Monday, April 16, 2012

the shitlist: Charles Bukowski

Yours truly likes to use this corner of the internets to highlight stuff she digs in hopes that you might like it too. On the other hand, there are other things that are considered sacred cows by some who'd consider themselves more enlightened that are anything but. The Shitlist, in homage to a quartet of ladies with loud guitars playing mostly middling tunes for tomboyish riot grrrls more interested in getting wasted than fighting the power, highlights some of these. 

I majored in English lit after realizing I'd be in school ten years taking terrible education classes and would face unemployment as an art teacher, and besides, I suck at prepared public speaking or keeping kids in line. The majority of the people studying this kind of thing were other ladies so most of the reading selections would generate male-bashing discussions that probably made the token dudes feel awkward for having the indignity of growing up cracker and sometimes hetero.

There was a guy I met who lived in my dorm that was kind of a smart brainy type too, with whom I'd argue about God and trade music and books with and in whose dark dorm room I watched SLC Punk and Clerks for the first time. He described himself as a feminist and really into women's rights, all while telling me that while I was smart, I'd be a lot more hot if I dyed my hair black and got my lips pierced and maybe some tattoos and how hot this other girl was.

As this was in the time of old jeans and ill-fitting band shirts, mutilated hair and gauged ears before I got a Real Job and started actually caring about how I looked, it kind of made me feel like crap until I realized that he was the one being stupid and hypocritical. After going to see some punk rock bands where he ditched me and my roommate for his cooler friends, that was pretty much the end of that.

Ironically enough, he was a fan of manly-man hipster lit, mostly along the lines of Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. I'd only heard of the latter and pulled some of his books from the shelf while working in the stacks of that even more towering slab and while some of the poetry could be occasionally decent, and it seems he had a sucky life that was exacerbated by being a constant lecherous drunk, the stories sucked, and I finished enough of them to not be convinced. I don't think I read a single thing of his that wasn't somewhat repulsive, and even the occasional stylistic rawness of the more sensitive poems was not enough to be redeeming.

“Baby," I said, "I'm a genius but nobody knows it but me.” 

I like my everyman lit as much as the next person, but not if it's the literary equivalent of the  creepy dude on your street who watches you mow the lawn in cutoffs like my old neighbor and can't think about a woman's body without wanting to rape it, who throws around racial epithets for the hell of it. I guess one could read it for insight into the thoughts of the drunk in a dive bar, but to hold this man up as some kind of saint for keeping it real doesn't work for me.

And again and again I'd be at social gatherings with lots of sensitive-dude Pavement-loving English majors who said my last name was cool because it sounded like his, which would make me come close to snarling and would just keep telling me he was "misunderstood" and "really didn't mean what he said" but the consistency of degradation of other people is kind of hard to ignore.

Maybe I'm just biased as a sensitive chick, or that I associate him with other souls who perceived themselves as sensitive and progressive because they liked Sleater-Kinney but who were anything but. I don't buy the whole "he was a product of his time" thing because other people writing in the 1950s were misanthropic without being so universally hateful.

Hence, the shitlist.

If dudes need an alter ego of manly dudeness, at least Henry Rollins has the testosterone but something resembling a curious mind and a beating heart too, just sayin'.

1 comment:

  1. No slab is more towering, nor no tower more slabby than this, blasphemer!

    Being a Giant Sap instead of a Manly Man of Manliness, never dug Chuck much myself, but not having majored in English, I didn't suffer the constant bombardment of he (and other) sacred cows that you did which would have been quite annoying, you Real Job Sellout.

    All my shitlists would be nothing but a string of fucks, so a toast to your actual critiquing ability.