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Charles Bukowski and women | River's Edge

Chas and dames

September 30, 2012

Emma Edmondson


Why are women fascinated by Charles Bukowski? Surely he is just as dull as the sexist drunk they find themselves chatted up by a gazillion times in bars? Or is he? 


A pockmarked, weathered, walrus who drank to delete the pain, and then drank more because he didn’t know any different, his words are gospel to the disaffected but dirt to those who cherish being nine-to-fiveists.

Angry. Socially inadequate. Insecure. His poems and novels are the work of a messed-up genius documenting, and exaggerating, the details of his dirty deranged booze-soaked life – a life peppered with plenty of women and a beer-filled belly of frustration.

It’s clear, whatever Bukowski work you first read, the guy was an asshole. He was an asshole to fellow men. But, arguably, even worse to women. Pervertedly undressing them with every syllable. Crudely describing them as merely pieces of bargain-bin rump steak to be tossed around between his thighs and then tossed to the floor, in favour of drink. If you want boxes of Milk Tray and Interflora flowers then reading this verruca-salt realist is definitely not your scribe.

Despite this underlying anti-woman agenda, the author regularly had female fans falling at his feet like freshly-swotted flies, begging to be fucked. He almost always complied – whether in a relationship or not. So why did he find so many admirers?

It can’t have been pure physical attraction. Well, not on their part. Bukowski had far from flopped out of the pages of a Calvin Klein ad. A hulk of a man, who looked beyond his years in mid twenties, with a bulbous vein-riddled nose and a deeply scarred face, from severe teenage acne, he’s the kind of figure of fear kids stand and point at in the street. And if they called him a freak show, it certainly wouldn’t have been far from the truth.

It surely can’t have been to do with his loving jugular of gold nature either. He didn’t have one. Bukowski was a drunk. Not a violent one. Not an idiotic one. But a drunk through and through. And he could be real mean. It wasn’t unknown for the writer to meet someone he’d been corresponding with, take an instant dislike to them, ridicule them to their face and then finish up the abuse in his newspaper column.

This served to his detriment when a longstanding fellow poet and fan, William Wantling, received one of Bukowski’s infamous verbal bashings in print. Although it’s not known whether Wantling actually read the two vicious instalments (however he did have plentiful friends in the LA area where they were published who would have been sure to tell him about the character assassinations) the wordsmith drunk himself to death a few weeks later, after writing letters to friends questioning his worth as a man and poet. Wantling’s widow still proclaims Bukowski’s comments were the catalyst for her husband’s death.

But this is the thing: despite his endless faults and bad personality traits, people admired, and still admire, Bukowski. As much of a grade A bigot he was, writers look up to him. Men admire his hedonistic ways. Women wanted to change him and care for him. But, all through his life, he failed to realise this.

Being a massive Bukowski fan I’ve often questioned if he was still rumbling round America doing readings and swearing at crowds gathered to hear him whether I would feel a twinge in my nether regions and a need to seduce him. Maybe. Women like a challenge, even a disfigured one.

And the reason for Bukowski’s attractiveness to the fairer sex? Simple. His writing is honest. Albeit that he buttered up stories to be more shocking, Bukowski didn’t plaster over the scabby wounds of real life – something many writers, and people, fail to do. Women crave honesty. So do men. A sexist and a realist Bukowski may have been, untrustworthy to know, but he penned what most were, and still are, scared to say. And if that doesn’t get your brain whirring with excitement and legs quivering nothing will.



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