I’m reading Ham on Rye. For years, people have told me about Bukowski. Once you read Bukowski, they said, then you’ll know. And so I am reading it and I understand. His prose is straightforward and direct. He participates in the Hemingway tradition of classic literature. But he doesn’t seem to get the respect he may deserve.
His poetry is impressive. And his prose is truthful. It is funny and honest. Modest Mouse has a song called Bukowski, which it turns out was always one of my favorite tracks from that Good People Who Love Bad News albums, but which I never knew because my copy was burned (remember when we burned CDs?) and there was no track listing. In the song they say that every night is a little more like him, and they ask who would wanna be such an asshole.
Bukowski knew, though, when he said, “Some people never go crazy. What horrible lives they must lead.” I’m not done with this first foray, only a tad past halfway. I’m savoring it, each page and a half chapter, for the lessons it provides to the young artist writing a kunstlerroman. So far, he’s got my vote for becoming part of the canonical classic literature.