their life. For me that book was, The Road to Los Angeles. I was in my early twenties, depressed, living in this tiny apartment that leaked when it rained and perpetually had ants, trying to write, reading all the Bukowski I could find, and feeling marginalized. I was looking for something, but I didn’t know what. Like most people my age I was trying to find my place in a rapidly changing world. At any rate, I soon finished all of Bukowski and found myself with nothing to do. After being steeped in the world of “the dirty old-man” for so long, how could one be expected to go back to the Bronte sisters or Melville? I just couldn’t do it. I was jonesing like a junkie. In an attempt to sate my hunger I went back and poured through all the Bukowski I had read. I decided I would read any writer of worth he had mentioned in his books. Perhaps they would be the Methadone to slowly wing me from the intense grip “the poet laureate of skid row” had on me. Sadly it wasn’t the case. I read them all: Celine, Hamsun, Saroyan, Li Po (and while all excellent in their own right); none of them packed the punch that Bukowski did. Then, at my wits end, I finally came Fante –The Road to Los Angeles, specifically. It was like striking gold! Here was this crazy little book written in the 30’s screaming at me through time, and daring me not to relate. Like Bukowski, the language was cleverly simple and fresh. Short declarative sentences one after the other. Like bullets being fired from a gun. They burrowed in you stinging all the way. Yet they carried a warmth and love I never felt in Bukowski or any other writer for that matter. The pain was mixed with humor, making you want to laugh and cry at the same time (a technique I often try to mimic in my own writing). In Arturo Bandini I found a fellow brother in arms, as desperately eager to impress people with his knowledge (as I was), regardless of how pompous he might look. A wiseass who covered up his low self-esteem with a veneer of biting sarcasm. A misfit and an outcast. A lonely intellect forged through erudition. A lost soul struggling to find his way. A madman. Like Bukowski before him, I would soon consume all the Fante I could find. Dissecting and studying his style like an eager student. And although all of his books should be considered national treasures, none of them are as dear to me as the first one I read –The Road to Los Angeles. A book full of insanity, character, and most importantly –love.
To be or not to be, that is the question troubling Wesley Weimer. Part John Steinbeck, part Kevin Smith; The Poor Man’s Guide to Suicide is The Winter...moreTo be or not to be, that is the question troubling Wesley Weimer. Part John Steinbeck, part Kevin Smith; The Poor Man’s Guide to Suicide is The Winter of Our Discontent for the quickly aging gen-X set. Humorous and richly realized, Andrew Armacost gives us an insightful glimpse into the sullen life of the divorced American male. Full of acerbic wit, the writing is smooth and indicative of a writer at the top of his game. I look forward to what Armacost brings next. Pick up a copy of The Poor Man’s Guide to Suicide, an existential romp that dares to ask –is life always worth living?
Let me start by saying I like Dan Fante. I think he is a good writer. He’s help fill the enormous void Bukowski left behind. But the guy is a little f...moreLet me start by saying I like Dan Fante. I think he is a good writer. He’s help fill the enormous void Bukowski left behind. But the guy is a little full of himself. He comes off kind of like a tool in interviews. I’ve even heard him say he is a better writer than Bukowski, which is a pretty ballsy move for someone who is basically stealing Bukowski’s shtick. Moreover, if he wasn’t the son of John Fante, I don’t think he would be as big as he is. The truth is, Mooch (although entertaining) is a rip-off of his oldman’s book, Ask the Dust. But, that’s not where my beef with the younger Fante lies. What irks me most about his writing is the endings. They seem tacked on and fake. Like in this book (SPOILER ALERT!), Jimmi Valiente’s kid wanting to stay with Bruno in the end seemed like a total pile of bullshit. It’s a cheap move to get us to think the character(Bruno Dante), isn’t a complete piece of shit. The only problem is, I don’t buy it. It’s a copout. A cheap ploy at sentimentality. He pulled the same stunt in another book where Bruno ends up taking-in two young girls. All this does is point to Dan’s weakness as a writer –he lacks heart (something that his dad had by the boatful). And seeing how is writing is largely based on reality, I think he needs to stick to what he knows -being a lousy drunk (that’s writing 101). Sorry Dan, you gotta have a heart to write with one. (less)
Walkin’ With the Beast, is without a doubt as gritty as a roadhouse floor. Set in the underbelly of Mesa, Az., I found Walkin’ With the Beast eerily f...moreWalkin’ With the Beast, is without a doubt as gritty as a roadhouse floor. Set in the underbelly of Mesa, Az., I found Walkin’ With the Beast eerily familiar, as I’m certain many from Arizona would. The heat, the drugs, the guns, the violence and the madness. It’s part of our environment. A throwback to our Wild West origin, and Danny Valdez and his debut book embody every bit of it. Through various vignettes, Valdez invites us on a rock-‘n’-roll road trip following him from boyhood to fully grown artist. A true literary outlaw, though his situation is often bleak, Valdez never gives way to melancholia. Instead he chooses to find the warmth and humor in his circumstances. Somewhere far removed from the snobbery of Scottsdale and the academic halls of ASU, on the outskirts of town, sits a man in a trailer banging away on his typewriter. A mason jar of cold water by his side, a Lucky Strike dangling from his lips. Some say he is the heir to Bukowski, but I have to say –Bukowski never rock-‘n’-rolled like this.