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! 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year, Friends but not Foes, the Real but not the Fake

Happy New Year, one and all, from Tokyo, the greatest city in the world! I wish you all the best year of your lives. Let's make it count by being good to each other, being authentic human beings who say what they mean and mean what they say, who don't go back on their word, who want to contribute and inspire others rather than hinder and sap them of their vitality, ambition and strength. Let's cultivate ourselves like never before by doing the things we love and by spending joyous times with the people we cherish. And as for those who wish to stand in the way of our joy and self-realization, let us vanquish them into the oblivion of our past, never to be allowed to intrude on us, our life-journey, our "destiny" and our peace of mind ever again, and thenceforth, in that expiration of theirs within our lives, allowing us to be truly free. As for all my friends - my real friends, my true friends, my friends of the heart - you know who you are - I hope to continue to see and hear more from you throughout this New Year and many more to follow. Let's build each other up, baby. Let's create a bulwark of happiness and fulfillment that no enemy could ever knock down. I never forget anyone who's ever helped or supported me or nurtured my life goals and desires, those who have given me encouragement and have even come along for the ride. But I would rather forget all the rest - the petty, parasitical ones - altogether. To the New Year, comrades and friends! To hell with the past and psychic vampires of all stripes! Fuck the fakes. Let us ascend like never before! Up and away . . . up and away!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Well, at least we'll have four years of hilarious SNL skits

It’s frightening, yet so fascinating at the same time. The Democratic Party fucked up so badly. They really are a loser party, which had a loser candidate this time round. Americans want radical change (Obama’s undelivered promise, which he ran on in 2008), and it seems about half of the populace will take it where they can get it. That’s why Bernie Sanders would have destroyed Trump without mercy; it would have been a massacre. He offered so much wonderful anti-establishment change to Americans, a great revolution in American politics and economics. The people are furious and fed up with the establishment! Clinton was an establishment candidate, who, on top of everything else, signed her husband’s stupid NAFTA bill, which sent so many American jobs to Mexico. This electoral “triumph” was the revenge of the working class. Trump is their last-ditch-resort fire-bomb of anarchy, wishful thinking and a desperate dream of revolution. It’s so sad, dark and perverse, like hiring The Joker to dish out justice and make things right. You can only squeeze a people for so long before they finally explode and revolt. In a democracy, they do that with their right to vote. In England, it was Brexit. In America, Trump. Well, Americans are finally gonna get change all right—a whole shit-storm of it, right up the goddamn yingyang—for the new king of the world for the next 4 (maybe 8) years is an orange-coloured, reality-TV Bozo the freakin’ Clown! Bravo, Uncle Sam, bravo!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships (A Book Review)

"People want love, but after they get it, they become scared or bored or uncertain or resentful. And when they get pain instead of love, they don't leave. They cling to it more strongly than they would to pleasure. And so in life, the real obstacle keeping two lovers apart is not external. The battle to be fought is within." - Neil Strauss, The Truth, Page 408

Every few decades or even centuries, there comes a revolutionary in a given subject or genre. His or her words are as profound as his/her insights are deep and subtle, and his/her thoughts and ideas as prolific as his/her understanding of the subject matter is vast and penetrating. For our generation, in this time we are in now—our modern age—and the posterity which will look back on it and us, this profound, prolific, unabashedly honest and unrelentingly searching revolutionary is Neil Strauss, and the nonfictional subject matter and genre that I am now speaking of is love and sex. And the truth always has been and always will be—uncomfortable.

I remember when I read The Game back in January of 2009, where he documents his real-life story of being an AFC (an average, frustrated chump) penetrating a secret society of pickup artists; he has an incredible adventure in different parts of the world that he prolifically turned into the utterly fascinating, thrilling, enthralling and ground-breaking book that changed the entire landscape of dating and how men—no matter who they are—can attract beautiful women all around the world, in particularly the Western World. I put it to good use. And then a little over two years later, I read The Rules of the Game and did the 30-day Style Life Challenge. It made The Game and the art of seduction make so much more sense to me, and I harnessed even more of the tricks of the trade, which, in this second installment, were laid out throughout the 30-day challenge and at the end of the book. And, yeah, things got better for me with the opposite sex, and I remained forever grateful to Strauss (AKA Style) and all the PUA gurus on his wild ride for their help and insight that he then gave to the world in those two very entertaining books. And now we come to the next step and stage of his journey and truth-searching: how to settle down in a relationship that is right for you, if you do indeed want to start a family one day, as Strauss did in fact desire to do and has done.

