Wittgenstein and Bukowski (1 Viewer)

Hi, I'm new here. I'm a philosophy student from Finland (Helsinki University) and I'm doing a presentation for a literature course about Bukowski.

I remember in one short story where Bukowski quotes a passage from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations ("I set the brake up by connecting up rod and lever"). Does anyone remember this story and in what collection it was? Maybe in the Most Beautiful Woman in Town?

This has been the only explicit link that I have found about W in B's writing. Does anyone know about any other?

Has anyone read Ray Monk's biography about Wittgenstein (Duty of Genius)? If someone has, maybe you've spotted the similarities in their thoughts about morals and ethics (honesty, moral integrity and so on...). Of course, Bukowski talks about it in different ways and in different words, but I think there is a deep connection between them. Both were disgusted with academia for the same reasons. Both saw their trade as something that you shouldn't do if it doesn't come natural. Both had a somewhat negative approach to women, but weren't total misogynists either. Also, both didn't almost ever explicitly talk about ethics, though I think that for both it was a main, if implicit theme. What do you think?
 
Does he name Wittgenstein in this quotation? I can't remember him ever quoting from Wittgenstein, but I don't know his whole corpus of work.

Only reference to Wittgenstein, that I know of, is in a letter you'll find in 'Reach for the Sun':

".....
[To William Packard]
September 12, 1991 9:56 PM

Thanks for sending the foreword to The Art of Poetry Writing. Like Shapiro said, it's odd that I'm in the company of Plato and Yeats, and certainly the boys I used to work with in the factories and warehouses and in the post office would think it odd too. Or the boys in the bars. I don't mind it, although I don't write for recognition, I write to keep my poor ass from getting totally ground up by this life. It saves part of me, although why I'm trying to save part, I'm not sure. Perhaps some grubby instinct at work?

When you've lived as long as I have and written as long, you realize that none of us has done enough or very much for that matter: Socrates, Descartes, Hume, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Wittgenstein. We are all brought down finally because there's little we can do about existence or non-existence (death) but think about it. We are locked in. Sometimes we kill each other or ourselves, it's about the only movement we can lend ourselves to.
......"
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Yes, many connections which I hadn't thought of before your post. Wittgenstein, like B, also loved classical music and as I recall could whistle along long stretches with Brahms chamber music since he knew the music by heart. As you say, dislike of academia true of both. Wittgenstein also very tough on himself as you say in relation to his own "authenticity" just as Buk believes in "style." Wittgenstein famously wrote "whereof one cannot speak must be passed over in silence." Alot of this particularly in the late Bukowski poems about drinking wine, his cats, the light in the other room..
 

mjp

Founding member
I remember in one short story where Bukowski quotes a passage from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations ("I set the brake up by connecting up rod and lever"). Does anyone remember this story and in what collection it was? Maybe in the Most Beautiful Woman in Town?
I don't find that quote (or parts of that quote) in Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions And General Tales Of Ordinary Madness (which is where The Most Beautiful Woman In Town And Other Stories comes from), or anywhere else for that matter, so you may be mistaken. Were you reading a translation or in English?
 
Thanks, Roni, for the quote in Reach for the Sun.

I'm sure that I remember correctly. It was an english version. I think it's in one of my books I bought from the usa, so it should be the original publication. It's in a story where Bukowski's character, can't remember if it was Chinaski, is at his friend's house. I believe it's the same friend that he often describes as having a big black beard and being one of the most well read men he knows... taking a photograph of himself (his dick) just at the moment of ejaculation (Bukowski's response is something like "a true work of art", perhaps ironically). I think it's the same guy as the one in beef tongue (the people look like flowers at last, p.10). He is often mentioned in his stories.

I just finished reading Michael Gray Baughnan's biography about Bukowski and didn't find any mention of him there. I'd like to know more who this character is.

Anyhow, at the friend's house there are quotations written on the wall (if I remember correctly), and one of them is the passage of Wittgenstein I mentioned ("I set the brake up by connecting up rod and lever"). Directly beneath that is "Ludwig Wittgenstein", so he is named in conjunction with the quote.

Also, what can you remember Bukowski saying about Gogol and Tolstoi? I just read Dead Souls a while ago and thought the descriptions of petty characters there were in connection with Bukowski's misanthropy. I remember Bukowski saying somewhere he thought of Gogol as a fool during his younger years? Also, Tolstoi's aesthethics in What is Art? seems to be similar to how Bukowski valued art (a concrete-level, somewhat moralistic approach). Haven't read it completely yet, though. I remember him mentioning Dostoevski often, but not once Tolstoi, although I believe he has done this somewhere, I've just forgotten about it. In the Bukowski Tapes he says admiring The Notes from the Underground, but I remember somewhere else him judging Crime and Punishment as a dull book.

Another similarity between Bukowski and Wittgenstein also linking the russian writers I mentioned before is the emphasis of importance on "spirit". Decay of spirit means decay of mankind in general, and with both B's and W's thinking there is an apocalyptic pessimism resulting from this degeneration. How would you describe this "spirit"?

Also looking now for a passage of Bukowski where he says something like this: "I've got to keep to my insecurities because that's all I've got. Jesus christ, you've been publishing me for years and don't even know who I am!" (directed to John Martin's character, I think. South of No North, maybe?).

