Women by Charles Bukowski

I don’t think the majority of women will enjoy this book. Bukowski had a complicated and conflicted relationship with women and the book (fictional, barely) holds up to the facts of his life.

The women in the book are a strange mélange of characters. There are jealous alcoholics, speed freaks, literary groupies and cultured ladies. They are all attracted to the main character, Henry Chinaski, for one reason or another.

Henry has left his job as a postal clerk to pursue his writing full time. He has modest success but that isn’t what this book is about. It is about Henry and the many women who come and go from his life. It is also about how these women accept or reject Henry’s chosen lifestyle: an alcoholic writer.

Many of the women in the story are troubled and the descriptions of them are pretty negative and degrading. It is misogynistic and in scene after scene, we are treated to depictions of Henry using these women as sex objects in very degrading descriptions of sex. On the flip side, many of these women buy into whatever Henry is selling so I suppose you could say it was consenting.

Henry does not hesitate to be equally hard on himself. He is a self-described ugly, dirty drunk with no real prospects. His life revolves around writing, drinking, painting and going to the track. He does readings around the country and frequently hooks up with new women, inviting them to come and stay in his filthy apartment in a seamy side of Hollywood.

Bukowski is who he is and I knew going in what I was getting. This one was not my favorite. I don’t think women will enjoy it much if at all and I think men will like it more but still consider it a guilty pleasure in these overly politically correct times. With that being said, Bukowski is one of those American writers every reader should try at least once.


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