Charles Bukowski is a master of many genres, but one thing that hasn't stuck to his reputation is a talent for telling a fantastic/supernatural story. In the short story Fuck Machine, Bukowski has adeptly used fantasy to create a humorous and poignant love story. The most remarkable achievement of this story is its shift in tone from a light-hearted and silly joke at the beginning to a disturbingly dark and fantastic story in the middle section. This middle section introduces us to a uncannily human-like robot-woman who falls in love with a man and tries to refuse earning her wage as prostitute in order to settle down with the object of her affection. Her decision has tragic consequences for both herself and one of the men who has tried to purchase sex from her. Since Bukowski fashioned the story's beginning to be innocent and light-hearted, the events that follow it seem all the more bizarre and shocking.

Bukowski starts out the narrative by pretending it's just a regular ho-hum story: a bunch of guys talking about life while drinking in a bar. So the narrator, who by the way is not given a name, and his buddies are just having a drink and talking about nothing in particular. After a casual greeting, the main character who's narrating the story asks his friends about their thoughts of the possibility of life on the moon. Outraged by the rejection of his idea as bullshit, the narrator proceeds to admonish his drinking buddies that if there were no life in space, then there would also be no room to host the spirit in the afterlife.

This silly speculative conversation accompanied by gulps of beer seems to hint at nothing more than the idle chattering of drunks. But surprisingly enough, the conversation turns from silly to insane, alarming the reader to the fact that the story may cross into the realm of fantasy. The narrator then tells his beer-drinking friends that everyone on the planet with the exception of 5 or 6 people is absolutely insane and that this collective bunch of lunatics would be annihilated if the smart ones could go to the moon. What's most shocking about his statement is not that it makes the narrator seem crazy, but that it turns the story in that direction. That's because his other friends seem to agree with his statements, making them seem as crazy as the narrator.

So once the reader clues in to the fact that the silly bar conversation has really turned out to be a conversation of a bunch of lunatics, Bukowski has given the signal that the story is a departure from realistic conventions. Thus it's no surprise that at the very point, the bartender Tony is allowed to come out with the story's most crazed conceit thus far: a German professor named Braschlitz, both cajoled and threatened by the American forces to come over to the US and work on their space program, has created an amazing "fuck machine." This fuck machine is a device that promises to offer men the best sex ever. The sex with this device is wonderful because it is really an artificially-created woman and intercourse with her feels just like sex with a real woman. What makes sex with her better than with an ordinary woman is that, amazingly enough, she never complains or whines, like real women supposedly do.

However, even though the narrator hints at the story taking us to an unrealistic/fantastic scenario, he also deceives the reader into thinking that all the talk of the supernatural at the bar will make his story into a bunch of innocent jokes, inspired by the imaginings of drunken guys rather than a fantastic tale worthy of the Gothic. Therefore, it's no surprise that the protagonist narrator responds to bartender Tony's story of the fuck machine not as something real but rather as a joke or the raving of a lunatic. The reader is likely to follow his judgement because from the story's onset, Bukowski has increasily made his characters seem crazier. At first, they were silly when they discussed life on the moon and life after death. Later, their talk of how the five or six normal people on earth would destroy millions of crazies if they could run off to another planet made them seem either crazy or complete jokers.

The story draws its power from deceiving the reader that everything talked about is a joke, because it eventually comes to realize Tony's promise of a mechanical artificially-created sex-machine that seems almost human. But it manages to do that, however, the narrator has one final joke on us. When Tony tells his friends that the scientist is willing to let each of them use his sex machine for 20 dollars and takes the gang up to the scientist's apartment above the bar, they all find themselves treated to a metal gurney with a hole in the middle. The professor brings out the gurney from a locked room and rubs oil onto the hole carved out in its middle. Our narrator protagonist finds himself horrified and admits himself absolutely unwilling to penetrate an artificial orifice in a metal clump, although he hasn't had sex for a long time and is very much in the mood for it.

