Is it possible to have sympathy for alcoholics, foul-mouthed madmen, a liquor store hold-up man, draft-dodgers, sexists, self-centered writers or any combination of the above? Yes, as long as the writer is Charles Bukowski. The famous symbolist painter, Odilon Redon once said that dead flowers are just as beautiful as those in full bloom. Bukowski would agree. His characters have seen better days; in fact their best days are well behind them. Or, to paraphrase one of his characters, once you think you've hit bottom, another bottom rises up to hit you. And yet, there is a substantial nobility, a worthiness--I'm struggling for the right word--about these down-and-out characters. For the most part, you like them. Watching a felon, on the night he is about to stick up a liquor store, conversing with his little daughter, is downright poignant. (If you can't tell, "A .45 To Pay The Rent" is among my favorites.) I'm stretching here a bit, but reading this reminded me of Jacob Riis' "How the Other Half Lives". While I am a working class guy, these stories revealed to me a world that I could never have imagined, nor survived in. The only difference between this and Riis' classic, is that this is autobiographical fiction. But the feeling is still there. These wretches have pride and assert their needs and identities. These are not stories for the squeamish. So do not go lightly into "Tales of Ordinary Madness". But these stories are not shocking for shock's sake. They are shocking because they are real.
Modern Examples of Old Wisdom
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 15 years ago
A Taoist story tells the tale of a poor sage who declined an invitation to live in the palace of the Emperor. When asked how he could possibly choose to continue living homeless and broke instead of living amidst the splendor of the Emperor's palace, the sage pointed to a pig rolling about in the mud, and said, "Like that pig, I prefer to live in the mud than be dead in a velvet box." In the movie "Barfly" (screenplay written by Bukowski), "Hank" (Bukowski's fictional alter ego) was invited by a beautiful lady to live in her mansion, where he could live and write in peace. Hank declined, saying "Look around you, you're in a cage with golden bars." This collection of stories further illustrates the beauty and honor of living in the mud.
Tales Of A Madman?
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 16 years ago
This book is a bit explicit in its content, and for those that find subjects about filthy drunks, offensive sexual details, and nonstandard behavior, do not read this book. The book is funny, disgusting, and sad at times. With Bukowski one has to read between the lines, take what is good, and leave the rest. The stories are obviously autobiographical since every Bukowski fan knows he was a drunk and lived in filthy transient hotels for most of his life. His auto-fiction stories are colorful, crude, and unsavory. Tales of Ordinary Madness is a great book; it is full of amazing poetry and short stories about people that were erratic, and rejected by society because of the way they lived. Is it because these characters were mad, or is it because that was their natural course in life? Well, that has to be interpreted by the reader. Through his writing he allows you to get into the subhuman scenario of the people that he chose to surround himself with, you can feel it. Bukowski made it clear through his prose that he was a non-believer of what society dictated he was a radical. Bukowski was a great writer, however he did contradict himself by professing to hate poets although he was one himself. He never wanted to fit into any role in society although he ended-up doing so. If you can stomach Bukowski it will make you think quite a bit.
But we have to explain why we're mad ...
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
Salvador Dali was quoted "The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad." Bukowski is mad. Crazy and angry. Then again, perfectly sane and rather sedate. This book is a series of short stories which are part auto-biography and part fiction (most combining elements of both.) Bukowski writes from the gut with vividness and candor that will most assuredly guarantee this book will never make it to any high school reading lists. Look at it like this: you walk into a bar one night because you are bored out of your skull. You sit next to a man who talks your ear off. He's a veteran alcoholic and social deviant but you find his talk strangely intriguing. Soon you realize you've spent four hours talking to this nut and you've been thoroughly entertained. You aren't sure which of the stories he's told you are true, and it doesn't really matter. It's been a good night. Now you can go back home and face your wife. Life is good.
Read the 1st paragraph of"I Shot a Man in Reno" 4 a summary
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
Highly recommened for those who appreciate irony and a sick sense of humor. Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness was the original title, and more accurately describes the content than does its current truncated version.
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