Born into This: A Condescending Cake Walk for a Once Fearless Articulator”

Bukowski has a novel called Hollywood. It’s probably my favorite “novel” by him, though anyone who even remotely knows his work knows that he’s a poem and short story guy. Hollywood is basically the story of the making of the film Barfly, a “semi-autobiographical” story of the writer’s life.

The guy just had a lot to say, and he said it in a funny way, and a human way, a way that connected with your deepest intuitions about the way we relate, the role money plays in the functionality of everyday life, and the skewed or stalwart values of all the players involved in anyone’s attempted or successful rise to prominence. I checked out Bukowski: Born into This from the library, and, upon first glance at the cover, I must say, it is not what I thought it’d be. Instead of being seedy, peculiar, unnerving and unforgettable, the way Bukowski’s writing is, it’s flashy, gaudy, and well, Hollywood-y. They’ve got this ostensible tramp on the cover, the security blanket of so many closet homosexuals out there who mythologize this empty, vacant California “beauty,” when in reality, Bukowski has one story about a 30-year-old fat virgin making him dinner, at the end of which he quips, “She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen,” and Linda Bukowski in real life, though certainly not unattractive, is far more wholesome than she is Hollywood-looking. I get what they’re trying to do, I guess: it must have been a director’s choice, probably to bet-hedge between appealing to single-celled chronic-weed-smoking-teens and, for him, hopefully passing it off as satire, a sort of willful acknowledgment of the subsuming absurdity of one’s surroundings, and the combating of it by deliberate mimicry. And sure, Bukowski was a product of L.A., he had to have formed attachment to the entirety of it, even the foolish movie industry, but damn, the guy doesn’t even look like he’s having fun. Under spotlights, surrounded by supermodels, these are not the settings in which the writer overcame his adversity. More valuable would have been the Atlanta park in which he spent nights freezing, the grocery store where he went for his first meal in days only to find the loaf of bread completely moldy upon opening it, or maybe meeting Linda, and realizing true love. I dunno, maybe the American public can’t handle true love. But it’d be nice if they could. One of the quoted reviews of the film called it “powerful.” You’re right, Magnolia Home Entertainment, Bukowski’s life was powerful. I think I’ll go try to round up a copy of Betting on the Muse.


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