If the story ended at this very point, then it might have been just about a bunch of silly guys talking about silly things with Tony the Barkeeper taking his friends for the biggest joke of all - offering a fraudulent promise of a sex machine that looks like a real woman but leading them to a metal gurney instead. But instead of ending the story here, Bukowski only ends the joke, surprising the reader by turning the silly promise of a sex machine into a reality.

The signal that the joke is over comes from none other than Professor Brashlitz who tells him that he was just kidding about the metal gurney being the sex machine. Instead he points them to his gorgeous daughter, Tanja, who is supposed to be the real sex machine. Tanja looks very human so some readers may be ambivalent about whether they should believe the Professor's word. The protagonist certainly tempts us to believe that the Professor is joking because he himself cannot take Brashlitz's word that Tanja is a machine. The protagonist tells us that Tanja's skin seems real and her tongue doesn't move mechanically but moves differently everytime in response to the movement of his own tongue while he french kisses her. The convulsion that Tanja experiences after he penetrates her posterior feels real enough for him to qualify her as genuinely human. What makes Tanja seem human the most is her insistence that she in love with the protagonist and her subsequent refusal to have sex with anyone else but him.

The narration exposes Tanja as a robot at the very point that she refuses to earn the Professor money by having sex with the next guy in line. The professor begins to adjust Tanja, as a robotic device after she not only refuses to earn him a living but humiliates him by telling everyone how he sexually abuses her and exploits her. The insolent Tanja lashes out at the Professor in front of everyone. They all hear her tell the professor that she is sick of him selling her body to his male acquiantances to earn himself beer money. Likewise she complains of him having sex with her and nibbling at her breasts. She shares one particularly humiliating detail with all the bystanders: Sex with the professor is repellent because he can't get it up well enough while he is at it.

The professor, outraged, pulls out a box that controls Tanja and begins to adjust knobs and switches. However, it turns out he is unable to get Tanja to prostitute herself for the Indiana Mike that has the 35 centimeter(slightly over 1-foot long) penis. She pretends to go along with the professor and give herself over to Mike. However, that turns out to be just a front as she ends up ripping out Mike's penis and testicles to make the point that she will not put up with exploitation and would rather give herself over to her true love, the narrator.

Up to this point in this story, it was still possible to believe that Tanja was human. Her body seemed completely human and she had thoughts and desires independent of her creator. However, after Tanja had dismembered her unwanted sexual client, the Professor pulls Tanja to pieces by wripping up her arms and exposing all the metal machinery underneath - cably and coiled wires and tubes and an artificial liquid that resembles blood.

Even though, Tanja is revealed to be a robot by the story, her humanity is paradoxically not denied. When the FBI, CIA, and the police arrive on the scene to encounter the dead Indiana Mike, who bled to his demise after being dismembered of his genitals, the professor tells the men of the law that they should not worry about him killing Tanja. After all she has no feelings and is incapable of love, since she is only a machine. Ironically, the story contradicts the professor's own account of his invention. He may have intended her to be nothing more than a moneymaking prostitute, but she has turned out to be more human than he had counted on. Her humanness is most evident at the very last moments of the story before the professor finally breaks the machine that he has built. In the last few moments of her life, Tanja manages to squeeze in a few moments of sex with the protagonist. As the police arrives, Tanja realizes that her life is soon to be over. Before the nuts and bolts that constiute her come undone, she tells the object of her affection not to be upset about her soon-to-be dismantlement. Thus in the last moments of her existence, Tanja the robot experiences human emotions like fear of death and compassion for her beloved's grief at her dismantlement.

Note: Some narrative details have been left out. This is a good overview of the story's plot, but if you wish to know absolutely everything that happened, I encourage you to read the story yourself.

P.S: I have no idea if this node qualifies for the PornQuest. On the one hand, it might since this review covers explicitly sexual elements of a story. On the other hand, the explicitly sexual content of the review is only one of its aspects among many others.
Update: This node has been accepted for Porn Quest

P.P.S: For those of you who want to read the story, it is available in an anthology called The Most Beautiful Woman in Town.

You can find more information about this anthology on by visiting the following URL:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0872861562/

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