Against The American Dream: Essays on Bukowski

jordan

lothario speedwagon
Over 1000 posts
against the american dream essays

would anyone care to list the table of contents??? i kind of want to see what the essays are about before i buy this bad boy.

mucho appreciated. i'll pay it forward.
 

ROC

It is what it is
Over 1000 posts
well... I cld post the table of contents when I get home or you cld just trust me ;)
I think the book is worth buying on the basis that it treats Bukowskis writing seriously and, even if you don't agree with Harrisons conclusions (presumptions?), you will still get a very interesting perspective on the context and possible motivations behind some of Buks writing/style.

The essays link Bukowski to an anti-work ethic, a complete move away from the use of metaphor (using metonymy instead) and links him to the styles of Brecht and Gleason (Jackie!) amongst other things.

I found it a rather dry but, ultimately, rewarding read.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Over 1000 posts
it's a scholar piece of writing, and thus it's meant to be serious, boring (to most people), dry, etc. To me it's very useful for different reasons, but I can see why most people find it a POC!
 

jordan

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Over 1000 posts
after 2 years of graduate school in critical literary theory, i have a tolerance for dry like a sword swallower has a tolerance for a sword down the throat. i bought it today (found the numbered one for $40 and couldn't resist), and i'm really looking forward to reading it.
 

the only good poet

One retreat after another without peace.
Over 500 posts
one of the points harrison made which stuck in my mind was that bukowski's depiction of the working life went further than the more politically overt writings of earlier proletarian writers: it seems to call, not for better working conditions, but for the abolition of work altogether.
 

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
Over 1000 posts
I could easily go along with that. Excerpt from "The House":

and it seems people should not build houses
anymore,
it seems people should not get married
anymore,
it seems people should stop working
and sit in small rooms
on 2nd floors
under electric lights without shades;
it seems there is a lot to forget
and a lot not to do
and in drugstores, markets, bars,
the people are tired, they do not want
to move, and I stand there at night
and look through this house and the
house does not want to be built
Can't remember when I first read that but it has stuck with me ever since.
bp
 

HenryChinaski

Founding member
Over 1000 posts
so everytime I search abe, tons of listings for this book come up. finally, I broke down and bought one just to see what all the fuss is about.

Any opinions on this book? Any one else read it or own a copy? I'm sure somebody does. Let me know if I wasted my money or not.
 
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mjp

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Funny you should mention this book now, because I bought it years ago and only made it through 70 or 80 pages and put it back on the shelf. I pulled it out again the other day and put it in the bathroom - where all the best reading is done - and it still bores the living hell out of me. But I suppose someone who went to college and is much smarter than me could appreciate it.

To me, dissecting art like that just kills it. It's like explaining to someone why a joke is funny. Once you've done that, the joke isn't funny anymore.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Over 5000 posts
...Important to own if you are a rabid collector and must own everything Bukowski. I bet that there are very few pople that own this book AND have actually read it.

Count me as one that has not read it and has no plans to do so.

Bill
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
Over 1000 posts
i bought it and have read parts of it. harrison's writing style is kind of assertive sometimes, but overall, i think it's a good study. yes, i think there are a couple types of people who would get this book: people who are into literary criticism, and people who are rabid collectors. to that end, black sparrow did bother to do numbered and lettered copies, and you can find them for pretty cheap compared to actual bukowski books.

i don't think dissecting the art kills it at all. difference of opinion, i know, but for me, reading this book is like having a conversation with someone who has invested a hell of a lot of time thinking about bukowski in certain contexts. i'm not looking for him to "explain" bukowski to me, or to tell me the "meaning" of chinaski going to the track. but i do find some of his insights interesting, even if i don't agree with all of them.

ps- to me, it's not a cover-to-cover read. it's more of a read-a-chapter-at-a-time-whenever-i'm-curious-and-in-a-certain-mood type of book.
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
Over 1000 posts
Interesting thread, thx.

Ok, what about David Charlson's ....

The first
(and relatively Readable)
Academic Dissertation on
the Poetry and Prose of
Charles Bukowski


?
 

cirerita

Founding member
Over 1000 posts
I read Harrison's and Charlson' and Baughan's and Brewer's, etc., from cover to cover.

yeah, I know, I'm sick...
 

roni

Over 5000 posts
I lent it from my library 5 weeks ago and still didn't xerox it (which I definitely Will, bc it's part of my attitude to have 'secondary literature' too). So can't tell about the worth of the content Yet (since I only will read it, when I have my Own copies to make Remarkes in them!).

And, YES, I admit that I'm that sort of 'literary-research-person', that Buk would have hated. (only remember, it's THIS kind of suckers, that enabled a guy like Howard Sounes to create the most reliable bio on Buk! - or - oh! you think there was no need for this bio? so sorry!)
 

