Bukowski and work (1 Viewer)

How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

I've wanted to make this thread for a while.

Basically, I would say working is a major theme in Bukowski's writing and also something that is probably not given as much attention as it should in literature. This is covered in depth in Russell Harrison's Against the American Dream. Harrison also argues that Bukowski broke with tradition by rejecting the entire idea of "work" as being something useful or necessary. What's refreshing to me is that Bukowski doesn't moralize the issue. The working man is not a hero. Most of the time he's an asshole like everyone else. Recognizing that is an achievement, I think.

Add thoughts if you have any...
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
I've wanted to make this thread for a while.
Add thoughts if you have any...

Agree re work being a big theme, given the sheer number of jobs he had, difficult not too. Maybe it wasn't so much the work, but the people he had to work with at times (we've all been there). In Post Office when he resigns, he says he's quitting his job because he's off to start a career (regular paid writing) so, happier days. Agree he doesn't moralise or romantacise the working man/woman, but he does empathise and for me, that's more important.
Not to dismiss the likes of George Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier, which is very earnest and sincere in documenting the plight of the working classes, but it's observational rather than him having lived it.
PS have just ordered Russell Harrison's; Against the American Dream, got it for £1.73 - used, on Amazon. Not too shabby - the deal that is, not sure how the book will be.
 

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
Basically, I would say working is a major theme in Bukowski's writing and also something that is probably not given as much attention as it should in literature.
Interesting this thread should show up along with the Fred Voss one. Fred's Goodstone aircraft company poems are hilarious. Found a chapbook of his recently on a trip into the U.S. (first in 5 years, I go for the poetry).

Back in the 1970s/80s there was Tom Wayman, a poet and editor, who championed "work poetry", writings on the workplace. He edited three anthologies specifically aimed at literature and work. A couple of those books (Paperwork and Going For Coffee) seem to still be available.
 

mjp

Founding member
Maybe it wasn't so much the work, but the people he had to work with at times (we've all been there).
I don't know about that. His problem was with work as a thing, as a way to spend (i.e., waste) your life.

Writing about work almost always lead to him talking about class distinction. Employers vs. employees. Which the employer class never really wants people to think about. Especially in the 50s and 60s when they were trying to convince everyone that there was no class system in America.

He characterized his coworkers as sheep, yes, or if you're being generous; unenlightened. But it seems to me that most thinking people look at work the same way. And by work I mean work, not a "white collar" desk job. A thinking person usually finds a way to avoid it, through education or connections or whatever means they have at their disposal.

Bukowski escaped using the means at his disposal, and you might notice that he wrote more about working for the man after he had figured out how to avoid it. So a lot of his writing about work is in retrospect, as opposed to some others who write about work while they're doing it.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
I don't know about that. His problem was with work as a thing, as a way to spend (i.e., waste) your life.
I agree he regards work ( thankless, exploitative, soul destroying jobs) as a terrible, futile waste of anyone's life, but I don't think he does it in anyway that offends or insults the people having to do the jobs, because he did any number of them himself and his empathy comes across.

His frustration with his co-workers for blindly accepting their lot even when it was unfair or petty is clear. He spoke up and complained, but I would say it was easier for him to do that, because I think maybe he knew he was always going to move on and escape one day.
I think there was one occasion that I know (sorry don't have the specifics) where he was a foreman, ( but not a very good one, he says, because the men all liked him and the job of a foreman was to be disliked)

There is also an episode in Post Office where on talking to a colleague, he sees that he has a supervisor's badge on, his friend (Tom Moto) tries to explain he has kids etc. ( I think Hank feels betrayed) but I really feel sorry for Tom in that scene.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
Found it... (him being a foreman) Portions From A Wine- Stained Notebook ( Dirty Old Man Confesses )

“I’d come in drunk and goose the workers with hammer handles while they were nailing their crates shut. But they liked me. Which was wrong – a good foreman is a man you fear. The entire world functions on fear.”

Just Sayin'.
 
Work (manual/blue collar/retail/etc.) portrayed in fiction generally rings hollow for me with some glaring exceptions (Buk,Zola,London and a few others). It's such a huge fucking topic that it's almost better not open that box.

But really Studs Terkel was the writer who most often and most effectively described the workers life (albeit through the interview process). He and Buk in their very different ways painted the truest picture of work in post-war America.
 
