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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Bukowski’

Mysterious Skin: The Realia of William Gaddis

December 24, 2013 | by

-1Most people with scholarly inclinations will visit a novelist’s literary archive to follow the paper trails, as manifested through gathered correspondence, stray postcards, marked-upon stationery, and scattered drafts. A couple of months before the recent publication of his collected letters, I visited the William Gaddis Papers at Washington University in Saint Louis in search of something near the polar opposite.

I had harbored a minor obsession with the novelist for years, even before reading a single word of his writing, probably due his reputation as a writer who crafted a string of unapologetically dense works while almost entirely avoiding the fickleness of the literary limelight. I had bought a used hardcover of Carpenter’s Gothic, one of Gaddis’s shorter novels, at a library booksale just after my early-twenties Pynchon obsession had tapered off a bit. That book sat unread on a shelf for a few years until I decided to make the plunge into Gaddis’s work after seeing his specter, both his name and the titles of his books, floating through David Markson’s great anecdote—and allusion-heavy novels.

More dilettante than scholar, I was on the hunt for certain pieces of the novelist’s realia, that archival category of physical, three-dimensional objects rather than the usual rectangular flatland of manuscripts. Gaddis—who wrote “only” five books over the course of a forty-odd-year career (though amounting to around 2,640 pages in total), with each tome encompassing every possible spectrum of American vernacular and obsession; who won a MacArthur Award and two National Book Awards; and who was famous, as Cynthia Ozick once put it, for not being famous enough—had one object in his collection that I had never seen in a library catalog before. I found this particular entry buried deep within the online finding aid for the Gaddis Papers:

“Box 166.2/- : Zebra Skin, (1 item), Stored in oversize; box on order.”

After scanning across this listing while doing cursory research for something else, I instantly became obsessed with the idea of the zebra skin in the library. What, exactly, did it look like? How was it stored among Gaddis’s papers? Why had he owned it? What was it doing in the special collections of an academic library? Read More »

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Drinking with the Factotum

December 12, 2013 | by

640px-Bukowski_Tavern

This morning, we mentioned a new bar opening tomorrow in Los Angeles: Barkowski. Writing at LAist, Matthew Bramlett opines,

There are so many things wrong with this place that can be seen almost immediately. Barkowski looks like a bar for bougie people who claim to have read “Ham on Rye” once and go out of their way to tell everyone that it “changed their life.” It’s the bar equivalent of buying a Misfits shirt at Urban Outfitters. Also, doesn’t King Eddy already exist, and didn’t Mr. Bukowski actually patronize that place?

We can’t speak to the lameness of the new watering hole, but it did remind us that Bukowski-themed bars are (appropriately, or worryingly) hardly a new phenomenon, and our readers have informed us of still more.

  • Post Office, a whiskey bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is named after Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical 1971 novel “dedicated to nobody.”
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts, boasts the fittingly divey Bukowski Tavern of Inman Square (there is also a location in Back Bay), where service is appropriately surly.
  • Neither of which is to be confused with Bukowski’s, in Prague, where one can smoke, probably rendering it most Bukowski-esque of all.
  • Chinaski’s of Glasgow seems kind of gastropub for the actual gent’s tastes, but can’t fault naming it after his longtime alter ego.
  • That’s five right there. Got any more?

     

    7 COMMENTS

    Playing DFW, and Other News

    December 12, 2013 | by

    playingdfw

    • Jason Segel will play David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. Jesse Eisenberg plays reporter David Lipsky.
    • Speaking of LA, a Charles Bukowski-themed bar is opening in Santa Monica. It is called Barkowski. (It should be noted that Brooklyn’s Post Office takes its name from a Bukowski novel, and is a good bar, so.)
    • The National Library of Norway plans to digitize every book in the Norwegian language.
    • If in New York, join Jonathan Ames, Sheila Heti, and Lawrence Weschler at the 92nd Street Y to discuss and celebrate The Best of McSweeney’s.

     

    3 COMMENTS

    Death of a Salesman

    October 9, 2013 | by

    Cal Worthington

    Once called the “friend of every insomniac in Southern California,” Cal Worthington haunted the nether regions of broadcast programming for more than sixty years. Judging by the frequency of his appearances, their consistency, and their longevity, Worthington might have been the biggest television star in the history of the West. That makes him as much a deity as anything California culture has seen in its short history. But he wasn’t an actor or a journalist or a politician. His church was a chain of car dealerships and his prophesies a series of madcap advertisements. For better or worse, everyone who lived in Southern California had to reckon with him.

    Worthington’s long-running series of self-produced spots never deviated from a formula. The slender cowboy—six foot four in beaver-skin Stetsons and a custom Nudie suit—always preceded his hyperactive sales pitch with a gambol through the lot of his Dodge dealership, accompanied by an escalating succession of exotic animals. Originally it was an ape, then a tiger, an elephant, a black bear, and, finally, Shamu, the killer whale from SeaWorld—each of which was invariably introduced as Cal’s dog, Spot. Not once did he appear with a canine. The banjo-propelled jingle (set to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”) exhorted listeners to “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal,” a catchphrase that became the basis for the most infamous mondegreen in Golden State history. To this day, Pussycow remains a nostalgic code word exchanged among Californians who came of age in the era before emissions standards. Read More »

    13 COMMENTS

    Don’t Do It

    September 24, 2013 | by

    This Dewar’s ad uses words (well, some of them) from Charles Bukowski’s “so you want to be a writer?” While it is all very sweeping and epic and generally the most movingly crass blend of commerce and poetry since Walt Whitman started shilling for Levi’s, the voice actor (cleverly identified by Open Culture as one Tom O’Bedlam) sounds approximately zero percent like Bukowski. But no one can fault the marriage of subject and product. 

     

    9 COMMENTS

    Bukowski on File, and Other News

    September 10, 2013 | by

    bukowskilarge

  • “The FBI kept a file on noted dirty old man Charles Bukowski.”
  • Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, whose writing inspired the film Escape from Taliban, was killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday.
  • “What I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.” At The New Yorker, excerpts from Flannery O’Connor’s journals.
  • Satan, Humbert Humbert, Moby-Dick, and other curiously sympathetic literary villains.
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