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October Book Club: Women by Charlies Bukowski

Discussion in 'Books' started by Not the Bees!, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. Not the Bees!

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    The first book of the TiB Book Club is Women by Charles Bukowski. In Women Bukowski returns to his famed semi-autobiographical character Henry Chinaski as an aging and celebrated writer. Hopefully, those who have already read the book can get the discussion started. I've got to go out and get a copy and get into reading it.

    Note on spoilers:
    For any discussion involving plot spoilers etc please put them in spoiler tags and note roughly how far into the book they give details of. For example say something like "Spoilers up to chapter 5" or "Spoilers for the whole book". That way people should feel free to come in here and discuss as they read instead of only after they've finished the book.
     
  2. Juice

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  3. downndirty

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    I remember back in the days, Bunny stated that Tucker Max was the first literary rock star.
    Counter-evidence, point 1: Women by Bukowski.

    For it's time, this was a bit like a Motley Crue biography. CB is old, missing teeth, fat, drunk and generally repulsive and sees more snatch that a gyno. The part that interested me was that he never worried about why he dated all these women or what they saw in him. He did what he wanted to do, and therein lies the fantasy. For most men at that time, getting laid was a Goddamn stupendous amount of work. Here, Bukowski outlined how the worst piece of shit imaginable did it...all the fucking time, with zero effort.

    Also, this book seemed to lay groundwork for everything from Californication to "I've got friends in low places".
     
  4. Crown Royal

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    If you're a writer, you fuck whoever you want. Period. Henry Miller was ugly, bald, and not exactly sensitive towards the female gender and pretty much had his own sex cult of young and beautiful women.
     
  5. mya

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    Thanks for the link Juice, I will get started on it.

    General question for how this book club will work. Is there a date to aim for to finish and then discussion begins, or do we discuss as we go. That seems like it could get .... confusing?
     
  6. Not the Bees!

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    At this stage I don't think we should create any particular targets for when people discuss the book. Some people will have already read it and others will read it throughout the month. I think people should be able to discuss their reflections as they read if they want. It's a pretty small pool of people that are interested in participating so far and I think if we restrict how people can discuss the book or provide targeted deadlines then it will just discourage others from joining. If this club really catches on and a lot of people start participating then we'll start thinking about creating rules going forward. Thoughts?
     
  7. Juice

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    I'm about 35 pages into it. Jesus Christ I forgot how toxic his relationship with Lydia is. His functional alcoholism and her bipolar disorder work together terribly.
     
  8. guernica

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    I've been continuously shocked by the amount of times he's had a crazy off-the-charts fight with Lydia, that would've been enough individually to end most relationships, but then starts the very next chapter with, "so its three weeks later and I'm driving along with Lydia"
     
  9. Kampf Trinker

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    I finished this book yesterday and I loved it, for the first 250 pages. Towards the end it started to drag.

    For the most part the book ends the same way it started. The only real difference is that Chinaski is richer and more famous. There's a brief semi-epiphany moment at the end, but by that point Chinaski has had about two dozen similar reflections rendering it meaningless. After 250 pages of 'so I'm fucking this crazy chick' stories it started to get a bit tiresome. Also, Chinaski's view of everything as this meaningless escapism triviality was hilarious, but eventually it started to wear me down.

    That being said the book was hysterical and has some of the most memorable quotes of any book I've read.

    Funny, and there's at least a little bit of truth in there. I didn't quite gather from the book exactly why Chinaski thought everything was escapism, or why he lived on such an emotional roller coaster, but I enjoyed his bizarre insights and it's probably what made Bukowski such a good writer. The book doesn't have any arc whatsoever, or I wasn't buying into it. It just flows like an endless stream consciousness and insanity. The fact that it didn't have any normal writing conventions and was almost impossible to put down says a lot about how witty Bukowski must have been.

    Does anyone know how accurate or how closely related to Bukowski's real life the book is? I know it's supposed to be semi-autobiographical, but I'm curious on the extent of that.