So he started writing The Truth due to something that, to him, was quite catastrophic: losing Ingrid, a woman he cared for deeply, more than anyone, yet cheated on her. She found out, and the walls came tumbling down. He wanted to know, despite having slept with so many gorgeous women all around the world, how he could have jeopardized the incredible relationship that he had with a woman he was hoping to marry and have a child (or children) with one day. He wanted to know if monogamy was really possible, at least for him. He wanted to know if non-monogamy for the rest of his life would be better. He wanted to know about all the different variations of open relationships out there. He really wanted to live, seek the truth of the matter, learn more about himself in the process, and to strip away all the obnoxious societal layers of bullshit and get to the inexorable reality of things. And that's exactly what he did.

For me, to be able to do the book justice, I would have to be writing a very long paper here, but that's not what I'm doing. This is just a book review for my blog to give readers a taste of Strauss's new work and an idea as to why it's so good and so important.

The first thing he does, in searching for professional help on the matter, is go to a rehab clinic (for sex addiction), which he identifies as being the modern-day insane asylum, and it is. It's really scary. The place is filled with every type of so-called addict and dysfunctional type that there is to label, including sexual anorexics (people who avoid sexual activity at all cost), and labelling is what the so-called professionals there do best, not to mention shaming the so-called sex addicts with abysmal, pseudointellectual, modern-day feminist bullshit. He leaves treatment early but makes friends there. In fact, he becomes their hero, as he stands up to the noxious, asexual, mendacious, malevolent, misandrist, Joan. His short stay there, however, like so much of the rest of the book and the wild adventure and introspective ride he goes on, is very funny, very witty. It's really great. (There are some famous people involved in the story, as there are in all his books, and that adds to the entertainment value—not to mention all the freakin' orgies!) He does meet Loraine there, however, a woman who ends up helping him more than anyone, not just at the rehab clinic, but long after he leaves it and goes back to her.

To be fair, though, we learn a very important term from Joan: emotional incest. You see, Neil Strauss, like many of us—and this is so key—had a really fucked-up childhood and adolescence (brilliantly hinted at from the very beginning in a story that kicks off the book itself), one due to the neglect of his father and enmeshment of his mother. Hence psychoanalysis ends up being part of the backbone of the book and the motif and cornerstone that Strauss has to keep going back to in his introspection and truth-seeking. He is a victim of trauma, and it has always made it difficult for him to be in a stable relationship. "Emotional incest" is anti-nurturing and intrusive. An example of it is when a parent tells their child things that they should be sharing with their partner or with a therapist regarding a lover or ex. Strauss's mom used to bitch and moan to him about his father, even how bad he was in bed and that he could only get it hard twice in his entire life, once when conceiving Neil and the other when conceiving his brother—among other things she used to talk to him about at night by his bedside, his father clueless to the whole thing. But it was far worse than that. She really did make Strauss her surrogate boyfriend, wanting to control every aspect of his life growing up and even afterwards in adulthood, with constant criticism, putdowns and ridiculous, unfair, suffocating restrictions, especially in adolescence, which were met with unreasonable punishments if the rules weren't fully followed, while his younger brother got almost all the freedom in the world. To say it again, Strauss was enmeshed, one of the key terms used throughout the book, and he spent the rest of his life rebelling against that enmeshment, afraid of letting any woman get too close to him so as to not let her become his second mother who would smother him and take away all his freedom, another motif in the book. But in trying to find freedom, he keeps ending up in chains, especially since so many of the women he gets involved with, including Ingrid, have the same baggage—an abandoning or neglectful (and, in many cases, abusive) father and enmeshing mother.

"[P]eople are much scarier than any monster we can make up. It's not just the acts of horror they perpetrate on each other, but even when they spare the person's life, they still take their soul, their spirit, their happiness." - Page 60

The conclusion is this: No matter what kind of relationship, family, love life, etc. you're interested in having, you have to REALLY WANT IT, or it's just not going to work at all. The lives and stories of the people he meets and befriends in "rehab" prove that, along with everyone else he gest close to in the book. Strauss worked so hard on himself—read the book to know just how hard—to finally rid himself of all his past trauma and tainted emotions (including reaching a fascinating state of anhedonia that Loraine told him he had to reach) and figure out how to be the person he needs to be in order to have his nuclear family, and to make the love of his life as happy as she makes him; and the only way to achieve that, as Loraine tells him, is to learn how to be alone without being lonely, to feel whole on your own, without feeling like someone else has to be there to make you feel whole, because it's not fair to put that burden on somebody else, and it goes both ways. Two people have to be both mentally and emotionally stable and healthy for the relationship (be it monogamous or non-monogamous) to in turn be stable and healthy as well. It takes two to tango, and if one person had an abandoning or abusive father and a smothering/abusive mother, that person needs to do all they can to make sure their entire mind and physiology have been cleansed of that trauma so they can be fully in the present rather than in the abuses and heartache of a ceaseless past. For "relationships don't require sacrifices. They require growing up—and the ability to stop clinging to immature needs that are so tenacious, they keep the mature needs from getting met" (409).

