Buk's apology to Wantling? (1 Viewer)


If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
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Have any of you noticed the unpublished foreward to William Wantling's "7 on Style" in "Portions from a Wine-stained Notebook"? In it Buk is both gracious and respectful concerning Wantling. It seems Buk sure could pour on the sugar if he wanted to... This stands in crass contrast to the way Wantling's wife described the same visit that Buk describes in this foreward, and also to Buk's notorious put-down of Wantling in his column (where is that link...).

To me this almost seems like an apology from Buk to an at the time dead-from-suicide Wantling. Notice the last line: "I'll say goodbye now, Bill".

I also like the things he says about style near the end.

Anyone have more info on this text? When was it written? Why wasn't it included as the foreward? Who stopped it - Wantlings wife? Where did City Lights get it from? Has anyone seen it printed before?

And will it rain tomorrow?;)
A.D. Winans had asked Buk to write the forward and he discusses what happened in The Charles Bukowski/ Second Coming Years, pp. 62-63. Winans says that Ruth Wantling sent him a forward by Walter Lowenfels which he decided to use instead of Buk's "because it addressed Bill's work, while Hank's forward spoke more about Bill, the person, and Hank had used the occasion to pump himself up." Winans also mentions the difficult relationship between Buk and Ruth, so there were several reasons why he decided not to use it.
I found the MSS in the UC Santa Barbara Special Collections and it was written 1974/1975.
[...] and Hank had used the occasion to pump himself up.[...]
Thanks for the info Dave. I agree that the text definitely gives the impression of a whitewash job.

An interesting question this rises is: If Buk could whitewash himself so smoothly he probably could "blackwash" somebody else just as effectively. A question I've sometimes asked myself is: Was Buk's father really as horrific a person as Buk described him? I guess we'll never know, but just imagine if he actually got a "bum rap" from Buk. After all, we only have Buk's side of the story, don't we? How much does a child actually understand about his parent's background? What was Hank Senior's childhood like? How did his dad treat him? What did he experience in the war? What shit jobs did he go thru in his lifetime? How did he experience the (first) depression? How hard was Buk Senior's life? - all without the release of an artistic talent such as Buk's.

And on another tangent: Buk was always interested in the viewpoint of extreme persons, you know, like The Fiend. Maybe this interest in extreme personalities just was part of Buk's quest to understand his father's "dark side".

Maybe the ultimate Buk-myth is his depiction of his "evil" father. I mean: there are always at least two sides to a story, aren't there?
Ah well... :rolleyes:
Interesting you should mention this, because I've wondered the same thing. Of course, it raises the rather large "philosophical" question of how do we ever know anything about the inner life of another person. Everyone's psychic interior remains a secret.
As you say, Bukowski's whole thing is exaggeration in every way, so he goes to either extreme. My own feeling is that there is no doubt he was abused as a child--whether it was weekly, monthly, once a year I suppose doesn't really matter. Also some children are more sensitive than others, and even if had "only" been beaten five times in his whole childhood, if the events were traumatic enough and if he hadn't received any positive attention from his parents, then those events would be obviously magnified and internalized in a more horrific manner.
Again, my sense is that the abuse was likely extreme, because the trauma would explain many otherwise bizarre things in Buk's psychology. [the acne vulgaris and physical strangeness is another matter, but I don't think as central as the abuse]. The fact that he seemed to veer into a kind of limbo between reality and fantasy often means to me that something was shattered in his ability to trust the external world, to cope with reality OTHER than by "denying" it, taking refuge in imagination and fantasy, etc. There's a passage I think in Ham on Rye where he describes how bright the light was, as if the whole world was bathed in a kind of surreal, unreal, hopeless light.
So yes, he could "whitewash" and "blackwash" as you say--just different sides of the same character structure. As he could do those wonderful cartoons, and then turn and write mad and depressed, Dostoyevsky-style.
I haven't studied the matter and am no shrink--some "abused" kids perhaps grow up and are more resilient, less traumatized.
OK, I just remembered a poem which I came across the other day which perhaps says all this quite clearly [this is about the first half of the poem]

Bach, come back [from Bone Palace Ballet]

sitting in this old chair, listening to Bach,
the music splashes across me, refreshing, delightful.
I need it, tonight I feel like a man who has come back
from the same old war, death in life,
as my guts say not again, not again, to have fought
so hard for what?
too often, the only escape is sleep.
Bach saves me, momentarily.

so often I hear my father laughing, the dead laughter
of the father who seldom laughed in life
is laughing now.
then I hear him speak: "You haven't escaped me.
I appear in new forms and work at you through
I'm going to make sure that hell never stops for

then Bach is back,
Bach couldn't you have been my father?
nonetheless, you make my hell

I have come back from suicide, the park bench, it was a
good fight
but my father is still in this world,
he gets very close at times
and suicide creeps back into my brain,
sits there, sits there.

as old as I have gotten,
there is still now no peace,
no place,
and it has been months since I,
myself, have laughed

now Bach has stopped
and I sit in this old chair.
Very interesting observation about his father possibly not being as bad as Bukowski depicted him. I've wondered about that myself. And then there's that strange photo from (was it?) the late 1940s, where Buk is in the garden with his parents, looking sharp in a suit, and everyone seems cheery and close. Was that a glipse of the real situation? Had he made his peace with his parents after the usual teenage rebellion? I wouldn't fault him for dramatizing the relationship in his work. Anything that give power to the writing is fair game.
And then there's that strange photo from (was it?) the late 1940s, where Buk is in the garden with his parents, looking sharp in a suit, and everyone seems cheery and close. Was that a glipse of the real situation?
Everyone with first hand knowledge of what happened in the Bukowski house is dead, so we can speculate that his father was actually Hitler, or maybe James Cagney. Jimmy Stewart? I mean, it's possible, right?

The family picture can be explained by Bukowski remaining somewhat close to his mother when he was young. Out of necessity or love - who knows - but he needed to use their home as a refuge on at least two occasions after venturing out into the world, so he didn't burn that bridge completely.

I actually thought that was one of the few things the Factotum movie got right. That uncomfortable breakfast with Bukowski and his parents. That's exactly how he characterized the relationship over and over again in his writing; critical father, mother trying to care for him but at the same time, in fear of the father.

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