Charles Bukowski’s Hollywood: Hank Gets Happy

hollywoodHollywood is the last installment of Bukowski’s autobiographical Henry Chinaski series. It’s the thinly-disguised story of the making of the 1987 movie, Barfly, which starred Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. The Chinaski of Hollywood is a radical departure from the Henry Chinaski of the earlier novels. In Hollywood, Hank is prosperous and content, doing what he wants, living in a comfortable house with his wife, whom he calls “my good Sarah,” driving a new BMW. Henry has it made. Continue reading Charles Bukowski’s Hollywood: Hank Gets Happy

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Charles Bukowski’s Pulp: A Drink to Victory

Pulp by Charles BukowskiPulp is the only one of Charles Bukowski’s novels that’s not written from the perspective of Bukowski’s alter ego, Henry Chinaski. After all the agonized and hilarious autobiographical accounts of pain, frustration, poor health and madness of his earlier novels, the great man had at last come to a subject too enormous and painful to deal with directly.

Pulp was Bukowski’s last novel, published in 1994, the same year he died of leukemia at the age of 73. As he was writing this book, he knew his days were numbered. Continue reading Charles Bukowski’s Pulp: A Drink to Victory

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Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye: The Good Fight

Ham on Rye by Charles BukowskiCharles Bukowski’s fourth novel, Ham on Rye, was written in 1982, after he had found success as a writer, moved from East Hollywood to the harborside village of San Pedro, and had established his relationship with Linda Lee Beighle, whom he would marry and stay with the rest of his life. Ham on Rye is an autobiographical novel about Bukowski’s childhood during the Great Depression, and from this vantage point of relative security and well-being and love, he could look back on the harrowing forces that formed him in a way that transforms his personal pain into a brilliant work about what it is to be human. Continue reading Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye: The Good Fight

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Charles Bukowski’s Factotum: Jack o’ No Trades

factotumA “factotum” (Latin for “do everything”) is a jack of all trades—a guy who can trim your hedges, tune-up your car, fix your leaky kitchen faucet, and build a tool shed in your backyard. As the title of Bukowski’s second novel, the term Factotum is used tongue-in-cheek. Although Hank Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, describes some twenty jobs he had as a struggling young writer, he had no talent for doing anything other than writing, and he had no desire to work at anything but writing. He didn’t fit in as an employee anywhere and clearly never could—he sees the way the world works too clearly and can’t hide his contempt for his “superiors,” especially after selling a story to a top literary mag. But he had to pay the rent and buy booze. So, here he is, pushing the boulder up the mountain over and over again. Continue reading Charles Bukowski’s Factotum: Jack o’ No Trades

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The Assault on Tony’s by John O’Brien – An Alcoholic’s View of Armageddon

The Assault on Tony's by John O'BrienOkay, here’s the premise of John O’Brien’s The Assault on Tony’s.

A handful of rich Republican alcoholics stop in at their favorite bar near the country club to ride out a riot. They all arrive at the bar with a couple of weapons—a Glock, a Walther, a couple of Dirty Harry .44 Magnums, a Beretta 92F. Apparently they’re always packing, but now they’re packing double and thank goodness, because the riot soon turns into Armageddon. Continue reading The Assault on Tony’s by John O’Brien – An Alcoholic’s View of Armageddon

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John O’Brien’s Stripper Lessons: A Study of Loneliness

Stripper Lessons by John O'BrienStripper Lessons by John O’Brien is a story about a lonely middle-aged guy (Carroll) in a dead-end job, who spends his evenings watching nude dancers at an L.A. strip club called Indiscretions. He’s friendless and has no interests beyond the strip club. Socially awkward, he worries constantly (both at work and at the club) about saying or doing the wrong thing.

As in his first published novel, Leaving Las Vegas, O’Brien provides no backstory for his main character (or any of the characters). There’s no easy psychological explanation, no hint of childhood trauma. By refusing to divulge any biographical details for such a character, O’Brien makes Stripper Lessons a study of loneliness itself, and that makes the novel hard to put down. Continue reading John O’Brien’s Stripper Lessons: A Study of Loneliness

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John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas – The Exhilaration of Suicide

Leaving Las Vegas by John O'BrienThe film version of Leaving Las Vegas is a depressing view of an alcoholic (Ben) who is drinking himself to death, and his touching friendship with a prostitute (Sera) he meets in Las Vegas in the final weeks of his life.

The novel Leaving Las Vegas is an exhilarating experience inside the head of an alcoholic who has decided to drink himself to death, and his touching friendship with a prostitute (Sera) he meets in Las Vegas in the final weeks of his life. Continue reading John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas – The Exhilaration of Suicide

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Leland Pitts-Gonzalez’ The Blood Poetry: Uncle Fester Gets Religion

Blood Poetry by Leland Pitts-GonzalezEpstein Dorian is at loose ends. His wife is missing. His mother’s a vampire. His teenage daughter’s a basket case. He spends all of his time at home watching documentaries about gruesome murders and serial killers. His sexuality is confused. He entertains libidinous thoughts about his mother, as well as his wife and girlfriend, and at one point even convinces a young male street beggar to perform oral sex on him for money. Continue reading Leland Pitts-Gonzalez’ The Blood Poetry: Uncle Fester Gets Religion

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Jack Kerouac’s Good Blonde & Others – Between Sadness & Exultation

good-blondeGood Blonde & Others is a collection of Jack Kerouac’s short writings, some autobiographical, some discussions of literature—including his novel The Subterraneans—others talking about jazz or baseball or his cat or whatever caught his attention for that moment.

One of the joys of the collection is of course just the writing itself—Kerouac’s sadness in constant interplay with poetic exultation. Another joy of the collection is the clarity it brings to your understanding of Kerouac’s fiction, just by watching his themes and obsessions unfold around a wider variety of topics, in short essays that are often more accessible than his fiction. Continue reading Jack Kerouac’s Good Blonde & Others – Between Sadness & Exultation

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John Edward Lawson’s Last Burn in Hell: Director’s Cut

Last Burn in HellIn Last Burn in Hell: Director’s Cut, John Edward Lawson isn’t giving us a novel so much as he’s playing with the concept of what a novel is. And just in case you don’t get the message from the “Director’s Cut” subtitle, the sub-subtitle is “a film by John Edward Lawson.” It comes complete with photo stills, promotional images, an R rating, and a soundtrack. The soundtrack is mostly composed of actual tracks by hiphop/synth/sampling artists like Techno Animal and DJ Spooky, which you can listen to on Youtube while you read to get the full flavor of the book. Continue reading John Edward Lawson’s Last Burn in Hell: Director’s Cut

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