“You can’t live off your soul. You can’t pay the rent with your soul. Try it sometime.”
– Charles Bukowski, Hot Water Music
I’m burnt out and coming down from a crazy summer, women who mix Buddhism with Hydrocodone, a stagnate writing career, and a creeping sense of nihilistic despair.
I was feeling alone. Like these problems were unique to me. Then I read Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski. Just like that, my troubles vanished.
Hot Water Music is one of those rare refuges in audacity that manages to withstand the test of time. While it’s filled with toilet humor and sex jokes, it also manages to capture real life experiences and filter them through the lens of fiction. I read a great article about Bukowski, claiming that almost all his work is actually nonfiction. I believe it.
Reading Hot Water Music was a lot like conversing with someone who’s either incredibly brilliant or seriously insane. The humor is dark and twisted, as an adulterous man gets murdered by his wife Bukowski manages to sneak in a fart joke. Nothing is sacred, be it feminists, Ronald Reagan, book publishers, or Trueman Capote. Every other sentence contains swear words, or graphic descriptions of bodily functions.
The least offensive portion of the book I felt like posting about comes from an exchange between Bukowski’s thinly veiled alter ego and a doctor treating his lacerated genitals:
“I knew a girl in a small town. She was in her early teens and she was playing around with a coke bottle. She got it stuck up there and couldn’t get it out. She had to go to the doctor. You know how small towns are. The word got out. Her whole life was ruined. She was shunned. Nobody would touch her. The most beautiful girl in town. She finally married a midget in a wheelchair who had some kind of palsy.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Hot Water Music and am going to pick up some more Bukowski later this week. If you’re a fan of artists like Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Hunter S. Thompson, or Matt Parker and Trey Stone; you’ll enjoy this book.