By Charles Bukowksi
Virgin Books – £8.99

Slovenly and reckless and all things of a sexually mystified charged persuasion, Charles Bukowski’s Women is nothing other than airport cum beach literature of the highest order. It starts nowhere, goes nowhere and ultimately ends up nowhere. To be sure, it reads like a collection of witty scrawling(s) of the sort one finds in toilets: mildly and sometimes wildly amusing, yet ultimately devoid of substance.

‘’If I had been born a woman I would certainly have been a prostitute. Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better,’’ is quoted on the back cover, like an alluring temptation unto the sexual unknown. Rather than merely being tempted by the assorted fruits of another, our fifty-year-old protagonist, Henry Chinaski, is uncontrollably electrified by the fruits, as well as dregs, of another. More often than not, the countless, misfit losers one reads about in the slut induced letters pages of the tabloids.

‘’‘’Let’s take our clothes off and lay down.’’
We undressed and stretched out. I began kissing Lydia. I dropped from the lips to the neck, then down to the breasts. Then I was down on the belly button. I moved lower.
No you can’t,’’ she said. ‘’Blood and pee come out of there, think of it, blood and pee…’’
I got down there and began licking. She had drawn an accurate picture for me. Everything was where it was supposed to be. I heard her breathing heavily, then moaning. It excited me. I got a hard-on. The clit came out but it wasn’t exactly pink, it was purplish-pink. I teased the clit. Juices appeared and mixed with the cunt hairs. Lydia moaned and moaned. Then I heard the front door open and close. I heard footsteps. I looked up. A small black boy about 5 years old stood beside the bed.
‘’What do you want?’’ I asked him.
‘’You got any empty bottles?’’ he asked me.
‘’No, I don’t have any empty bottles,’’ I told him.
He walked out of the bedroom, into the front room, out the front door and was gone.
‘’God,’’ said Lydia, ‘’I thought the front door was locked. That was Bonnie’s little boy.’’
Lydia got up and locked the front door. She came back and stretched out. It was about 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon.
I ducked back down.’’

So ends chapter five; which, apart from reading like a toaster manual, pretty much sums up the book in its entirety. The sex is blatant, but never remotely arousing. But even more off-putting, is the shopping list approach to what is after all, supposed to an expression of attraction. Let alone love.

Throughout Women, the many close encounters of the alluring kind are far too squalid and numerical for their own good; which really is a disappointing shame, as some of Charles Bukowski’s poetry, ranks alongside some the most powerful, poignant and truly enthralling, I have ever read.

David Marx


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