I suspect many writers avoid topics like work because they don't feel it's worth writing about or they simply have too little experience to draw from. Buk wrote, "This diffusion of talent usually occurs among writers in their twenties who don't have enough experience, who don't have enough meat to pick off the bone. You can't write without living and writing all the time is not living."
Not to dismiss the likes of George Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier, which is very earnest and sincere in documenting the plight of the working classes, but it's observational rather than him having lived it. PS have just ordered Russell Harrison's; Against the American Dream, got it for £1.73 - used, on Amazon. Not too shabby - the deal that is, not sure how the book will be.
Have you read Down and Out in Paris and London ? It's a very "factotum-ish" book by Orwell. There's an old thread about Harrison's book on this forum. I myself liked it but his style is academic and most people find it rather dry.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
Have you read Down and Out in Paris and London ? It's a very "factotum-ish" book by Orwell. There's an old thread about Harrison's book on this forum. I myself liked it but his style is academic and most people find it rather dry.

No, haven't read it yet, will try and get round to it. I read The Road To Wigan Pier because I was really interested in the subject matter and used a lot of it for my history exam (a long time ago).
With Down and Out in Paris and London there is debate about how down and out he really was. It's regarded as being influenced by Jack London's The People of the Abyss when he went to live in the east end of London - in disguise - which I have read.
 
I suspect many writers avoid topics like work because they don't feel it's worth writing about or they simply have too little experience to draw from. Buk wrote, "This diffusion of talent usually occurs among writers in their twenties who don't have enough experience, who don't have enough meat to pick off the bone. You can't write without living and writing all the time is not living."
Have you read Down and Out in Paris and London ? It's a very "factotum-ish" book by Orwell. There's an old thread about Harrison's book on this forum. I myself liked it but his style is academic and most people find it rather dry.
Down and Out In Paris and London is a true jewel. And, I agree, it is indeed a very "Factotum-ish" book. There are many elements in it that bring to mind Bukowski (albeit in a markedly different style of delivery) -

Down and out by Orwell00001.JPGDown and out by Orwell0001.JPG
It is a really sobering tale of toil -in possibly the worst possible occupation - as a plongeur (dishwasher). I know how miserable that job is - because I've worked it - as well as the one that is barely a step up - as a "busboy." I've included an excerpt here. There is another powerful section of the book that runs from pp. 114 through 121. If others on this forum are interested, I'll post scans of those pages as well.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
His problem was with work as a thing, as a way to spend (i.e., waste) your life.

Agreed. I think Bukowski viewed work as just another part of human existence. How a man spends his days is something Bukowski dwells on a lot, whether it’s drinking, playing the horses, writing, or cutting your toenails.

And I don’t think he necessarily viewed working in a factory to be any less demeaning or senseless than being a lawyer, college professor or Hollywood producer. They were equally irrational in his mind.

Mind you, some jobs are much easier than others and Bukowski was definitely grateful to escape the world of manual labor. He also felt fortunate to have some money in his pocket, having lived without it for a good part of his life.

But Bukowski didn’t even like the idea of viewing himself as a “professional” writer – someone who spends all day looking and acting like a writer while talking about writing. He’d rather go to the track and be anonymous in the crowd.

In his mind, he managed to cheat the system and he was pretty proud about that. What’s more, he encouraged others to beat it too, like in his 1993 poem the laughing heart.

your life is your life.
don’t let it be clubbed into dank
submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the
darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you
chances.
know them, take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death
in life,
sometimes.
and the more often you
learn to do it,
the more light there will
be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have
it.
you are marvelous.
the gods wait to delight
in you.
 
G

GDPR 4124

"you can’t beat death but
you can beat death
in life,
sometimes.
and the more often you
learn to do it,
the more light there will
be."

Oh, how often haven't I comforted myself with those words.
 

mjp

Founding member
I'm sure John Martin would be happy to hear that you guys love his work.

That's just an assumption, of course. But I'd want to compare it to the manuscript (which we don't have) or the version published in Prairie Schooner (which I don't have).

There's always the possibility that Martin didn't touch that one. It's highly unlikely, but possible.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
Yeah, I grabbed it from Prairie, but caught the typo.

But I'm sure Martin and Linda made some bank when they let Levis use it.
 
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And I don’t think he necessarily viewed working in a factory to be any less demeaning or senseless than being a lawyer, college professor or Hollywood producer. They were equally irrational in his mind.

Irrational is a good word to describe Bukowski's portrayal of work. Absurd would be my choice.

I once read a blog post about a human resources department that forced sick nurses to take unpaid leave, even if they were willing to come to work. They must take leave in order not to infect patients, and it must be unpaid leave due to the fact that the nurse was not working. That will teach them! Meanwhile, those brilliant bureaucrats remain excellently paid for saving the hospital much-needed money that would have been spent - nay, squandered, on those leech-like nurses. Now grandmother can die efficiently in the waiting room rather than going through the trouble of taking an expensive battery of tests. Brilliant!
 
