Charles Bukowski. Hollywood. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007 [Book review]
journal contributionposted on 22.05.2017, 04:26 by Geoff Berry
Those accustomed to Charles Bukowski's usual rant will find less of the offensive, misogynistic, bar-brawling alcoholism than usual here; but that doesn't mean it is entirely absent. A novel about the filming of the 1985 film Barfly, which starred Mickey Rourke in the days when he swaggered with a slanted, smart-aleck smile and hadn't yet undergone the transformation to boxing from which he recently returned (for The Wrestler, another fine performance) and Faye Dunaway. Bukowski, as he does in other works of "fiction," barely bothers concealing the inspiration behind his characters. Again he is Henry Chinaski, beaten down by the stupidities of human nature, but never beaten out of the game. The pseudonyms he chooses for others are sometimes merely slight changes of real names and usually the brief description gives the game away; hence we get characterisations of Sean Penn and Madonna, Norman Mailer, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch and Isobella Rossellini, and Helmut Newton amongst others. But whereas sleaze and shame are constitutional trademarks for Bukowski, you will not find the kind of kiss and tell gossip you might otherwise find when such fiction takes cover under false names. Bukowski simply wants to tell his story the way it is to him, the "bum that made good" as the media of the time made him out to be, or the scratch in the mud at the edge of madness writer who actually lived in Hollywood – the mean streets of East Hollywood, not the manicured sets of more upwardly mobile neighbourhoods, naturally – and wrote about the things he loved and hated, or just could stomach, amidst the foul reservoir of (self)deceit and hypocrisy he saw in the human race in general and in aspirational America in particular.