Women by Charles Bukowski

"Many a good man has been put under the bridge by a woman"
Henry Chinaski

Women follows on from Charles Bukowski's earlier, largely auto-biographical, works of American low life; Post Office and Factotum. This book however, shows a slightly different Charles Bukowski (alias Henry Chinaski) as his old age is increasing together with his notoriety, and more importantly for him, his amount of female conquests goes into overkill. The one thing that strikes the reader at first is the rawness of Bukowski; his unconventional views of women, the way he treats his women - sometimes bad, sometimes good - but always in the same style: truthful and honest.

As with Post Office and later Factotum, Chinaski lived life on the fringes of society, crawling from one menial job to another, fighting with his bosses, drinking constantly, getting underpaid and being treated like dirt. Women sees Chinaski with money, an important step in any alcoholic lifestyle. With money he can drink fine wines, sleep till noon, and generally do as he pleases. He is only ever constrained by women - their arrival and their departure. He regularly meets women fans at the airport who adore his books and poetry. Swearing and obscenities are not rare in this book, the light hearted and politically correct members of our society should take note here, as this book is not for them. One woman sent a picture of herself showing her "cunt", as Bukowski described it. Females, it seems, literally throw themselves at Chinaski who is old, ugly, and has a "disgusting penis". Although he manages to get it everywhere. Casanova would be proud of Chinaski.

This book will make the sane laugh and the insane laugh harder. At times, Chinaski comes across as very amusing, describing, for instance, a sex scene with a an under-age betty boop lookalike, although she insists she is over 18 by validating herself with her id at every alcohol beverage stop. He insists it will be "child rape" if he had sex with her, and moreover he would "split her in half" if the act took place, until finally the act does happen but it is him who gets raped (well, in a way).

Beyond the depths of Chinaski's bedroom, there does lie a deeper level of thought - a deeper meaning. You just have to find it. Throughtout the book he is having an inner struggle with himself; he cannot resist the female temptation, they adore him, he lives it like a rockstar - drinking all night, arguing and falling out with girlfriends, finding another the next day, and so on. But this life is not really for him, the world has changed around him but he is the same person. He has become an established writer with money, he's no longer working for a dog biscuit factory and the girls just love his poetry and readings. He's a fat bellied, red faced ugly old man, who can't believe his luck, and about time too according to Chinaski.

Although the writing does not match the standard traditional literary ideals, Bukowski is nevertheless a distinguished writer. His books are easy to read, the plots fairly simple, the tone almost always exciting and page turning. Women is an rollercoaster ride into a alcohol induced fairy tale of a man lost in a world he hates. Some say, he is beatnik, I disagree and say Bukowski is a one and only, he does not easily fit into any subjective, or for that matter, objective category. He is on his own. Read Bukowski, live Bukowski, drink Bukowski.


Women, Charles Bukowski , Virgin Books 1978