...the mildness to which men ... had yielded was only half of the intoxication of beauty, while the other half ... was of such surpassing and terrible cruelty—the most cruel of men delights himself with a flower—that beauty ... failed quickly of its effect...
Jeremy Davies is made of ink, but don’t dip a feather in him. It tickles. He once painted a fingernail black and no one really noticed. He was disappointed. He’s also an editor, a religious atheist, a liker of strong coffees, a Shakespeare-lover, a political anarchist and someone who rarely has a pen when he needs one. He has been a PhD candidate, a personal trainer, a life model, a bouncer, an infantry soldier and someone who rarely had a pen when he needed one. He has had words published in a variety of places, in a variety of publications, in a variety of forms, in a variety of moments: Canada, Wet Ink, SMS and twelve minutes past three in the afternoon being some of these. His first novel, 'Missing Presumed Undead', will be re-published by Satalyte Publishing in February 2014. A second is on its way.
Bukowski is a five star poet writing a three star story, averaging out to four stars: but with a +1/2 star for pure, unmixed vodkaric fucking artistic courage … if you’ll pardon the bland but necessary tautology. Instead of a Nobel Prize, a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor should have been meted out to him. When Chinaski—Bukowski’s fictionalized self—is asked about the kinds of writers he likes, the attribute he mentions about them is their bravery. He’s asked: why?
“Why? It makes me feel good. It’s a matter of style in the face of no chance at all.”
And that’s what he is.
The declarations and codifications of his writing seem to baffle him. The misos or the isms. He’s aware of them. But he goes on. You can beat him up. You can run him down. You can trash his typewriter in the middle of the road. He not only takes his chances, he understands them. They are nil.
"What do you think of women?" she asked.
"I'm not a thinker..."
Chinaski seems to be aware of the vanishing-point that is the saturation of hate-ideology, and in the face of it, he places himself, not with any Saint George-like ideal of conquering it, but at least if he can just…be…him… that’s style in the face of no chance at all. That is courage. Once they have absorbed the entire avenue of discourse open to the writer, then ‘fuck them’ becomes all that you have to at least bridge between the body of it all and your own yawp.
Love … is like trying to carry a full garbage can on your back over a rushing river of piss
Love was for guitar players, Catholics and chess freaks.
For Chinaski, the other side of bravery is love. Not in an antonymic sense, but it is the sense, the device, the object by which you fall into something that becomes too great to have courage through. This is why he often expresses awe in its face, because it is the one thing that can really defeat him. He expresses pity for those who he encounters who seem to be under it, he expresses self-pity for the one time in the past when he was also so afflicted. He avoids women who have men who love them.
Maybe I should have slammed her? How did a man know what to do? Generally, I decided, it was better to wait, if you had any feeling for the individual. If you hated her right off, it was better to fuck her right off; if you didn’t, it was better to wait, then fuck her and hate her later on.
Chinaski is an absurd hero. He is fully aware of the absurdity of his condition in the story, and regularly expresses complete bafflement for how he is making a living as a poet, and how these women are appearing in his life … and what they’re prepared to do for him. But he still takes what is given freely, and he gives freely. He undergoes ordeals that would have me in a homicidal fit of rage, and yet he can go berserk if the music is too loud; a woman can all but kill him in the street, but he will still help them move house; he is contradictory, obtuse, will-full, forgiving, passionate and reserved, destructive and self-destructive, creative and lacking-in-imagination. He is one of us, one of the losers; cast as a winner. He celebrates his winnings, but is humble enough to remain a loser.
"I never pump up my vulgarity. I wait for it to arrive on its own terms."
Which brings me to his three-star-ish-ness. I take notes while I read for future reference, along with a page number, and this kind of tells the story. Normally, the gems I unearth are pretty evenly spread out page number wise. With this book, there would be forty, fifty page gaps; and then a series of notes over one, two or three pages. It’s as though Bukowski has a series of great poetic works of character insight, and he strings them together to create a book.
"I write. But mostly I take photographs."
...he admits, jokingly, but it also rings true. He’s joined a series of fascinating shots together. It’s certainly well worth the read, as a tonic for our only-for-fun or moral-prescriptive emphasis on reading now fashionable.
What a rush to stumble upon a poet who is not a sociologist, who is not an organ-grinder, who is his own monkey.
This book won’t make you a better person, or a better citizen. It will make you more human ... more or less; it will equip you better for your own silence; it will sheath your soul more comfortably, because it will further develop that discomfort and anxiety that is the very definition of the human soul. And that is the object of literature.
"You write a lot about women."
"I know. I wonder sometimes what I’ll write about after that."
"Maybe it won’t stop."