My income was outsourced. Then I was under-employed. That led to flu-like symptoms. Apropos of nothing, I sell expensive shit to rich assholes and I personally find that a carefully concealed hatred of everyone I do business with is sometimes the only way to get through some days. Like today, for example.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
I sell expensive shit to rich assholes and I personally find that a carefully concealed hatred of everyone I do business with is sometimes the only way to get through some days. Like today, for example.
Fight Club monologue skiroomalum, pretty good:
not so sure if it will cheer you up though?

 
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Buk hated work. Buk hated the people on the sidewalk who had faces of cold stone blankets. Sometimes he hated the sun. All he wanted was his four walls and a 5th of Cutty. Why is it that all he wanted to do was stare at the dresser, to stare at the knobs a problem?
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
When you hate something its because you know it could/should be better.
Better parents. Better childhood. Better schools. Better jobs. Better society. Better dentists. Better plumbers. Better paid busboys.

When it comes to ppl Chinaski doesn't hate them, he just feels better when they're not around. That's not hate, that's indifference - or perhaps a survival instinct. When Chinaski hates (at least in the best texts) its because he sees things SHOULD BE BETTER. Chinaski just thinks and feels too intensely. His expectations are high.

Hating work means hating work you are FORCED to do.
Chinaski WORKS his ass off on his writing and LOVES every moment of it.

There are ppl who love manual labour. It all depends on the situation (work environment).

Hatred is very complex and always connected to love - whatever that word stands for.

Thats why so many ppl love to hate and hate to love...

PS: Orwell's "Down and out in Paris & London" is available free for Kindle here: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79d/o79d.mobi
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
PS: Orwell's "Down and out in Paris & London" is available free for Kindle here: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79d/o79d.mobi

That's great.
Will download it, thanks Erik.

Erik;
Have downloaded it onto the computer Kindle, but now I am struggling to move it across to my ( newly acquired! Kindle e-reader) when I get a book from Amazon it seems to do it by itself, with no help from me, a bit lost as to what to do. By the way that is a really good website for free books.
 
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Skygazer

And in the end...
Erik, thanks for the links, I managed to install the kindle "send to your device" thing, have spent about the last 2 hours going slowly bananas though, sending the free downloaded books from the computer, wondering why they weren't showing up on my device, sent a help letter to Amazon etc., anyhoo, the penny finally dropped with me, I was wrongly looking in books on my kindle instead of documents, when I went into documents they were all there - about 20 million duplicates from my repeated sending! Best to keep the list on All Items, rather than just books - then you see everything.
Just in case anyone does the same ( probably not though).
Thank You, just have to do a lot of deleting now.

PS sorry this has moved away from Buk and Work.
 
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Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
I'm pretty new on the Kindle Paperwhite myself. Thats why I had all the links available. ;-)
I recently discovered the PushToKindle function on Firefox/Chrome/. It lets you send articles on the net to the reader with a click. Very useful. I actually like that the Kindle doesn't have a gode web browser. Things I put on the Kindle are for reading only.

And hey: It takes a lot of WORK setting these gadgets up. But I still do it...

Here's another good site for ya: http://archive.org/details/texts
 
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Skygazer

And in the end...
It's a Paperwhite I bought, Erik ( I love it so much!). Have installed that Push to kindle function and have now got the open book icon on the top right of the screen, so much easier. That website, I checked out last night, not the easiest website to navigate, but some great free books. Thank you:)
 
This is related, I swear.

On another forum someone asked if becoming a doctor was worth the personal sacrifice. A doctor replied, "Most people are PERPETUAL ADOLESCENTS who don't want to do any WORK! You're going to have to WORK HARD at anything you do in life! I want colleagues who know how to WORK HARD. So what are you going to sacrifice, getting DRUNK?"

The main sacrifice, of course, is 10 years in school with the resultant loss of personal time and life experience.

And it reminds me of Henry Chinaski's apt retort to an employer who (justly) accused him of slacking off:
I've given you my time, which is all I have to give — it's all any man has to give.
 
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jddougher

Founding member
Basically, I would say working is a major theme in Bukowski's writing and also something that is probably not given as much attention as it should in literature. This is covered in depth in Russell Harrison's Against the American Dream. Harrison also argues that Bukowski broke with tradition by rejecting the entire idea of "work" as being something useful or necessary.
Without a doubt, work is not only a major theme in Bukowski's work; it is also a subject that animated him unlike almost any other. Bukowski developed a visceral hatred of the "9 to 5," and in an interview I did with him (which I have yet to expose to the public), he talked at some length about his hatred of the workaday world. It's a new personal goal of mine to unearth the work I did on Bukowski, and that includes this previously unpublished interview.

This is a good topic and indeed one that deserves study.
 
