Book Review: Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

There's something comforting to me about Charles Bukowski's writing. I think it's that, despite his tendency to barely fictionalize his own life of drinking, writing and screwing, there's humanism and emotion through it all. With National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) quickly approaching, I picked up a copy of his Hollywood to keep the word pump primed (having recently re-read Edson, it seemed like a natural progression), and was surprised to discover the book was not about drinking, writing and screwing.

Instead, it's a book about writing about drinking, writing and screwing.

Well, it's a fictionalized version of his experience writing the screenplay and going through the production of the film Barfly.

What draws me – and I'm guessing many others – to Bukowski's alter-ego Henry ("Hank") Chinaski is that he says and does things at the basest level of humanity. And none of the rest of us has the guts to be that much of a jerk. He often gets drunk enough to be belligerent and physically numb. He enjoys fights with bartenders. He picks up women with a bold crassness. And people fawn over him because he's an asshole writer who's enjoyed some success.

But as some writers know, words can be a disease. To counter his incessant need to write, Chinaski drinks, screws and gambles (he loves the horses, except for the half-hour wait in between races). And it's true that when Bukowski died in 1994 in his mid-70s, he looked like he could have been 130.

Hollywood paints a picture of a Bukowski (or Chinaski) in his 60s, happily married to a woman who has accepted some of his vices (gambling), shares in some (drinking) and tamed others (eating) [no word on the screwing, oddly]. Someone has asked him to write one of his novels into a screenplay, and he works through writing in a new medium, pleasing the actors and producers, and going through a roller coaster with the funding.

Sure, the drinking is there (Chinaski is always an anti-social character), but this is the first novel of Bukowski's I've read that really chronicles an event – it actually has a plot line and ends when it's done.

I'm also sad to learn that I'm almost out of Bukowski's novels – he wrote seven; much of his body of work was poetry, and I'm not a fan of his poetry. Not even a little. Oh, and yes, have a go at Hollywood, even if you had a hard time making it through others of his books.

Book Review: Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

There's something comforting to me about Charles Bukowski's writing. I think it's that, despite his tendency to barely fictionalize his own life of drinking, writing and screwing, there's humanism and emotion through it all. With National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) quickly approaching, I picked up a copy of his Hollywood to keep the word pump primed (having recently re-read Edson, it seemed like a natural progression), and was surprised to discover the book was not about drinking, writing and screwing.

Instead, it's a book about writing about drinking, writing and screwing.

Well, it's a fictionalized version of his experience writing the screenplay and going through the production of the film Barfly.

What draws me – and I'm guessing many others – to Bukowski's alter-ego Henry ("Hank") Chinaski is that he says and does things at the basest level of humanity. And none of the rest of us has the guts to be that much of a jerk. He often gets drunk enough to be belligerent and physically numb. He enjoys fights with bartenders. He picks up women with a bold crassness. And people fawn over him because he's an asshole writer who's enjoyed some success.

But as some writers know, words can be a disease. To counter his incessant need to write, Chinaski drinks, screws and gambles (he loves the horses, except for the half-hour wait in between races). And it's true that when Bukowski died in 1994 in his mid-70s, he looked like he could have been 130.

Hollywood paints a picture of a Bukowski (or Chinaski) in his 60s, happily married to a woman who has accepted some of his vices (gambling), shares in some (drinking) and tamed others (eating) [no word on the screwing, oddly]. Someone has asked him to write one of his novels into a screenplay, and he works through writing in a new medium, pleasing the actors and producers, and going through a roller coaster with the funding.

Sure, the drinking is there (Chinaski is always an anti-social character), but this is the first novel of Bukowski's I've read that really chronicles an event – it actually has a plot line and ends when it's done.

I'm also sad to learn that I'm almost out of Bukowski's novels – he wrote seven; much of his body of work was poetry, and I'm not a fan of his poetry. Not even a little. Oh, and yes, have a go at Hollywood, even if you had a hard time making it through others of his books.