February 10, 2006
No one touches Charles Bukowski when it comes to pure honesty, truth baring and literary courage. His newest book of poems Slouching Toward Nirvana (HarperCollins 2005, 270p) carries that Bukowski voice onward, though some selections are a little soft around the edges. Fame does that. Bukowski acknowledged such corruption in “The Poet.”
how can a man (me) who
Fans of Bukowski — of which I am one — think his fame is more widespread than it is. Bukowski never won a big literary prize and doesn’t have a recognizable presence in academia as a subject of study. His artistry remains with the masses, the people who have to deal with asshole bosses, crappy jobs, liars, cheats, dreamers of making-it-big, losers, rich fucks, lust, debt, drink…and beauty and the hope it brings. And since Americans continue to run from their working class roots, Bukowski remains more popular overseas than in his home country. Sweat still counts in Europe.
His life was as evident as it was mysterious within himself. He worked factory jobs, as day laborer, at the post office for 14 years; and a lot of times he didn’t work; he just drank. His world revolved around the bar, the bedroom — and when he had money — the racetrack. And he wrote, a lot — 45 books of poetry and prose. Being a writer didn’t make Bukowski different from other people. In “vulgar poem” he writes:
some are good at
Yet in the poem “2:07 a.m.”, the explanation is cryptic.
The poem opens with the question of how he was “doing,”
and the answer,
it’s like sucking seaweed out of a rabbit
Slouching Toward Nirvana is about all the things in Bukowski’s life up until the time he died in 1994. It’s about his drinking, his gambling, his fucking, his success, and his love and desire of women. Always the women. Bukowski longed for a woman, was unsure of women, surprised by women, confused by women, bored by women, in love with women and always accepted women as they were, how they choose to be. Bukowski was sensitive, honest, forgiving, brutal and his poetry challenged women to be better and condemned them when they weren’t…better than men. As in “damsels of the night”:
I was never sure
Bukowski will likely never be THAT popular in this age of fundamentalist stupidity, overripe intellectualism and popular ignorance. But his art makes him one of the most powerful writers and poets of the 20th century.
Calling the war in Iraq another Vietnam is a rallying cry for those against the Bush administration. It’s a declaration that demands attention — the comparison of the United States’ only military loss to a war that continues to take the lives of American soldiers.
Some say it’s a sound argument. At one time, it seemed the Vietnam War would never end. Watching CNN today, it’s difficult to imagine there ever being peace in the Middle East. Those against Vietnam accused the government of sending troops to the jungle to promote their own agenda, not to stop the spread of communism. Is the Iraqi war truly about freedom or is it about oil?
Kale Baldock’s essay Is Iraq Another Vietnam? (North Kensington Manor Press, 2005 96p) addresses the comparison between the war that was and the battle that continues today. Beginning with a historical background, Baldock’s research leaves no stone unturned. Those that know little about Vietnam come away with greater understanding of why a war decades old still hurts. And readers that rely on the mainstream media for Iraqi coverage realize the average citizen actually knows very little.
The purpose of Baldock’s essay isn’t to shape readers’ opinions (although it’s safe to assume any person that reads his work already opposes the Iraqi war).
“What follows is an attempt to fill in the background of the conflicts in question, and to explain the reasons behind the actions followed by America’s political leadership,” Baldock writes in his introduction.
It is a mission he achieves with a clear and informative look at the two wars and their impact on our country — its history and its military — as well as the people involved on both sides. One can’t read this essay without feeling remorse…remorse for our country’s behavior then and our actions today. Ultimately, Vietnam taught us nothing. Despite the lies we were fed in the 1950s, we willingly entered another battle under false pretenses. We ignored arguments of the past, blinded by patriotism and cries of freedom and, Baldock theorizes, in attempt to overshadow our country’s sole defeat.
Is Iraq another Vietnam? While it’s true no two wars are alike, Baldock’s examination uncovers similarities on several fronts. Whether they are mirror images is up to the reader and his personal and political beliefs.
Meredith Hines-Dochterman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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