An evening with Charles Bukowski, my own personal Poet Laureate.
The drunken, womanizing, raucously incorrect world of Charles Bukowski may seem out of touch with contemporary sensibilities. Yet, most of us in these quarantine times can learn how an uncensored night at home could be well spent from “You Never Had It — An Evening With Charles Bukowski,” coming to Kino Marquee virtual cinemas in the Bay Area starting Friday, Aug. 7.
Less than an hour long, this conversational documentary with the prurient poet of Los Angeles’ lower depths is remarkably rich with insights into the writing craft and business, sex and love, humanity’s lack of humanity, and more.
Unlike at his often rowdy and combative public readings, Bukowski comes off as a gently growling, even cordial host here. He’s funny as hell, knows it and is pleased to prove it. All while consuming copious amounts of wine and skinny, Indian bidi cigarettes.
Among many gems that came out of Bukowski’s mouth that January evening:
“Writers are very despicable people; plumbers are better people,” following a revelation that he declined an invitation to meet Jean-Paul Sartre while on a book tour in Paris. “I’m a writer.”
“Why is everything sex?” during a stretch of playful, if morbid, back-and-forth on their cream-colored couch with his future wife, Linda Lee Beighle. “Can’t I ride a bicycle down the street without thinking about sex?”
“Take all these people in the world,” he says at one point, chillingly foreshadowing what a lot of us have just come to realize in the last several years. “They’re more full of hate than they are love. This is our society. Let’s go with the flow, let’s not kid ourselves.”
This is one flick I’ll have to see, since I’ve been a huge fan of Bukowski’s work for many, many years now. I’ve always found his bloody-knuckled insights on the writing life to be arresting, pungent, and penetrating—maybe even more so than his other stuff, which doesn’t exactly pull any punches either. Exhibit A:
get a large typewriter
and as the footsteps go up and down
outside your window
hit that thing
hit it hard
make it a heavyweight fight
make it the bull when he first charges in
and remember the old dogs
who fought so well:
Hemingway, Celine, Dostoevsky, Hamsun.
If you think they didn’t go crazy
in tiny rooms
just like you’re doing now
then you’re not ready.
Oof. Still makes the hair on back of my neck stand up, even after long years of familiarity with the man’s work and decades of dabbling myself in writing professionally, albeit writing of a very different style and sort. There are a few other poets I like a lot too, but only Bukowski can hit hard enough to stand you straight up and lay you out flat like that.