[Book Rewiev] Charles Bukowski, the Outsider Genius of the American Literature


[Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness]

Charles Bukowski, City Lights Publishers, 1972

Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness is a paperback collection of short stories written by Charles Bukowski, published in 1972. Each story is based on first-person narration, compiling stories that are personally linked to Bukowski’s own life. At the time he wrote the novel, the author was fifty-years-old. He twice tried to find a stable job but failed; he got divorced and started betting on horses, he was poor and was always drunk. He could not sleep because of insomnia, and he was constantly looking for sex. What was left was a very broken and lost individual—Bukowski. All of these seemingly random events can be found in Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Takes of Ordinary Madness, recounting a semi-autobiographical and anecdotal reflection on the author’s own life. The collection was republished in 1983 as two volumes: Tales of Ordinary Madness and The Most Beautiful Woman in Town. These two stories originally appeared in underground newspaper stands, the Berkeley Barb and Open City.

Charles Bukowski, born in Germany in 1920, moved to the U.S. with his family in 1923. He grew up in Los Angeles, where he studied at the Los Angeles City College from 1939 to 1941—before quitting to leave for New York. Despite efforts to publish earlier works, publishing success did not come easily. Bukowski gave up writing in 1946 and spurred a ten-year stint of heavy drinking. After he developed a bleeding ulcer, he decided to take up writing again. Bukowski worked a wide range of jobs to support his writing career such as diswashing, working as a parking lot attendant, a post office clerck, a Red Cross orderly, sometimes an elevator operator. Other times, he would hang posters and fliers around New York City subways and run part-time slots at a biscuit factory and even a slaughterhouse. His biggest break came some time after, when he began to work with City Lights Publishers owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was one of the first to recognize Bukowski as a talented short-story writer. Bukowski was married twice and had a daughter; he died at 73 because of complications with leukemia.

Today, Charles Bukowski is considered one of the most important poets, novelists, and short-story writers of his time; and pioneer of American literature. His works are respected for being unsparingly realistic with a degree of comedy, often observing the thoughts and actions of Bukowski’s alter ego, Henry Chinaksi, who is a hard-drinking, unskilled worker, a lover of classical music, and a horse-better. While some critics find his writing style offensive, others claim that Bukowski satirized machismo attitudes through his routine use of sex, alcohol abuse, and violence as images in his works.

It is without a doubt that Charles Bukowski was a prolific underground writer who made use of distasteful topics—taboos at the time—to criticize the society he was living in. In the past, he wrote, “The human race had always disgusted me. essentially, what made them disgusting was the family-relationship illness, which included marriage, exchange of power and aid, which neighborhood, your district, your city, your county, your state, your nation-everybody grabbing each other’s assholes in the Honeycomb of survival out of a fear-animalistic stupidity.”


Alessandra Bonanomi, reporter for The AsiaN

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