Elizabeth
Elizabeth asked:

I've read several books by Bukowski, but with this one in particular, I could use some advice on what perspective to assume in order to not be too bent out of shape about his take on women, whether it be historical, sociological, human or humoristic, etc.

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Yesenia Charles Bukowski wrote this to a friend, in a letter:

"[D]on’t wait for the good woman. She doesn’t exist. There are women who can make you feel more with their bodies and their souls but these are the exact women who will turn the knife into you right in front of the crowd. Of course, I expect this, but the knife still cuts. The female loves to play man against man, and if she is in a position to do it there is not one who will not resist. The male, for all his bravado and exploration, is the loyal one, the one who generally feels love. The female is skilled at betrayal. and torture and damnation. Never envy a man his lady. Behind it all lays a living hell."

If he had said this about blacks versus whites (that black people are all bad, that only white people are loyal), IN THE 197OS, nobody would expect readers to feel empathy or tolerance. Female readers are expected to somehow divorce an author's hatred of them, as females, from the "greatness" of his writing. I think that that is an unfair expectation for any book written after the 1940s in "Western" countries.
Diana I read and experienced Chinaski with first a very feminist brand of anger, then pity, then something close to understanding. The anger comes from identifying with the women in the story that are reduced to their body parts that wriggle under cloth. The pity comes when I realize that this is his handicap, and that he has many more. I have to remind myself that representation is not necessarily promotion. Chinaski repeatedly goes over his list of shortcomings, like his impotence, his ugliness, his fatness, and he is as frank about these flaws as he is with his shallow sexual obsession.
Laurie Sally, I admire your courage. As for me, as I head into my sixties, I have no desire to read something that irritates me. Unless, of course, it's a book group choice. Read factotum back in the seventies on the ex-man's recommendation and that was enough for me.
Brian In all fairness, I think he hated men and women equally. He would have preferred a mostly solitary existence but his libido led him into relationships/encounters with countless beautiful women. He was very human, though, and sometimes they broke his heart; he broke many more. He used them for sex, and they used him for money or the chance to be immortalized in one of his novels. He was pretty gross, but you have to admit if you've COMPLETED multiple books by him, he must have had some legitimate insight into the human--both male and female--character.
Raluca Oprea I agree. Also take into consideration the time frame in which the action takes place and why not the place. As far as the feminism goes... we have to admit that not only men are whores :) Try to think like a man while reading this book and to be as empathetic as you can to the character.
Daniel Yeah, Henry is a prick. He doens't treat his women well, but you've got to give him points for at least feeling it in retrospect. Sometimes he actually grieves the loss of women and it is clear that his issues with them affect him. I think henry is a damaged guy, not a bad one .
Brittany I read it as myself looking in on the story and honestly, judging him. "Henry" was a prick and I hated him from the first page (novel even) on. This novel wasn't created for readers to identify with the characters, it was written to shock and piss people off. That's why people like it. I think it even touches in the novel that he has no idea why people eat it up, they just do.
Jasmine Elizabeth, it's affecting my enjoyment of the book too. Mostly because it's hard to build a character the reader can invest in out of just physical appearance and sexuality. And since the book is about women it kind of leaves a lot of empty shells wandering through this novel's pages. Still, his plain spoken prose sprinkled liberally with shockers is a delight and I'm reading for that rather than the characterization.
Lawrence My take on this is that CB was at least aware of his own bullshit, and specifically that it was bullshit, but regarded himself as unable to do better (which was itself part of the aforementioned bullshit). I would argue that Women is therefore probably more useful to the reader than something which simply shakes its fist and bellows ISN'T THIS TERRIBLE!? It isn't pretty, but it isn't supposed to be pretty, and as regards to whoever pointed out that had he taken the same position along a racial rather than sexual divide, we wouldn't even be having this conversation, see Ham on Rye wherein he briefly flirts with being one of those people who wants to make America great again.
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