Women by Charles Bukowski
Author: Charles Bukowski
Publication: Ecco; Reprint edition
Price: Click the link
Charles Bukowski is one of America’s best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose. He was born in Andernach, Germany in 1920, and brought to the United States at the age of three. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944 when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five.
During his lifetime he published more than forty-five books of poetry and prose, including the novels Post Office (1971), Factotum (1975), Women (1978), Ham on Rye (1982), and Hollywood (1989). Among his posthumous works, there are: What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999), Open All Night: New Poems (2000), Beerspit Night and Cursing: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli, 1960-1967 (2001), and Night Torn Mad with Footsteps: New Poems (2001).
All of his books have been translated in over a dozen languages. He died in San Pedro, California, in 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp (1994).
Women (1978) is the third novel by Charles Bukowski. Henry Chinaski is his alter ego of him. In contrast to Factotum, Post Office and Ham on Rye, Women captures a different aspect of the writer.
It is not mandatory that the author should keep a message for the reader in his or her writing. Yet when we read a literary piece we get something out of it. The writer consciously or unconsciously keeps a message through the character portrayal or the theme. And what we get we hoard safely in our minds. But I get nothing of this kind from Bukowski’s novel Women.
I always love his poems. They bear certain distinguished traits that differentiate them from others and mark their popularity.
“I could write on top of an iceberg.”
“Women” is a soliloquy of 50 years old man Henry Chinaski who had not been to bed with a woman for four years…no women friends.
He had a six years old daughter born out of wedlock. Though he was married at the age of 35 the marriage lasted for two and one-half years. His wife wrote him Christmas letters even after the divorce for six years. But he never responded.
Then he met Lydia Vance six years ago. He quit his 12 years job and tried to be a writer. He used to drink and write the whole night. On an occasion of poetry recitation, Lydia Vance approached him.
Later she went to him to recite her own poems. They were not at all worthy for the old writer. He did not like the poems but he liked her body and wished to make sex with her. But she dismissed him. Later she proposed to sculpt his head in her room and asked him to join her there. There he met her sister Glendoline, a garrulous woman.
“She could talk. If she was a sphinx she could have talked, if she was a stone she could have talked. I wondered when she’d get tired and leave”
Lydia felt that the man needed some love and care. Her dreams unfurled the message:
“I had a dream about you. I opened your chest like a cabinet, it had doors, and when I opened the doors I saw all kinds of soft things inside.”
“Then I had a dream about this other man. He walked up to me and handed me some pieces of paper. He was a writer. I took the pieces of paper and looked at them. And the pieces of paper had cancer. His writing had cancer. I go by my dreams. You deserve some love.”
Very easy flowing language lucid and simple. The narrative style is also gliding. No superficial language is used. The characters are speaking in colloquial everyday language.
Imbued in raw sensuality:
As I proceed through the novel I feel there is nothing but raw sensuality permeating every page. The old man one after another is indulging in sex. For him, sex is the way to know the women.
“I had to taste women to really know them, to get inside of them. I could invent men in my mind because I was one, but women, for me, were almost impossible…So I explored them as best I could and I found human beings inside.”
It sounds like Thomas in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Thomas used to involve in multiple relationships just to explore the uniqueness of women’s sexuality
So one after another he divulged in strings of relations…mostly carnal…Valencia, Sara, Iris, Valerie, Elsie etc.
Finally, he met 18 years old Tanya with just 90 pounds weight. And he halted after her. I am not sure about the reason. Maybe too much sex has exhausted him.
“I’m infantile; I can’t handle it.”
“I had not split that 90 pounds in half. She could handle me and much much more.”
After his experience with the teenage girl something happened to him…uncertain epiphany.
“Flesh alone, without love. We were filling the air with the stink of pure sex. My child, my child. How can your small body do all these things? Who invented the woman? For what ultimate purpose? Take this shaft!”
In the end, a phone call came to Henry Chinaski from Rochelle who expressed her wish to visit him at night. But Henry refused a woman for the Ist time in his life and hanged up.
His final encounter was with a stray black cat, which followed him to his room. He offered it a can of tuna.
“I opened him up a can of Star-Kist solid white tuna. Packed in spring water. Net wt. 7 oz.”
I don’t realize how he attains that stoicism.
I find nothing in this generous amount of pages except the profuse example of sex scenes. I just skip reading after some chapters. I finish the book as I know Charles Bukowski as a poet and my love for him. But I don’t like Charles Bukowski the novelist, especially with his Women. The book offers me nothing…nothing. It appears as a rant of a sex maniac whose only habit is to involve in a physical relationship with women of various ages-18,27,30, mid-thirty.
A woman for the narrator is only body and the importance is how much the body can erect his cock. It is a trash novel to me. Except for debauchery and sex, I found nothing.
Only one inspiration I got from here: how to finish a novel or any big lengthy literary piece…not by drinking wine or vomiting or doing sex one after another (I don’t believe in this part) but by continuous typing for several hours (yes it is).
Hi, I’m Munmun here and welcome to my book blog. I’m an English Teacher. But more than that I love to read books and write down my thoughts. I feel we can change the world by circulating the introspections of great columnists throughout the world. You are free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.