ROC

It is what it is
Over 1000 posts
I read Harrison's and Charlson' and Baughan's and Brewer's, etc., from cover to cover.

yeah, I know, I'm sick...
Same.

I don't see the point in buying them unless you read them.
All due respect mjp, but agree with Jordan about dissecting art too.
A joke loses its impact when explained - sometimes art gains impact (particularly some painting) when the reasons, context and biography of the artist in question are explained.

I didn't buy into a lot of Harrissons theories on Buks politics - but I found it a generally enjoyable read.
It's heartening that someone is willing - and able - to dedicate the time and energy to a serious study of Buks writing.
After all... the last thing we need is more blind adoration and fanzines.
Yes?
 

1fsh2fsh

I think that I think too much
Founding member
Over 500 posts
Well, I just recieved a copy of this (essays) a couple of days ago... bought a hardcover cheap($7) on abe (a rabid(?) collector) I've got a shit load of reading that I was going to do before I actually got around to this one but now I may have to push it forward a bit.... this forum never ceases to amaze me!!!
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Over 1000 posts
To me, dissecting art like that just kills it. It's like explaining to someone why a joke is funny. Once you've done that, the joke isn't funny anymore.
OK, but if you're a professional comedian you need to know how jokes work in order to, uh, make them work...
Nobody spends more time dissecting art than the artists themselves, in my opinion that is.
Long time since I read ATAD (yes! read it all) but I remember a few interesting points:
- Buk's background & voice compared to W.C.Fields - interesting. Aren't Jackie Gleason & Charlie Chaplin also mentioned?
- Buk's poetry compared to Brecht's - interesting, both lived in L.A. at the same time. Brecht does have the same simple style. Buk mentions Brecht a couple of times in letters...
- The connection to work in Buk's writing

All this off the top of my head after reading it 10 years ago means I did get something out of it...
 

bright

Over 100 posts
very interesting connection you point out there.
Brecht really has a very similar form in his poetry.
Never thought of comparing them.
hmmm.
 

HenryChinaski

Founding member
Over 1000 posts
at first, I was a little reluctant to buy this because I thought it might be a little too academic for my tastes but after receiving it, I've skimmed through it a little. harrison raises some valid thoughts and the fact that Martin published this for Black Sparrow must say something. One can gain some sort of insight from this book I suppose. Maybe I'll know more after I finish reading it...but for 7 bucks a hardcover...it doesnt seem like I got robbed.

PLUS I was just sick and tired of seeing a million copies of it pop up on abe when I searched for Buk.
 

mjp

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OK, but if you're a professional comedian you need to know how jokes work in order to, uh, make them work...
Nobody spends more time dissecting art than the artists themselves, in my opinion that is.
Yep. But even as an artist or comedian or whatever, that dissection can take away your ability to be surprised by something or to see it without prejudice.

I was a musician for a long time, and when I think of the performances, all I can conjure up is what the stage looked like, or if it was too hot in the place, or did we get paid - none of those have anything to do with the show as a musical performance, the way someone in the audience would experience it.

Same thing for recordings. I listen to something I worked on 25 years ago and all I think of what the studio looked like, who was hanging around making work difficult or who had to hum the parts to the backup singers. I cannot listen to any of that music objectively, and I've talked to other musicians who have the same experience.

I guess those examples kind of suck, since they have to do with being personally involved in the process, so forget I said anything.

Carry on.
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Over 1000 posts
I was a musician for a long time, and when I think of the performances, all I can conjure up is what the stage looked like, or if it was too hot in the place, or did we get paid - none of those have anything to do with the show as a musical performance, the way someone in the audience would experience it.
Yeah, ok. But I'll bet you analyzed a whole darn lot while rehearsing the songs. I'm not into musical jargon at all, but I bet you said things like: "Hey, if you come in on the second offbeat instead of the first downbeat [huh? :p] then the whole riff gets another feel to it. And lets let that organ stay a quarter note after the other instruments - it sounds cool."

When performing, all this analytical stuff is (or should be) so automatic, or in the back of your head, or in your fingers, that it doesn't get in the way of the groove, improvisation, feel, surprise or whatchamacallit. But its still in there - somewhere - if its good.

You've gotta go thru the "analytics" (practice?), and then forget em again, so to speak...
Thats all I meant.

Oh well. What do I know? I'm just a voice on the dark wires - not the enlightened and most highly esteemed Inventor, Creator and Moderator of Bukowski.net!
very interesting connection you point out there.
Brecht really has a very similar form in his poetry.
Never thought of comparing them.
hmmm.
Brecht was from a posh, upper-class background, was educated as a doctor, and didn't have many (any?) menial jobs.
And he was a communist.

