Musings on Contemporary Waffle

My old man and Hank

Charles Bukowski’s empathy showed often enough in his writing, just at the right places, remarkably, that it continually renewed your faith in what he wrote, though I never got the sense that Mr. Bukowski read that much. He didn’t need to.

It’s not a disparaging comment. My father read a thousand 3rd-rate crime novels that no hospital or library wanted after he died, when my mother wanted to get rid of them. No one wanted them, except for maybe the R. Chandlers. But there aren’t many of those, maybe seven, including the short stories.

But those R. Chandlers were my father’s great love. He never encouraged me to read anything  else that he ever read — none of the 1000 volumes of pulp that he liked for their narcotic effect after a day of his numbing jobs – except Raymond Chandler and his Philip Marlowe.

Now, with my father dead for over a decade, dead at 62, so young for a man I remember as so full of energy and wit and who loved music and a good joke, a good drink, and a good looking woman, I’m closing in on what made him so mad so often.

I don’t think he ever heard of Bukowski, let alone read him, and much to his loss. He would have loved him. The poems, the novels, maybe the stories. But mostly, probably, the poems. My dad wrote poetry when he was in his 20s, before he fully entered manhood to die a little every day being responsible. I felt his anger, almost every day.

And now, as a 50-year-old I know where that discontent came from. It came from not continuing to write, to be creative, other than vicariously through a thousand bad pulp novels he wouldn’t remember after a week of having read one.

The thing is, my father liked schlock because it reflected his life. What would the point be of reading Hemingway or Joyce or Burroughs when they reminded him of his decision – and it is a decision, not an oversight — to put away those dreams of being some kind of creative being?

My father liked Chandler because Chandler wrote so beautifully of failure that it agreed with my dad’s sensibility. He would have liked Bukowski for the same reason; for his honesty, and maybe he would have cried secretly that he didn’t try in those 40 years to write anymore poems. Instead, he was a good husband to a bad woman, my mother, who eventually stopped believing in him and then taking care of him, believing him when he said he wanted to die.

Any woman who believes it when a man says he wants to die is the wrong woman, the angel of death happy to fulfil her own cravings for finality, vicariously, and using the words of his desperation to cover herself, words my father could never have really meant.

Fighting a woman like her was beyond my father, regrettably, much to my sorrow after over a dozen years without him.

He should have read Bukowski.

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