Bukowski in a Nutshell


On the reading front, after spending a couple of weeks struggling through William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, I ripped through Charles Bukowski’s Factotum in one day. Faulkner may have been a Literary Artist of the Highest Order, but I’ll take Bukowski any day; he wrote to be read, directly and succintly and without pretense. He was a drunk, a lech, and just generally kind of an asshole, but was unflinching in his portrayal of these things. He was often accused of being a misogynist, and when you read him you can see why; but to be accurate he was more of a misanthrope, or a nihilist, and like many nihilists a damaged romantic at heart. He once said, “I have died nine-tenths, but keep the other one-tenth like a gun,” and he was getting at something there; even in his darkest portrayals of life at its most desperate, there is a hint of poetry and a glimmer of something like hope.

Anyway, as a public service I would like to present the following passage, which is Chapter 31 of Factotum. It neatly sums up Bukowski’s style and themes, and can save you a lot of time if you read it instead of his collected works (which were many). Enjoy.