Talking About Addiction Until the Head Begins to Bleed a Bit

It comes down to Bukowski – and Bukowski doesn't come out well


I told you earlier tonight that I was having some trouble with this Film Fight – that I was having some trouble finding the fight in me.

I think I just found it.

With all this poetry talk, I got to thinking about Bukowski – and I hate thinking about Bukowski. But the cult of Bukowski has everything to do with what I hate about junkie movies. I hate – and jaysus, there’s a lot of hate going around (just wait until tomorrow, it’ll be nothing but sunshine and blue skies and mash notes to our favorite writers, I swear it) – I hate junkie movies because, by and large, even as they’re gumming at the scummiest parts of man, they’re romanticizing them, too.

In one breath, they’re tut-tut’ing the nasty, brutish, desperate, brawling behavior of their antiheroes; in the next, they’re glorifying it. Endorsing it, even. Because living hazardously is somehow seen as living more truly than the rest of us dumb, mostly sober souls do. It’s the reason why every arty twerp (largely male) in high school goes through a Bukowski phase. When I was 16, I fell into Bukowski, too. Picked up a book of poetry, thought it looked tough and sexy. How could it not? It was called Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit. Tough. Sexy. Then I watched a documentary in which he slugged his wife onscreen. I got over Bukowski pretty quick after that.

When I say I’d rather watch Michael Douglas pad around in his pink fuzzy robe, it isn’t because I’m soft. It’s because I find more merit and more meaning in one human’s hapless but self-aware fumbling to make sense of the shambles his life is in. Douglas’ Grady Tripp didn’t do anything particularly sensational to derail his life. He got stuck with his book. He fell out of love with his wife, and into love with another man’s. He smoked a little too much pot. That might not be all that “sexy” but I can relate to it. Bukowski’s hookers and blackouts and wife beatings? Not so much. And I am totally okay with that.

See you tomorrow. Sunshine. Blue skies. All that.

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Writers in the Movies, Charles Bukowski, Wonder Boys

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