But something needs to be kept in mind in all of this, something that Strauss himself states in the book: He's a man who has had enough sexual experiences and fulfilled fantasies to last three lifetimes. Plus, Ingrid, who became his wife (and you can find pictures of them online) is drop-dead gorgeous, just like so many of the hundreds or thousands of women he's slept with all around the world. This isn't Joe Blow, who's only slept with a handful of women, feels sexually unfulfilled and is now concerned about settling down with a mediocre-looking one after just finding out about game. No, this is Style, man—the king of all playerkind. He wrote the most successful book in history on pickup art, selling over three million copies, for God's sake. He's no longer the sexually frustrated man in his late twenties, entering the world of game for the first time. He's sown his wild oats, baby, and now, in middle age, wants to settle down. The book is fueled by his anxiety-ridden worry about never being able to do so, and, in the end, figures out that being fully honest with your partner is of utmost importance and that, now, Ingrid and the family he wants to start with her must come first . . . Now he decides this, after a shitton of playing, and playing, and playing. NOW, he really wants the full kitten caboodle, and NOW he makes it work. So good for him. But, as it should be more than clear at this point, nowhere in the book does he try to make it look easy—on the contrary! The book is "uncomfortable," as the subtitle says, because of how fucking hard making a relationship work is, no matter how much you're in love with the other person, not just because of temptation—but because if you're broken, so will the relationship be. Soul-searching is never easy and often very uncomfortable, and it's what is demanded of us all in this life if we are going to be happy, and especially if we are going to make someone else and the children we may have with them happy and well-adjusted as well. And if it's not what you really want, and only want to "settle down" because you think it's just what everyone else does and therefore you should to, it will never work for you and them, and you will never be happy. So be honest with yourself before bringing someone else, and even children, into your world of turmoil, inauthenticity and unrest. If you're going to take only one thing from this book, let it be this: Break the chain of inauthenticity and past abuses done to you and your parents and parents' parents, and so on and so forth right down the retroceding line of hell, and start things anew. The world can be a better place, and this very honest, brilliant book lays out why and how that journey starts from within all of us. You have to learn how to truly love yourself, before you can truly love anyone else.

One more thing I've gotta say: It's really remarkable to me how much what he goes through and realizes throughout all this is in my third book, Screw the Devil's Daiquiri, which has a sex-crazed protagonist with a great deal of trauma (PTSD, actually), who is seeing a shrink about his life and going through many of the same anxieties that Strauss has (or had). My book deals a great deal, through most of the characters, with the matter of being broken at the hands of those closest to us. I think any fan of one (be it mine or Strauss's), would be a fan of the other. There really is a parallelism between the two; this isn't just a shameless plug on my part. It's funny, whereas Neil Strauss is a nonfictional writer heavily influenced by fiction (like James Joyce's Ulysses, for example, one of his favourite novels), as he says in an interview I listened to recently on YouTube, I'm a novelist heavily influenced by nonfiction.

Anyway, thanks again, Mr. Strauss. Once again, you hit the ball right out of the park. Five stars!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Women (a book review)

"I never pump up my vulgarity. I wait for it to arrive on its own terms." - Charles Bukowski, Women, Page 167

I finished reading Women today, March 9th, the 22nd anniversary of Bukowski's death. I'd never read anything of his before. Funny as hell! And I never thought I'd read the word cunt so many times in one book. Bukowski deals mainly in the dissolute, the seedy, the smutty, the lustful, the hedonistic, the wretched, the messy, the intoxicating and the orgasmic—in his crummy apartment, in bedrooms, in bars, cars and his favourite place of all—the race track—most of the time while he's drunk, hungover or trying to get there. And he doesn't hold back; he opens himself right up, as Women is autobiographical in nature. The things in there actually happened to him, and the insane, wild, over-the-top characters were people he actually met and knew, and the mad, at times hilarious, conversations and feuds were real parts of his past. That's what intrigued me all the more as I read along. And the dialogue is brilliant.

One of the things I loved the most was his jaded, unabashed, quintessential dirty-old-man narrative, his own personal thoughts and imaginings regarding people (both men and women), his sexual exploits and the mundane in general. The graphic way he'd describe things, and the absurd thoughts and imaginings that he dared even put down on paper were not of a sort that I'd come across before. All the sex he had was consensual, of course, but the way he enjoyed it and wrote about it was brutally savage in nature:

"The thought of sex as something forbidden excited me beyond all reason. It was like one animal knifing another into submission."—Page 77

"I kissed her, working her lips apart, sucking at the upper lip. I saw her hair spread wide across the pillow. Then I gave up trying to please her and simply fucked her, ripping viciously. It was like murder. I didn't care; my cock had gone crazy. All that hair, her young and beautiful face. It was like raping the Virgin Mary. I came. I came inside her, agonizing, feeling my sperm enter her body, she was helpless, and I shot my come deep into her ultimate core—body and soul—again and again."—Page 99