Bukowski was from a lower-/mid-class background, had an unfinished education, and knew plenty about hard work.
And he was apolitical.

Combine the two and you get some pretty good dialectics - eh?
;)
 

mjp

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You've gotta go thru the "analytics" (practice?), and then forget em again, so to speak... Thats all I meant.
Yes, in a way, you are right. The problem is, after that rehearsal/analyzation, the performance itself is usually not memorable for the performer. In rare cases when the planets line up properly it can be a transcendent experience, and you find yourself actually paying attention, wondering, "Wow, what the fuck is happening?!" and laughing a lot. But those are the exception to the rule. Most of the time it is a job. Hate to blow anyone's rock and roll fantasy. Ha.
Oh well. What do I know? I'm just a voice on the dark wires - not the enlightened and most highly esteemed Inventor, Creator and Moderator of Bukowski.net!
:confused:
 

mjp

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Oh, I know, I got you. I was just scrunching up my virtual face at the "enlightened" part. I'm no Meher Baba... ;)
 
I read about half of the Harrison book when it came out - I still have it and may give it a second look. One observation from Harrison has stuck in my mind - that in some instances Buk went on a line or two too long in his poems. Kind of ramming the point home. I remember the poems Harrison chose as examples were stronger having the last few lines cut.
 

Purple Stickpin

Over 5000 posts
Old thread - but I did miss it the first time. So:

1. Better to have Buk go on for an extra line or two to ram the point home than to have Martinized drivel dripping from an unused knob.

2. Regarding the now 4+ year-old statement about Buk calling for the abolishment of work altogether vs better working conditions: that must be interpreted in the context of a brilliant writer performing menial tasks in the cog of the American business system. Buk was simply stating that you must be a fool to shove that down your throat if you have the aspirations and talent he had. It's a personal observation by a brilliant man - not an edict to abolish work for everyone - just all who want to make something overtly special. Like he did. I'm sure he was painfully aware that most people would not have the drive he did. And he was right about that.
 
What Martin has done after Buk's death (and in the case of Women, while Buk while still alive) is inexcusable and sickening. Luckily Harrison didn't have the power to change the poems - he was giving an aesthetic opinion. I just pulled the book down from the shelf - Harrison hits on this point very briefly in his book. For some reason his observation has stuck with me over the years and I know I've read poems where I thought Buk was letting the air out of the balloon in the last few lines.
 
I realize this is an older post, but I am reading this book now and feel like chiming in here. So far, I've enjoyed Harrison's work tremendously, as he has opened up new avenues for me in some of Bukowski's work that I hadn't previously considered. I especially appreciate that his decomposition of the poems are based entirely on the content, void of extraneous biographical information about the author. Bukowski the person is so often confused with the narrative protagonist. Unfortunately, the two are often combined during analysis. This does not make for a 'clean' analysis. Bukowski is one of few writers who fall into this trap due to the semi-biographical nature of his work. I appreciate Harrison's detailed and scholarly lens. It may be true that Bukowski did not consciously intend all that Harrison is seeing, but it is there and it is beautiful. That is part if what makes Bukowski (and any writer) so artistic. The ability to mean so much wider and deeper than may appear on the printed page while the printed page version, alone, also provides a bountiful reading experience. Thank you, Harrison, for mining some of the glorious under layers of this wonderful writer.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Over 1000 posts
Too scholarly a book for most people, but it's not as bad as it might seem. I bet quite a few people did not even finish the first chapter :wb:

Anyway, maybe the decomposition of the poems was good, but Harrison did not always do his homework:
Russell Harrison (252-54) contends that most of the "old" short-stories published in City Lights' Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972) or Black Sparrow Press' South of No North (1973)are considerably less crafted than the "new" ones printed in BSP's Hot Water Music (1983). A thorough analysis of the short-stories collected in Hot Water Music, however,reveals that the vast majority of them had been previously published in underground newspapers in the 70s. For example, Harrison maintains that "Decline and Fall" (Hot Water) is an improvement upon "The Fuck Machine" (Erections) and "Maja Thurup" (South) because he believes it was written in the 80s and, hence, the sexual scenes are "far more effective" (263). Nevertheless, "Decline and Fall" had appeared in the September 7-14, 1973 issue of Los Angeles Weekly News, an underground newspaper edited by Arthur Kunkin.
 
Hey, guys!
Maybe, I read this forum not very attentively, but still I want to ask if somebody have any links to download this book for free. If there are any, PLEASE share. I need it very much to finish my thesis on Bukowski successfully, but, unfortunately, there's no possibilty to by it in the country I live in.
P.S.: if somebody's got some other useful materials on Bukowski's life and work, I would be very grateful to receive them in exchange for materials I have. Thanks in advance!:)
 
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