    Most of it seemed believable enough, but there were a couple things like the ex-marine's wife. Why would she go out to visit someone she barely knows right after her husband died? And she's obviously pissed off the entire time, but never says anything, it's all non-verbal? She just seemed way too normal for the rest of her actions, which made no sense. I kind of felt the same way about Sarah too. For the other 50 or so women in the book these thoughts never occurred to me.
     
  10. MobyDuk

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    I'm sure I'm not the first person who, on first reading Bukowski, thought "hell, if that guy can write a book so could I".

    Then again, I could never have come up with "Cunt is indestructible".

    I'd love to hear what some of the Tibettes think of him.
     
  11. Kampf Trinker

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    ^This.

    I think what made the book good was that it was so raw and unapologetic. I never really tried to make it as a writer, but when I dabbled with writing one of my biggest problems was worrying what the reader was going to think. It's probably better to just throw it all out there and then see how people react.

    Plus, if Bukowski really knew that many people similar to the characters in that book then it would be hard not to walk away with some good material.
     
  12. Juice

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    His other books with the Chinaski character are a bit different. Since hes in his 50s in this one, he just doesnt give a fuck. About women, his job, his alcoholism, or anything. He does what he wants and lets the chips fall where they may.
     
  13. walt

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    And ends with "She screamed and hung up. So I called..."

    Interesting read though, I spent most of Sunday reading it. Hope this book club idea catches on.
     
  14. The Village Idiot

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    I am really struggling with this book, having made it through the first 100 pages. Normally, I'm a fast reader, but I just get bogged down.

    I never liked Bukowski. I read him in high school, then a bit in college (because I was required to). I never read 'Women' but it has all the hallmarks of why Bukowski irritates me.

    I do like the writing style. It's quick, the dialogue is like a gun fight. Bam. Bam. Bam. He doesn't get caught up in minutia. Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts.

    The problem is I don't care who wins any of these verbal gun fights. Frankly, I don't care if they both lose. Plus the complete lack of a story doesn't help, especially because I couldn't care less about Lydia, Chinaski, or anyone else in the book for that matter. I get that this book is held up as part of the 'realism' school, and that's probably right. It's just I don't care about these characters' reality. It's not that it's depressing (which it undoubtedly is), it's that it's pointless in the extreme (which I'm sure is the point, the overarching theme appears to be nihilism).

    Bukowski is undoubtedly transporting you somewhere else, as good writers do. It's just that this particular destination is not one I care to go to. I'll keep slogging away and hope it improves.
     
  15. mya

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    I'm struggling with it too..probably because I didn't bother to purchase the book and have been reading the link that Juice posted. I'll get on it this week when my husband is engrossed with the World Series.

    First observation though, I think as a woman I tend to identify more with the female characters and am currently in the "Lydia period". Since she is my absolute least favorite type of woman I am not particular enticed to pick back up to hear what new wacky thing she has dragged the narrator into.
     
  16. mya

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    I'm struggling with it too..probably because I didn't bother to purchase the book and have been reading the link that Juice posted. I'll get on it this week when my husband is engrossed with the World Series.

    First observation though, I think as a woman I tend to identify more with the female characters and am currently in the "Lydia period". Since she is my absolute least favorite type of woman I am not particular enticed to pick back up to hear what new wacky thing she has dragged the narrator into.
     
  17. CharlesJohnson

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    I had trouble getting through it as well. Not because I found it unsavory (which I eventually did), but because it was monotonous. The writing style is minimalist. Zero flourishes, like reading a manual. Reminded me very much of a beaten down, broke Bret Easton Ellis. There isn't much to chew on in between the first 50 pages of break-ups with Lydia. Which got boring. I really did not find much humor; gallows or otherwise. After the first several Lydia dust-ups I started feeling bad. That feeling did not go away until I finished it. I just felt worse as it progressed. At first I kind of felt bad for him, then he started using women with absolutely zero internal monologue or motivation other than "That's the way I am." That doesn't make for a compelling novel, that's a memoir, a diary, a livejournal, at best. What repulsed me most was his hygiene; couple that with his actions, gag. Bukowski is one of the crustiest bastards and to imagine him having sex and receiving oral made my skin crawl. I didn't question his women, I just felt bad for them.

