Bukowsky’s Misogyny And His WomenFebruary 21, 2012 No Comments
It’s a strange thing for me to love Charles Bukowsky, renowned hater of women. And yet from the first time I read his notorious 1978 semi-autobiographical novel Women, I did.
It’s a chronicle of abuse and misery. Bukowsky’s character Henry Chinaski is a self-aware, utterly unromantic alcoholic who has cold sexual encounters with women. Chinaski reaffirms deliberate self-loathing as a matter of rote, preys on vulnerable women unapologetically. He gains nothing from it.
This isn’t a story with a moral, however. It’s a story without an end. The drudgery of Chinaski’s existence is expertly portrayed with clipped, painful prose and moments of entirely believable visual grotesquerie (such as the fight between two women, one of whom Chinaski is inexplicably attached to). The sadness is endless, yet compelling. The boredom is desolate, yet vivid.
The things I would like to hate about the book — the routine cruelty, misogyny, crude sex and self-absorption — are the things that pull me in. I find myself wanting to know Henry Chinaski, if not as a human being then as an idea of how chillingly isolated a person can become, and how ugliness can become a thing of great importance at times.
This is an ugly book, and one that hurt me with its heartlessnes at times. I should hate it, but I love it.
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