“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”


DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)


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10 March 2014

BUKOWSKI ON TRUTH AND CENSORSHIP

 




















In 1985, following a complaint from a reader, a library in Holland removed Charles Bukowski's book, Tales of Ordinary Madness, from its shelves. A journalist, Hans van dan Broek, wrote advising Bukowski of what he considered to be an act of censorship by the library. This is Bukowski's response. The original hangs in the Open Dicht Bus, a travelling bookstore. Drinkster discovered the letter through his subscription to the brilliant blog, Letters of Note, which is now also an invaluable book in its own right. If you're fond of receiving proper old-fashioned letters, and enjoy getting them from famous and fascinating people on a bewildering array of topics, subscribe to Letters of Note. Here's a transcription of Bukowski's letter. Drinkster feels this relates directly to writing about the drinks business, which did very well out of our beloved Bukowski.


7-22-85

 Dear Hans van den Broek: 

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many "bads" -- bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even "bad" white males. Only when you write about "bad" white males they don't complain about it. And need I say that there are "good" blacks, "good" homosexuals and "good" women?

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of "sadism" it is because it exists, I didn't invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the "light" and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can't vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else's book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.

I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it's damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven't written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that's enough.

may we all get better together,
yrs,
(Signed)
Charles Bukowski



and here's a favourite Bukowski poem:




elephants in the zoo


in the afternoon

they lean against

one another

and you can see how much

they like the sun.




from The Pleasures of the Damned
Poems 1951-1993
Charles Bukowski
Edited by John Martin
Canongate 2007 


 
















For some thoughts on Bukowski's writings on woman, including poems from The Pleasures of the Damned, Drinkster recommends this entry on Kelly Jones' Natural Thinker.
 
Charles Bukowski at home ... photographer unknown

5 comments:

woman said...

one misogynist bastard adoring another

Philip White said...

I am bemused to be likened to Bukowski. Tellingly, this proposition is usually made by men. I like some of his poetry, but not as much as I like other wiser work. I really do admire the way Kelly Jones thinks about these matters, and recommend her blog. I suggest you take the time to view her video discussions of misogyny. I'm sorry that I can't make an automatic link here, but recommend you cut and paste and watch her series that starts here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IkDJbjDiUA&list=PLF41ED42B2C499835

Kelly Jones said...

What a great letter! Thanks for publishing it, Philip.

To the commenter "woman":
When "misogynist bastard" is bandied about oft and carelessly, it shows instinctive need to please women (to protect oneself as woman from critique).

The inevitable question forms of the bandier: Why are you afraid of criticising women, or hearing criticism of yourself as a woman? Are women as a group sociopathic tyrants, brooking no dissent, permitting no rational criticism? Are you so fragile as to bear no deeper scrutiny of your character?

Kelly Jones said...

What a great letter! Thanks for publishing it, Philip.

To the commenter "woman":
When "misogynist bastard" is bandied about oft and carelessly, it shows instinctive need to please women (to protect oneself as woman from critique).

The inevitable question forms of the bandier: Why are you afraid of criticising women, or hearing criticism of yourself as a woman? Are women as a group sociopathic tyrants, brooking no dissent, permitting no rational criticism? Are you so fragile as to bear no deeper scrutiny of your character?

Philip White said...

My pleasure Kelly. Thanks too for all your good work. I love "And that it is sadism because of the sadism."