Dirty Realism: The Anti-Social Satire of Charles Bukowski

Share

“Bukowski,” a 1973 documentary by Taylor Hackford, follows the poet eminence on the LA streets, to the race track, and at a drunken reading at City Lights in San Francisco.

Born-Again Self-Destruction Captured on Film

Bukowski, directed by Taylor Hackford in 1973 and broadcast on KCET in Los Angeles, popularized Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) as a drunken poet of the Los Angeles streets, the anti-social innovator of “dirty realism,” satirically superficial and misogynistic. On his alcoholism, Bukowski wrote: “I have a feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives by now.”

screenshot of the 1973 documentary

The blurring of the lines of Bukowski the poet, the drunk, the man.

On his collaboration with director Hackford:

Bukowski: “Taylor Hackford showed up with a cameraman, and he was the director. I don’t know the proper titles. They decided before they shot the film we’d get drunk together four or five times to get to know each other and take the pressure off. I don’t know what to tell you. They just kind of followed me around. The camera was there all the time. I’d go into a liquor store, and there they’d be. I’d go to the races, and they’d be there, too. I was at the track walking around. I’d been there 20 or 30 years. All of a sudden there’s a camera following me around with equipment — a girl holding a mic and a guy with a camera. I walked along. I hear this voice, ‘Oh no, not him.’ It was like that then. I went up to the reading in San Francisco. They shot that.” –Ben Pleasants interview in Malibu Magazine.

Remastered clips from the film appeared in the recent documentary Born Into This.

on going out to get the mail

the droll noon
where squadrons of worms creep up like
stripteasers
to be raped by blackbirds

I go outside
and all up and down the street
the green armies shoot color
like an everlasting 4th of July,
and I too seem to swell inside,
a kind of unknown bursting, a
feeling, perhaps, that there isn’t any
enemy
anywhere

and I reach down into the box
and there is
nothing not even a
letter from the gas co. saying they will
shut it off
again.

not even a short note from my x-wife
bragging upon her present
happiness.

my hand searches the mailbox in a kind of
disbelief long after the mind has
given up.

there’s not even a dead fly
down in there.

I am a fool, I think, I should have known it
works like this.

I go inside as all the flowers leap to
please me.

anything? the woman
asks.

nothing, I answer, what’s for
breakfast?

Appears in At Terror Street and Agony Way, 1968, Burning in Water Drowning in Flame, 1974 and Run With the Hunted, 1993
©Linda Lee Bukowski

Bukowski.net

Gale Cengage: “Charles Bukowski Criticism” – enotes.com

Updated 12 January 2017

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

About The Outpost

WilderUtopia.com regularly posts articles, photo essays, features, and documentaries from around the web that illuminate the challenges to coexistence between city and wild, developed and developing, human and other. To reach out, write to jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow us on Twitter @WilderUtopia