Review: Women by Charles Bukowski

Low-life writer and unrepentant alcoholic Henry Chinaski was born to survive. After decades of slacking off at low-paying dead-end jobs, blowing his cash on booze and women, and scrimping by in flea-bitten apartments, Chinaski sees his poetic star rising at last. Now, at fifty, he is reveling in his sudden rock-star life, running three hundred hangovers a year, and maintaining a sex life that would cripple Casanova.

With all of Bukowski’s trademark humor and gritty, dark honesty, this 1978 follow-up to Post Office and Factotum is an uncompromising account of life on the edge.

Honestly, I just can’t possibly rate this book. Literature-wise it was phenomenal; the writing was unique, the main character was well-developed and explored thoroughly, the events interesting enough to keep you interested. Ethics-wise this book was HORRIBLE. Bukowski, much like his character, is a mysogynistic asshole. Chinasky is an alcoholic, misogynistic pig; and “Women” is Bukowski’s way of fulfilling his dream – beautiful, young women running after him and begging him to sleep with them. Please, do not go into this one expecting to see female characters that are well-developed or even presented as something more than a caricature. Because this is exactly what they are to Bukowski. Human-less beings, mythical creatures impossible to understand, a species that can be sorted into two categories: virgins and whores. But, then again, this book is exactly what it promises to be: a study of an old man’s dirtiest thoughts and desires. Besides, no one goes into Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical books expecting to witness the epitome of feminism and respect for women; the author was made a name for himself as a misogynist and he stays true to it.

The truth is, Bukowski’s writing is so compelling it almost forces you to look past his flaws and generalizations, misconceptions, prejudice. He is not pretentious; he is raw, he is authentic, he is honest. There’s a truth, a soul in his writing that is not easy to find. He may be an asshole, but he is a damn talented one.

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