Bukowski's physical depiction

cirerita

Founding member
I never met B, but I've seen enough pictures and movies to get an idea of how he looked like. However, images and movies are one thing and reality might be an altogether different one.

While checking my notes for the diss. I came across two quotes which depict B's appearance pretty fairly, I think:
A big hunchback with ravaged, pockmarked face, decayed nicotine-stained teeth, and pain-filled green eyes. Flat brown hair seemed pasted to an oversized skull ?hips broader than shoulders, hands grotesquely small and soft. A beer gut sagged over his belt. He wore a white shirt, baggy pants, an ill-fitting suit, the kind convicts receive when released from prison. He looked like one, down and out.
H. Norse quoted in Sounes, p. 94

The regular, rather pleasant features of his face were buried in a great, pulpy, pitted receptacle of bad karma, self-pity and vengeance, capped by the beeriest, most bulbous nose ever to guide uncertain steps through the darkness. The face hung down between his shoulders, giving him the appearance of a massive troglodyte.
from D. Scratchan?s 1971 interview, reprinted in Calonne, p. 63

edit:I found another one:

There is something wolf-like about his features ? fringed from crown to chin with long, fading brown hair. His face is pocked and pitted by a thousand scars of barroom brawls. It is a long face, with a forehead that is very broad and high. Bright green eyes peer out from under thick brows. Even when he is friendly, his eyes have a way of cooling when he looks at you
from W. Childress' 1974 interview, reprinted in Calonne, p. 79.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Here's an excerpt from the dissertation I handed back in 2002. It's all about the "boils" episode and how it affected B's life and work.
Taken from The Forging of the Ultimate Literary Loner: Charles Bukowski's Early Poetry
, Barcelona, Spain, pp. 25-27.
 

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This is excellent!

I never met B, but I've seen enough pictures and movies to get an idea of how he looked like. However, images and movies are one thing and reality might be an altogether different one.

While checking my notes for the diss. I came across two quotes which depict B's appearance pretty fairly, I think:
H. Norse quoted in Sounes, p. 94

from D. Scratchan?s 1971 interview, reprinted in Calonne, p. 63

edit:I found another one:

from W. Childress' 1974 interview, reprinted in Calonne, p. 79.
Here's an excerpt from the dissertation I handed back in 2002. It's all about the "boils" episode and how it affected B's life and work.
Taken from The Forging of the Ultimate Literary Loner: Charles Bukowski's Early Poetry
, Barcelona, Spain, pp. 25-27.
Yes, I agree on this one. That's really good stuff man.
In the spirit of getting back to Bukowski Basics, i came upon this thread. Thank you cirerita, I keep finding the greatest treasures here! And thanks Bill, for passing me that trivia question, I had to think about Hanky all day,(yes, GKHL- I did figure the question out during my lunch hour;)),
I had a good day. :)Cheers! And Here's To- Charles Bukowski, may he Rest In Peace.
 
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"While it is true that Bukowski tended to exaggerate how much he suffered when the acne vulgaris surfaced on his skin to aggrandize his self-mythologizing persona, it is indeed undeniable that his case was a particularly unpleasant one.

I don't know. I find it hard to believe he exaggerated much about his condition. The mental & physical pain was obviously real.The drills were a reality back then, and one can only imagine the humiliation he felt during high school; women finding him repulsive, the guys laughing at him, etc... Lifelong scars that disfigured his face, chest, shoulders and back. That's pretty intense.
 
I went to school with a guy who developed terrible acne around the age of 14. Until then he was regularly dux of the class and a fairly gregarious guy. Once the acne hit he became withdrawn and his grades went to shit. Kids called him crater face and worse. By the time we graduated at age 18, his face had become a permanent series of lumpy red scars. Reading about Buk, I find myself wondering what happened to that schoolkid.
 
^Yeah school is the harshest place on earth. Your at the age where your body goes through weird changes & the hormone overload seriously can fuck you up physically. Even though they pass the physical and mental scars stay with you and haunt you as you grow older. I can think of so many kids like Buk in high school & wonder how they're doing now. Buk was lucky he had the balls and determination to break out of this fragile shell eventually.
For so many kids school must have been a living hell, no wonder people wanna shoot the place up. For me school was a joke, mucking around being boys breaking things etc. but man some guys had to endure so much shit....an inhumane amount of physical & mental abuse.
 

cirerita

Founding member
"While it is true that Bukowski tended to exaggerate how much he suffered when the acne vulgaris surfaced on his skin to aggrandize his self-mythologizing persona, it is indeed undeniable that his case was a particularly unpleasant one.

I don't know. I find it hard to believe he exaggerated much about his condition. The mental & physical pain was obviously real.The drills were a reality back then, and one can only imagine the humiliation he felt during high school; women finding him repulsive, the guys laughing at him, etc... Lifelong scars that disfigured his face, chest, shoulders and back. That's pretty intense.
I wrote that quite a few years ago. You know, perceptions change over time. What I was trying to say is that, in some ways, the acne disfiguration worked to his advantage, and he used it as part of his persona. Whether he exaggerated the suffering or not, well, I guess nobody actually knows that for sure.
 
but man some guys had to endure so much shit....an inhumane amount of physical & mental abuse.
In the case I mentioned, I was not one to call the poor fellow names -- that wasn't and isn't my style -- but I did a far crueller thing: I did not befriend or defend him, I did not even speak to him. I ignored him completely.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
He was physically impressive in person. Imposing. Big and powerful. The face was a ruin, but a beautiful one. The nose was bulbous, veined, about to explode. Eyes that could bore right through you. I found him physically intimiding, like some large mongrel dog. You'd want to move slowly around him, not make any unexpected movements. I had the feeling violence could flare up without warning. Not like a guy with a hot temper. It was colder than that. He might squash you like a cockroach under his thumb. A vibe of high intelligence, grace and charm. He knew he was the constant center of attention, it was expected and deserved. Lots of confidence in himself, while at the same time painfully shy and self-effacing. Physically clean. Moved gracefully, slowly. Comfortable in his own space.
 
