Paranormal Encounter in Ham on Rye (1 Viewer)

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BicycleTragedy

I'm about halfway through Ham on Rye (I'm a recent devotee, still have a quite a bit to plow through) and was caught off guard by the passage describing his childhood encounter with a demonic entity as a child, shortly after the full bloom of his acne vulgaris condition.

The scene takes place in his bedroom after he awakens from a nap. It caught me by surprise not only because it is very chilling (albeit brief) but because of his oft-stated disdain for religious or spiritual matters (however, I may be misinterpreting this profession of disdain, as I am by no means a Buk expert...yet.)

Anyway, does anyone care to offer conjecture on this passage?

Also, has he referenced this episode (if it was not meant to be allegorical) in any other writing?
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Sounds interesting.
What chapter is it?
Wanna have a look.
 

LickTheStar

Sad Flower in the Sand
I don't even remember the passage in Ham on Rye... but I also haven't read it for about 3 years either. I'll poke around later and try and dig it up though.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
I don't recall the HAM ON RYE scene, but I have noticed a few other paranormal/spiritual events in Bukowski poems and stories.
 
I remember that scene. It stuck in my head for some reason but I don't remember him mentioning it again in anything else (though I'm far from the Buk expert). I think the reason it stuck with me is because it is kinda fantastic (in the other-worldly sense), not something you see a lot of in his writing but when you do, it really takes hold, probably because of his gritty realistic style--you merge the two and BAM! You tend to find myself asking: damn, did this really happen?

There's a short story in one of his books, maybe in tales of ordinary madness, where he hooks up with a chick who sleeps with zoo animals or something like that (been awhile since I read it) but again, I found myself going: hey, maybe this is real.

It would've been great to see Buk write a fantasy novel: dragons wizards, elves ... a hot princess--the whole nine yards. You know he'd have 'em all drunk in a magic tavern somewhere balling the hell out of the chick.

Didn't he start out writing fantasy type stories when he was younger?
 
It's in the middle of page 141; just after he challenges god because he feels he has met god's challenges for his acne and his parents.

Note: If you have a specific question, be specific about page and location. Most of us have read thousands of pages of Buk, and a bone here and there wouldn't hurt, you know?

My take is that he was setting up what he later professed. Remember, Buk was not the sort of guy to espouse organized religion, but he was also strangely willing to put up with certain shit if it worked for him (I'm kinda like that too, for the record, so I understand - screw the "I'm like Buk" comparisons, because that's not what I mean...).

Also, and this is important; he wrote Ham on Rye in '83 (for the most part), so his poetic recollections shine a light on what he had already become. He concludes the incident with:

It seemed to remain there for hours, just staring at me.
Then it was gone...
I stayed in bed thinking about it.
I couldn't believe that it had been God. Dressed like that. That would be a cheap trick.
It had been an illusion, of course.


He then goes on to bring out a box of little bible quotes given to him by his grandmother, and plays around a bit with it and the quote he draws out is:

GOD HAS FORSAKEN YOU.

You do the math. In my mind, he's setting up a childhood encounter that explains what he has already adopted as an adult at the point of writing this book. Or it's just plain bullshit.

At the end of it all, it's fiction. Based on real shit, but embellished to make it his own. Best not to dissect it too much, although, for some reason, I did.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
He then goes on to bring out a box of little bible quotes given to him by his grandmother, and plays around a bit with it and the quote he draws out is:

GOD HAS FORSAKEN YOU.

And then he goes back to bed and can't believe the quote, so he gets out of bed again and starts looking for the quote. He reads all the quotes in the box but none of them says GOD HAS FORSAKEN YOU!

- That's some weird experience alright!
 
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Hmm, Bukfan, I did, for some reason, leave out the best part of that (I suspect that Buk was screwing with us there - never really happened, in my opinion). I dunno; I'm not too keen on delving into what a writer means; I'm usually concentrating on how it makes me feel.

To me, that's great literature: give us words that evoke something, but don't force us to draw the same conclusion you did.

I get that from Buk. Here's my shit and how I felt about it, but your results may vary.

My next tier, Kafka, Camus and Dostoyevski are somewhat less pliable (they really are trying to get a specific message across), but they do allow for a self-interpretation, if you read them loose and all.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
To me, that's great literature: give us words that evoke something, but don't force us to draw the same conclusion you did.

PS, I have no idea about what Buk meant or how to interpret the story. I just think it's a weird experience - if it ever happened, that is! And I'm not forcing anybody to draw any specific conclusion. It's a weird experience, that's all I said!
 
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When I said "you," I meant the writer, not you, Bukfan! Perhaps a translation issue, but I'll take the blame.

"To me, that's great literature: give us words that evoke something, but don't force us to draw the same conclusion you did." I'm speaking to the writer here.
 
Yes Billville, the animal story stuck with me, too. I guess mainly because i was so young when I read it (I can't recall reading it again, but I should), the lady sleeping with a tiger the one night, with a snake the other night and Bukowski secretly watching them had such an erotic tension. I kind of slipped into his skin and tried to imagine me and him were the voyeur at the same time. I could see the tiger and the snake on the lady in action, I must say it was one of my best puberty visions. Naughty little story.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
When I said "you," I meant the writer, not you, Bukfan! Perhaps a translation issue, but I'll take the blame.

"To me, that's great literature: give us words that evoke something, but don't force us to draw the same conclusion you did." I'm speaking to the writer here.

I see! My mistake then. Yes, it's a translation issue. The word "you" has more connotations in English than it has in Danish, where "you" always mean the person I'm talking to right now. Sometimes I forget that difference...:o
 
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The word "you" has more connotations in English than it has in Danish, where "you" always mean the person I'm talking to right now. Sometimes I forget that difference...:o

About the only way to avoid that ambiguity in writing is to use "one" instead of "you", however these days that tends to sound like Queen Elizabeth speaking (about one's corgis :p )
 
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Just finished reading that passage and I was quite taken aback too. For the same reasons as the ones stated by BicycleTragedy ("his oft-stated disdain for religious or spiritual matters") . Was looking through the internet for an explanation and luckily came across this forum. For the record I've only started reading Bukowski and Ham On Rye is my first book by him. Halfway through it and really liking it. About the passage... On the previous page Buk also says the following "I had decided against religion a couple of years back. If it were true, it made fools out of people, or it drew fools. And if it weren't true, the fools were all the more foolish." There is some ambiguity in this. We can see that he doesn't completely denounce the existence of God. Just that people were being fooled by believing in His teachings (teachings of the holy scriptures). That's what I also somewhat believe. Rules are necessary to maintain order but it's foolish to really believe in them. Like no one is ever knowingly wrong but the criminal must be punished or people would kill and rob for fun.
 

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