    In fact, I didn't see any real "writing" until chapter 93, over 75% through the book. That's when it got interesting for me. This is where the narrative picks up, where Bukowski starts questioning his motivations and actions, where we start to see actual drama. Page 160-something is his first real emotion.

    How autobiographical does everyone think this is? I'm going to guess quite a bit. Writers who write about sex, frankly and/or well, tend to draw a lot of attention despite any personal or physical short comings. Hell, flaws sometimes amplify their appeal. But I can see a lot of the book being embellished as well. The writer's cult of sex is eclipsed only by the cult of rock and roll and sex. Both art forms deal exclusively with extreme outbursts of emotions, volatility, high elation, low lows. Music and words speak directly to someone, so it's only natural they respond sometimes in visceral ways.
     
  18. Kampf Trinker

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    The monotony was the biggest problem for the book. I enjoyed the humor, but even for someone like me who finds this kind of reckless impulsiveness hilarious there's only so many variations of dysfunctional relationships and reiterating of homogenous half crazed world views before it starts to get old.

    I don't get why people feel bad for the women in books like this. Most of the women he dates in the book are only interested in him because they're fans of his writing, it's not as if they innocently stumbled into a bad situation. A lot were in their early 20s, and while I'm not saying a person is as smart as they're going to be at that age, it's certainly old enough to be responsible for your actions. I felt a little bad for the Jewish woman and Sarah, but then again not really. Why would I feel bad for characters like Lydia and Tammy? It reminds of me of how the people who hated Tucker Max droned on about how he abused women. They were attracted to him because he was an egotistical asshole who acted like the world was there for his amusement. Why should the readers care when they get burned? Maybe if there was more in the book than using women for sex, (which he admitted over and over again in his writing they read) but that was nearly the extent of it. Beyond that it was as much their issues as it was Chinaski's.
     
  19. LatinGroove

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    I read the entire book several weeks ago but haven't gotten around to responding due to personal issues. The entire book is very entertaining and he is a good writer in the sense of being entertaining and being descriptive. While he won't win any literary awards with the writing style or reflections, I enjoyed the book simply because of the gonzo style of living his life. This man simply does not give.a.single.fuck. The book starts out a little slow and speeds up positively towards the middle only to end in a sort of anticlimactic (sp?) way just when I felt he was getting to some genuine feelings and morals instead of the depressed and self loathing shell of a person in the middle section of the book. Sara, I felt could have genuinely brought out the best in him due to the stability in her life but he was too far gone into a solipsistic existence that any attempt at returning to relative normalcy would have killed his writing and ultimately failed. On a scale of 0-5 stars I would rate this book 3.5 stars.

    Random quotes I enjoyed:


    Other morals simply made good sense. It was like a garden filled with poisoned fruit and good fruit. You had to know which to pick and eat, which to leave alone. - This specific line is how I've lived most of my adult life and why I don't subscribe to one particular religion. It made sense to me and although I was never able to elucidate in such a succinct sentence, this line captures perfectly how I feel about my own morals.


    Time was motionless while existence was a throbbing unbearable thing. - I read this specific portion after my sister died. When you're going through hell and pain it seems time does stand still.

    Human relationships were strange. I mean, you were with one person a while,
    eating and sleeping and living with them, loving them, talking to them, going places together, and then it stopped. Then
    there was a short period when you weren't with anybody, then another woman arrived, and you ate with her and fucked her,
    and it all seemed so normal, as if you had been waiting just for her and she had been waiting for you. - He speaks a lot of truth here. There was a quote I saw a while back that said you can fuck with someone and be willing to basically kill for them one minute and then the next you barely acknowledge the other even exists. I've always found this part of human interactions strange. We have such strong feelings and then...nothing.


    Goodness could be found sometimes the middle of hell. - This particular line touched me because you can always take something positive away from a bad experience.
     
  20. Flat_Rate

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    I haven't read the book in over a decade but this quote is what I remember the most from it, I have always been a bookworm but I always struggle to remember specific quotes or sections, this quote somehow has always stuck with me.