Sunday, July 22, 2018

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (a book review)

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.” - Page 72

I just finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas yesterday. It’s super fun and easy to get through, a wild roller-coaster ride of insane, paranoid delusions and hallucinations on psychedelic drugs, ether and booze. I saw the movie ages ago so knew what to expect. I’d never read anything by Hunter S. Thompson before, but if even half of this gonzo story is true, he was completely insane, which explains why he liked playing with guns so much and always knew that one day he would take his own life with one, which he did in 2005, when he said life stopped being fun for him. But he really was a great writer, and this book is hilarious. The entire premise from the get-go is completely absurd: being sent to Las Vegas to find the American Dream by covering a dirt-bike race? What? But then it changes to him of all people having to report on a police narcotics convention with his attorney, who, like him, was out of his mind and, in real life, probably just a figment of Thompson’s wild imagination.

Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to reading it, as it wasn’t just funny as hell by virtue of his and his attorney’s paranoid, drug-addled minds, insane antics, preposterous conversations and very interesting past stories that Thompson would recall, but also because of his insight into the strange world of Las Vegas and the drug scene of 1971 in comparison to what it was in San Francisco before the heights of it came to an end:

"Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of 'history' it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back." - the end of Part One's eighth chapter

My rating: FIVE STARS

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

“Even on Mars” - Paperback Release

Without further ado, the paperback of my new book, Even on Mars, is finally up for sale. The cover had to be fixed for print, and most of it was redone in the process for a much better result, and I’m much happier with it now:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

My New Book: Even on Mars

My new and fourth book, Even on Mars, hit the Kindle Store on June 3rd for just 99 cents for a limited time. It’s a fast-paced, screwball sci-fi sex comedy, and if you wanna know whose orange mutant legs those belong to and what it means that her very long mutant tongue is wrapped around Mars, you’ll have to read to find out! 🙂 Paperback coming soon! The cover had some issues when printed, and it needs to be fixed.

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski (book review)

So I got around to reading Hollywood by Bukowski. It was a very interesting read, seeing how the making of Barfly came about with all the ups and downs and all the producer assholes that had to be dealt with along the way. It’s very lucky that it ended up being made at all. One of the characters in the book, a Frenchman invested in the screenplay, was a riot! All the names were of course changed, and the movie was renamed The Dance of Jim Beam. I found it interesting that it was shot in the building Bukowski and the woman the movie is about (his first love) actually lived in together over thirty years prior! That’s both eery and surreal, eery because it didn’t end well for her due to her severe alcoholism.  

All and all, I was hoping that the book would be funnier and more entertaining, but it was still a good read with lots of interesting insight into both Bukowski and the world of Hollywood (a much different book than the one I read before it: To Have or to Be? by Erich Fromm). I much preferred Barfly, though, what a fabulous movie. 

On my way home on Thursday night, I stopped by the grocery store near my place here in Tokyo, and in the alcohol aisle (alcohol is sold in supermarkets and convenience stores here), I saw a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey. I bought it, a bottle of Coke Zero, and when I got home, mixed them into a cup and finished off the book. Then I watched Eraserhead for the first time because, in the novel, Chinaski (Bukowski’s name for himself in his books) tells a guy interviewing him for a magazine that it’s his favourite movie. Watching it, I completely understood why.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Factotum by Charles Bukowski (A Book Review)

"How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?" - Charles Bukowski, Factotum, Page 97

God, I've been asking myself that very question since I was a child. I finished Factotum a few days ago, on the 24th anniversary of the day Bukowski himself came to an end on March 9th, 1994. It's funny: I finished reading Women on that very same date 2 years ago without even trying to, neither that time nor this one. Women was the first book of his that I'd ever read. This was the fourth. Next will be Hollywood, once I get around to it.

Factotum is fairly short, as is Post Office, so you get through it pretty quickly, not just because of its length, but because it's so interesting. But that's what boggles my mind: how a book that, for the most part, is so mundane can be so interesting, by virtue of mere simplicity - in simplistic dialog, drunken strolls, licentiousness, eccentric characters, bland characters, and getting canned from dull, boring, soul-sucking jobs. It was interesting reading it while looking for a job myself in this faraway land I'm in - Japan, where I've actually lived and thrived for nearly five years now - because the whole book is about Henry Chinaski (Bukowski's protagonist self) travelling from state to state, dead-end job to dead-end job, rooming house to rooming house, random woman to random woman, racetrack to racetrack, bar to bar and bottle to bottle.

"People don't need love. What they need is success in one form or another. It can be love but it needn't be." - Page 91

Yes, this book is dark, but not in any kind of Gothic way, rather in the working-class American way - a true nihilistic, hedonistic drifter's way, a future iconic writer's way. Its goal is to express the bare bones of a man who sees himself as just a cog, a mere unimportant factotum trying to get by with the self-empowering acceptance of knowing he's destined for failure at each and every one of his new places of abysmal work anyway. It gives him a feeling of freedom and invincibility, as there will always be a new job, just like there will always be a new woman, around the corner. Therefore, all he can do is take everything in stride. There is no disappointment; there is no heartbreak. How can there be for a hopelessly indifferent wanderer like Henry Chinaski (AKA Hank)? Often, it's almost like he's purposely sabotaging himself in order to get fired, usually within a few weeks of being hired. It makes sense. He hates the work and feels a sense of freedom once the termination has finally taken place. So why should he give two shits? He always has drunken stupors and short stories to get to writing anyway, thankfully for that.

And the book is funny, so that makes it good too. Not as funny as the other three I've reviewed so far, but funny. There's one scene that is so ludicrous. I mean, it's one of the most disturbingly vivid things I've ever read, of a poor young man (Chinaski) getting orally raped by an aging, overweight, washed-up prostitute, in a room he just moved into, and it involves teeth, pain, pleasure, blood, and remorse while having it done, and then paying for it afterwards without even being asked to and without having wanted it in the first place! I won't give away anymore details, but it's both hysterical and cringe-worthy at the same time. Only Bukowski.

