This week I’ve talked a bit about Bukowski and classic literature. His prose is simple and straightforward, sure, and his sex scenes and subject matter are real raunchy, but the fact is he isn’t doing anything entirely unique. He’s incorporating his influences, but if his favorite author was James Thurber as a young adult, it should come as no surprise that he has not left any masterpieces.
Let’s take another example, this time from music. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have two excellent albums. And yet they were not first ballot Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Why? My friends have recently told me they are lame. Sure they brought funk into rock n’ roll in a new way, but Funkadelic and Jimi Hendrix had done that fifteen years before them. Bloodsexsugarmagic is their best album because here their music is most theirs. It was the first time they departed from their funkier music from the ’80s. It was original. Californication marked another step in their careers. But their later albums have attempted the same formula, to lesser success
If Bukowski and RHCP had continually tried to depart farther from their influences and push their styles in a post postmodern era, they might have been more highly esteemed. As it is, they ran with what they knew. And that’s appreciable. But it ain’t the classic literature of Joyce.