SECTION TWELVE

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COLUMN FIFTY-EIGHT, APRIL 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)


(Photo by Brenda Saunders )

THE SHAKESPEARE SQUADRON
(PART 11):
CHARLES BUKOWSKI AND CHARLES WILLEFORD

Charles Bukowski

      Charles Bukowski lives in a bungalow off Delongpre Avenue that looks like the house in Tales of Ordinary Madness.  Although Bukowski does not look much like Ben Gazzara.  As Steve Richmond points out in Spinning Off Bukowski, everything pertaining to his writing is en place.  His tools are oiled and sharp.

Q:      I read Post Office when it came out.  I'd read your poems and short stories in the NOLA Express.  When I got my first job as a tech writer, and could, for the first time, afford to, I bought Notes of a Dirty Old Man, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness, Factotum, Women, and all the books of poetry published to that time.  Which were all sound books.

          I read them end to end.

          And stopped dividing my books into fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose, but mixing it all together.

A:      I see.

Q:      I wrote about many of the same things you do.  The insanity of work, the war between the sexes, the writing life.  Race.  I write about race more.

          I write the way I talk.  I talk the way I think.  I'm a vernacular writer.  I'm a vernacular thinker.

          Not just the vocabulary, and not even just the grammar.  The pattern.  The force.  Free flow and discordant juxtaposition.  Felicitous transpositions.

A:      Go on.

Q:      The Internet is mostly people marketing themselves and lunatic-fringe black-helicopter theorists.  But you're on there.

          You're also in the bookstores.  Your books are kept in stock.

          People read them.

A:      How do you feel about that?

Q:          Encouraged.  On the cusp of a breakthrough.

          The possibilities are endless.

A:      Rock on.  ##

* * *

Charles Willeford

      Cosmos interviewed Charles Willeford at the student union at the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach Junior College.  Both men drank serving line coffee, which was like mess hall coffee.

          Willeford was a retired master sergeant.  Cosmos had done one four-year hitch in the Air Force and would reenlist at the end of the summer following his freshman year.

Q:      It's a shame we never met when we were both students here, in 1961.

A:      It's a shame we never met at all.

          We were at the Miami Book Fair International at the same time, in 1986.

Q:      At the downtown campus of Miami-Dade Community College.  I thought of you, as I manned my booth.  Going on about Samuel Beckett going on about hats.

A:      A symposium for mystery writers.  I remember Larry Block was on it.

Q:      Do you remember telling me that the years between ages 50 and 55 were among your most productive, and you were sure that mine would be too?

A:      Sure.  How many 55-year-old writers were there in Del Ray?

Q:      Well, they were productive.  And the years between 55 and 60 are starting out even more productive.

A:      If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

Q:      You know, I think you're right.

A:      That's been my experience.

          As you quoted me at the end of Evil Genius, if you work hard, and keep your nose clean, the stripe will come.

Q:          Maybe it will for me, too.  It took you 40 years.

A:      Stick with what is working.

Q:      Work, and write, and send it out to Larry and Hazel.  See Brenda and the boys on holiday weekends and at bluegrass festivals.

A:      The books mount up.  And they are beholden to no one.

          That's what does it, in the end.

          Just soldier on.

          Welcome to the fraternity of writers.

          You've earned your badge.

 

          Cosmos felt pretty good.

          He'd finished another book, and he didn't screw it up, to get it published.

          He didn't know where he'd send it, or how he'd write the next one.

          No, wait.  He did know, too.

          The same way he wrote this one.

          One day's daily typewriting at a time.

          Sufficient unto the day is the typewriting, the day job, or the job search thereof.

 

          In Jack Saunders Revisited, Blaster Al has Cosmos at stud, at Loney Spertyís writers colony up by Ebro, off Highway 20, near the dog track.

          Maybe it was time for Cosmos to take a breather.  Send Writerís Heaven out and wait for the offers to start pouring in.

          Or donít send it out.  The Buddha said that if we think one true thought we can change the world.  If we think it in a cave.

          And Henry Miller said we donít change the world, we change ourselves, in the world.

          Beware of ventures that require new clothes, Thoreau said.

          Cosmos looked at himself in the mirror.

          It was Thursday, so he needed a shave.

          His broken teeth.

          Maybe the truck would start this morning.  If not, he could always ride his bicycle, or walk to work.  ##  

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