"Memory is a field full of psychological ruins."
-Gaston Bachelard

"flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than flesh."
-Bukowski, from alone with everybody
 

mjp

Your Host
Moderator
Founding member
What I was trying to say is that, in some ways, the acne disfiguration worked to his advantage, and he used it as part of his persona. Whether he exaggerated the suffering or not, well, I guess nobody actually knows that for sure.
He did use his appearance in his myth building, that's unquestionable.

But I also think it would be difficult to exaggerate the kind of suffering an really severe case of acne could cause a young kid.

Things like that - being the outcast or the freak - shape your personality. It makes some people withdraw, and others (like Bukowski) work like hell to prove to the world that they made a mistake when they disregarded or ignored them.

Add to that the disapproving, abusive father and you have the ultimate recipe for a hard working fucker who is determined to be a success in their chosen field. Just to prove the world wrong.
 

Ambreen

Sordide Sentimental
So you met him, Rekrab/David ? Under what circumstances ? How lucky you are !

When I see pictures or videos, I imagine a vigorous, virile and at the same time mild man.

hands grotesquely small and soft
Really ? On the photos, they seem big, quite bestial, accurate for all the hard labors he did before working in a post-office.
 

Johannes

Founding member
For some reason B. often wrote about his small hands too, Ambreen.

On the photos they don't look small at all, in fact, wouldn't he himself have mentioned them regularly in his work, I guess no one else would have outside. But the photos might fool you and maybe meeting him in persona they really seemed small(er), attached to the rest of the body.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
His hands didn't seem especially small to me, but in comparison to his huge barrel chest, powerful arms and legs, and massive head, I guess his hands were small. I'd call them normal.

I met him, hung around him when I was a college student. I was part of the local small press poetry scene in Long Beach, California, went to readings and literary parties, hung out with the poets and editors, wrote and published little magazines. Bukowski was a hero to us. He was well known in literary circles but not among the general public. He was "big" reputation-wise but only a hundreth of what he is now. No, make that a thousandth.

I wrote a memoir about Buk called "Charles Bukowski Spit In My Face." There's a thread here where you can buy a copy -- not that I'm trying to hype them. But it's available still, I mean.
 

Johannes

Founding member
He mentioned it in many letters, too. Don't have the books now, so I can't quote. Usually in the context of his backalley-beating-skills.

Interesting, David. Thx. He mentioned his legs alot too. Especially them being powerful.
 

Ambreen

Sordide Sentimental
I repeat it : How lucky you are, David !

I know the thread's existence but never read it :D I'm going now ;)
 

Ambreen

Sordide Sentimental
I was talking about the luck he had to meet Buk !

I didn't think he literally spit on David's face ! I'm looking to the said thread and just read about that funny anecdote...how unlucky you were !
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
I was talking about the luck he had to meet Buk !

I didn't think he literally spit on David's face ! I'm looking to the said thread and just read about that funny anecdote...how unlucky you were !
Yes, very lucky to have met Bukowski and spent many hours in his presence scattered over several years.

He DID literally spit in my face. I was devastated by it, being young and too sensitive and he was my hero. I got over it ... after about 20 years. Now I think I was lucky for that, too, plus I think it's funny as hell. I deserved it, and I didn't, and I did. You know.

Just did mjp's watercolor and it was tough but came out nice. Right now, I'm battling Hosh's, and it's a bear, the toughest face yet, but I am more or less beating the bastard into submission... will post both when they are done and dry.
 

mjp

Your Host
Moderator
Founding member
Just did mjp's watercolor and it was tough but came out nice.
Sorry, I may have forced you into something difficult by my request for a painting made from an unusual picture. ;) I look forward to seeing it!
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
Naw, that's good. I needed to be challenged. Yours was hard but came out quick and clean. Hosh's was a bitch but I wrestled it to the ground. Both are pretty decent, and a good day's work. And then I mowed the back yard.
 

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
I mowed today as well. I left some and dedicated them to Bukowski, besides they'll drop seed and make the lawn fuller.
Now if my wife could just go get the strop.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
That's a great reason not to finish mowing at any one time. A Bukowski Patch, to help the seed spread and fill out the bare spots. I'm instituting that practice immediately.
 

Ambreen

Sordide Sentimental
Yes, very lucky to have met Bukowski and spent many hours in his presence scattered over several years.

He DID literally spit in my face. I was devastated by it, being young and too sensitive and he was my hero. I got over it ... after about 20 years. Now I think I was lucky for that, too, plus I think it's funny as hell. I deserved it, and I didn't, and I did. You know.
Today, when going back home, I put my right hand on a spit while using an escalator in the underground and it reminded me of your misadventure.

Oh yes, I understand that before being funny, it was quite traumatic. I certainly would have cried. All the more as it is so disgusting (I washed my hand again and again before using it).
"BUKOWSKI ? UNE SALE RACAILLE BONNE QU'A ÊTRE NETTOYÉE AU KARCHER !"
 
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