Factotum is a book about people and the lives they lead. It's about the experiences of having met them along the way and being let in by them, either by choice or by circumstance, at least for a short amount of time before moving on. It's about the different, sometimes abject things some people have to do in order to get by and how those things shape them and make them the fascinating specimens that they are and that Bukowski deemed worthy enough for his writing. It's my least favourite of the four books of his that I've read thus far, but it's still good enough for me to give it four stars.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski (a book review)

BRILLIANT stuff! Ham on Rye is a book that I'd been wishing were written for years now, and meanwhile it had been all along: a book about kids and teenagers being just that - kids and teenagers in their rawest form. And it's also about teachers, principals and other public-school authorities acting like children and lunatics as well, and I absolutely love that. I was actually really surprised that kids, preteens and teenagers spoke in such a lewd, raunchy manner back in the 1920s and 30s, but I guess that was just a naivety on my part. And the things they did...well, I won't spoil it for you.

Bukowski starts the book from the age of 2, at his first memory, under a dining-room table while adults chatted away, and ends it at the age of 21. So we have a long, solid timeline with a whole lot of character development and sad, funny, outrageous anecdotes that bring to light why Charles Bukowski (AKA Henry Chinaski in his novels) turned out to be the way he was, with the very eccentric, but razor-sharp, mind he had. It's the story of a person destined to be an outcast just for being different, quiet, introspective, ruminative and plain old ugly. 

Between an insane, cheap, abusive, anal-retentive father who for years beat him incessantly with his razor strop, and then, as a teenager, being covered from head to toe, front and back, with a horrific case of acne and gigantic boils that left scars all over his face and body - well, given he turned into a bookworm and lover of writing short stories as well - he was also destined for greatness. I mean, let's face it: Bukowski was, indeed, a writer with something to say, and so writing affirmed the tragedy which was his life from an early age: poor, abused, dejected, angry, and alone. He speaks of a nauseating whiteness that filled the air all around him and everyone else from the time he was 5. I found that so fascinating. It's no wonder he turned into a drinker at the age of 12 in order to escape the mundane, depressing world he grew up in and felt he had no other escape from, until he started reading books and then, after that, writing.

He became and always remained disillusioned by the rabble and their "American dream." He wasn't buying it. He saw through it all. To him, it was all just bullshit that stifled a person's individuality while offering false hope and an array of pathetic masks, that is, labels that really just amounted to embracing nothingness via gratifying the ego through man-made status and ignorance in a world where nothing really mattered at all. He was a nihilist, but one who wanted nothing more than to live the way he wanted to (9-to-5 life be damned!), preferably in isolation, away from Homo sapiens, while somehow denying that he was a misanthrope, yet having nothing but disdain for the human race. 

There is one thing in the book that really surprised and disappointed me. Bukowski said in an interview once that he didn't lose his virginity till the age of 24, because he was an outcast and that that woman was the only woman who ever liked him. But there are three incidents in the book that tell otherwise. I'll only name one of them here so as to not give away too much: One time, while still a high-school student, he was at the beach with his really messed-up chick magnet of a friend, and a group of attractive, chipper girls walked up to them and called them cute. The girls wanted the BOTH of them to join them and have some good old-fashioned beach fun. Chinaski said to count him out. No one, including his friend, understood why. They asked what was wrong with him, and his friend told them that he's just weird. Well, yeah, he was weird, but that wasn't his problem. His problem was that he preferred to wallow in misery and remain self-loathing over his acne and boils rather than get what he was dying for - to get laid with a beautiful girl. And he could have. But he chose to just watch them all having fun from a distance in order to feed off of the contempt he had for them and his life, like some emo masochist.

At any rate, I loved this book and so was able to get through it quickly. It was simply captivating in its raw, unabashed realism. Bukowski could write about anything and make it interesting. I love that in a writer. It's what made him so great. I didn't like it as much as Post Office and Women, which were drop-dead hilarious from beginning to end, but it was a really fun read. His writing style did evolve and improve by the time he wrote it, which I really appreciated too.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Post Office By Charles Bukowski (A Book Review)

I love this book - Charles Bukowski's first novel, published in 1971 when he was 50. There's nothing like the average Joe sticking it to the man. I'd read Women (book review below in March of 2016), so I just knew this would be awesome, and so it was, fulfilling all my expectations and then some - utterly hilarious! Bukowski really knew what he was doing. That's why he's the iconic, legendary American literary giant that he is. Who else could make the mundane life of the post office, racetrack and getting wasted night after night this much fun and entertaining? He really lets you in. I love that. I always loved honesty and authenticity, and I think a lot of people out there do too. He's proof that you can find meaning no matter who you are. You just have to search and dig a little. From the crazy residents on his postal route, to his irritating-as-hell co-workers, to the fast, often insane women, to the prick-bastard post-office bosses, this book is brilliant from start to finish and at times will actually have you laughing out loud. I was enthralled. It's really short (160 pages), so I think it's a novella, short and sweet. I love how his protagonist, Henry Chinaski (who's actually Bukowski himself), takes everything in stride, whether it's brutal working conditions, badgering bosses, being perpetually drunk or hungover, the tragic death of a loved one, brawling, having a kid and becoming a father - you name it, his character takes it in to add to the masterpiece of his mind, making you feel ever so comfortable in the process. The wit and sarcasm don't come off as pessimistic or bitter at all, but rather smart and mood-lightening. It's beyond doubt that he was a man comfortable in his own skin, and I think that's really great. A truly great, poignant read!