Thanks in advance.
 

cirerita

Founding member
I'm sure that I remember correctly. It was an english version. I think it's in one of my books I bought from the usa, so it should be the original publication. It's in a story where Bukowski's character, can't remember if it was Chinaski, is at his friend's house. I believe it's the same friend that he often describes as having a big black beard and being one of the most well read men he knows... taking a photograph of himself (his dick) just at the moment of ejaculation (Bukowski's response is something like "a true work of art", perhaps ironically). I think it's the same guy as the one in beef tongue (the people look like flowers at last, p.10). He is often mentioned in his stories.

That's John Thomas, who seemed to be passionate about Hitler. He's in quite a few stories and poems.
 
In the short "Ten Jack-Offs" from The Most Beautiful Woman In Town Buk quotes Wittgenstein: A yardstick does not say that the object to be measured is one yard long. Other than what Roni noted above this is the only time I believe Bukowski ever mentioned Wittgenstein.
Also, what can you remember Bukowski saying about Gogol and Tolstoi?
He didn't care for either of them (he mentions several times his dislike for Tolstoy). Don't recall him ever going in to any detailed reasons why he felt this way.
 
"Dostoevski was precisely passionate, but when he ended up with Christ in his lap I wrote him off as going the long way around to find what most idiots accepted in the beginning. Not that I didn't find his journey vibrant. For this, I almost forgave him his final Error. Tolstoy, who ended up the same way, was simply dull throughout. Which I can't forgive." #15 from "Ecce Hetero," More Notes of A Dirty Old Man, p. 171.
"One reason I took to writing was because I'd be doing some reading of the great works of the centuries and I thought, 'Good God! This is it? This is what they're settled on? Shakespeare? Tolstoy's War and Peace? This stuff?" (interview with Marc Chenetier, 1975, Sunlight Here I Am, p. 134.)
B's favorites among the Russians were Dostoevski, Turgenev and Gorky.
 
In the short "Ten Jack-Offs" from The Most Beautiful Woman In Town Buk quotes Wittgenstein: A yardstick does not say that the object to be measured is one yard long. Other than what Roni noted above this is the only time I believe Bukowski ever mentioned Wittgenstein.

Yes, that's what I'm looking for. Apparently I quoted the wrong passage from Wittgenstein. Thanks.

Still looking for this:
Also looking now for a passage of Bukowski where he says something like this: "I've got to keep to my insecurities because that's all I've got. Jesus christ, you've been publishing me for years and don't even know who I am!" (directed to John Martin's character, I think. South of No North, maybe?).

Also, anyone remember where Bukowski compares himself to de Sade, saying that he is a cheap imitation of him, lacking his talent or intelligence? I think it's in Women, somewhere by the end. Tried to find it today, but couldn't locate it.
 

Johannes

Founding member
Also looking now for a passage of Bukowski where he says something like this: "I've got to keep to my insecurities because that's all I've got. Jesus christ, you've been publishing me for years and don't even know who I am!" (directed to John Martin's character, I think. South of No North, maybe?).

This is from a Notes-column, it's in Tales of Ordinary Madness ... don't have the book now, but I am 99% sure.

It's the one starting with: "If you are interested in madness, yours or mine ..." and the editor in this column is not John Martin, but Jon Webb.
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Moderator
Founding member
Johannes is spot on:

MY STAY IN THE POET'S COTTAGE
and I know another guy who says 'there's nothing wrong with war.' but jesus christ, I've got to go with my neuroses and prejudices because that's all I've got to go by. I don't like drugstores, I don't like campus cafeterias, I don't like Shetland ponies and I don't like Disneyland and I don't like motorcycle policemen and I don't like yogurt and I don't like the Beatles and Charley Chaplin and I don't like windowshades and that big blob of manic-depressive hair that falls over Bobby Kennedy's forehead. .. . jesus, jesus, I turned to the prof. "” this guy's been printing me for ten years, hundreds of poems, and HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM!

Also, anyone remember where Bukowski compares himself to de Sade, saying that he is a cheap imitation of him, lacking his talent or intelligence? I think it's in Women, somewhere by the end. Tried to find it today, but couldn't locate it.

Yes, Women, Ch. 93, p. 236 in some copies:
I tinkered with lives and souls as if they were my playthings. How could I call myself a man? How could I write poems? What did I consist of? I was a bush-league de Sade, without his intellect.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Johannes & hank solo: Thank you very much!

Also:

Where can I find Dinosauria, we? The version in Born into This is different (shorter) than the one I've read.

He didn't care for either of them (he mentions several times his dislike for Tolstoy). Don't recall him ever going in to any detailed reasons why he felt this way.
Thanks. Could you (or anyone) give me a quote on Gogol?
 
[...] Dinosauria, we [...]
Hank reads it in full on this CD:

uncensored.jpg
 
I'm looking for a text where Bukowski says writing can "beat the shit out of" painting, music, all other art forms, basically. Could you also include the source and pagenumber? Thanks.
 
Also, anyone remember where Bukowski compares himself to de Sade, saying that he is a cheap imitation of him, lacking his talent or intelligence? I think it's in Women, somewhere by the end. Tried to find it today, but couldn't locate it.

in one of his interviews bukowski calls his dad a sadist and a patriot - in that context it didn't seem to me that bukowski thought too highly of either sadism or patroitism. i think it was the interview he gave the belgian guy
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
on de Sade, in Women, pg.236

How could I write poems? What did I consist of? I was a bush-league de Sade, without his intellect. A murderer was more straightforward and honest than I was.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top