Charles Bukowski Interview



I respect Charles Bukowski, the writer of many poems, short stories and novels. zmark.ca brings you a great interview with this unusual man.

You have the reputation of a woman chaser and a male chauvinist?

I’m not a great fucker. I don’t go around fucking women by the dozens. But when I started writing this novel called Women, I had to do some research.

I figured I had to meet more women. So I almost did it deliberately, I knocked on doors, I hopped into beds and I fucked when I didn't feel like fucking.

I’m not really a great fucker. I’m not too interested in that kind of thing. It’s kind of drab. It’s hard work.

The people that call me male chauvinist don’t know all my works, they've just heard rumors. If they had read the total body of my work they would know that I love women almost as much as I love myself. They are nice to have around.

You’ve been drinking constantly. Why all this drinking? 

Oh, drinking! Listen, I’ve been a poor working stiff all my life, no job or nothing. You know, when you don’t have any money at all, the women aren't going to bother you, so there’d be moments when you are just looking at four walls, you are wondering how to pay the rent or where your next meal is coming from.

When things are very very bad, a drink is the only magic cheap thing left to give you the dream, to make you feel good for a moment. Now that I am not poor anymore, things haven't changed, because the human race is no good.

In one of my poems I say: Humanity, you've never had it from the beginning. It’s just a feeling I have that everything is being wasted. It’s not life, it’s humanity that bothers me. The trees don’t bother me, the cats don’t bother me, the sun doesn't bother me. It’s humanity that has failed, that bothers me.

Humanity is going to go down the same dumb ignorant path forever. But I’ll get out of it because I’ll kick off and I will be out. This companionship I’m living with now, they don’t thrill me at all.

If humanity is hopeless what do you hope to accomplish with your writing? 

I’m not an accomplisher. I’m like a spider spinning my web. It’s all I can do. What we do we do out of a natural instinct. We don’t even know why we are doing it, if we did we couldn't do it.

Striving is destructive. I don’t believe in control, in studying, in learning. I just believe that what occurs occurs, and I go with it.

To sum it all up in two words, “don’t try,” for me that works. I still find a great deal of joy in spite of everything, I don’t know why, but often times I wake up in the morning and I feel damn good. It’s just a feeling inside.

Why don't you like people?

Who does like people? You show me him and I'll show you why I don't like people. Period. Meanwhile, I have got to have another beer.

Tough. Tough, indeed. I would say that Mickey Mouse had a greater influence on the American public than Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Rabelais, Shostakovich, Lenin, and/or Van Gogh. Which say "What?" about the American public.

Disneyland remains the central attraction of Southern California, but the graveyard remains our reality.

So do we abandon ship or hope altogether?

Why these clich├ęs, platitudes? OK, well, I would say no. We do not abandon ship. I say, as corny as it may sound, through the strength and spirit and fire and dare and gamble of a few men in a few ways we can save the carcass of humanity from drowning.

No light goes out until it goes out. Let's fight as men, not rats. Period. No further addition.

We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.

Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead

If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery - isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.

I don't know about other people, but when I wake up in the morning and put my shoes on, I think, Jesus Christ, now what?

We waited and waited. All of us. Didn't the shrink know that waiting was one of the things that drove people crazy? People waited all their lives. They waited to live, they waited to die. They waited in line to buy toilet paper. They waited in line for money. And if they didn't have any money they waited in longer lines. You waited to go to sleep and then you waited to awaken. You waited to get married and you waited to get divorced. You waited for it to rain, you waited for it to stop. You waited to eat and then you waited to eat again. You waited in a shrink's office with a bunch of psychos and you wondered if you were one.

Nothing was ever in tune. People just blindly grabbed at whatever there was: communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Back, Buddha, Christ, TM, H, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporated and fell apart. People had to find things to do while waiting to die. I guess it was nice to have a choice. 

I am not interested with what most people want to do - mostly with my time

I had no interests. I had no interest in anything. I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior. I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go.  

Life is primarily about our minute sensations... Our presence to them is like an inner instrument that allows us to know what is good for us. Even the meaning we give our life needs to be evolved from, to be congruent with our sensations. It's all about the little inner things really. Remember that life is to be lived from within because the world is but a mirror. 

We have come so far and gone nowhere. We have lived so long and hardly at all

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

...and those who succeed know this secret: there isn't one 

There's nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They don't honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. There's nothing left to die.

~Charles Bukowski