...and in an interview I did with him (which I have yet to expose to the public), he talked at some length about his hatred of the workaday world. It's a new personal goal of mine to unearth the work I did on Bukowski, and that includes this previously unpublished interview.
Teasing is not allowed on this forum. :rolleyes: There are several excellent presses represented on this forum that might help you out if you own the rights and want to get this out to those who want to see it.
 

jddougher

Founding member
Teasing is not allowed on this forum. :rolleyes: There are several excellent presses represented on this forum that might help you out if you own the rights and want to get this out to those who want to see it.

After many years of being buried under too much work, I'm just about to have the time to start organizing my life of papers, and getting that interview out will be one of the many things I do. I'm not sure whether to sell the original interview or to release it under the PoetryCircle Press label, which I'm now getting off the ground with a few e-books (to start) from writers on PoetryCircle and PC Featured Writers. Publishing poetry e-books is challenging, though, from a formatting standpoint, since HTML, the technology behind e-books, strips out extra spaces unless you use workarounds, and even when you do get the lines to look right on one device, if you switch to something smaller, the lines won't work. That's another topic, though.

plus a literary society devoted to the man and his work.

I like this forum a lot (and so wish I had started it myself--but in a way, after knowing about all the work that goes into maintaining a forum--I founded PhotoCamel--it's probably good that I didn't), and you all are a definite motivator for me to get that out soon. Today, in fact, I told myself I'd go dig those papers out. I also want to release the full, unabridged interview I did with Carl Weissner, Buk's long-time German translator. The version that appeared in print was cut down greatly. I interviewed that guy over many days and have cassette tapes full of sessions as a result.
 

mjp

Founding member
wish I had started it myself--but in a way, after knowing about all the work that goes into maintaining a forum it's probably good that I didn't...
Work? What work?

Oh, maybe you mean things like the hundred different versions of different forum software and seven or eight server moves and database crashes and designing a beautiful monochromatic theme and painstakingly building a community and taking out (and keeping out) the trash and the thousands of dollars and thousands of hours that I could have been doing my nails...I guess if you look at it that way there is some amount of work involved. But not much.

I used to think that people started forums because they had a need and no one else was filling, but spending time in forums about forum software I've learned that there are a significant number of people out there who just start forums for no reason. Now those fuckers are weird.
 

jddougher

Founding member
maybe you mean things like the hundred different versions of different forum software and seven or eight server moves and database crashes and designing a beautiful monochromatic theme and painstakingly building a community and taking out (and keeping out) the trash and the thousands of dollars and thousands of hours that I could have been doing my nails...I guess if you look at it that way there is some amount of work involved. But not much.
Well, I recently sold a forum that grew to over 64,000 members. That thing was work, day and night work. It was like running a small city. I was everything from technical admin to relationship counselor. Thank goodness I found a company that was willing to grow the place rather than milk it by plastering ads all over the place. Yeah, a modest forum of 1,200 or so you can leave for a week and not worry--at least I can with PoetryCircle, thanks to the fine editors that really run the place--but get up into 40, 50 thousand users, and you've got work.
 

mjp

Founding member
Yeah, I've managed 30k+ user forums, and how much work it is depends on the quality of the people who help run it. That goes for a forum of any size though. There are only two moderators here (hank solo and hoochmonkey9) and they insulate me from a lot of things. They also keep the place even tempered, because if it was only up to me, just about everyone who comes through the door would be banned. And I'm only exaggerating a little bit there.

But if the moderators are just moderating as part of their (day) job, I find they are less helpful. It's all about personal interest and a hundred other personality traits. Good moderators are a rare and essential breed. They make these things tick.
 

jddougher

Founding member
because if it was only up to me, just about everyone who comes through the door would be banned. And I'm only exaggerating a little bit there.

Yeah, if you're a hothead, you're probably not cut out for running anything on the internet that involves other people. In fact, it was overly aggressive moderators that led me to found what became one of the most popular photography forums on the net, and our working mantra there was "hands off of users," except in one very specific case (personal insults hurled from one to another). That worked well, as people generally don't want to be "moderated" online. No need to stick around in someone else's personal propriety party.
 

mjp

Founding member
I thought you said hophead, and I was going to agree.
people generally don't want to be "moderated" online.
People don't want to be moderated anywhere. But no community, on line or off, can survive without some form of moderation, and maybe more importantly, the previously mentioned taking out of the trash (see: jails and prisons).

One or two idiots can destroy any group (intentionally or not) if they aren't properly dealt with. That's just human nature and it's one of the reasons propaganda exists and why governments have historically found it effective to infiltrate enemy groups, to attempt to weaken or destroy them from within. Upset the balance, create chaos, overthrow. It's been going on since people figured out they could kill each other if their sticks were sharp on one end.

All I'm saying is that in an on line community, that delicate balance can't be maintained by one person, since a single person's biases would ultimately upset any chance for balance.
 

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