Silence speaks to me in the early morning hours. Little sparks firing like shooting stars before eyelids crack open, before I realize a new day has begun. I wonder what I would say if I could write in my sleep, those fleeting thoughts that slip away before I’m able to reach paper and pen? The silence speaks to me before the obligations that devour the day begin and drown out the peaceful reverie between my soul and my fingertips. Oh, how I crave those moments!
I’ve begun rereading my literary heroes and trying to picture them writing. I wonder if they wrote in the chaos of the moment or soaked up the silence as they unleashed their brilliance. I wonder if they knew how impactful and meaningful their words would be so long after their deaths. I don’t buy hard copies of books very often because I prefer to own books which feed my soul, rather than those which just occupy my mind. I buy hard copies of books that I can’t help but underline particular passages of because I don’t ever want to forget them. I buy books that I want to read over and over, books I hope my (so far non-existent) children will one day want to read if they want to understand me better. I buy books that I will keep. I run my fingers over their covers and feel their pages. I hold them close to me and carry them around with me. Seeing their titles on my shelves each time I pass by is how I know I am home. I cry to them and they understand my pain. A good book is like a passionate lover, an affair, if you will, that never has to end and nobody’s heart gets broken.
With Bukowski, the votes are still coming in. There seems to be no middle ground – people seem either to love him or hate him. Tales of his own life and doings are as wild and weird as the very stories he writes. In a sense, Bukowski is a legend in his time… a madman, a recluse, a lover… tender, vicious… never the same… these are exceptional stories that come pounding out of his violent and depraved life… horrible and holy, you cannot read them and ever come away the same again.
It is a very apt portrayal of how Bukowski was received as a writer in his time and of his writing style in general. It is also a perfect summarization as to why I adore reading his works, especially the last line, “you cannot read them and ever come away the same again.”
Bukowski’s writing style has been described as dirty realism and transgressive fiction, both of which come down to a central theme – he wrote about life from the perspective of the underprivileged. Wikipedia describes dirty realism as, “the belly-side of contemporary life [… written] with a disturbing detachment, at times verging on comedy. Understated, ironic, sometimes savage.” Again using Wikipedia’s definition, transgressive fiction is based on “characters who feel confined by norms and expectations of society and [break] free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways.” The definitions of these genres, which I was not familiar with before reading Bukowski, are quite apropos to Bukowski’s work. He did not pussyfoot around the difficult topics or shy away from the ugly aspects of American life. His writing is raw and unfiltered, just as I’d like to imagine he was as a person in real life.
Tales of Ordinary Madness is a mixture of fiction and nonfiction short stories. Reading it makes me feel like I am getting a glimpse of the man behind the words, a man whose words have truly impacted my life and the lives of people all over the world. There are those who will never like, understand, or appreciate Bukowski’s work and that is their right. I believe it takes courage to write what others find crass and unacceptable, in a style that was mostly unheard of at the time he was writing. I also believe that kind of courage – writing hard truths and making people uncomfortable through those truths – is what makes a writer brilliant and their words timeless.
Writers such as Charles Bukowski inspire me to be a better writer. My literary heroes have instilled a desire within me to put my soul on paper, to bleed out and die on paper if I must so that others may feel what I feel and see what I’ve seen. I suggest not that I will impact the world with my words as these authors have impacted my life with theirs. I hope only to strive for such things. Silence stirs this passion in me, it sets a spark to the match that lights my mind on fire and urges me to reach further.
What sets your soul on fire?