Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, Bukowski

Sometimes I get the strange urge to throw certain terms into Google and search for them. I suppose it is a projection of my psyche at the time. A writer could keep a record of them and they could create a sort of portrait, like an artist throwing paint against a canvas or a wall. Often I just type in "Jew," which must make me a secret Hebrew or paranoid Aryan, or perhaps both. Either way I'm part of a chosen people. Maybe I just find it amusing that it is one of the only search terms that comes with a warning when you type it in. I guess having an explanation backfires in a way though, it makes Google appear to be part of the massive worldwide Zionist conspiracy (which I believe has something to do with replacing fish sticks with gefilte fish.)

Not to sound like too much of a weirdo, I will throw in terms such as "Italy," "Italian," "Beatnik," and "Jack Chick" for good measure as well. I also throw in the last names of writers and poets to see what I come up with, often appending their surnames with phrases such as "alcohol," "booze," "sex," or "scansion." The other day I had Bukowski on the mind and maybe it was the alignment of the planets, but it turned out that it was his birthday. Charles Bukowski died in 1994 and would be 91 if he were alive today. I doubt he could ever have made it this far, but the fact he got to his seventies was quite a feat considering the, ahem, liquid diet he adhered to.

Nevertheless, after typing in his name, I found a lot of interesting material on Bukowski that has recently been released on the Internet. Some of it consciously posted because of the birthday, but much of it probably accidentalClearly the planets are at work, not just on me, but others as well. YouTube has a few new videos that are either about Bukowski or else feature him in some way and give a fascinating glimpse into the writer and his world. First, someone has posted an early reading of Bukowski at Bellevue College in Washington. Through the grainy footage we seen him before he became well-known.

In this documentary from Taylor Hackford in 1973, a different Bukowski shows up on film. Here is the Bukowski that emerged from the success of his first novel Post Office, full of swagger, confidence, and completely absorbed by his public persona and reputation. The film traces Bukowski from LA to San Francisco, where he gives a reading put on Lawrence Ferlinghetti. If nothing else, it is a fascinating glimpse of the underground West Coast poetry scene in the early 1970s, after the rise and fall of the San Francisco Renaissance but before the Slam poetry revolution.   

Lastly, I came across a documentary that Bukowski narrated some time in the 1980s about the "best hotel on skid row." While Bukowski never spent much time on Skid Row, despite the legends, he was certainly familiar enough with it.  Even though he never makes an appearance, the documentary shows the kind of people and places who populate much of his work. I think it's an interesting idea that could be utilized more often, having a writer or any other kind of artist, narrating a documentary about the world that inspired them and informed their work, without making any specific reference to themselves.

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