Monday, 24 August 2009

Pulp by Charles Bukowski

When I decided to feature Charles Bukowski in 120 Units, I thought I’d reread Post Office, his booze soaked memoir of working as a postman in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, my copy seems to have been left in the pub, so it was back to the library where I found this, and having covered Raymond Chandler the other week, I couldn’t resist it.


Essentially a pastiche of hard boiled ‘pulp’ fiction, (the private investigator protagonist is even called Nicky Belane), Pulp’s absurd plot involves searching for the French author Celine, an elusive Red Sparrow, extraterrestrials and death itself, in the form of a fabulously beautiful woman. Naturally, there’s a lot of alcohol as well, hence it’s inclusion here.

This is fairly typical:

So there I was, depressed again. I drove back to my place, got in and opened a bottle of scotch. I was back with my old friend, scotch and water. Scotch is a drink you don’t take to right off. But after you work with it a while it kind of works its magic on you. I find a special touch of warmth to it that whiskey doesn’t have. Anyhow, I had the glooms and I sat in a chair with the 5th at my side... There wasn’t much to turn to for me, except the scotch.

That said, Bukowski is capable of bon mot (“Definition of a nice neighbourhood: a place you couldn’t afford to live in.”) and even a little hard hitting philosophy, especially when it comes to drinking:

Why was the windshield rolling in front of me like a big wave? Must be the hangover. Vodka with beer chaser. You had to pay... Sometimes I thought about my liver but my liver never spoke up, it never said, ‘Stop it, you’re killing me and I’m going to kill you!’ If we had talking livers we wouldn’t need the A.A.

So there you have it. The world would be an easier place if only the liver had learned to speak.

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