• SumoMe

When a book is literally “dedicated to bad writing,” you can go all-in on a bet that it was written by Charles Bukowski. That is not to say that Bukowski’s work is bad–far from it. Rather, Bukowski is known for his ability to embrace bad writing and make it fun and witty in his own style. This concept is clearest in his last work ever, a novel entitled “Pulp,” which is the culmination of all his poems, tendencies, and anecdotes wrapped up into a fictional character Nick Belane (rather than Bukowski’s normal alter-ego Henry Chinaski). Belane is a self-loathing private investigator who can’t catch a break. Plagued with alcoholism, debt, excessive womanizing, and depression, Belane happens to pick up a small-time job in a bar that leads him down a series of mishaps, adventures, and failures.

The plot line is minimal, the writing is mediocre, but the action is high and the humor is abundant. To give a synopsis of the book is like trying to wrangle escaped livestock. Bukowski never really had a clear direction in this work, but I think that’s one of the things I like most about it. Bukowski always found a way to state poems and novels in a very matter-of-fact way, without trying to tie in lessons or grandiose takeaways. In that sense, I think he’s one of the best writers in emulating the experience of life–it simply exists, and any further meanings we attach to the series of events is up to us. That’s why people have different personalities, views, and opinions despite very similar upbringings or surroundings. What the reader takes away from “Pulp” (or any Bukowski work) is really up to the reader. That said, there are some high points in the work which are worth quoting:

We waited and waited. All of us. Didn’t the shrink know that waiting was one of the things that drove people crazy? People waited all their lives. They waited to live, they waited to die. They waited in line to buy toilet paper. They waited in line for money. And if they didn’t have any money they waited in longer lines. You waited to go to sleep and then you waited to awaken. You waited to get married and you waited to get divorced. You waited for it to rain, you waited for it to stop. You waited to eat and then you waited to eat again. You waited in a shrink’s office with a bunch of psychos and you wondered if you were one.

I got to thinking about solutions in life. People who solved things usually had lots of persistence and some good luck. If you persisted long enough, the good luck usually came. Most people couldn’t wait on luck, though, so they quit. [See “The Persistence of Bukowski”–Ed.]

All in all, I had pretty much done what I had set out to do in life. I had made some good moves. I wasn’t sleeping on the streets at night. Of course, there were a lot of good people sleeping in the streets. They weren’t fools, they just didn’t fit into the needed machinery of the moment. And those needs kept altering. It was a grim set-up and if you found yourself sleeping in your own bed at night, that alone was a precious victory over the forces. I’d been lucky but some of the moves I’d made had not been entirely without thought. But all in all it was a fairly horrible world and I felt sad, often, for most of the people in it.

All-in-all the book is not going to win any prizes for great literature. However, if you’re a guy into detective novels that stray away from the proper Sherlock Holmes genre, this will prove itself as an instant favorite of yours. I also suggest this to any fan of Bukowski’s poetry, as this is essentially a 200-page Bukowski novel with punctuation. Love it or hate it, everyone can agree this book is definitely fun, and even more unusual.

Have you read this novel? What did you think? Let’s discuss it in the comments below.