He definitely reveled in iconoclastic shock-value, all the while maintaining sincerity. And once in a while there'd be these sudden outpouring needs to confess certain things about his inner angst and turmoil to the reader, always wearing his heart (and, yes, he certainly did have one) on his sleeve. It creates a unique dynamic of going from the obscene to the introspective:

"When I came I felt it was in the face of everything decent, white sperm dripping down over the heads and souls of my dead parents. If I had been born a woman I would certainly have been a prostitute. Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better. And yet women—good women—frightened me because they eventually wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep. Basically I craved prostitutes, base women, because they were deadly and hard and at the same time I yearned for a gentle, good woman, despite the overwhelming price. Either way I was lost. A strong man would give up both. I wasn't strong. So I continued to struggle with women, with the idea of women."—Page 77

Indeed the whole book is a struggle, one he comes to terms with more and more as he unravels and divulges himself to the reader (or spectator) bit by bit, one meaningless sexual rendezvous (usually with a hot, young, sexy fan of his work) to another. And it does take a big man to admit he's lost. But he reveled in being lost, for, as he put it, "Goodness could be found sometimes in the middle of hell" (69).

There are other times where I just laughed (sometimes quietly while reading it on the train) because of how intensely and earnestly he'd write about things he seemingly found to be so profound, yet these, for example:

"I began rubbing her cunt, easily. It's like making a rosebud open, I thought. This has meaning. This is good. It's like two insects in a garden moving slowly towards each other. The male works his slow magic. The female slowly opens. I like it, I like it. Two bugs."—Page 78

"We sat upright in bed and drank the drinks, side by side. I couldn't understand how I managed to come the first time. We had a problem. All that beauty, all that gentleness, all that goodness, and we had a problem. I was unable to tell Mindy what it was. I didn't know how to tell her she had a big cunt. Maybe nobody had ever told her."—Page 78-79

Call it puerile if you want; that last one had me in stitches. He's writing as if it's the end of the world or something, but I guess that's where his absurdist humour lies, and I always liked and dabbled in absurdist humour myself.

It's a dark comedy, obviously, and does have plenty an intellectual moment in it, while never ever being too pretentious to shy or cower away from self-deprecation, for he lets loose against himself just as harshly as he does against the world around him. The ridiculousness of the personalities and lives of a lot of the characters really had me shaking my head a lot of the way through, and I think a psychologist would find it to be quite a fascinating read, despite parts that (s)he might consider to be downright putrid and juvenile. I'd say it's a four-star book. I wouldn't give it five, because, even though there's an arc, there's nowhere it leads to before it suddenly ends abruptly. But I do highly recommend it, especially if you're interested in how a person's life can change post-fame, as the book begins after the protagonist's (Henry Chinaski's) writing career has taken off, taking you from place to place on his poetry-reading tour and all the drunken, sex-crazed insanity along the way, seamlessly jumping from one bizarre relationship to another, all of which Henry (called Hank by people in the book, as Bukowski often was in real life) takes in stride, always laid back, just like his writing style. It's no big deal. It's just life—a former postal worker turned famous writer.

What I found to be really cool were the parts where he'd just be lounging around at home when the phone would ring, and it would be another fan of his who's read his work and is dying to meet him, or Chinaski would enter into a letter-writing correspondence by mail with a fan of his, which would inevitably lead to debauchery of one kind or another, often with a woman enthralled by and ready to fly over to spend a few days with him, like this one who looked 18, but was in her twenties, while he was 55:

"Then Tanya unzipped my pants. She took my cock and pushed it into her cunt. She began riding. She could do it, all 90 pounds of her. I could hardly think. I made small half-hearted movements, meeting her now and then. At times we kissed. It was gross. I was being raped by a child. She moved it around. She had me cornered, trapped. It was mad. Flesh alone, without love. We were filling the air with the stink of pure sex. My child, my child. How can your small body do all these things? Who invented woman? For what ultimate purpose? Take this shaft! And we were perfect strangers! It was like fucking your own shit."—Page 281

I have no idea how it's like fucking your own shit, but I just find it absolutely riotous! Would you believe I was reading Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume before this? Anyway, Bukowski was a refreshing change from that. Now, I don't doubt for a minute that our modern-day feminists would have a field day with this book, along with the rest of his writings, but there is no misogyny in Women. On the contrary: what you'll find in it is misanthropy, for, like me, he disdains both men and women equally. In fact, he shows a great deal of sympathy for women and their plight with him throughout the book, and that's a huge part of his struggle and angst. He admires every little detail about women, you see, and loves the fact that no two—are the same!